Kia’s compact SUV entered its fourth generation in 2021 with a complete exterior makeover, increased legroom and cargo space, and a raft of driver-assistance systems that have been made standard equipment. Four engine choices are offered in the all-new Sorrento, including a new turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder hybrid. A plug-in hybrid version of the turbocharged four is being introduced in Europe but there’s no confirmation if this will be coming here to the U.S.
The 2021 Sorento is built on Kia’s third-generation N3 platform, which is lighter but also stronger than the outgoing version. This increases the SUV’s wheelbase by nearly 1.4 inches, improves noise/vibration/harshness characteristics, and driving dynamics. It’s also versatile enough to accommodate the Sorento’s electrified drivetrain.
Conventional Sorento powertrains utilize Kia’s 2.5-liter GDI four-cylinder engines. In naturally aspirated form the 2.5 GDI produces 191 horsepower, while a new turbocharged 2.5 GDI makes 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft torque. The hybrid pairs a 1.6-liter version of the GDI turbo with a 60 horsepower electric motor fed by a 1.5 kWh lithium-ion-polymer battery. The engine/motor combination produces a total of 227 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque, which is routed through a six-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. EPA fuel economy estimates rate the Sorento turbo hybrid’s efficiency at 39 city and 35 highway mpg, and 37 mpg combined.
Kia offers the 2021 Sorento in five trim levels, though the hybrid is available in the mid-range S and EX trims only. Many of the Sorento’s standard features are shared between the two, but the EX has a higher level of content, with equipment that includes LED fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, and wireless phone charger. Both the S and EX models are fitted with standard 17-inch alloy wheels and P235 tires.
There are a total of 16 standard and optional ‘Drive Wise’ advanced driver-assistance systems available for the Sorento. Standard ADAS systems on the hybrid model include blind-spot and rear-traffic collision avoidance, parking distance warning (rear-facing only on S, front and rear on EX), intelligent speed limit assist, forward collision-avoidance assist, driver attention warning, and lane-keep and lane-departure-warning systems.
The cost of entry for the new Sorrento is $29,390. Pricing starts at $33,590 for the Sorrento Hybrid S, with the uplevel Hybrid EX variant commanding three grand more at $36,590.
The Q5 is offered in three models, two of which combine electrification with Audi’s 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The Q5 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrid positions an electric motor between the engine and seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission to produce a total of 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft torque, and earn an EPA rating of 50 MPGe. Those output numbers rival the 3.0-liter, 349-horsepower TFSI V-6 in the range-topping SQ5. The Q5 45 is powered by a new, mild-hybrid variant of the TFSI engine that produces 261 horsepower and 273 lb-ft torque.
Audi is marketing the Q5 TFSI e as part of a ‘Plug-in Trifecta’ for 2021, with its A7 and A8 sedans also available with TFSI PHEV powertrains. These additions move Audi closer to its goal to electrify 30 percent of its U.S. model lineup by 2025.
The Q5 TFSI e can be operated in all-electric, hybrid, and battery-hold modes. A 14.1 kWh battery pack, located under the rear cargo area, enables the Q5 to travel up to 19 miles on electric power alone, according to EPA estimates. Audi says the battery can fully charge in 2.4 hours when plugged into a 240-volt charger. The maker also engineered the battery to act as a source of heat for the Q5’s cabin via a heat pump integrated into the pack.
A standard feature aboard the PHEV Audis is Predictive Efficiency Assist, which is designed to increase the energy regenerated under braking when the vehicle is rolling downhill or approaching a slower-moving vehicle. When the Q5 is equipped with optional satellite navigation, additional input is factored into the energy regeneration, including road curves, speed limits, a the road’s vertical profile. The system prompts the driver, via feedback from the accelerator pedal and a signal in the head-up display, to let up on the accelerator to take advantage of as much kinetic energy as possible.
External cues that set off the TFSI e from other Q5 models are subtle. The plug-in hybrid is equipped with S Line exterior trim, including a honeycomb version of the automaker’s Singleframe’ grille and more aggressive front and rear diffusers. It rolls on standard 19.5-inch double-spoke-star wheels or optional 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels. An optional Sport Plus package combines the 20-inch wheels with adaptive air suspension.
The Audi Q5 TFSI e plug-in hybrid comes at a base price of $52,900, just over $9,000 more than the conventionally-powered Q5.
Somewhat smaller than Lincoln’s first plug-in SUV, the Aviator Grand Touring, the Corsair is a luxury-oriented, two-row crossover that injects comfort and class into a compact premium crossover segment dominated by European offerings. It's offered in both conventional gas- and plug-in hybrid-powered variants.
When one looks to Corsair, its distinguishing characteristics and luxury appointments mean there’s no mistaking it for anything other than a Lincoln. Its attractive design features creased and organic dynamic bodylines, a Lincoln-esque diamond patterned grille, and oversized alloy wheels. Inside is a premium leather-upholstered, wood-accented, and tech-rich cabin. The compact Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring lives large enough for four to five well-sized adults and a complement of weekend luggage.
At the heart of 2021 Corsair Grand Touring beats a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder, Atkinson cycle gas engine and a twin electric motor planetary drive system. A constant variable transmission transfers torque to the front wheels. A third motor producing 110 lb-ft torque is dedicated to driving the rear wheels, bringing the confident traction of all-wheel drive. Combined, this powertrain delivers an estimated 266 horsepower.
EPA fuel efficiency is rated at 33 combined mpg and 78 MPGe when running on battery power. It will drive 28 miles on its lithium-ion batteries with a total range of 430 miles. Conventionally-powered Corsairs net an estimated 22 city and 29 highway mpg, and 25 mpg combined .
A driver-centric cockpit offers infinitely adjustable and heated leather seating surrounded by wood and burnished metal accents. A comprehensive dash and infotainment display, back-up dashcam, pushbutton drive commands, head-up display, parking assist, and smartphone keyless access are standard or available. Top-of-the-line Co-Pilot 360 driver assist, electronic safety, and personal connectivity features are offered. Corsair Grand Touring’s 14.4 kWh battery module is located beneath the model’s body pan, resulting in a lower center of gravity and unobstructed rear deck cargo space.
The Corsair Grand Touring has an MSRP of $50,390, about fourteen grand more than the conventionally-powered base model. It's expected to make its way to Lincoln showrooms sometime this spring.
Today there are certainly more SUVs around than ever before, but the vast majority are mid-size, compact, and subcompact models that continue to offer the functionality of an SUV, but with the improved fuel efficiency and driving dynamics of a crossover vehicle built on a very un-truck-like unibody platform. Kia’s all-new 2021 Seltos compact SUV is the latest from this automaker to join in on this competitive market.
Appealing Design, Off-road Capable
The Seltos enters Kia’s lineup positioned between the Soul and Sportage models. It offers a handsome design that blends hard angles with flowing contours, featuring a long hood, wrap-around LED headlamps, a chiseled lower front bumper design, and Kia’s signature grille. Seltos rides on either 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels to reinforce its upscale and somewhat aggressive look. While drivers may rarely, if ever, venture off-pavement, the Seltos clearly hints at its off-road capability with integrated front and rear skid plates and black wheel arch cladding. Those wishing to further distinguish their ride can opt for an available two-tone roof treatment.
Fuel-efficient power choices include a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that brings 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft torque, and connects to a constantly variable transmission. Also available is a turbocharged 1.6-liter GDI engine offering 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. torque, which delivers power to the road through a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.
Tailoring the Driving Experience
All-wheel drive is available that pairs torque vectoring control to optimize traction at each wheel, along with differential lock control that splits power equally between front and rear wheels for driving in severe weather. Normal, Eco, and Sport driving modes can be selected to tailor the driving experience by adjusting engine, transmission, and steering characteristics as desired.
Inside, driver and passengers find a surprisingly roomy cabin with an array of thoughtful touches that enhance the drive. A leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and leather shift boot speak to a driver’s sensibilities, as does an asymmetrical OLED instrument cluster that angles slightly left for a driver-centric cockpit feel. A 7-inch center display is standard with a 10.25-inch touchscreen display available. Passengers enjoy a two-step reclining rear seat, rear air vents, and USB ports for comfort and convenience.
An array of Kia Drive Wise driver-assistance systems are available including blind spot collision warning and collision avoidance assist, forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, smart cruise control with stop-and-go, and more. A rear occupant alert feature reminds a driver to check the rear seats for young passengers if the driver door is opened and a passenger door had been opened and closed. Seltos will offer a base price of about $22,000 when it arrives in dealerships after the first of the year.
We’ve been driving Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV for 6,000 miles now as part of an ongoing experience with this long-term test vehicle. Over the months, our plug-in hybrid crossover has served as a daily commuter as well as our go-to ride for quick weekend getaways and the occasional longer trip. This time, we decided to see what it’s like to be behind the wheel on a genuine road trip for a solid week, from our offices on California’s Central Coast to the southern reaches of Washington State.
First, let’s say this: The capabilities of the Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid – Green Car Journal’s 2019 Green SUV of the Year™ – lend a sense of confidence. We knew that we could charge the Outlander’s batteries when desired and convenient to gain about 22 miles of all-electric range during our travels, a nice plus. But we were also aware that taking the time for charging wasn’t necessary. This crossover’s EPA-rated hybrid range of 310 miles would be plenty to get us where we wanted to go, without hesitation or delays. That’s an important thing when packing a few thousand miles of combined day and late-night driving into a seven day period.
Our trip began by heading northbound from San Luis Obispo, California on US-101, where we crested the Cuesta Grade and continued toward the busy San Francisco Bay corridor three hours ahead. We were hoping an early departure would allow avoiding the unpredictable traffic there. Success! It turns out that late morning near the Bay Area provides a decent travel window with reasonably free-flowing traffic. Then it was onward toward Oregon on US-101, transitioning to I-680 and I-505 and ultimately the long stretch of I-5 that would take us to Washington State.
Since this was a road trip, adventure is built into the journey. That means if something interesting presents itself along the way, we may just stop to check it out. Sure enough, this happened less than an hour north of Sacramento, where a series of highway billboards enticed travelers to stop at Granzella’s Restaurant in Williams, a sleepy, postage-stamp-size of a city that’s home to about 5,000 people. It was lunchtime, so why not?
We found plenty of cars in Granzella's parking lot but also no wait inside. Food choices here are plentiful, with options for ordering from a fully-stocked deli or sitting down for a home-style meal in their restaurant. Being traveler-oriented, Granzella’s encourages you to wander around inside, checking out their sports bar, wine room, coffee bar, and olive room, plus of course the array of gifts aimed toward travelers. There’s also a separate Granzella’s Gourmet & Gifts store across the street and Granzella’s Inn across the way if an overnight stop is needed. We were on a tight time schedule, so it was back on I-5 for another 550 miles of road time before our anticipated arrival in Vancouver.
Daily experience in a long-term test car lends a thorough sense of what it's like to live with a vehicle, offering an opportunity to fully experience its capabilities. Beyond that, longer drives like this allow uninterrupted hours behind the wheel to reflect on a vehicle's features, large and small, that either enhance the driving experience or fall short of expectations.
We can say it is hard to find fault with the Outlander PHEV. This crossover provides a spacious and well-appointed cabin offering very comfortable and supportive seating for long drives, plus plenty of room to store all the stuff needed for long trips. Our considerable time on the road was made all the more pleasant since the Outlander PHEV’s ride is smooth and handling confident, with plenty of power for any driving situation we encountered.
Along the way we made good use of this model’s Apple CarPlay capability. Of course, driver assist systems like adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, blind spot warning with lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and rear-view camera enhanced the driving experience and sense of safety. Its heated steering wheel is a real plus. While always handy, we really came to appreciate this crossover’s retractable cargo cover that kept things out of sight and more secure while parked at restaurants and hotels during our week on the road. We also made use of its convenient power lift gate multiple times every day.
The Outlander PHEV’s total driving range of 310 miles is well-suited to longer trips like this. Range is something we rarely think about on a daily basis since our everyday driving is typically less than 20 miles, so often enough we’re driving on battery power and there’s no need for gas at all. When we do drive farther to nearby cities, the Outlander PHEV seamlessly transitions from electric to hybrid power once the battery is depleted. There is no range anxiety because we can travel as far as needed on gasoline. Back in the garage, we charge again overnight and we’re once again driving on battery power.
It’s worth noting that the Outlander PHEV has a smaller gas tank than the conventionally-powered Outlander, 11.3 versus 16.6 gallons, resulting in less overall driving range than the conventional gas model. This is due to design changes for accommodating this PHEV’s 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and other PHEV drivetrain components. Packaging the vehicle’s electric componentry in this way means the battery and other necessary equipment do not infringe on passenger or cargo space, something that’s bothered us for years in some other electrified models. So, all things considered, we’re good with trading some hybrid range for additional roominess, especially since refueling at a gas station is quick and easy.
Speaking of ‘refueling,’ there was the potential for quickly charging at an array of public fast charge locations during our drive. A growing number of Level 3 charging opportunities are located along major routes in California and other states, and the Outlander PHEV is capable of CHAdeMO DC fast charging to 80 percent battery capacity in 20 minutes. We didn’t feel the need on this trip, though we have done this at other times.
That said, charging at the Level 2 charger at our hotel in Vancouver, the Heathman Lodge, was a real plus. Once we arrived in Washington, we plugged in several times to get an overnight charge and enjoyed our no-cost electric drives around town. During these drives the Outlander PHEV motors along on zero-emission battery power at an EPA estimated 74 MPGe.
Driving through Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, there’s no denying you’ll find some pretty incredible scenery ranging from mountain ranges, imposing dormant volcanoes, and awe-inspiring redwood forests to scenic coastlines, rivers, and lakes. You will also find an obsession with the mythical Bigfoot. Suffice it to say there will be plenty of places to stop with ‘Bigfoot’ included in their theme, and lots of opportunities to buy souvenirs. As a side note, we did an ‘On the Trail of Bigfoot’ road trip adventure and article several decades back, so this definitely brought a smile to our face.
Along our drive we had the opportunity to visit cities large and small, drive through a redwood tree, take in scenic coastal areas in Oregon like Newport and Lincoln City, and in general enjoy the benefits of a real road trip. Of course, there were stops at roadside fruit stands, interesting eateries, and places with character that simply called to us for a closer look. Photo ops were abundant.
During our trip we came to truly understand why Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV is the world's best-selling plug-in hybrid vehicle. Taking advantage of technology development and learnings from this automaker’s earlier i-MiEV electric vehicle program, the Outlander PHEV combines advanced parallel and series hybrid drive, along with Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control system technology developed through Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution. Plus, for those with the need, the Outlander PHEV can tow 1500 pounds.
This is one high-tech crossover, offered at a surprisingly affordable entry price point of $36,095, considering the cost of competitive crossover SUVs with similar capabilities at tens of thousands of dollars more. It features efficient hybrid power that integrates a 2.0-liter gasoline engine and generator along with a pair of high-performance electric motors, one up front and one at the rear.
The Outlander PHEV operates in three modes automatically chosen by the vehicle's control system to optimize efficiency and performance. In Series Hybrid mode the electric motors drive the vehicle with the engine augmenting battery power and generating electricity to power the motors. Electrical energy is also delivered to the battery pack. The 2.0-liter engine assists with mechanical power at times when quick acceleration or hill climbing are needed.
Parallel Hybrid mode finds the gasoline engine driving the front wheels with the two electric motors adding additional power as required. The engine also charges the battery pack in Parallel Hybrid mode under certain driving conditions.
Then there’s all-electric driving solely on batteries, selectable with an ‘EV’ control on the center console. We have found EV mode ideal for around-town travel or regional drives near our offices, and in fact we’ve noted no discernable difference when driving in all-electric or hybrid modes.
While regenerative braking in all modes is done automatically with the vehicle feeding electricity back to the battery pack during coast-down, there’s the added advantage of controlling how aggressively regen works. This capability is controlled through six levels of regenerative braking selectable by convenient steering wheel paddles, with one mode allowing coasting for blocks.
The Outlander PHEV proved to be an exceptional vehicle for our Pacific Northwest adventures, offering everything we could want in a long-distance cruiser. With our road trip adventure now a pleasant memory, we’re looking forward to our continuing daily drives and explorations in our long-term Outlander PHEV test vehicle over the coming months.
Hyundai’s new 2020 Venue 5-door SUV is aimed at city dwellers. With an overall length of about 13 feet, it is the smallest vehicle in the Hyundai lineup. It can seat four, or five in a pinch. In addition to a 60/40 split, flat-folding rear seat, the Venue offers a convenient dual-level cargo floor. The Venue will be available in SE and SEL trim levels.
Power comes from a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 130 horsepower. A six-speed manual is available on the SE while the SEL comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is not available. EPA estimated fuel economy numbers are not out yet, but it’s expected the Venue will deliver somewhere in the range of 33 combined mpg.
For a very affordable vehicle, the Hyundai comes with a host of driver assist systems either as standard or optional equipment. These include Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Collision Cross-Traffic Warning, Active Lane Control, Automatic Emergency Braking, and Auto Headlight Control. In addition, Standard Driver Attention Warning detects driver fatigue or carelessness.
A standard 8-inch touchscreen located in the center of the dashboard provides infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Bluetooth connectivity is also provided along with a USB port. Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system also features integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Most remote features, including remote car start, are also available via an optional Hyundai’s Blue Link mobile app and MyHyundai.com. Navigation with real-time traffic is optional.
Arriving at dealer showrooms in the fourth quarter of 2019, we expect it to offer a very attractive price-of-entry between $17,000 to $18,000.
Volvo’s smallest crossover features an aggressive design that’s a bit of a departure for the automaker, even as it retains the fundamental styling cues that say ‘Volvo.’ The first model built on the automaker’s Compact Modular Architecture, the new XC40 is offered as either a T4 front-wheel drive or T5 all-wheel drive and in three trim levels. The XC40 looks deceptively small but has plenty of cargo and passenger capacity for longer trips. A plug-in hybrid and possibly an all-electric model are likely in the future.
Inside, the stylish cabin aims for an uncluttered look while still providing all the amenities SUV buyers desire. Functionality is a top priority, which the XC40 provides in intelligent ways with features like spacious door bins that accommodate a laptop or tablet, easily accessible under-seat drawers for stashing wallets or other necessities, and even a trash bin for cleaning up clutter. The front storage compartment holds a wireless charge pad for smartphones. Other welcome features include a standard 9-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen and an available panoramic sunroof that provides loads of available light.
All XC40s are powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder Drive-E engine. In the T4 this engine is rated at 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft torque. Engine output increases to 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque in the all-wheel drive T5. Both connect to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Manual gear shifts are possible with the Volvo’s shift lever or, alternatively, via steering wheel shift paddles on the R-Design model.
Standard on all XC40s are Automated Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Forward-Collision Warning, Lane-Keeping Assist with Lane-Departure Warning, Automatic High-Beam Headlamps, Driver-Attention Monitor, and Traffic-Sign Detection. A self-parking feature, front and rear parking sensors, and Blind-Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert can be added as part of the Vision package.
Volvo offers Pilot Assist as a part of a Premium package. This is essentially adaptive cruise control with a semi-autonomous driving mode. It keeps the XC40 within its own lane and maintains a set speed and distance behind the vehicle ahead. Unlike some other near-self-driving systems, Pilot Assist requires the driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel at all times…perhaps not a surprise considering Volvo’s longstanding focus on safety.
The 2019 XC40 serves up 23 city and 33 highway mpg, at a starting cost of $33,700. Another option is Care by Volvo, an innovative subscription service that includes use of a new XC40 Momentum ($600 per month) or R-Design ($700 per month) for a maximum of 15,000 miles per year. Insurance, maintenance, and road-hazard protection are included, plus the opportunity for the lessee to upgrade to a new XC40 each year for the same all-inclusive monthly payment. A subscription lasts for 24 months.
In today's all-cars-look- alike world, the Cadillac’s 2019 XT4 takes exception. This upscale compact crossover features distinct features like sharp angles, a wide mesh-textured grill with a floating wreath and crest, prominent standard LED daytime running lights, plus unique headlights and large vertical taillights that will not be mistaken for another brand. The XT4 comes in Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Sport trims. The Sport trim gets a black mesh grille, body-color door handles, and black window trim, features that are chrome on other trims.
The XT4 is the first Cadillac to be powered by the brand’s new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which uses what Cadillac calls a ‘tripower’ system featuring variable valve lift and cylinder deactivation. The smooth and refined engine produces 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque, so this four-cylinder is quite capable of handling the two-ton XT4. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard. It achieves an EPA estimated 30 highway mpg.
An available twin-clutch, all-wheel-drive system like that used on the XT5 is able to decouple the rear axle to improve fuel economy. This part-time all-wheel-drive system requires a double tap on a button to activate. Electro-hydraulically assisted brakes also help fuel efficiency by reducing parasitic losses from one crankshaft-driven belt. EPA numbers are 24 city and 30 highway with front-wheel-drive and 22 city, 29 highway mpg with all-wheel drive.
Optional Sport trim gets an Active Sport Suspension with adaptive dampers that react quickly to road conditions without being too stiff. The other models retain struts up front and a multilink setup at the rear. Eighteen inch wheels are standard, with 20 inch wheels optional on Premium Luxury and Sport trims, each with their own design.
Standard equipment includes blind-spot monitors, a rearview camera, and traction control systems. Optional are forward-collision warning with low- and high-speed automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights, active lane control, and reverse automatic braking. A surround-view camera system, automatic parking assist, and a camera-based rearview mirror are also available. Cadillac’s highly advanced SuperCruise driver-assistance features are not offered on the XT4.
The XT4’s dash is dominated by an 8-inch touchscreen for infotainment and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Cadillac’s CUE interface for its infotainment system adds a new dial-type controller. A near-field communication system simplifies the process of phone pairing, while wireless inductive charging pads boast faster charge times. The XT4 has 22.5 cubic feet of cargo room with both rows of seats in place. The back seat folds down for 48.9 cubic feet of storage.
Introduced as an all-new generation early last year, the popular and stylish Mazda CX-5 continues to impress with its overall functionality and notable efficiency achieved with its conventionally-powered SKYACTIV powertrain. The five-door compact crossover vehicle is available with either front-wheel or all-wheel-drive, both connecting to a six-speed automatic transmission. Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trim levels are available. In keeping with the Mazda brand’s sporting image, the CX-5 is aimed at the driving enthusiast a bit more than most of its competitors, at a starting price of $24,150.
The CX-5 design reflects Mazda’s second-generation KODO – Soul of Motion design philosophy that embraces curves and subtlety, creating a handsome crossover that conveys uniqueness without wild design cues. Its mission – being a Mazda – is also to deliver a great driving experience. This is enhanced with Mazda’s exclusive G-Vectoring Control, which influences chassis dynamics through instantaneous changes in engine timing to reduce torque as needed for more accurate steering inputs, front tire contact, and stability.
Power is provided by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder DOHC engine that delivers 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft torque. Unlike most of its competition, the engine is normally-aspirated and not turbocharged, with Mazda eking additional horsepower from this SKYATIV-G powerplant in other ways. One of those ways is the use of higher 14:1 compression, making this 2.5-liter Mazda engine the first mass-production four-cylinder to feature this high of a compression ratio.
At its introduction, this engine featured the first application of cylinder deactivation in a four-cylinder in the U.S., a move that enhances fuel efficiency by shutting down the outer cylinders under low load conditions while at cruising speed. Cylinder deactivation and an array of small improvements that reduce internal friction bring about a 1 to 2 mpg increase in fuel economy in this SKYACTIV engine, depending on driving conditions.
Beyond driving enjoyment, the CX-5 exemplifies what this automaker defines as ‘Mazda Premium,’ a concept the automaker has used to describe its recent new models. This focus is devoted to delivering an extra level of details, from unexpected design elements to high levels of craftsmanship or engineering unexpected in a vehicle’s class. These elements are appreciated in the CX-5, from a center console that’s been raised to lend a cocoon feel for the driver to heated rear seats and fast-charging USB ports for rear passengers.
Driver assistance systems include blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Depending on trim level, Mazda’s i-Activsense package is standard or optional. This active-safety package features adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist. There are also rain-sensing windshield wipers and automatic headlights. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still in the future, although a CarPlay retrofit will reportedly be offered by Mazda soon for those who need this feature.
Popular since its launch in 2005, the new-generation Chevrolet Equinox is considerably smaller than the two generations that came before it. This 2018 model crossover SUV is now 4.7 inches shorter in length and sits on a wheelbase some 5.2 inches shorter as well. Curb weight is reduced by about 400 pounds, an important consideration as automakers strive to shed weight in the interest of optimizing fuel efficiency. The Equinox is available in three trim levels – L, LS, LT, and Premier with either front- or all-wheel drive.
The Equinox is offered with a choice of two turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engines. Its base 1.5-liter engine is rated at 170 horsepower with 203 lb-ft torque and connects to a six-speed automatic transmission. This engine delivers up to 26 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway in two-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models lose 2 mpg across the board. A 2.0-liter engine connects to a newer nine-speed automatic and produces 252 horsepower with 260 lb-ft torque, delivering 22/29/25 mpg with FWD and 22/28/24 mpg with AWD. Fuel-saving engine stop-start is standard on the Equinox.
Optionally powering this efficient crossover is a 1.6 liter, turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, making the 2018 Equinox the only vehicle in its segment currently available with a diesel. This quiet turbodiesel provides 137 horsepower and 240 lb-ft torque with an impressive 39 highway mpg, definitely in hybrid efficiency territory without the need for hybrid cost or added complexity. It delivers an estimated 577 driving range between fill-ups and is B20 biodiesel compatible.
An array of advanced safety technologies is offered as optional or standard equipment, although many are only available with the uplevel LT and Premier trim levels. These include Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Rear Vision Camera, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Park Assist, Side Blind Spot Alert, and Lane Change Alert. A hands-free gesture liftgate is also available that opens with the simple motion of a foot. Intellibeam Headlamps switch to high beams when driving conditions become too dark, then revert to low beams when an oncoming car approaches.
All models come with myChevrolet Mobile App plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. A built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot is available with the ability to connect up to seven devices to the Internet. A 7-inch diagonal touchscreen is standard. Available Surround Vision provides a virtual bird’s-eye view around the car on an optional 8-inch color touchscreen. Teen Driver technology mutes the audio until front-seat occupants are buckled and automatically turns on available advanced safety technologies like Side Blind Zone Alert, Forward Collision Alert, and Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking.
The Chevrolet Equinox offers buyers an excellent value and notable efficiency in a stylish and versatile crossover package. It has long been a popular model in the Chevy stable and this latest generation promises to keep this momentum going strong.
The Kia Niro, Green Car Journal's 2018 Green SUV of the Year™, joins an increasingly crowded compact crossover SUV market but does so with some significant accomplishments in its corner. To begin with, the Niro is comfortable, nimble, and fun to drive, all important considerations even to drivers looking for ‘green’ and efficiency. It's also offered in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and soon-to-come battery electric versions, so drivers have some pretty compelling options within the Niro family of vehicles. The Niro is a handsome model, and while we could quibble that many might view the Niro more a highly functional five-door, five-seat wagon than an SUV, there’s enough blurring of the lines between crossovers, hatchbacks, and wagons these days to enable classifying this in the crossover SUV category.
And what about efficiency, you ask? Well, prepare to be impressed. This crossover excels in that department with the Niro FE hybrid delivering an EPA estimated 52 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. Other variants in the line also offer very impressive fuel efficiency, with the LX/EX Niro rated at 51/46 mpg and the Niro Touring achieving 45/40 mpg. The Niro Plug-In Hybrid nets a combined 46 mpg.
The automaker’s first dedicated hybrid crossover is powered by a 1.6-liter, direct-injected 16-valve DOHC engine producing 104 horsepower and 109 lb-ft torque. An aluminum block is used for lightweighting and thus additional efficiency. A 43 horsepower, permanent-magnet synchronous AC electric motor/generator is integrated between the engine and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transaxle. Maximum power output of the combined system is 139 horsepower with a total torque rating of 195 lb-ft. The engine uses the highly-efficient Atkinson combustion cycle, and with its exhaust-heat recovery system can achieve an impressive 40 percent thermal efficiency under certain circumstances. The new engine has dual cooling circuits for quickly warming up its aluminum cylinder head.
Energy for the electric motor is provided by a 1.6-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack located beneath the rear seat. Beyond the Niro’s highly efficient hybrid mode, this battery allows the vehicle to travel short distances under all-electric power at gentle speeds. Efficiency is enhanced by a Coasting Guide that helps direct a driver when to coast and when to brake.
Niro offers confident ride and handling with independent MacPherson struts and a stabilizer up front, and independent multi-link suspension at the rear. Vented solid disc brakes are used front and rear along with regenerative braking to generate electricity for the battery during braking and coast down. The Niro uses electric power-assist steering.
The Kia Niro is offered in four trim levels –base FE, mid-level LX and EX, and high-end Touring. Compared with the LX, the EX model has more interior comforts, adding standard heated front seats, rear A/C vents, upgraded trim, and an available sunroof. Touring models come with an eight-speaker Harman/Kardon system and also get power front seats and leather upholstery.
A rearview camera and 7-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are provided. Loads of safety technologies are standard or optional including blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and autonomous emergency braking. Although this is a compact crossover, plenty of gear can be hauled along with 54.5 cubic feet of space available with the rear seats folded down.
The Niro PHEV has a much larger 8.9 kWh battery pack with a portion of this pack located in the spare tire well beneath the load floor. The plug-in’s electric motor is more powerful and delivers an EPA estimated 26 miles of all-electric range before reverting back to hybrid power, for a total driving range of 560 miles. Enhancing this range is a Predictive Energy Control function that evaluates the route chosen by the optional navigation system to maximize energy conservation, picking when to recharge the battery and when to use stored energy based on the speeds and topology ahead. It can also direct the powertrain to shunt electricity to pre-charging the battery in anticipation of long uphill grades. Rounding out the line will be a Niro battery electric variant coming next year, which was unveiled as a concept at this year’s CES Show in early January.
Kia continues to impress with the sophisticated styling of its new models and an eye for what American consumers are looking for, at affordable prices. The Kia Niro continues this tradition in a very big way by delivering style, functionality, and connectivity in a handsome and compelling compact crossover package.
Crossover SUV buyers looking to drive exclusively on electric power have a single choice today, and that’s Tesla’s Model X. Following in the footsteps of the Tesla Roadster and Tesla Model S, and ahead of the just-debuted Model 3, the Model X provides a unique driving experience for high-end buyers with its attractive design, advanced tech features, and zero-emission operation. While the model’s price tag means it’s not for everyone, Tesla fans will appreciate that the price of entry for the base Model X 75D has recently dropped by $3,000, to an MSRP of $79,500.
Beyond this full-size luxury crossover’s all-electric range of 238 to 289 miles, the model’s most distinctive features are its ‘falcon wing‘ doors and the largest panoramic windshield in production today. Model X doors articulate upward to enable easy access to second and third row seats, with the third row seats folding flush for more cargo capacity. The interior is designed to accommodate seven passengers with luggage carried in a front trunk or behind the seats. A recent $3,000 option enables both second and third row seats to fold flat to provide an expansive load floor.
Powering the Model X is an all-wheel drive system using two electric motors, one up front and another at the rear. The three models offered include the 75D, 100D, and P100D, with the number referring to their battery capacity in kilowatt-hours. The P in P100D stands for ‘Performance,’ with the $145,000 top version’s Ludicrous mode enabling acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
Like Tesla’s Model S, the Model X uses AT&T to provide 3G and LTE Internet access to its onboard navigation and music services via Slacker. It also provides connectivity to the vehicle through Tesla’s iOS and the Android app, allowing remote adjustment of climate control settings along with other control features. Regular over-the-air updates add safety and navigation features, enhance performance, and improve the driving experience. Like other Teslas, the Model X can also be quick-charged at several hundred Supercharger locations along key transportation corridors in the U.S., which allows capturing an 80 percent charge in about 30 minutes.
Driver information is presented in a digital display in front of the steering wheel and a center-mounted, 17-inch touchscreen. Active safety technologies include side collision avoidance, parking sensors, and blind spot warning. Model X camera, radar, and sonar systems continually scan the surrounding roadway, providing the driver with real-time feedback to help avoid collisions. Model X is designed to automatically apply brakes in an emergency.
A sophisticated Autopilot system allows the Model X to match its speed to traffic conditions, stay within its lane, and steer around curves within a lane. It also enables automatically changing lanes with a tap of the turn signal. Our time behind the wheel of a Model X has shown Autopilot to provide a seamless, near-autonomous driving experience. For safety reasons and because this system is still 'learning,' Autopilot requires a driver's attention and hands are required on the steering wheel at set intervals. A ‘Summon’ feature allows the Model X to automatically park and unpark itself, plus open and close a garage door automatically. It can scan for parking spaces, alert a driver when one is available, and parallel park on command.
An available towing package with a high strength tow bar and two-inch hitch receiver allows the Model X to tow up to 5,000 pounds, although driving range will be diminished with the additional load. Software actively monitors trailer sway and applies braking as needed.
Tesla’s plug-in crossover aspirations don’t end with the Model X. In fact, the company has announced plans to produce the Model Y – a compact crossover – by 2020. The new model is expected to make use of much of the technology and architecture of the Model 3 and come at a more approachable price point than the Model X.
The advantage of a year-long test vehicle is that we’re better able to sample how it performs under all types of road and weather conditions, plus the sometimes challenging situations that life throws at everyone. In hilly Southeastern Ohio on the edge of the Appalachian range, our long term Honda HR-V conquered snow and ice covered roads with sure-footed traction, with its all-wheel drive system and traction control finding grip when grip was hard to find. Honda’s excellent anti-lock brake system delivered above average stopping power when the road surface was slippery. Combined with linear and positive steering response, those qualities provide for a very confidence inspiring winter driving experience.
Winter conditions can take a toll on fuel economy. The worst winter mpg we achieved was around 28 mpg and we were able to push efficiency into the mid to upper 30s with relative ease. Honda’s intuitive ECO Coaching system helps the process along with visual cues that change color with throttle position and speed.
The HR-V’s interior makes longer road trips quite comfortable. With the front seats all the way aft to accommodate my 6 foot, 2 inch frame, rear seat leg room is a bit compromised, but that’s to be expected in any compact SUV. In addition to its 60/40 split seat folding design and ability to deliver a flat cargo floor, the Honda’s Magic Seat configuration allows the bottom seat cushions to fold up out of the way to handle taller cargo.
Driving any compact SUV can be an education since not all competitive models achieve the high standards SUV drivers expect in comfort, performance, functionality, and convenience. Our 10,000 mile experience with Honda’s HR-V has scored high marks in all subjects and has definitely made our Dean’s List at the end of its freshman year.
We’ve been driving our 2016 Honda HR-V long-term test car for just over six months now and have enjoyed our daily experiences with this ‘right-size’ crossover vehicle. Based on the Honda Fit platform, the HR-V won top honors in last year’s 2016 Green SUV of the Year™ program. It impresses for a wide variety of important reasons, not the least of which is its ability to do its job extremely well – and might we add very efficiently – without the need for exotic powertrain technology.
The HR-V is propelled by a 1.8-liter, 140 horsepower four-cylinder that provides an admirable balance of performance and economy, as we’ve come to expect from Honda over the years. This i-VTEC 16-valve engine delivers power through a CVT automatic transmission that’s standard on all-wheel drive model like our HR-V EX-L Navi AWD tester. Unlike many constant velocity transmissions, the CVT in the HR-V has a pleasingly positive feel under both acceleration and braking. To further enhance the driving experience, the HR-V can be switched to Sport Mode, with dual paddle shifters providing more control over the CVT. A six-speed manual transmission is standard fare on front-drive variants with the CVT optional.
When introduced, the two-wheel drive CVT model scored an EPA fuel economy rating of 28 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, with the AWD version netting a slightly lower EPA mpg rating of 27 city and 32 highway mpg. With our typical efficient driving style we’ve found that we can regularly achieve average fuel economy of 32 mpg. During economical cruising on the highway, the HRV can easily be coaxed into the mid- to upper-30 mpg range.
For those who would like a little help with efficient driving, Honda has incorporated its Eco-Assist technology into the HR-V. Pushing the green ECON button on the dash programs the engine and transmission computer controls to operate at peak efficiency. A visual aide around the speedometer changes color to serve as an alert to indicate when the HR-V is being driven economically. Green is very efficient, light green is good, and white not so good, the latter typically displayed under conditions like hard acceleration.
Considering the HR-V’s compact exterior dimensions, interior space is impressive, particularly in the rear cargo area. With the rear seats folded flat it can swallow up nearly 59 cubic feet of gear, while offering the versatility of Honda’s fold-up rear bottom seat cushions for carrying taller items.
It’s common for most vehicles to offer a split folding rear seat these days, but Honda has taken rear seat versatility a step further with its innovative Magic Seat in the HR-V. In its basic form it functions as a 60/40 split bench that can be folded flat for longer cargo. The Magic Seat, however, can also accommodate taller cargo upright by folding the seat bottom up against the seat back for maximum vertical room. Beyond interior innovations like this, we are also impressed with the overall fit and finish found throughout the HR-V.
Most surprising is the way the HR-V adapts to everyday life. It is unassuming and friendly for those days when you just require transportation, yet fun to drive when you want to really take control and enjoy the driving experience. When driving gets a little more spirited, the HR-V’s solid feel, steering response, and braking performance instills confidence on the road. It accomplishes this without compromising comfort and ride characteristics. This is a vehicle you can drive cross-country with minimal fatigue.
With just over 7,000 enjoyable miles now on the odometer, we’ve found our long-term HR-V compact crossover fulfilling so many missions well, we just can’t imagine life without this in our test fleet. We’re looking forward to many more miles behind the wheel of Honda’s award-winning Honda HR-V. We’ll follow up a bit down the road with some Midwest cold and winter weather performance with the HR-V’s all-wheel-drive system.
Positioned below the Honda CR-V in size and price, Honda’s new HR-V compact crossover aims to attract buyers with its coupe-like styling, SUV functionality, and of course the quality and dependability of a Honda. The HR-V is based on the Honda Fit platform although it’s substantially larger than the Fit, measuring in 9.1 inches longer, 2.8 inches wider, and 3.2 inches taller. It also features a front and rear track several inches wider for a more stable ride.
These added dimensions mean the HR-V can carry people more comfortably and, of course, accommodate more gear and cargo. Since Honda located the fuel tank beneath the front seats like the Fit, the same second row Magic Seat configuration is built in, enabling the seat to fold completely flat into the floor to provide a more spacious cargo area. In fact, the HR-V’s 100 cubic feet of passenger space and 58.8 cubic feet of cargo volume with the second row seats folded down rivals the interior volume of some midsize SUVs.
The HR-V is powered by the same 1.8-liter engine as the Honda Civic, delivering 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft torque. It comes in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions and in LX, EX and EX-L Navi trim levels. A continuously variable transmission is available with all-wheel drive, equipped with steering wheel paddles that provide seven preset ratios. A six-speed manual transmission is available on front-wheel-drive LX and EX models.
The HR-V turns in impressive fuel economy numbers. Depending on transmission and whether equipped with FWD or AWD, highway fuel economy reaches up to 35 mpg, as good as it gets in this segment. Driving range is about 400 miles.
Like most Hondas, the HR-V comes with Eco Assist. This includes a sophisticated coaching system that helps improve driving habits for better fuel efficiency. It uses color-changing displays within the HR-V’s instrument cluster, with speedometer illumination changing from white to green depending on real-time fuel efficiency. Engaging the car’s ECON button optimizes operation of the transmission, engine, and other powertrain components to also help conserve fuel.
The HR-V hits a home run with its many desired features combined with an approachable entry point of just $19,215. Depending on trim, standard or available electronics include Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist; electronic stability control; Multi-Angle Rearview Camera; Bluetooth, Tire Pressure Monitoring, and Honda LaneWatch. Either a 5 inch color LCD screen or 7-inch touchscreen display are offered. EX-L Navi trim adds satellite-linked navigation and SiriusXM radio, HD Radio, and Honda Digital Traffic that provides real-time traffic information.
Chevy’s 2015 Trax subcompact SUV offers a new choice for those who want the functionality of an urban-friendly crossover with higher fuel efficiency. With an overall length of 168.4 inches and a smaller physical footprint than many crossovers, it also features a tight 36.7-foot turning diameter that makes for great maneuverability in city traffic
The Trax is based on the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic hatchback but is actually quite a bit larger, allowing it to carry 48.4 cubic feet of cargo and up to five people. It’s built in Korea like the Sonic, and while new to the U.S. market the Trax is already available in over 60 global markets. Along with the Sonic, its platform, mechanics, and cabin layout are shared with the Buick Encore.
Power comes from a 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder Ecotec engine featuring dual overhead cams and variable valve timing. The engine, also made in Korea, produces 138 horsepower at 4900 rpm and 148 pound-feet of torque at 1850 rpm. Around-town driving is spirited with good acceleration and snappy shifts courtesy of a Hydra-Matic 6T40 six speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is a $1500 option.
Like many downsized crossover SUVs in recent years, the Trax aims at highway fuel efficiency in the 30-plus mpg range, a goal met with its EPA-estimated 34 mpg highway fuel economy and 26 mpg in the city. The AWD version is rated at 31 highway and 24 city mpg. The fuel tank holds 14 gallons.
Though on the smallish side, the Trax offers an interior that’s quite versatile. The 60/40 folding rear seats and a fold-flat front passenger seat allow carrying items up to 8 foot long as needed. The Trax is quite narrow so accommodating three in the rear is a bit tight, although we found rear seat headroom and legroom to be just fine.
The Trax comes with full power equipment including electric power steering, air-conditioning, and a rearview camera. Front wheel drive variants get front disc and rear drum brakes with the AWD featuring four wheel discs. An LT Plus package adds a six-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrap steering wheel, and rear parking sensors. The uplevel LTZ comes with leather upholstery, 18 inch wheels, heated front seats, an auto-dimming mirror, and a Bose sound system. Other versions use cloth seat materials and 16 inch wheels.
Safety is a notable feature of the Trax, which received five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration for overall, frontal, and side crash protection and a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. There are 10 airbags including front and rear side airbags, full-length side curtains, and front knee airbags.
Buyers will appreciate this crossover’s approachable $20,995 base price and two year/24,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance. Also appealing is the model’s high level of electronics technology that comes as standard or optional equipment. This includes a 7-inch MyLink touchscreen, On-Star 4G LTE with built-in WiFi hotspot, Siri Eyes Free for iPhone, a USB port, an iPod interface, OnStar emergency telematics, and a BringGo navigation app.
Considering the sheer number of SUVs and crossover vehicles seen in any given parking lot these days, there’s no doubt this is a crowded field with many relevant players. The key is finding the one amid the crowd that best promises to meet your needs and speak to your sensibilities. If ‘green’ takes a top spot in your playbook along with sportiness, functionality, and value, then you’re a candidate for Mazda’s CX-5.
Our initial experience with the all-new 2013 Mazda CX-5 last year was enlightening, and really, eye-opening. We’ve driven crossover SUVs for many years and can attest that for the most part, high fuel efficiency is not their game. Rather, it’s all about style, functionality, safety, and comfort. The ability to haul people and gear is important. That usually comes at the cost of fuel economy because these vehicles are typically larger and heavier than passenger vehicles by nature, which means greater power is required to move them.
But that changes with crossovers like the Mazda CX-5 SKYACTIV. A bit more compact in stature, the CX-5 is right-sized for most buyers wishing all the attributes of a crossover SUV but don’t want to wince at the pump. This model’s eye-catching style is a good opener for drawing potential buyers, as is its surprisingly accommodating interior, comfortable five-place seating, and approachable price.
Cinching the deal is this vehicle’s fun-to-drive nature and admirable fuel efficiency. Two fuel-efficient engines are available. The base Sport model comes standard with Mazda’s 2.0-liter, 155 horsepower SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder powerplant. Uplevel Touring and Grand Touring models are motivated by a new-for-2014 2.5-liter, 184 horsepower SKYACTIV-G engine.
While perfectly fine with 2.0-liter CX-5 variants driven before, we do enjoy the extra 29 horsepower provided by this model’s 184 hp 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G engine. Acceleration and gear transitions are crisp, as expected of the Mazda marque.
Cars of Change editors have been living with a 2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring long-term test car for some months now to get an in-depth sense of the model. During our time with the car to date, editors have come to appreciate the CX-5’s stylish design and its notable functionality. Over the first 8,000 miles of our year-long test, we have experienced the CX-5 under conditions familiar to most of our readers – daily commuting, running errands around town, and road trips that allow long-distance evaluation – with the latter often finding us folding the rear seats down and stuffing the cargo area with an amazing array of gear for our travels.
We’ve found the CX-5 to be nimble and fun as a daily driver under all these conditions, blending efficient motoring with the sophistication we like in an SUV. The cabin is comfortable and the controls intuitive. We’re sold on the optional blind spot monitoring system and especially the rear-view camera, an indispensable feature in our parallel parking-focused town. While lightweight high-tensile steel is used prolifically to help lessen curb weight and contribute toward the CX-5 Grand Touring’s EPA estimated 32 highway mpg (35 mpg in the Sport variant with the smaller 2.0-liter engine), this model doesn’t feel like a lightweight with its satisfying and quiet ride.
Mazda’s CX-5 delivers big time for its very reasonable $21,195 to $28,870 price tag, offering an array of desirable features with the benefit of class-leading fuel economy. The real bottom line for most is how all this comes together in the daily driving experience, and in that regard we’ve found the CX-5 delivering as promised, consistently.