Category Archives: Kia

The Hamsters were Running with the Ducks – A thousand miles in a Kia Soul Turbo

2017 Kia Soul in Wild OrangeThis past month we had a thousand-mile journey and the team at Kia offered us a Wild Orange 2017 Soul Turbo for the trek. Thinking about great fuel economy and rising gasoline prices, it was a natural yes. Second thoughts were a light little breadbox rolling on the crazy interstates, this might not be the best idea.

 

 

 

Kia Soul Rear SeatTurns out that the Soul Turbo was a great road trip car, very capable on the highway, nimble in traffic and on the back roads, good on fuel, with plenty of space for luggage and people. As the trip turned out, it was mostly driving during inclement weather, rain, and fog. And the Kia Soul handled it, all in stride. The hampsters and the ducks got friendly on this trip.

 

History of the Kia Soul

Rolling bread boxes with the first generation XB from Scion and the 2017 Kia Soul.
Rolling bread boxes with the first generation XB from Scion and the 2017 Kia Soul.

The Kia Soul appeared on the market a decade ago, when small all activity vehicles were the rage. Spending time with the car, you can see how the Soul’s concept vehicle was inspired by a wild boar wearing a backpack. The New York Times reported, “the boar’s attitude of strength and capability was the image.” Today the Soul is the only rolling breadbox left as mundane crossovers have taken over the market share.

Kia Soul Rear Entry
Getting in and out of the Kia Soul was easy with plenty of room.

The Soul, designed to appeal to hip urban youth has also found a niche with the gray hairs who want a vehicle with easy entry and not a high price. Looking for something to carry the dogs, gifts for the grandchildren, and all that goes with life after kids have fled the nest. During our time with the Soul we had to agree as it had space for our stuff, and still room for people and a comfortable ride.

 

Kia Soul Saftey

While we did not test all of the Soul’s safety features, we did experience the anti-lock brakes on a wet interstate. They engaged, our heart skipped a beat, and we stopped safely.

Kia Soul Dash
Kia Soul Turbo steering wheel has color-coordinated stitching and easy access controls.

In 2009 the Kia Soul quickly earned a maximum five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. With the dual front advanced and side curtain airbags, as well as the electronic stability control and vehicle stability management systems, this feels like a safe small car.  That safety rating places Kia Soul among the safest B-segment family cars in the world.

 

 

Marketing Strategy – Hamsters Drive the Soul

Kia Soul HamsterWe identify with the chubby Hamsters and are thrilled to see them every chance we get. After the Soul’s release, Kia USA launched commercials in a campaign titled “A new way to roll” featuring city streets with animated hamsters on stationary hamster wheels. The commercials have attracted popularity on video-sharing sites and were awarded “Automotive Ad of the Year” at the Nielsen Automotive Advertising Awards. he most recent commercial was for the Turbo model, featuring the Motörhead song “Ace of Spades“.

Our Experience

Having always liked the out of the box, boxiness of the Soul, it is great to see that it is easily customizable with options and Kia offers the Soul in bright colors which have appealed to folks in this white, silver, and black painted automotive world we live in.

Kia Soul Steering WheelThis Wild Orange Soul was also economical averaging around 30 mpg on the trip. Holding the road in the inclement weather and was easy to slip in and out of traffic with plenty of power from the 1.6-liter turbocharged direct injection 4-cylinder gasoline engine.

Interior space is well laid out, not expansive, but we did slip in a six-foot-long piece of art on canvas then later loaded it with supplies for our felines. The Soul did well even with the added weight in the rear.

Room to carry in the Kia Soul
Room to carry in the Kia Soul

A long drive was made comfortable by the firm and well-fitting leather and cloth seats. Easy access to the controls and view of the dash and displays made driving the Soul a fun experience. While it tended to be a bit choppy at lower speeds due to the 7-speed dual clutch transmission, which from what I understand is actively shifting gears. But at higher than in-town traffic speeds that did not pose an issue. And was actually quite smooth and somewhat quiet.

 

 

 

UVO, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Sirus XM and lots of USB ports

Modern cars seem to be short on USB ports to charge and connect phones and devices to the in-car technology. The Soul had two USB’s easily accessible and lit up at night, as well as an audio input jack and two 12-volt power outlets which seem to me to be so old school, back to when cars had cigarette lighters.

The Kia’s UVO eServices Infotainment System and associated smartphone app seemed to me to be more hype than help, while it is nice, I never found it very useful. Though a friend driving a Niro found it to be very interactive on that vehicle.

Not being a fan of Android Auto, as I feel it takes control of my phone, or maybe I am not an experienced enough user of it, this time it did not bother me as much as in other cars. On the other hand, it is nice to see that the car is equipped to handle whatever technology that is brought into it.

Kia Soul Backup displays on a 7-inch screen
Kia Soul Backup displays on a 7-inch screen

The 7″ touchscreen with rearview camera and the audio system worked great. The backup camera gave a clear large view of what was behind the vehicle even in bad weather. Sound quality out of the audio system was good, though not concert quality. This Soul was not equipped with navigation, though it would have been nice to turn off the display screen, as it had very little to display other than the Sattelite radio station information.

Dollars and Sense

20180514_130420The 2017 model we drove had a sticker price of $23,620 including freight, but not tax, tags, and dealer add-ons. Mileage was just under 30 mpg during a week of brisk highway driving, twisty side roads, and crowded city streets. Lower trim levels of the non-turbo Soul start at $16,200, though, with the extras that this model had, the price is reasonable. And with an auto club or buying service discounts, dealer incentives no doubt you can grab a great deal on a Kia. Like all Kia’s, this one carries one of the best warranties out there.

Driving Near and Far

Kia Soul has a distinctive and effective tail light cluster.
Kia Soul has a distinctive and effective tail light cluster.

The Soul Turbo was a great all-around car, small enough for parking in town, large enough to carry things and not be uncomfortable on the highway at speed with other traffic. The Soul Turbo had enough power to keep up with traffic and move out when needed. Interior space and comfort were plentiful and appointments while not luxurious, were modern and functional.

The Soul is a decade old design now, and with a refresh in the works, it will be interesting to see the next iteration. As with other Kia models, we have driven, we give this car a thumbs up.

William West Hopper with the Kia Soul Turbo

Words and Images by William West Hopper

 

 

Advertisements

Kia Rio 5-Door Hatchback EX Launch Edition – More for the Money Than You Might Expect

2018 Kia Rio EX 5-Door HatchbackFor a small and inexpensive car, the 2018 Kia Rio has a lot of pluses and very few negatives. It is most refreshing to find a car so well equipped at this price point. It is what we are coming to expect from Kia, a car company that has built a reputation for dependable transportation with decent overall design and execution. Not to mention that Kia’s vehicles have an industry leading warranty that backs all of this up.

 

We took a 2018 Kia Rio EX 5-Door Hatchback with its 1.6-liter GDI powerplant out to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with its twisty mountain roads, long flat interstates as well as the suburban grid of neighborhood streets. The Rio did well with two adults situations. Performing with adequate power, handling, and a ride that was not at all jarring, as one would think with a small car.

 

Look and Feel

2018 Kia Rio EX 5-Door Hatchback RearThe exterior design of the Kia Rio is very unassuming, with clean lines and a well-proportioned body. There is nothing flashy or garish (Kia’s new performance sedan the Stinger, is a bit more abrupt in its design – as were some of the previous Kia models, one was almost a hodgepodge of design.) While some think the Rio’s exterior is run-of-the-mill, to me the Rio is aesthetically pleasing, both inside and out.

 

Interior of the 2018 Kia Rio EXThe interior has an efficient and clean layout. Guages centered behind the steering wheel, a 7″ screen center for audio and backup camera display, controls for the HVAC are large and within easy reach, a familiar gearshift in the console and a hand-operated emergency brake.  The switchgear clustered on the steering wheel and stalks may seem cluttered. On the other hand, you do not have to reach for anything, including cruise control.

Powertrain

1.6 Liter GDI Engine of the 2018 Kia RioThe 1591 cc 1.6-liter double overhead cam Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine may not seem to be much, but with its dual continuously variable valve timing it produces 130 horsepower at 6300 rpm. You are not going to win at the drag strip with this little front driver!  Mated to a 6-speed automatic with Sportmatic® it did produce the published 37 miles per gallon on the highway. The Sport Mode button is more than just for show, it did subtly downshift for more power.

 

Handling

This is not a sports hatch, nor does it pretend to be one. The handling was predictable and kept the four wheels on the road going around the interstate’s cloverleaf onramps as well as on the twisty back roads.  I did not feel any wheelspin or torque steer with heavy acceleration. There was not an annoying ride by being shaken or jostled riding over expansion joints or rough road surfaces. The suspension provided a solid and flat handling that give the Rio a secure feel.

 

Details Matter

Interior of the 2018 Kia Rio EXWhile indeed this EX is the top of the line model, it has some excellent items on the equipment list like fog lights Rear disc brakes Autonomous Emergency Braking4 Remote keyless entry Leather-wrapped steering wheel front and rear USB jacks, and Auto Light Control. The larger 7″ Touchscreen gives you a good view from the Rear Camera, and the UVO eServices Infotainment System connects to both Android Auto & Apple CarPlay Smartphone Integration. And yes you can subscribe to SIRIUSXM® as well as AM/FM and MP3 through the front USB outlet. Yes, the Rio we drove had was Bluetooth® enabled.

Single Rear USB Port in the 2018 Kia RioThe UVO system links with your compatible smartphone for a hands-free way to stream music. Through the UVO app you are able to check maintenance requirements with Vehicle Diagnostics, and for access to 911 Connect or Enhanced Roadside Assist — all with no subscription fees for 10 years.

The downloadable UVO eSERVICES APP takes advantage of additional features like Parking Minder and can access the GPS in a compatible smartphone and other apps. Not all apps work through the touch screen.

Other assets you will find included in the Rio EX include a multi-adjustable driver’s seat, ours had Red Leather accents. A 60/40 split folding rear seats that make the trunk even bigger, and still carry a rear passenger. Dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors. Remote keyless entry, tilt and telescopic steering column leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, Steering wheel mounted controls (Bluetooth/Audio/Cruise,) gauge cluster w/ LCD display. Outside, fog lights multi-reflector headlights, and heated outside mirrors.

Saftey items that you don’t often find like autonomous emergency braking (AEB,) forward collision warning system (FCWS,) as well as front and side airbags.

Space both for passengers and cargo. This is a small car on the outside but did not feel so small on the inside. Neither of us was cramped sitting in the front seats, and the rear seats have adequate room, not spacious, both head and leg room. Cargo area expanded considerably with the rear seat partially or fully put down.

 

Bargain

The 7" Screen shows clearly what is behind the 2018 Kia RioAt the time of this writing (May 2018) the car had a sticker of just over $20K including an $895 delivery fee.  Kia is offering a $1000 discount the purchase price of the Rio or Zero Percent financing for 60 months with their finance company.

If you have participated in one of Kia’s customer experience events or signed up for information from the brand at a recent auto show, there may be additional discounts available to you. Always check your membership in the Warehouse Clubs, Automobile Associations, Insurance Company, Credit Union or professional association you may belong to see if they have a buying service or provide automotive discounts to their members.

 

Warranty

Kia has provided a 10 Year/100,000 Mile Limited Powertrain Warranty 5 Year/60,000 Mile Limited Basic Warranty 5 Year/60,000 Mile Roadside Assistance for a long time to demonstrate how good their vehicles are. This is one of the longest warranties on new cars sold in the marketplace.

 

Negatives

2018 Kia Rio EX Launch Edition HatchbackYes, we found a few things we did not like in our day driving and riding in the 2018 Kia Rio EX 5-Door Hatchback Launch Edition. The very first audio experience you have with this car is the tinny sound when one opens the door from the door handle, while when you close the door, there is a solid thunk sound, which is good.  While passenger comfort in the right front seat was fine for an hour-long drive, once moving over to the left driver’s seat, I found that I did not get enough thigh support and was always moving to find a more comfortable driving position. The clutter of the switchgear on the steering wheel. I am not a big fan of Kia’s Muffin center steering wheel, and the switches seemed to dominate both the wheel and the right (windshield wiper control) and the left (turn-signal) stalk.  Though I know you would easily get used to them, and it is a plus not having to reach far to control just about everything on the vehicle.

 

Overall

We give the 2018 Kia Rio 5-door hatchback thumbs up for the value it provides. The only real drawback that I found was the tinny sound upon opening the doors, and it could use a little more thigh support for the driver seat.

 

Try one out for yourself

For more information download the 2018 Kia Rio Guidebook, or stop into a nearby Kia dealership for a test drive this model and others within the Kia lineup.

 

Words and images by William West Hopper

Kia Stinger

Red Kia Stinger

The Kia Stinger has been the topic of many auto review writer’s posts over the last year. We all saw mock-ups of it well over a year ago, and now that it is on dealer’s showroom floors, we are just now getting the chance to drive it.

Trim Levels of the Stinger vary widely, but the basics are all there, the sports sedan body styling, the transmission, tire sizes and more. What changes is the powertrain and how detailed the inside is, which may not be as easily noticed by everyone.

The Stinger Concept

West Coast Customs Kia Stinger
West Coast Customs Kia Stinger

Luxury Sports sedans have dominated the market for more than thirty years. People like cars that are both sporty looking, functional, and fun to drive. It is that driving experience that really defines them. Add on practicality, the touch, and feel of a more upscale branded vehicle, then put on a reasonable price tag and you have the Kia Stinger.

 

Design

Queer4Cars Kia StingerKia has given the Stinger muscle and graceful lines, though in our minds there are a few hiccups in the exterior design, those disappear once you get your hands on the vehicle. Outside the car has a wide stance and a low roofline giving it a fast look, even parked. Inside, both luxury and sports car touches give it a fun to be in the car feeling. So much so that you want to turn the key and hit the open road and drive it.

 

 

Amenities

Brembo Brakes on the Kia StingerThe Stinger is well equipped even in the most basic configuration. You get the look and feel of a more expensive car than it really is. Which is what Kia does so well. The driver centric cockpit complete with leather seats are upgradeable to Nappa Leather with heated and cooled seats. The Stinger provides a spacious interior with easy egress for passengers and driver. What one may not notice is the trunk is actually a hatchback, which adds to the functionality in many ways. Guages and controls that are within easy reach of the driver and switches that feel good to the touch. All of this provides for the perfect long distance road car or short hall daily driver.

Two Powertrain Choices

20180310_120224While the body style, eight-speed automatic gearbox, and rear-wheel drive stay the same no matter the model. You can choose between a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder and 3.3-liter 6-cyl engine and add all-wheel-drive.

2.0 Liter twin-scroll turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine puts out 255 horsepower, and provides 22 miles per gallon city, 29, highway and 25 combined.

3.3-liter twin-scroll turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine provides 365 horsepower, 19 mpg city, 25 highway and 21 combined. The addition of Brembo brakes does provide for additional stopping power, and those RED brake calipers do make a statement.

Many Model Options

Two models with the 2.0-liter engine: A base Stinger and the upgraded premium model. What you get in the Premium is a tad more technology in the way of a premium Harman Kardon audio with surround sound, voice command activation and a larger 7″ display screen as well as a power sunroof, and tilt & Telescopic steering wheel.

20171012_120526The optional list of safety items is long; from the Blind Spot and Rear Cross Traffic to Forward Collision Avoidance and Warning systems. Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning, High Beam Assist and Rain-Sensing Wipers, as well as the Heated Steering wheel, are all extra charge options. Well worth the price even as an add-on, for both use and if you were to resell the Stinger at a later date.

Three models options come with the 3.3-liter engine. GT, GT1, & GT2, with each adding on standard features. At the GT2 level, there are only two real options; All-Wheel Drive and a Heated Steering wheel.

Kia Full LineupKia’s ten-year, 100K mile warranty is still one of the best in the industry, add to that the value that the Kia Stinger provides, at a price tag from $31,900 for the base 2.0 liter to $49,200 for the top of the line 3.0 liter powered GT2. With current incentives and added discounts, you can be driving one of these off the dealership lot at a tremendous price. While it is too early yet to determine resale values, once the car is out about a year, we should see how they price out on the second-hand market.

 

Our Overall Thoughts

Not quite Kia Stinger CompetitorsThis is a great value car, as it seems all Kia products are between all you get in the base model, the added options, the selling price and the vehicle warranty. It is hard to go wrong. Driving the vehicle was nice to experience in both the 2.0 liter four and the 3.3 six-cylinder versions. The weight and balance of the vehicle and the handling were all excellent. While this vehicle was being compared to, in the drive experience, we took to much higher market positioned vehicles. It really belongs dead in the center of the mass market: Alfa-Romero Gulia, BMW 4-series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the others that dominate today’s roads.

Kia Dealership WallDealership experience is going to be key for buyers of the Stinger, as most buyers of premium sports sedans are used to a very customer service oriented experience. In the few times, we have visited a Kia dealership, the overall feel has not been what one might expect from a car selling in this market segment.

 

Notes:

Kia Ride and DriveWe only got to drive the Stinger around a short autocross track at a recent Kia Experience Tour event. We hope to spend more time in one very soon.

We paid for our transportation to and from the event, and were given no compensation to produce this post, other than a swag box from, which had some great items in it.

Words and Pictures by William West Hopper

 

William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger
William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger

 

 

Kia Forte – Inexpensive does not mean Cheap!

Kia Forte
Kia Forte

A family trip jet-setted us to HOT-Atlanta for a weekend with the kids, grandkids (other people’s not ours,) and extended members of the family. We needed basic cheap transportation for the four-day weekend trip to get us from the ATL metroplex out to the ‘burbs, and something to get us around what seems to be endless strip malls and traffic-packed interstates. Did I say we did not want to pay a lot for a rental car?

20171016_140657-ANIMATIONBooking a mid-size car through Priceline’s Autoslash we ended up with a Kia Forte from Avis. The Forte was a simple high-milage rental car in Rent-Me-White. I like to review cars with a few miles on them, as they represent what the car will be like in the hands of a consumer well after it rolls off the showroom floor. The only cars that have a rougher life than a rental car are the cars that have been used by members of the media.

West Coast Customs Kia Stinger
West Coast Customs Kia Stinger

Just the day before this rental, I had been in Kia’s performance sedan the Stinger. Yes, the two cars are different but in many ways quite similar. Kia builds a well-made vehicle no matter if it is their top of the line, middle of the road, family van, or the most basic of transportation.  The Forte is that middle of the road vehicle, and it performed well for our southern family weekend.

 

The Kia Forte

Kia Forte

This small four-door sedan is easy to get in and out of, has plenty of trunk space and gets very decent fuel economy. Plus it is easy to drive. The downside was that it sounded tinny when you closed the door and that the center dash display screen was small and did not give a clear view of the backup camera when in reverse.

 

 

Highs:

Kia Forte EngineThe small exterior size gave it great maneuverability, especially in Atlanta’s never-ending traffic. While the 2.0 liter, DOHC, 16-valve I-4, Atkinson Cycle engine was adequate, putting out 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm mated to an Electronically Controlled 6-Speed Automatic Transmission w/ Sportmatic® front wheel drive provided, it was not a gas guzzler providing just under 30 mpg in normal driving.

The large interior size was comfortable for 2 adults and our luggage. While we did not use the back seat for passengers, things got tossed in there, and if need be there was adequate space for a short trip guest.

Four-wheel disc brakes, 15-inch wheels, and projector beam headlamps all provided for a good command of the road. While the base Forte is not loaded, it has plenty of standard features like heated rear mirrors, that make driving safer and more comfortable.

 

Lows:

Kia Forte GrillActually, the only real low for me was the small size of the center console screen where the backup camera display showed.  Other low though at this price point it is negated as it was an entry-level vehicle, is the sound when the door closed and that if you needed power you had to plan on flooring it at the right time knowing the powertrains limitations.

 

Interior:

Kia Forte Rear SeatWhile the interior is basic, the tough fabric was easy to clean and appeared durable. Interior plastics were pleasant to the touch, knobs and controls were well placed and felt as if they would not break off when you used them repeatedly. The rear seating area is complete with a fold-down center armrest with cupholders. The trunk space was easy to get items in and out of and had plenty of space.

 

Overall:

Kia Forte Right SideFor a clean looking, well-designed four-door sedan at an entry of sub $17K price point this vehicle had all the safety features and driveability one could ask for. With Kia’s Ten Year, 100K Mile Warranty this purchase is a no-brainer for basic reliable transportation.

We vote UP on this Rental Rodeo Ride as a contender.

 

William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger
William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger

Words and photos by William West Hopper

 

American Sweethearts the SUV & CUV

American family favorites, Crossovers and SUV’s dominate the market due to their versatility. So understandably there are plenty of them at all price points, a mix of high and middle-end models. I have taken these out over the past few months for quick around the block drives as well as extended time periods. Here are my thoughts on them. Some, not all we have done full reviews on which are featured elsewhere on the site.

Fiat 500X – Cuteness seems to be a staple with the Fiat brand. Though with the whinnyFiat 500X engine and a transmission hunting for the right gear provide a less than enjoyable drive experience. I took this funky Italian breadbox up the mountain roads of New York State in May. Pluses are plenty of space and a very attractive interior design. Lots of trim levels and features are available. Discounts are plentiful at year end. Minus are: A clunky exterior, a noisy drivetrain, and a transmission always hunting for the right gear. Prices start at $19,995 and with generous year-end allowances you can put a lot of cute Italian into a small payment for a Fiat.

 

Nissan RogueNissan Rogue – An overall everyday crossover, easy to get in and out of, with plenty of cargo space. I kept expecting more from the Rogue considering the amount of hype this vehicle has gotten from Nissan’s  PR department to the auto media. Including being heavily featured in recent Star Wars movie promotions and #RogueTrip events. Pluses are a well-made dependable vehicle. Minus are that the Rogue is not so memorable in the overall scheme of things.  Starting at $24,680 and going up depending on trim levels and options. My heart does not go pitter-patter over this model as it does with Nissan’s other products. Though I may need a #RogueTrip to experience this vehicle in more depth.

 

 

 

Toyota Highlander

 

2018_Toyota_Highlander_SE
2018_Toyota_Highlander_SE

When did this crossover become so large and in charge? What once was a mid-sized big SUV replacement seems to be growing. While right in the middle of Toyota’s extensive lineup of SUV’s and Crossovers it is a good option for those looking for a dependable, and long-lasting vehicle with plenty of options. Pricing starts at $31,030, incentives are not aggressive due to this being a top-selling model. I was not expecting a WOW, and the Highlander followed suit by not making me squeal for joy while behind the wheel. Though in the long run, the Highlander will be there, dependable and safe as any of Toyota’s vehicles.

 

 

 

GMC Acadia Denali

 

2017 GMC Acadia Denali
2017 GMC Acadia Denali

GMC is an upmarket luxury truck maker showing that GM is paying a bit more attention to the details. Bringing luxury and utility together in an elegant package. While not as finely outfitted as the Terrain (which was not available to drive, though I attended a presentation on it earlier this year, see another post.) The Acadia is available starting at $42,255 and the Denali (upscale) trim starts at $45,415. While this is not a sports car, nor is it a luxury boulevard cruiser, the Acadia provided a very comfortable drive experience, one that I would find enjoyable on a long road trip. It was a nice both inside and out with a lot of attention to detail, especially for the front seat passengers.

 

 

 

Hyundai Tuscon

 

2017 Hyundai Tucson
2017 Hyundai Tucson

Sorry to say, this is one that I took out of the parking lot and quickly brought back. A cheap fit and finish made it memorable, and not in a good way. Even in the next to the top of the line Night Edition drag, there were some basics that could be improved. I have been very impressed with what Hyundai and Kia have brought to market recently and comparing the Tuscon to other Hyundai models driven in the past year, this one was a disappointment. While the Tucson starts at $20,200, it could be so better from a company that offers America’s best automotive warranty and well-known customer service. Hyundai is pronounced like Sunday for those who wrestle with the pronunciation of the brand name.

 

 

 

Land Rover Discovery

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well now we are talking, no longer the boxy wannabe of its forebears, the odd exterior design is not unpleasing to the eye, just reminded me of a bathtub, a luxury spa tub. The Disco, as it is known, would not take long to get used to. The interior was quite comfortable, though not as impressive as I would expect from this legendary British Empire Automotive brand. This is one we would like to spend more time with to get the full Rover experience. Starting at $52,090 it is right at a price point with some strong competitors offering top-notch larger size SUV’s. The Discovery and it’s twin the Discovery Sport are positioned just under the famed Range Rover. The brand is owned by Tata, a large multi-national, multi-product-service company based in India. Which may be why this vehicle and the Jaguar F-Pace seemed to be so closely related, almost cousins. (Jaguar is also owned by Tata.)

 

Diesel powered Jaguar F-Pace
Diesel-powered Jaguar F-Pace

Jaguar F-Pace  – Here is a sleek and sumptuous SUV that I was very excited to get to drive for a few days this Fall. While it was an enjoyable ride, it was not everything I had hoped it would be. The 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel-powered version provided excellent fuel economy power and responsiveness. Comfort was nice with heated and cooled seats and all that one would expect in a proper English road car. Some of the technology was substandard compared to the competition, such as a limited vision camera, the center console display and the tinting on the windows rendered my two separate electronic toll pass devices inoperable, which was a tad embarrassing, as I was driving a Tata executive from China to an automotive media event. With prices starting at $42,065 for the basic model, topping out at over $62K for The pinnacle of F-Pace luxury, the Portfolio Edition. With a great ride and wonderful styling and fuel economy in the upper 20’s on diesel fuel, it is not one we would ask to leave the stable. But maybe send back for some more training.

 

 

Kia Niro

Kia Niro Hybrid
Kia Niro Hybrid

Stepping into a Kia, the last thing you would expect is to fall in love with an economy car, a hybrid at that. That is what I did, within a few moments of driving this odd little crossover, I said to myself, I would buy this car. It was nimble, spacious and had plenty of technology aboard. A bit quirky and awkward at first, but it grows on you like a loveable, nerdy, best friend. I could easily see loading stuff in this car and be heading out on adventures. Prices start at $23,240 for the base model going up to $31,900 for the top-of-the-line Touring model. All feature a 1.6 L 4-cylinder and Full Parallel Hybrid System and provide anywhere from 40 to 52 miles per gallon. Even more of a reason to love this little Korean Crossover. Yet another vehicle from Korea that will give the Prius some challenges in the marketplace.

 

Cadillac XT5
Cadillac XT5

Cadillac XT5 – For me, it is hard to see Cadillac as a crossover, or even as an SUV. In my mind, Cadillac is a luxury car that says you have made it in the game of life. I have fond memories of the powder blue Eldorado Convertable (with a white top) that I drove to my Junior and Senior Prom in High School (it matched my Tux, hey it was the mid-1970’s and I still have the clip-on bow tie and button on ruffles for the shirt! And even the tux jacket somewhere.) The XT5’s interior rear-view mirror (the same on all Cadillac models) is a bit unnerving as it is a live video feed out the back, which for some reason played havoc with my sense of equilibrium, and eventually, I did find a way to switch it off. As a Crossover, it was a nice, but not as roomy or easy to get in an out of as I would like. And as a Cadillac, it was quite plain. I just would like it to be more elegant, more luxurious, more everything that a Cadillac is. Which also means different from the other GM products on the market, which the XT5 really is not. Prices start at $39,395 and with a number of add-ons it could be a contender. I especially like all of the safety features that Cadillac is offering on its current line of vehicles.

 

 

 

Jeep Compass

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When you think America, the original SUV is just one name JEEP. While it may not be what we see on today’s roads, it was the World War II Jeep that the soliders brought home with them. Realizing that this rugged little four-wheel drive workhorse that took them all across the world’s battlefields. Now it has now become a staple in US driveways. No longer simple or even little, the Jeep has many iterations and is as capable as ever. The 2018 Jeep Compas is as close to the original as you might want to get, just now with a battalion of safety and technology features, not to mention and comfort that was unknown when it became a civilian product.  The Compass may not have much more room, but four guys in this Jeep can be an interesting experience. We all found the engine noise annoying, especially on long drives. The Compass is a great size for urban runs. Prices start at $20,995 and discounts can be had depending on the dealer or buying service you are using.

 

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A much-anticipated SUV that feels direct from the Italian Alps is this upscale
ride from the legendary automaker, Alfa Romero. With prices starting at $41,995 the Stelvio will be one that will sell quickly, even adding lots of options. This is one great looking SUV, sales will happen due to the Stelvio’s exceptional style, if for no other reason. Size is not enormous, but the driving experience is all European. Fit and finish need some work, though as with an Italian lover, you get the good with a few rough edges. We have not spent enough time in this vehicle as we would like, and hope to do so in the coming year.

 

Volkswagen Atlas

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We reviewed this full-sized 3-row American style SUV from the company that built the People’s Car earlier this year. The Atlas will fit the needs of many Americans due to the amount of interior space it offers. The Atlas is not going to win beauty pageants, it is a rolling bread box with very square angles. Made in Tennesee, it looks like a Ford Explorer just with a little some German styling cues. This is not the SUV for you If you are looking to make a statement about what you drive. Starting at just over $30K, this one will be a dutiful and dependable workhorse, as VW’s are well known for.

 

 

I was able to drive these vehicles due to membership in several professional automotive media organizations or by invitation of the manufacturer. I received no compensation or incentives for driving and reviewing the vehicles mentioned, other than the loan of the vehicles for up to seven days.

William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger
William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger

Words and Photos by William West Hopper
Photos of the Toyota Highlander, GMC Acadia, Hyundai Tuscon were from their respective automotive media sites.