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2020 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The big buzz word among manufacturers almost everywhere is “electrification,” but it doesn’t mean pure electric vehicles. As often as not, it refers to hybrid gasoline-electric cars like the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq.

The Ioniq, however, does have the advantage of being available not only with a hybrid power train but as a plug-in hybrid and a 100% electric. Honda does something similar with its Clarity, which comes as an electric, a plug-in hybrid and as a fuel cell model that uses on-board manufactured hydrogen fuel to generate electricity.

Large-39643-2020IONIQHybridThe strategies vary. But from a consumer standpoint, the basic hybrid still makes the most economic and convenience sense, as exemplified by the Toyota Prius, the most successful electrified vehicle in history. Although it now also offers a plug-in model, Prius hybrid sales since it started 20 years ago now total more than 2.3 million in the U.S.

Unlike hybrids, full electric vehicles still come with built-in “range anxiety,” meaning an owner must calculate a trip that includes locations and time to recharge the batteries.

Like pure electrics, plug-in hybrids are more expensive than standard hybrids, though their limited range on electric power — as little as 10 miles on some luxury plug-ins and 29 miles on the Ionic plug-in — is not a concern because they revert to regular hybrid gasoline operation as soon as the batteries run out of juice.

Large-39647-2020IONIQHybridFor 2020, Hyundai has redesigned the Ioniq with attractive fresh styling inside and out. It is still the same size and configuration, with similar power, as when it first was introduced as a 2017 model.

It’s a four-door hatchback sedan that is marketed as a compact but which qualifies as a large car as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency. It has 96 cubic feet of space for five passengers, though the center-rear individual gets squished, and 27 cubic feet for cargo under the rear hatch. The total of 123 cubic feet of interior volume beats the EPA’s definition of full-size as more than 120.

From the get-go three years ago, the Ioniq hybrid came across in all of its versions as a competent performer, easy-going in urban traffic or long-distance freeway driving. The transition back and forth from electric to hybrid motoring is so seamless a newbie might not realize that it’s a hybrid.

Large-39650-2020IONIQHybridFor 2020, the power train has not changed. It consists of a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine paired with a 32 kilowatt electric motor, which together make 139 hp and deliver city/highway/combined fuel economy of 55/54/55 mpg on the tested Limited model. (The basic Blue model gets 58 combined).

On the road, the Limited delivered a taut feel with well-weighted steering and a quiet interior with little wind noise. The only unavoidable intrusion was tire noise from unruly highway surfaces. The front seats, though a bit flat on the bottom, nevertheless were supportive and comfortable.

Large-39653-2020IONIQHybridThe 2020 Ioniq — the name is a combination of ion, an electrically charged particle, and unique, or one of a kind — comes in four trim levels: the base Blue at $23,930, including the destination charge; SE $25,880; SEL $29,130, and the tested Limited. The last, with a price tag of $31,930, comes nearly as fully equipped as some luxury cars. The only option was $135 for carpeted floor mats.

The long list of the Limited’s safety equipment included forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, driver attention warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, and adaptive cruise control.

Even longer was the list of comfort and convenience items, including leather upholstery, power driver’s seat with memory, heated front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio,  navigation, premium Harman-Kardon audio, and wireless smart phone charging.

Large-39654-2020IONIQHybridWith 27 cubic feet of space in the cargo area under the rear hatch, the Ioniq hybrid can do double duty as a compact crossover sport utility vehicle. The rear seatbacks fold to expand the load-carrying capability. However, there is no spare wheel under the cargo floor. An emergency tire-puncture repair kit substitutes — okay for leaks but useless in a blowout.

In that case, you use Hyundai’s Blue Link to call for roadside service. The system works with smart phones and smart watches as well as Google assistant and Amazon Alexa to perform a multitude of tasks. Among them: remote starting with climate control, finding destinations and locating your vehicle.

The Ioniq Limited hybrid has you covered.

Large-39644-2020IONIQHybridSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 Hyundai Ioniq Limited hybrid four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine/motor: 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline; 104 hp, 109 lb-ft torque. Electric 32 kW, 43 hp; 125 lb-ft torque. Combined 139 hp.
  • Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 96/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,115 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 55/54/55 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $31,930.
  • Price as tested: $32,065.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Large-39648-2020IONIQHybridPhotos (c) Hyundai

2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With midsize car manufacturers parachuting out of sedans altogether, South Korea’s Hyundai reckons it can reach new heights with its redesigned 2020 Sonata.

Though holding its own, the Sonata is aiming to fly higher. In 2018, for example, it ranked sixth among the top 10 popular-priced midsize sedans with 105,118 sales or 7.1 percent of the total.

Large-39713-2020SonataLimitedThat lagged behind the top-dog Toyota Camry, with 343,439 sales, or 23 percent. In the first three quarters of 2019, Sonata ranked seventh with 68,368 sales, or 6.5 percent, while the Camry totaled 258,456 sales, or 24.5 percent.

The goal is to peel off some of the sales from the top three Toyota, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima while also capturing customers from  others as they eliminate sedans.

Based on a drive of early production models, the Sonata looks as competitive as any. It’s an attractively styled vehicle inside and out, longer, wider and lower than its predecessor with wheels pushed out to the corners and shorter body overhangs.

Large-39708-2020SonataLimitedThe exterior sports striking styling elements, including front and rear LED light treatments and side body trim highlighted by an inch-wide chrome strip that runs from the headlights up and over the hood and window frames.

Inside, the Sonata Limited driven for this review displayed quality materials and workmanship with appealing and thoughtful design elements. For example, it had a unique blind-spot warning system. Instead of warning lights in the outside mirrors, it used cameras to show the left and right areas behind the car.

Click the left or right turn signal for a lane change, and either the tachometer or speedometer disappears and the display shows the blind spot area. The system is similar to one offered by Honda, but Honda’s only shows the right-rear area on the center screen.

Large-39693-2020SonataLimitedHowever, as wonderful as some drivers will find the Sonata blind-spot system, it would not be needed if motorists took the time and effort to correctly adjust the outside mirrors. Set properly with the inside mirror, the driver gets a 180-degree view to the rear.

The Sonata designers demonstrated imagination by designing the front-door armrests to double as storage areas for smart phones and other small objects. The Limited Sonata also came with a head-up display, wireless smart phone charging and an overhead surround-view rear camera.

Another Sonata feature that is likely to win converts is Hyundai’s  “remote smart parking assist.” It allows the driver to step out and, using the key fob, back the car into a parking spot so narrow that none but a snake or lizard could squeeze inside or leave. It would be particularly useful in crowded apartment garages or shopping center parking lots.

Large-39725-2020SonataLimitedThere’s also a so-called “digital key,” which allows an owner to operate the Sonata from a smart phone. So far, however, the system only works with Android phones.

The Sonata comes standard with a full suite of safety equipment: automatic emergency braking, blind-spot and parking collision avoidance, smart cruise control with stop-and-go and lane following assist, rear cross-traffic alert, driver attention warning and headlight high beam assist.

Two power trains are offered over four trim levels: SE, SEL, SEL Plus and the tested Limited. SE and SEL come with Hyundai’s 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that makes 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque.

The SEL Plus and Limited get their power from a 180-hp, 1.6-liter four-banger that delivers 195 lb-ft of torque and EPA fuel consumption of 28/37/31 mpg. Power with either engine gets to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Large-39733-2020SonataLimitedOn the road, the tested Limited was a commendably quiet cruiser, aided by acoustic glass, sound-deadening insulation, and window and door sealing.  However, there was some unavoidable intrusion of tire noise prompted by rough road surfaces. Handling was crisp, acceleration was brisk, and passing on two-lane highways without anxiety.

During long-distance cruising, seats were supportive and comfortable up front and for outboard passengers in back. As usual, any center-rear passenger gets disrespected by a hard cushion, large floor hump and intrusion of the center console. The large trunk is compromised by C-hinges that are not isolated and could damage contents.

Prices were finalized after the national press introduction in Montgomery, Alabama, where the Sonata is manufactured in Hyundai’s sprawling plant in near-by Hope Hull.  The base SE model starts at $24,330, including the destination charge. The tested Limited came with  a bottom-line suggested delivered price of $34,365.

Large-39748-2020SonataLimitedSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 180 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 101/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,336 pounds
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 27/36/31 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $34,230.
  • Price as tested: Est. $34,365.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Large-39696-2020SonataLimitedPhotos (c) Hyundai

2020 Hyundai Palisade: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With the introduction of the Palisade, its all-new midsize crossover SUV, Hyundai lines up for a long-distance race against its sister company’s similarly homologated entry.

That’s because the three-row Palisade starts life as a direct competitor of the also all-new Kia Telluride. The two vehicles even share many of the same genes.

Large-38050-2020PalisadeSouth Korea’s Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai, and the two brands share engines and transmissions, though they operate independently and do their own interior and exterior designs, as well as suspension system tuning and other components.

With similar DNA, you’d expect the Palisade to be something of a knockoff of the Telluride. But no. They were developed in parallel automotive universes and each is distinctive in its own dimension.

However, both vehicles are excellent contenders in the midsize, three-row crossover category, against such worthy competition as the Honda Pilot, Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9 and Nissan Pathfinder.

Large-36538-2020PalisadeThe conclusion here in an earlier review was that the Kia Telluriderolls as an example of the heights of perfection that vehicle manufacturers have achieved, getting to the point where reviewers are reduced to criticizing at ever-narrowing margins.

The same applies to the Palisade. With the departure of Hyundai’s Genesis nameplate to become its own brand, the Palisade now is Hyundai’s flagship — the model at the top of its pyramid of sedans, hatchbacks and crossovers with gasoline, hybrid, electric and fuel-cell power trains.

As is usual in all-new vehicle introductions, Hyundai put its best bumper forward at the national news media introduction. So the focus inevitably — at least for this review — settles onto the top-line, fully equipped Limited model.

There are half a dozen trim lines, three with front-wheel drive and three with all-wheel drive, including the version that is the subject here. If you don’t live in a place where nasty conditions prevail, you can save $1,700 by ordering the Palisade with front-wheel drive.

Large-36542-2020PalisadeHowever, if you customarily trundle the kids and their gear off to winter family vacations, you’ll want the tested Palisade Limited with all-wheel drive. It comes as a fully-equipped, near-luxury, three-row crossover SUV with about every feature you’d want. The $47,445 price reflects that.

It includes such items as an exclusive blind-view monitoring system. When you click the left or right turn signal, the rear view on either side shows up directly on the instruments, substituting briefly for the speedometer or tachometer.

It means you can check the blind spots without looking at the outside rear-view mirrors. Of course, if you are among the few drivers who actually know how to adjust the original blind-spot monitors — the outside mirrors — you don’t need the system. Still, it’s a comfort for the vast majority.

Large-36544-2020PalisadeOther Limited features include an auto-leveling rear suspension system, second-row captain’s chairs, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, third-row power folding and reclining seats, heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats, high-zoot Harman Kardon audio system and a speaker system to yell at the kids in back without raising your voice. (They don’t get the assist if they talk back).

But you can also get a satisfactory Palisade SE model for as little as $32,595, assuming you don’t want any options. Still, it is decently equipped with all the same basics as the higher trim levels, including the 291-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine with 262 lb-ft of torque, eight–speed automatic transmission and the capability to tow a trailer weighing 5,000 lbs.

The Palisade is three inches shorter than the Telluride, weighs 246 lbs less and has slightly less passenger and cargo space — 157 cubic feet for passengers versus 167, and 18 cubic feet versus 21 for cargo. But it’s a distinction without much of a difference. Both vehicles earn city/highway/combined EPA fuel economy numbers of 19/24/21 mpg on regular gasoline.

Large-36545-2020PalisadeIn the top-level trims, the Telluride is slightly less expensive. The SX all-wheel drive tested earlier had a sticker price of $46,860, or $485 less.

In the end, with two family-oriented vehicles as closely matched as these two, it will come down to individual reactions, mainly due to styling. Like other Kia models up against those from its sister division, the Hyundai Palisade comes across as more mainstream in its orientation, while the Kia Telluride presents a slightly more sporting personality.

Pay your money and take your choice. You can’t go wrong either way.

Large-37498-2020PalisadeSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6; 291 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 157/18 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,236 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,445.
  • Price as tested: $47,605.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Large-34822-2020PalisadePhotos (c) Hyundai

2019 Kia Niro EV: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Although it sometimes seems as if Elon Musk’s Tesla gets all the publicity, an increasing number of fine electric vehicles are rolling into the market. An intriguing new one is the 2019 Kia Niro EV.

It is an engaging small crossover sport utility vehicle that also comes as a gasoline-electric hybrid or a plug-in hybrid. The EV competes against half a dozen other electrics in the sub-$40,000 category, including the Chevrolet Bolt, Kia Soul and Nissan Leaf hatchbacks; the Hyundai Kona subcompact crossover, and the Tesla Model 3 sedan.

2019 Niro EV

Because South Korea’s Hyundai owns about 38% of Kia, the Niro EV shares its power train with the Hyundai Kona, though with slightly different tuning. Kia and Hyundai gasoline and hybrid models also share engines and transmissions but do their own designs, styling and other components.

The Niro EV uses a 356-volt electric motor that delivers 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque. Power makes its way directly to the front wheels because electric motors deliver maximum torque immediately so there’s no need for a conventional automatic transmission.

Though Kia lists the zero to 60 mph acceleration time at 7.8 seconds, independent tests put it in the 6-second range. Top speed is 104 mph and the government rates the electric equivalent city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 123/102/112 mpgE.

2019 Niro EV

Among the current purely electric powered vehicles, the Kona EV delivers a respectable advertised range of 239 miles on a full charge, less than the Kona’s 258 miles. However, the Niro is heavier, five inches longer than the Kona and more expensive. Also, you are likely to get fewer miles in real-world driving.

You can enhance the range two ways: Select the Eco drive mode instead of Normal or Sport, which increases motor drag to regenerate the battery pack. You also can use the steering-wheel mounted paddles to accomplish the same thing, even in Sport mode. However, the owner’s manual does not tell you how the paddles work.

If you opt for the Niro EV, with all its virtues, make sure to invest in a Level 2 240-volt charger, which will recharge your Niro in nine hours and 35 minutes, easily overnight. If you stick with your standard 110-volt household outlet, figure on a weekend. That charging time is 59 hours. If you have access to a 100-KWh DC fast charger, you can top up your Niro’s battery to 80% in an hour. All numbers come from Kia.

2019 Niro EV

The Niro’s base price is $37,995, including the destination charge. But because it is new it qualifies for the federal government’s $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicle purchases. The credit has phased out for the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3. Unfortunately, for now the Niro is available in only 12 of the 50 states: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington.

Tested for this review was the top-line Niro EV EX Premium, which had a starting price of $44,995. It includes full basic safety equipment plus forward collision avoidance, lane keeping and following assist, driver attention warning, blind spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic alert, and stop-and-go adaptive cruise control.

2019 Niro EV

In addition, the tested EX Premium came with automatic climate control, heated and ventilated leather-upholstered front seats, navigation system, motorized sunroof, Harman Kardon premium audio, SXM satellite radio, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, wireless smart phone charging, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, power driver’s seat, and LED headlights and taillights.

On the road, the Niro EV is a sprightly performer. With the electric motor’s instant torque, it gets a quick jump off the line while other automobiles and trucks are just getting revved up.

2019 Niro EV

The steering has a hefty feel, not unlike that of some European luxury cars. It validates the old adage that a small car should drive like a big car, and vice versa. Small bumps and potholes do not upset the suspension system, which easily soaks them up.

However, the Niro EV’s short wheelbase — the 8 feet 10 inches distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels — results in some fore-and-aft pitching on undulating surfaces.

Overall, the handling is competent and secure, partly due to the Niro’s low center of gravity. The battery pack is housed under the floor. Front seats are well bolstered and the outboard back seats deliver space and comfort.

2019 Niro EV

Specifications    

  • Model: 2019 Kia Niro EV EX Premium four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 356-volt permanent magnet synchronous electric motor; 201 hp, 291 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single-speed direct drive automatic; front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 97/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,854 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined mpgE: 123/102/112.
  • Advertised range: 239 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $44,995.
  • Price as tested: $47,155.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 Niro EV

Photos (c) Kia

2019 Hyundai Elantra Limited: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

As other manufacturers have done, Hyundai has designed its compact Elantra to bridge the divide between buyers looking for economy with comfort and those more focused on entertainment and sport.

The former is represented quite capably with the 2019 Elantra Limited four-door sedan and the latter by the 2019 Elantra GT N-Line four-door hatchback.

Large-34143-2019ElantraFor reference, think of the Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen GTI. Or the Honda Civic and Civic Si or R-Type. In both cases, the base cars are oriented toward economy and everyday duty, while the others promise excitement.

Usually, the base cars come with less powerful engines and automatic transmissions while the performance variants are equipped with manual gearboxes exclusively or a choice of automatic or manual.

Both Elantra versions were driven for this review at the annual Spring Rally of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) at the Road America racetrack in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Manufacturers provided 80 cars and light trucks for driving by about 100 automotive journalists. Some vehicles were designated for track use and autocross; others for street driving and off-roading.

Large-34144-2019ElantraThe Hyundai Elantra Limited four-door is powered by a 147-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 136 lb-ft of torque. It acquitted itself well as an economical and comfortable tourer that never felt short of passing power. Quiet on smooth asphalt highways, road noise intruded on rougher surfaces. It rode comfortably but needed frequent steering corrections.

Averaging 43.8 mpg of regular gasoline over 140 miles of highway driving at speeds up to 75 mph, the tester beat its EPA city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 28/37/32 mpg.

It had a base price of $23,485, including the destination charge. The price included forward collision and blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and lane keeping assist, as well as dual-zone automatic climate control, SXM satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple Car Play, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, leather upholstery with heated front seats and hands-free trunk opening.

Large-33684-2019ElantraThe tester also came with a $3,350 option package that included adaptive cruise control, navigation system, collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, motorized sunroof, and memory settings for outside mirrors and driver’s seat. All that brought the bottom-line tested price to $26,960, or about $10,000 less than the current average price of a new car.

Though marketed as a compact, the Elantra sedan qualifies as a midsize according to the EPA’s definition, though just barely. The back seat is a bit tight but can accommodate two average-sized adults. However, the center-rear fifth passenger sits on a cramped and uncomfortable perch.

At the other end of the Elantra spectrum is the N-line. Hyundai has chosen N as the designation for its line of high-performance variants, not unlike BMW’s M vehicles or the AMG models from Mercedes-Benz. The N badge comes from Hyundai’s research and development facility in Namyang, South Korea, and also refers to its testing at the famed Nürburgring track in Germany.

Large-33665-2019ElantraAs a four-door hatchback, the 2019 Elantra N-Line is nine inches shorter than the sedan but has more room inside: 97 cubic feet for passengers and 25 cubic feet for cargo under the hatch, compared to 96 cubic feet for passengers and a trunk of 14 cubic feet in the sedan.

The N-Line also has a smaller 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, more powerful than the base 2.0-liter at 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque because it is turbocharged. It comes standard with a slick, easy-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, though a dual-clutch automatic is optional.

Equipped with full basic safety equipment but few of the frills on the Limited sedan, the Elantra N had a bottom-line sticker price of $24,195, or $2,775 lower than the Limited. For any enthusiast, what’s not to like?

Large-33966-2019ElantraThe base price included heated sport seats upholstered in sturdy cloth that hold the torso in place in hard cornering, pushbutton starting, dual-zone automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, LED headlights and taillights, audio system with SXM satellite radio, and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

Some estimates put the number of U.S. drivers who know how to shift for themselves at something like 2%. It’s a shame because that other 98% would not experience the joy of driving the Elantra GT N-Line or, for that matter, a stick-shift Mazda3, Volkswagen GTI or Honda Civic Si.

The shift linkage of the Elantra N-Line’s six-speed gearbox and clutch action are so easy-going that shifts up and down seem to happen almost by thought control.

Large-33686-2019ElantraSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Elantra Limited four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 147 hp, 136 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 96/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,844 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/37/32 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $23,485.
  • Price as tested: $26,960.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Large-34119-2019ElantraPhotos (c) Hyundai

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Driving the 2020 Kia Telluride along one of the most scenic roads in America, the thought occurs that vehicle manufacturers have achieved a level of perfection not dreamed of in the history of the automobile.

2020 Telluride

It has gotten to the point that reviewers are reduced to criticizing mainly at the margins, and the margins keep getting narrower. The new Kia Telluride achieves the narrowest of margins.

This is an all-new midsize crossover sport utility vehicle with three rows of seats in either an eight-passenger layout with a second-row bench seat or seven-passenger with second-row captain’s chairs.

It also comes with mid-pack pricing, ranging from $32,735 for the base LX trim level with front-wheel drive to the top-line SX with all-wheel drive at $44,535. There are four versions, each with front-drive or all-wheel drive. With options, the SX tested for this review topped out at $46,860.

2020 Telluride

Yet the tester drove as well as some luxury midsize competitors costing tens of thousands of dollars more. It is powered by a silky 291-hp V6 engine that delivers 262 lb-ft of torque. Though many manufacturers have moved to four-cylinder turbocharged engines, it’s hard to beat the effortless power delivery of a V6. Of course, there is some cost in fuel economy.

The tested Telluride gets the power to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts so unobtrusively it could be mistaken for a continuously variable automatic (CVT) that has no shift points. It is rated at 21 mpg overall.

2020 Telluride

Kia chose to introduce its biggest new model on a drive between Gateway, in western Colorado, southeast to its namesake Telluride, the famed ski resort. The 206-mile round trip meanders through canyons surrounded by astonishing mountains, mesas and crumbling rock outcroppings likely more than a billion years old.

Best of all, highways 141 and 146 were bereft of traffic, offering challenging twists and curves as well as straightaways relaxing enough to enjoy the stunning scenery while driving.

2020 Telluride

The Kia Telluride, of South Korea, is built in a plant in West Point, Georgia, southwest of Atlanta. It settled into and easily handled the Colorado highways, tracked steadily on the straights, handled curves with aplomb, and its supple suspension absorbed the many road irregularities. Wind and road noise were noticeable mainly by their absence.

Kia boasts that the Telluride has more standard driver-assist safety technologies than any of its competitors, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-centering and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot detection with collision avoidance and rear cross-traffic alert.

Other innovative safety equipment included Kia’s safe-exit assist, which alerts left-side passengers before stepping into the road when the system detects a vehicle approaching from the rear, and rear occupant alert, which sends a message to a smart phone and blows the horn if a passenger or pet are unintentionally left behind when the driver leaves.

2020 Telluride

Besides that, the top-line SX model, with the optional premium package, was about as well-equipped as anything you would find cruising the nation’s highways, including a quiet mode, which mutes second- and third-row audio speakers to allow the front-seat passengers to listen to music without disturbing rear-seat passengers.

Also: A comprehensive head-up display, premium leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, front and rear sunroof, memory driver’s seat, Harman-Kardon surround-sound audio, memory driver’s seat, navigation system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and SXM satellite radio.

2020 Telluride

The tester’s second-row captain’s chairs were as supportive and comfortable as the front buckets. They had enough fore-and-aft adjustment to allow knee room for adult third-row passengers, who had better be starvation-skinny to accommodate three back there.

Gateway, the unincorporated community that was the starting point for the Telluride introduction, has a permanent population of about 140. But its jewel is a luxury destination resort called Gateway Canyons, which includes a spanking new automobile museum housing the collection of John Hendricks, the founder and former chairman of the TV Discovery channel.

2020 Telluride

The museum focuses on the history of American automobiles, with 52 examples dating from the early 1900s and including the one-of-a-kind 1954 concept Oldsmobile F-88. Every car is as pristine as a china plate at the White House, though unfortunately many are unidentified.

But placing the Kia Telluride in close proximity demonstrates how stunningly far automobiles have come. None have anything near what the Telluride offers and prompts unavoidable thoughts of where personal transportation will become in the future.

2020 Telluride

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6; 291 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • Height :5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 167/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,482 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $44,535.
  • Price as tested: $46,860.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Telluride Cadet Leader

Photos (c) Kia

 

2020 Kia Soul: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Not that anyone could have predicted it a decade ago, but the Kia Soul not only survived, it thrived. Competitors fell by the wayside. Now, as a new 2020 model, it is poised for a growth spurt.

There is nothing quite like the Soul. It is basically a box with streamlining and styling cues, something like a small cargo van with comfort, performance and handling—not to mention a funky personality.

2020 Soul X-Line

When it was introduced as a 2009 model, competitors included the Scion xB and the Nissan Cube. The Cube, with a sideways-opening rear hatch, never caught on and faded away. The xB, from Toyota’s youth-oriented brand, grew into a larger station wagon, then disappeared as well, and later even the Scion name was axed. But the Soul soldiered on and in 2018 U.S. sales totaled 104,707.

Now in its third generation, the Soul presents a new face — actually, three new faces — to a broad range of customers from across different age and income spectrums. There are seven gasoline-engine trim levels from the base LX, at $18,485, to the top-line GT-Line trim, which starts at $28,485. An all-electric model will be introduced separately.

2020 Soul GT-Line

The GT-Line is unique in the lineup. Compared to all of the other trim levels, it presents a different front-end treatment and headlight positioning, a more powerful turbocharged engine and a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. The electric model has a unique fascia as well.

At the national introduction, Kia showed the GT-Line and the $22,485 X-line. The latter, along with all the other gasoline Soul versions except the GT-Line, is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque through a continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT). City/highway/combined fuel economy is rated at 27/33/30 mpg.

2020 Soul X-Line

However, Kia calls its transmission an IVT, for intelligent-variable automatic. CVTs use a system of belts and pulleys to seamlessly multiply engine torque on its way to the wheels. They typically have no shift points. Some are criticized for a sound and feel as if they are slipping, though some manufacturers use computer software to mimic set shift points.

The Kia IVT has different innards, including a chain drive that results in what might be called a more natural feel — that is, one that is more familiar to motorists used to traditional torque-converter automatics with smooth or sometimes jerky shift points.

Whatever. The X-Line’s IVT shifts unobtrusively and presents no annoyance to customers used to their previous 1959 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. On the GT-Line, however, the transmission is a dual-clutch automatic, which essentially works like a manual gearbox except with two clutches that are poised to anticipate the driver’s next up or down shift.

2020 Soul X-Line

That happens when the manual mode is selected and the driver uses the shift lever or paddles on the steering wheel. The transmission uncannily knows what the driver plans, so the twin clutches engage and disengage in milliseconds for rapid shifts.

Unfortunately, for true enthusiasts — they probably would be opting for a Mazda MX-5 Miata or Volkswagen GTI in any case —t he only manual gearbox available on the new Soul is on the base LX model. Kia makes an excellent six-speed manual gearbox available on models like the exciting Forte5, which would be welcome on the GT-Line Soul as well.

Soul GT-Line

Whatever. In its position in the marketplace, with all prices well below the $36,000 average price of a new car these days, the 2020 Soul delivers a range of satisfactory penny-pinching as well as enticing performance models.

Kia thinks that practical-minded customers, usually older, will opt for the X-Line for everyday practicality and even bumming around in moderately-challenging boondocks, even though no Soul can be ordered with all-wheel drive.

The GT-Line exists for those who want the torque of a turbo for stoplight sprints and a bit of excitement on those twisting mountain roads, although as mentioned the six-speed manual would be the choice if it were available.

Soul GT-Line

So, bottom line: The 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line, with its $28,485 price tag, delivers a good handling, nice riding, tidy package — just an inch shy of 14 feet long — that has midsize sedan passenger space, with full-size car luggage space, and rewarding throttle response and long-distance cruising on supportive and comfortable front bucket seats.

If you get your juices flowing only from $200,000-plus Italian exotics, the Soul is not for your soul. But if your orientation is toward a not-as-attractive complete package for not a lot of bucks, take a look.

2020 Soul GT-Line

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line four-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 201 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,036 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 27/32/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,485.
  • Price as tested: $28,485.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2020 Soul GT-Line

Photos (c) Kia

2019 Genesis G70 AWD 3.3T: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Differences between the suave all-new 2019 Genesis G70 and its cousin the rambunctious Kia Stinger are relatively modest. Either could easily satisfy a dedicated motoring enthusiast or anyone who simply appreciates sophisticated high performance.

As with other vehicles from South Korea’s Hyundai, which owns about 34% of Kia, the G70 shares its engines and transmission with the Stinger, introduced for the 2018 model year. It was the runner-up for the North American Car of the Year award, won by the Honda Accord. This year, the G70 also is a candidate for the award.

1096-GenesisG70Aimed at competing with compact sports sedans like the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the G70 is the third vehicle from Genesis, which was spun off from Hyundai as a separate luxury brand. Others are the midsize G80 and full-size luxury G90.

Both the G70 and the Stinger have the same drive trains: Rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with a 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or a 365-hp V6 engine with twin turbochargers.

Both use an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually. Surprisingly, the G70 with the four-cylinder can be equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox while the more sport-oriented Stinger does not offer the stick shift.

1092-GenesisG70The other major difference is that the G70, along with its Genesis garage mates, is a conventional sedan with a trunk while the Stinger is a modern fastback with a hatch. It is six inches longer than the G70 and has 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat compared to the 11 cubic feet in the G70’s trunk. Prices are similar and passenger space is identical in both cars at 94 cubic feet. Because of the overall difference, the government classifies the G70 as a compact and the Stinger as midsize.

Base price of the G70 rear-drive turbo four-cylinder is $35,895. Driven for this review was an all-wheel drive version with the 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine and two options packages: Prestige and Elite. The base price, including the destination charge, was $45,750 and the as-tested price came to $50,995.

1252-2019G70That’s not cheap but it’s a lot of car for the money, especially on the performance front. With all four tires clawing at the pavement, the G70 accelerates to 60 mph in less than five seconds with an advertised top speed of 140. To haul it back to something more reasonable, the G70 comes with Brembo high-performance racing brakes.

The handling and ride would not disappoint owners of the better European sports sedans, and the power steering delivers tactile feedback around curves while tracking truly in straight-line freeway driving.

There are five selectable driving modes: Smart, Eco and Comfort enhance efficiency and ease, Custom can be adjusted for driver preferences, and Sport is the setup for maximum performance, holding transmission shifts to higher rpms and tightening up the steering and adaptable suspension system.

1256-2019G70For enthusiasts, the audio system can be set up to pipe engine sounds into the passenger area, or shut off for silent running. Front seats have prominent bolsters that tighten and hug the torso in the Sport mode for aggressive driving on twisting mountain roads.

The G70 Prestige — its official designation — comes with advanced modern safety equipment, including forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, heads-up display, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic and blind-spot alert, lane-keeping assist, a surround-view camera and parking distance warning.

Other equipment on the test car included a one-touch motorized glass sunroof with an opaque sunshade, power adjustable steering wheel, wireless smart phone charging, automatic climate control, Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated power front seats, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and hands-free trunk opening.

1255-2019G70Though access to the back seat takes some ducking and twisting, the outboard rear seat passengers sit low in nicely coved and comfortable seats. However, middle seat passengers suffer on a hard cushion with intrusion of the center console and a high floor hump.

The small trunk is shallow but usable and the C-hinges are isolated from luggage. A temporary spare wheel and tire nestles under the trunk floor.

Likely the only drawback to the current Genesis lineup is the fact that it markets only four-door sedans at a time when crossover SUVs are overwhelming the market. Eventually Genesis will have to join the stampede. The suggestion here is to start with and upgrade the superb 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Call it the Genesis XG70.

1091-GenesisG70Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Genesis G70 AWD 3.3T four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.3-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 365 hp, 376 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/11 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,840 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/25/20 mpg. Premium fuel recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,750.
  • Price as tested: $50,995.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

1087-GenesisG70Photos (c) Genesis

2019 Kia Forte EX: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The Forte was not suffering. But Kia nevertheless injected it with juice from the Stinger — though not the venom.

That’s the opening loud note signaling the 2019 Kia Forte, which competes in the compact sedan class against such stalwarts as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Jetta.

Since its introduction nearly a decade ago, the Forte has been a success story for South Korea’s Kia. Steady annual sales peaked in 2017 at 117,596, making it the brand’s top seller. They continued strong in 2018.

2019 Forte

Not content to simply cruise, the company redesigned the Forte to resemble the Stinger, its critically acclaimed high-performance midsize fastback. They reimagined the styling, giving the new Forte a long hood, short rear deck and other design cues of the Stinger.

However, the Stinger is equipped with a practical hatchback, popular in Europe and other places, while the new Forte, at least initially, comes only as a four-door sedan with a traditional trunk, albeit of a size, 15.3 cubic feet, that would do justice to a midsize car.

The Forte itself, though marketed as a compact, perches on the cusp between compact and midsize, As defined by the federal government, size classes are determined by interior volume—a combination of passenger and cargo space.

2019 Forte

With a motorized sunroof, the new Forte has an interior of slightly less than 109 cubic feet, classified as a compact. Without the sunroof, the space is a bit over 111 cubic feet, which gives it a midsize designation. The dividing line is 110 cubic feet.

It also has an economy car orientation, although in the Korean tradition it comes well equipped even in the lower trim levels. There are four: FE, which starts at $18,585, followed by the LXS, S and EX. Only the base FE comes with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or Kia’s new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). All others get the automatic.

The transmission, which Kia calls an IVT, for Intelligent Variable Transmission, varies the power with a belt and pulleys so there are no shift points. It is the company’s first of its type built in-house and it was engineered to subdue common complaints about CVTs — that they are noisy and feel as if the transmission is slipping.

2019 Forte

Kia’s IVT uses a chain-type belt and special sound deadening materials around the transmission housing. It also can be switched to a different mode that mimics the shift points of a conventional automatic transmission.

But the IVT goes about its business so unobtrusively, getting the power to the front wheels efficiently, a driver is unlikely to give it a second thought. The Forte is powered by a 147-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 132 lb-ft of torque.

The combination is more than adequate for most driving conditions in urban settings or on freeways. But as noted earlier it does not have much venom. On long upgrades, it feels as if it is straining to maintain speed.

It is likely that Kia will eventually offer more powerful versions of the Forte, perhaps similar to the current 2018 Forte5, a four-door hatchback of conventional design that comes with a 201-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with either a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual gearbox.

2019 Forte

Even with the modest power on the 2019 sedans, the Forte presents itself as a well-executed value package that could easily satisfy many younger families.

At the introduction, most of the test cars were the top-line EX equipped with a $3,210 Launch Edition package of options that included forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic collision warning, adaptive cruise control, UVO infotainment with voice-activated navigation, 17-inch alloy wheels, motorized sunroof, LED headlights and interior lights, and a premium Harman-Kardon audio system.

The EX is priced at $22,885. With the Launch Edition package, the sticker comes to $26,095, which means that a customer could buy two Forte EX Launch Editions for about the same price as the top-line Kia Stinger GT with all-wheel drive. With the family resemblance, you could maybe tack on a Stinger badge and fool your friends.

Even better from a savings standpoint would be to order the S trim level with the $1,200 Premium package, which includes the sunroof and LED projection headlights with high-beam assist. It does not include navigation or pushbutton starting but it has quality cloth upholstery instead of the Sofino leather-like trim of the EX. The price is $22,285.

2019 Forte

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Kia Forte EX four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 147 hp, 132 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,903 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 30/40/34 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $22,885.
  • Price as tested (Launch Edition): $26,095.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2019 Forte

Photos (c) Kia

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