2019 Dodge Ram Quad Cab

This isn’t your grandpa’s C10

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Long gone are the days of bone jarring rides, single digit fuel economy, and a complete lack of styling cues.

I have a co-worker that is currently obsessed with the Ram to the point he wants to buy one.  He’s rented one twice in recent weeks (although higher trim levels) and I had to scope it out for myself to see what the hype was about.

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This “Classic” trim level was fairly basic, but more luxury was included than any standard work truck made before the turn of the century.

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Obviously, this is the largest rental I’ve had to date as displayed by how far back I had to stand to take the pictures to capture it bumper to bumper.  I’m not generally a truck person, but new to me,  all 4 doors lock and unlock with the remote plus the rear tailgate locks and unlocks also.

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No way I could fit the entire truck into my garage front to back and I could barely get it in on each side.

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Even with the driver’s side mirror folded in, there’s barely an inch of clearance in my typical sized garage.  The sheer mass of 4-door pickup trucks makes me appreciate 10+ year old trucks that still have shiny paint.  From now on, I’ll take a double take when I see a pickup truck parked inside a garage!

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I had no issue getting in and out of the Ram, but anyone under 5’6″ might have to take a running leap to have a seat.  Running boards aren’t included on the Classic trim, but are a $740 option on the Dodge website.

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I was shocked to learn that this stereo was a $695 option.  I thought it was odd that a 5.0-Inch Touchscreen Display, GPS Antenna Input, Integrated Voice Command,  Bluetooth®, Media Hub (USB, Aux, Charge Port), Remote USB Port, SiriusXM®, and a temperature-compass gauge would be considered extra.  Unless you activate the SiriusXM radio, music selection would be limited to only AM/FM radio reminiscent of the stripped bare work trucks that contain only 5 presets and 2 knobs.   A single disc CD-player would be an extra $345.

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The back seats are spacious even for college basketball players.  There’s plenty of legroom for all 6 passengers regardless of how far back the front seats are set.

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There’s very few vehicles out there today that can seat 6 people with only 2 rows of seats.  The Highlander of 2 months ago could seat 8, but with 3 rows.  The seating space in the cabin of the Ram was unparalleled to anything I’ve driven to date and even larger than the Tahoes/Suburbans we have in our fleet.

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The standard 305hp V6 would be no slouch off the line, but the 5.7 liter Hemi gives an extra 90hp, but with a 3mpg penalty.  In my day with the Ram, I got 18mpg in mixed city and highway driving which was in-line with the EPA stated 15city / 22hwy.  The 8-speed automatic was the smoothest performing transmission I’ve tested so far, even the Cadillac XTS that costs $15,000 more.  Of course the fuel economy isn’t going to be great with a 5300lb truck that can tow over 5 tons, but the 8-speed automatic definitely softens the blow at the gas pump.  The insulated battery casing implies the Hemi V8 heats up the engine bay under heavy load, even with the standard electronically adjustable grille louvers.  A torque heavy diesel engine is to be released before April of this year and should make 20mpg fairly easy in the city.

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How do you know you’re in a huge vehicle?  The 3 across cupholders in the fold down armrest and a center console big enough to store 3 iPads!  I love the standard issue rubber lined storage area making it incredibly easy to clean.

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I haven’t seen a dashboard this simple since the minute Hyundai i10 we had in Iceland in December.  The steering wheel controls can change the center info screen, but the options are limited to trip odometers and fuel economy.

The extra two doors add $4,300 and the Hemi V-8 adds another $1,450 to the as tested $36,800 MSRP.   The least expensive single cab Ram starts at $27,300 and can be optioned out at nearly double that with the Hemi engine, Quad Cab, and every possible electronic gadget and creature comfort.  Since Dodge has forever been struggling to gain a noticeable market share against Ford and Chevy, heavy discounts are plentiful for trucks that have been sitting on the new car lots for more than a few weeks.

Until now, I never understood why I see so many huge trucks on the highway with only 2 passengers.  But after my day with the Ram, it’s easy to understand why so many owners just clean out the bed of work supplies and hit the open road for the incredible ride quality.  The XTS I drove last month is undoubtedly better on gas and ride quality, but no way it could haul a trailer or carry wood to a job site.

I’d rent a Ram again, but only if the gas costs were split 6 ways.

SEAT COMFORT:
80 out of 100
ERGONOMICS:
80 out of 100 – steering wheel controls poorly marked.
SOUND SYSTEM:
65 out of 100
TRUNK/STORAGE:
95 out of 100 – odd to have such a small glove box where everything else is huge.
ECONOMY:
35 out of 100
HIGHWAY CRUISER:
75 out of 100
CITY COMMUTER:
50 out of 100
RECOMMEND TO RENT:
65 out of 100
RECOMMEND TO BUY:
45 out of 100 – curious how the currently flawless transmission ages.

590 points

 

2018 Kia Soul

Love it or hate it?

Just this week I had 2 customers over the course of 15 minutes that both reserved a midsize car in which the Soul,  Sentra, Corolla, and Elantra reside.  I gave them the options to choose from and the first said,

“Oh God, anything but a Soul.”

Only a few customers later, the selection was the same but the reply,

“Oh!  Definitely the Soul!  I had one of those a few months ago and loved it!”

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I had to see for myself what brings about such strong feelings towards the Soul.  I’m sure everyone has seen the commercials by now with hamsters dancing around and driving the Soul to hip hop music.  Obviously, Kia’s target demographic isn’t AARP members.

The styling makes it distinguishable from every other ride on the road today, except maybe the now defunct Nissan Cube that vanished [thankfully] in 2014.  Both vehicles have a cult-like following, but only Kia’s marketing worked for the long-term.

Looking on Kia’s website for the 2020 model year, the front grille resembles a Range Rover with it’s much slimmer headlamps.  I doubt the Soul will ever be referred to as a budget friendly Discovery, but time will tell how else they compare.

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I’m fully aware that not all rental cars age equally and this one was one of the roughest.  In the picture above, the paint has chipped off above the license plate and there’s a missing trim piece next to the right reflector.  It had been smoked in previously, but the smell was masked pretty well until it was left in direct sunlight.  The engine jerked unexplainably as if it had the gas saving AutoStop/Start, but the RPM gauge never moved at idle.

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The 1.6L engine had 160hp (up from the entry level 130hp base version) and was peppy enough to propel the 2900 lb. Soul from 0-60 in the mid seven second range.  The optional 2.0L turbo engine adds 40hp and cuts the 60mph sprint by over a second.  All 3 engines achieve nearly identical fuel economy at 25 city and 30 highway, but 2.0 liter turbo has the help of a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.  In my day with the Soul, I struggled to keep the trip computer above 25mpg even on a few highway trips.  I finished the day at rather disappointing 25.5, but not surprising considering the RPM gauge was flowing freely.  The 6-speed automatic was smooth into all gears when accelerating, but it downshifted from 6th to 5th at the slightest incline.

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The ‘trunk’ area is small if hauling 4 or 5 people is the duty of the day, but bigger than the Buick Encore of a few months ago.  At a base price of $20,500, the Soul seems to be a little pricey with having such a sparse cabin.  The Soul is one of very few cars on the market that is available with a 6-speed manual (starting at only $16,200) and available on the other end of the spectrum is the loaded electric version at an eye-popping $33,900.

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The backseat is just as sparse as last weeks Kia Niro, but with better seats.  The front seats were just right on my lower back and legs without the need for power adjustments. 20190208_140353

What the driver’s seat lacked in pizazz, it made up for in comfort.  It’s odd for me to get into a rental car and only adjust the distance from front to rear and be instantly ready to drive 500 miles.   The condition of the driver’s floormat is another example of the rough life this Soul has had in it’s 25,000 miles.

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The center stack was very simple with zero extras, but every button was perfectly labeled and presented with no surprises except for the oddly marked 180w and 120w power supplies below the HVAC controls.  The stereo wasn’t great, but light years better than the Niro.  An optional Harman-Kardon 7-speaker stereo with subwoofer and external amp is available.

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The ergonomics of the Soul was a favorite of any rental vehicle so far.  Everything was perfectly laid out and at night was aglow with the famous orange hue with no gaps in labeling.  It was refreshing not having any guesswork involved with changing a setting.  For some reason, I was really enthralled by the design of the outside A/C and defroster vents.  They were creative, well done, and so unique it almost appeared the car was built around them.

I don’t think I’d rent the Kia Soul again unless I could try an electric version.  The fuel economy was much lower than a similarly sized Sentra or Corolla, but the Soul has a higher SUV-like seating position.  I hope to scope out the Elantra and Corolla soon to compare and contrast.

SEAT COMFORT:
85 out of 100
ERGONOMICS:
95 out of 100 – only gripe was the RPM gauge seemed squeezed.
SOUND SYSTEM:
75 out of 100
TRUNK/STORAGE:
60 out of 100
ECONOMY:
55 out of 100
HIGHWAY CRUISER:
50 out of 100 – unforgiving ride on anything but fresh blacktop.
CITY COMMUTER:
60 out of 100
RECOMMEND TO RENT:
45 out of 100
RECOMMEND TO BUY:
60 out of 100 – A 3 yr old used car would be hard to ignore over a much pricier Corolla.
585 points

 

2018 Chevy Equinox

14 different trim levels

Shouldn’t there be an Equinox for every taste and price point?

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Starting out at a little over $26,800 MSRP, it’s hard to ignore a comfortable 5 passenger SUV regardless of creature comforts or high tech gadgets.

We have various Equinox’s in FWD and AWD trims and this was a little above the bare $23,500 L trim.  This LT version starts at $3,300 more.  After perusing the Chevrolet website, the differences are minor with quite a big jump in cost.  I don’t think SiriusXM radio, HID headlights, deep tinted rear glass, roof mounted luggage carrier provisions(?), spare tire instead of inflating kit, and rear carpeted floormats warrant that price increase.

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Chevy did a good job of disguising near to basic LT version from the top tiered AWD Premier Diesel that stickers for over $7,000 more.  This pictured area left of the steering wheel is usually where carmakers stick optional overrides for traction control, adaptive cruise control, etc.  A refreshing change from the norm, this Equinox appears as if there’s no other trim choices available.

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The center console is very typical Chevrolet.  Electronic parking brake, small cubby for spare change, 6-speed automatic gear shifter, 2 standard sized cupholders, and a giant storage area under the center armrest that could easily swallow an iPad.  The “L” on the shifter is a little misleading.  That actually activates the sport shifter buttons on the top of the shifter, although it does default to 1st gear when at a stop.

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I think it’d be challenging for anyone but a seasoned Chevrolet salesperson to differentiate between a Cruze, Malibu, Equinox, and Impala dashboard.  I’d like to consider myself as a car fanatic, but all the Chevy dash pics I’ve taken for this blog blend together now.  Most notably, this Equinox has no redline on the RPM gauge.

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As expected, the center stack is very sparse on this base “L” version.  There’s not an automatic climate control in here, but the fit and finish are such that it seems normal.  The fan delay from cranking the heater from off to high was unusually long even after it’s completely warmed up.

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The fuel door is the GM capless filler system found in most of GM cars, trucks and SUVs current lineup.  I’m still perplexed of the what seems to be an auxiliary port to the right and hope to find out soon.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the interior comfort, ride, and performance of the Equinox.  The power drivers seat was instantly comfortable with minimal adjustments even more so than the Cadillac XTS of last week, but at this price point, the passenger seat is manual.  This would be a good choice for 5 people on a lengthy road trip or a city tour due to ease of entry and departure from the cabin plus the cavernous cargo area.  Some of the interior materials felt really cheap, but quilted seats felt and the A/C vents looked better than expected, respectively.

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The back seat was also sparse in creature comforts.  There was a power outlet and 2 A/C vents, but that was it.

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The rear cargo area is huge, but not quite big enough for a 3rd row seat.  The cargo capacity is nearly 30 cubic feet with the seats up and 63 1/2 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.  The right side wheel well cover was very cheap plastic only comparable to an early 80’s station wagon.

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The 170hp 4-cyl turbo was no where near a rocket ship, but the 30mpg I achieved on my mixed city/highway day with the Equinox was an acceptable balance.  There’s an available 2.0 4-cyl turbo with 82 extra horsepower and a 9-speed automatic, but that comes with a minimum $3500 premium from this LT trim.

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SEAT COMFORT:
70 out of 100 –
ERGONOMICS:
75 out of 100 – basic, but well thought out and easy to quickly read.
SOUND SYSTEM:
65 out of 100
TRUNK/STORAGE:
90 out of 100
ECONOMY:
65 out of 100
HIGHWAY CRUISER:
80 out of 100
CITY COMMUTER:
65 out of 100
RECOMMEND TO RENT:
75 out of 100
RECOMMEND TO BUY:
40 out of 100 – “L” trim is a much better value, but there’s an identical black one on ebay now for $8400 off of MSRP.

625 points

2018 Cadillac XTS

What does $52,000 get you?

In a nutshell, a lot, but is it enough?

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There’s A LOT of cars out there that anyone can buy for $50 grand.  The XTS is a beauty inside and out, although I wonder if I would ever get accustomed to the spaceship headlights.  I drove this maroon jewel to Georgia for my goddaughter’s daughter’s 1st birthday party and it didn’t disappoint on the way south, but the seats gave me fatigue issues on the way back home.

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The thigh and glute support was just right, but the 2 separate lumbar air bladders I could never figure out the comfortable setting.  My grandmother’s last 2 cars were both Cadillac Sedan de DeVilles (1978 and 1990) so I asked mom if she thought Grandma Faye would have eventually bought one of these and she said “No way”.  At first I thought she answered to quickly, but after rethinking the seats, I think mom was right.  This is definitely not your granny’s Caddy.  The seats have changed from “8 straight hour highway cruiser” to “European spirited driving machine”.  The 7-speaker Bose sound system and flawless highway manners are definitely top tier and undoubtedly continue that long tradition of 1st choice rides for a road trip.  Under any highway or city street conditions, the suspension did a marvelous job of smoothing out imperfections, even with the large ‘sporty’ 19″ wheels. Calling it a BMW competitor is a stretch, but it’s obvious what German-made target market is in the crosshairs.  The base 530i is barely $1200 more than this XTS, but with nearly 60 less horsepower under the hood.

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The grille of the XTS resembles the rest of the Cadillac line with the unmistakable crest centered in the air intake, but the narrow chrome surround fog lights differentiate it from the ATS and CTS.

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The 304hp V6 was a good mix of fuel economy and power, but with aggressive city driving, fuel economy will barely get out of the low teens.  The 6 speed automatic was smooth in all conditions, but fuel economy would benefit greatly with at least 2 more top end gears.  Handling was better than expected in a 2 ton Caddy, but no comparison to the near 50/50 weight distribution of a 5-series BMW.  The Brembo brakes were impressive in wet and dry conditions.

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The interior wood trim was beautiful and should hold up well over time.  Within the wood trim in the doors was indirect LED lighting that looked incredible at night.  The heated seats and heated steering wheel came on automatically when conditions warranted outside.  The steering wheel felt warm to the touch in barely 20 seconds, but would stay on until I turned it off.  The heated seats gradually turned down from the max (3 lights) to the minimum (1 light), but would never turn off completely on their own.

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I inadvertently found the wireless charging compartment behind the HVAC controls.  There was no indication at all that there was a ‘secret’ charging station above the USB and power outlet above the gear shifter.  If the top of my hand hadn’t touched the chromed bottom button release, I never would have known that was there.  I expect we’ll have more than a few customers leave phones because “out of sight – out of mind”.

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In typical Cadillac fashion, the XTS trunk could swallow 18 cubic feet of suitcases and bags.

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The dashboard has been upgraded immensely since my grandmother’s 1990 de Ville, but the gauge cluster and interior button fonts haven’t changed a bit.  The steering wheel controls and menus took some getting use to and I really thought it’d be more similar to the Impala of a few weeks ago.  I think it’s a positive that Cadillac has differentiated itself from the much less expensive Impala, but it was a little surprising.

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The LED rear tail lights were unusually bright.  I only know that because when the trunk is opened remotely, they turn on automatically.  As you can see, the weather conditions were not ideal this weekend and extra lighting of any type was welcomed!

I was bewildered that all the latest safety features and tech weren’t standard issue.  Adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warnings are only available on the higher Premium Luxury and Platinum trim levels which add $7,000 and nearly $17,000, respectively, to the base prices.  In no way, shape, or form can Cadillac justify the Platinum trim level with an additional $20,000 to the base XTS with the same engine and transmission.

SEAT COMFORT:
65 out of 100 – should be higher for a luxury car
ERGONOMICS:
70 out of 100
SOUND SYSTEM:
90 out of 100 – Bose has another winner
TRUNK/STORAGE:
75 out of 100
ECONOMY:
65 out of 100 – 600 miles on a tank is possible
HIGHWAY CRUISER:
95 out of 100 – testament to suspension and tires that soak up nearly every road flaw.
CITY COMMUTER:
60 out of 100 – parallel parking could be challenging.
RECOMMEND TO RENT:
70 out of 100
RECOMMEND TO BUY:
20 out of 100 – MSRP is ridiculous.

610 points

 

 

2019 Chevrolet Cruze

It’s now or never to make an impression

If you’ve picked up a car magazine in the last few months, you’re probably aware that Ford is getting out of the car business in the U.S. and GM is now focusing (see what I did there?) on crossovers, trucks, and electric cars.  So you’d think that the people at Chevy’s small car division would be putting their best product forward in an attempt to change Mary Barra’s mind about killing off the Cruze.

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Well, the Cruze isn’t the worst thing on 4-wheels, but at the nearly $23,000 price point in this LT trim, it should lean more towards “WOW” than “whatever”.  The base L version has a MSRP of $19,000 minimum and can go over $30K with the 9-speed automatic diesel with a few option packages and accessories.  It’d take A LOT of miles to break even and justify the diesel’s jump in price even with 48MPG highway rating.

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The base 1.4L turbo 4 had a class typical 8 second 0-60 time with a not-so-typical EPA besting 40mpg on the highway on our 225 mile day trip.  I hope the tuners will try to up the boost and make an unsuspecting sleeper pending of course if the engine block can handle it.

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For 2019, the Cruze gets a mild styling refresh to differentiate itself a little more from the slightly larger Malibu, but the similarities are still there.

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I thought the rear end was a little too similar to the Corolla & Sentra.  How about some narrow LED taillights to set it apart?

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The trunk was surprisingly large for a midsize car and even more surprising was the spare tire that has already seen some use.   I didn’t need the trunk at all during my day with the Cruze, so I left it alone.

After I turned it back in, I wonder if a previous renter hadn’t done some damage to the car.  There was a fairly loud ‘clunk’ coming from the rear at take-off that made me suspect that it had sustained some suspension damage that wasn’t visible without being on a lift.

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The dark cloth front seats were comfortable and supportive and I had zero fatigue after 90 straight minutes of driving.  The passenger seat was not power operated and could only go 4 ways manually.

The cabin was quiet even during a brief passing moment of 80mph.  Judge all you want, but I didn’t want to be in the way of a fast approaching fully loaded semi truck.

The handling was pretty good considering the tires could have been better.  They seemed noisier than they should have been on less than perfect road surfaces.  Granted, GM got a gigantic volume discount since that was the standard issue tire across the entire fleet, but I’d be curious to see the difference on a set of high quality Michelins.

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The driver’s seat surround was acceptable at this price point, but the dash and door panels screamed cheap to the touch and the eye.

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Since I’d already driven and scoped out a Malibu and Impala, the radio and HVAC controls needed no learning curve.  It was odd to be in a car so new that there was still a never used radio station preset.  I liked that the USB and power outlet were prominent and not in the center storage compartment.

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On this particular rental I purchased the prepaid gasoline option since the tank was about 3/8 full at pickup and that was exactly the amount I planned on using for the day.  The dashboard went from “53 miles to empty” to “Fuel level low” so I don’t know exactly how close I was cutting it, but I definitely came out ahead since the prepay was 29 cents per gallon less than the pumps in town AND the needle was below obviously below “E”.  It’s a similar feeling when your GPS says “7 hours to destination”, therefore I accept the challenge to make it there in 6 1/2 hours or less.

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The dashboard is an obvious sibling to the Impala and Malibu and just as easy to read at a glance.  The 160mph speedometer is just plain silly.  If this car could reach 125mph on a flat road or even downhill, I’d be very surprised.

Things of note:
Don’t procrastinate if you want one, they probably won’t be around much longer.
EPA states 28City/38Highway and I achieved shocking 40mpg in mostly highway driving.
Would people consider a Trax instead of this?
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
I liked the Cruze ok, but I have a few friends that have had one and they were maintenance and repair nightmares with very few miles.  I wouldn’t bother mentioning that fact if they drove like a Nascar driver, but that’s not the case.  Replacing the radiator once before it hits 100,000 is not ok, but replacing it before 50,000 miles is completely unacceptable.  I’d like to think that was a single model year problem or a bad batch of plastic that had built-in defects.  No way I’d buy a new one, but I’m curious what condition a well-maintained version would be with 75,000+ miles.  Since it was so super efficient and comfortable for two people, I’d rent it again, but only if a similar Corolla wasn’t available to scope out for a day.
Chevy if you’re listening . . .
What will fill the affordable fuel efficiency void if the smallest thing made is a crossover or an expensive hybrid?
On a scale from 1-100: (1- never / 100- now and forever!)
Buy it now – 15
Buy it later at half the current price – 45
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 50 (file most of those points under ‘efficiency’)
Oooh and ahhh factor – 20
Recommended to rent – 55

RIGHT UNDER THE WIRE before midnight.

Happy New Year! ! ! !

 

 

 

 

2018 Mazda CX-5

Favorite SUV so far?

Mazda’s SkyActiv technology has been around for a while now and the mix of power and fuel economy continues satisfy a lot of buyers in a class that is largely dominated by the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

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The 4-cylinder 176hp engine isn’t a rocket ship by any means, but 0-60 to 8.5 seconds is respectable for a SUV that’ll get 30mpg in a mix of city and highway driving.   The 6-speed automatic performed without a hitch under heavy acceleration or casual highway cruising.

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The fuel filler door was unusually large.  When refueling, the option is to put the cap on the what seemed to be a slightly magnetic black pad to the right or hanging it on the metal cradle on the filler door itself.  It seems like a setup for a possible alternative fuel port.  An electric outlet next to a gasoline filler door sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, but maybe it could be for hydrogen or CNG.  More than likely I’m just reading too much into it and it’s just wasted space.

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The rear styling is obvious Mazda since the taillights have the same pointy cat-eye shape as the MX-5 Miata, 3, and 6 models.

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The cargo area swallowed the poinsettia bush (way too big to be called a single ‘plant’) that a friend gave to me after the 4th Sunday of Advent.  Her forever curious dog was at risk of eating some of it and I didn’t know poinsettias can make dogs really sick.  There was no cargo net in sight which is common in most SUVs now, but it is sold as a $60 dealer accessory.

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The front fascia, including the unmistakable grille, shares a lot of styling cues from the rest of the Mazda line.  On a positive note, how could the car overheat with a grille opening that huge?  The small headlights and the huge hood that nearly goes all the way to the fender corners really differentiates the CX-5 from everything else.

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The lane departure warning and traction control buttons are surrounded by. . . 4 blank nothings.  I looked on the Mazda website to see what these blank buttons could be, but what a disappointment to learn that they are also useless blanks on the [supposed] maxed out Grand Touring.  After a little more digging on other Mazda models, the $7,000 less expensive Mazda 3 has the same exact panel.  What’s the point of that since the CX-5 and 3 are manufactured in 2 different places?   I promise I’ll try not to beat a dead horse about blank buttons next year.

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The front seats were very comfortable and looked amazing.  The 2-tone leather and suede looked very expensive and if they age well years down the road, this particular feature should help immensely with future resale value.  My 2 weekend dinner buddies commented this was their favorite vehicle so far mainly attributed to seat comfort.  The rear seats were just as cozy and had the same suede inlay as the fronts.

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The center console was an odd combination of buttons (first Mazda rental so far), but very easy to learn.  The NAV button is misleading as it doesn’t have standard mapped navigation, just a digital compass display.  The sport setting next to the gear shifter just means that in ‘sport mode’ that the transmission only utilizes 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th gears.  I think that’d help on a steep incline to prevent the constant downshifts, but not much use otherwise.  The gear shifter in manual mode would nearly do the same thing.  The mute button on the lower right was useful when talking in the cabin.

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The climate control buttons were perfectly laid out and I wouldn’t change a thing.  Every button did exactly as expected.  The heated seats are a welcome addition to ANY car in December.  The passenger seat sensors were much less sensitive to where I could put a few bags on the seat without the need of a seatbelt to keep the warning chimes off.

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The dashboard display was also excellent.  The fixed speedometer and tachometer were clear and sharp in all lighting and the changeable display on the right was also easy to see in any configuration.  The windshield wiper and headlight stalks contained no surprises either.

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Is it odd to love a steering wheel design?  If so, so be it!  I loved the chrome Mazda logo and the polished aluminum inlay at the bottom.  The steering wheel thickness was confident and comfortable where ever my hands happened to land.  My employer will be relieved to know that I don’t use the horn on every rental, but a cell phone addicted guy in a Chevy Dually prompted me to honk at 55mph.  I had an Integra years ago that had rusted horns that became inoperable shortly after I bought it.  I replaced it with a 3-tone air horn that was so loud, 18-wheelers were confused at what was behind them.  The CX-5 didn’t need an air horn, but I’d prefer one with more volume.

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The CX-5 was all business from the side.  There’s nothing really polarizing about the style except the unusually wide hood, which is neither good or bad nowadays, but it’s difficult to differentiate it from the less expensive CX-3 from any distance.

Things of note:
Entry MSRP is $24,100 for the base sport version, this Touring starts at $2,000 more.
Achieved an impressive 29.9 mpg thanks in part to the 6-speed auto and lighter than normal acceleration.  EPA estimates seem too conservative at  24CITY/30HWY.
A maxed out Grand Touring with every option and accessory is $36,500.
Imagine the fun with a turbo.
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
I don’t have the need or desire to buy a SUV, but this is undoubtedly one of my favorites I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in or driving – rental or otherwise.  This would be very comfortable for 4 people on a short in-town night out or a cross-country road trip. I’d be fine with being assigned a CX-5 again, although I want to try others in the class first.
Mazda if you’re listening . . .
It’s hard to mess with a good thing, especially since the RAV4 and CR-V engineers are always in the chase, but more than one powertrain should be available.
On a scale from 1-100: (1- never again / 100- every time)
Buy it now – 45
Buy it later at half the current price – 80
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 55
Oooh and ahhh factor – 45
Recommended to rent – 85

I’ll have one more review before the year end!  Within the next few weeks I’ll be adding “Unusual Cars of Iceland” plus my favorites from 2018.

 

2017 Hyundai Accent

Not the smallest Hyundai

After our Icelandic rental of an i10, I had to scope out an Accent to see how it compared.  This 2017 model (I’ve only seen one 2018 Elantra and have yet to see a 2019 Hyundai of any type in our fleet) was the only Hyundai available and it had over 30,000 miles on the odometer.  It is probably on it’s way to a retail or wholesale lot sooner than later.

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The Accent is one of the few vehicles in our fleet that doesn’t have Bluetooth capability.  Granted, this is a $16,000 car, but Bluetooth should be a pretty inexpensive safety addition just to keep drivers focused on the road instead of a phone.

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Compared to the i10 we had in Iceland, this 4-cylinder 137hp Accent was a rocket ship.  The 6-speed automatic was a much needed while improving fuel economy also.

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The front seats were very similar to the i10 in that they were not very supportive on the lower back.  A long-trip would be very unpleasant even though the highway ride was much better than I thought possible in a car this small.

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Rear seat legroom was night and day different from the i10.  This is supposedly a 5-passenger hatchback, but even 3 teenagers would be snug in the backseat as it is not very wide.  The rear seats were more supportive and comfortable possibly due to lack of use.

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If you had told me the Accent would have a tiny cargo area, I’d immediately have to show you pictures of the i10 trunk!  The Accent’s cargo hold was easily 2 times and probably closer to 3 times bigger.

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The console was very reminisce of the smaller i10, but lacking the extra power outlet for the backseat.  The light color interior has held up remarkable well considering so many rental cars with anything but black cloth or leather show stains nearly immediately.   The gear shifter felt surprisingly firm, but calling it ‘sporty’ would be a stretch; not at all what would be expected in a bare bones econobox.

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The rear end has the distinctive Hyundai tail lights and rear reflectors that are common throughout their fleet.  After driving the Accent in the dreary weather all day, I wonder if any carmaker will figure out how to make the rear windshield wiper obsolete and use wind and aerodynamics to clear the water on the rear glass.

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The center stack was typical except for the recirculate button seemed to be tacked on at the bottom as an afterthought.  The sound system could have been better if the rear speakers had worked, but the bass was impressive coming from only the 2 front speakers.  Purely coincidental that the SiriusXM radio was playing a weather appropriate song.  The Accent has a CD player, but for 2019 a CD Player is no longer available and Bluetooth is standard.

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As shown in the i10 blog last week, it’s 4-speed auto revved at 3000rpm at 90kmh (about 55mph) and the Accent was much better off at only 1800rpm.  The digital center is very sparse as it only 2 trip odometers and fuel economy other than what’s displayed above.

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This particular Accent was missing the antenna add-on that would have helped with radio reception in parking garages, but still worked ok without it.  I’d guess one of the many car washes this Accent has seen took care of that antenna a while ago.

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LED headlights weren’t available on the Accent line in 2017, but standard on the loaded Limited trim for 2019.

Things of note:
No Bluetooth capability.
EPA states 26City/36Highway and I achieved an expected 29 in mostly city driving.
More than double the horsepower of the i10 and only weighs 500lbs more.
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
The much improved Yaris and the class leading (according to some co-workers) Focus are night and day better than the Accent.  The Yaris is much more comfortable and the Focus’s we have in our fleet are mostly the Titanium loaded trim level.  That might be why the Accent’s are being phased out and not replaced as the company appears to be upgrading the segment’s class.
Hyundai if you’re listening . . .
Regardless of price, this is as small as necessary for the USA.  Please leave the i10 to the Europeans.
On a scale from 1-100: (1- nay / 100- yay)
Buy it now – 20
Buy it later at half the current price – 35
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 35
Oooh and ahhh factor – 30
Recommended to rent – 30