The family’s growing. The kids have friends and sports no longer have an off-season. You’re in the market for a 3-row SUV. Sure, the neighbors all have Pilots and Highlanders but you go your own way. And that’s where Mazda fits in with the CX-9; a distinctly unique take on the family mobile.
MSRP as-tested: $49,230
The model I’m running around in this week is the UX 200 Luxury with front-wheel drive and a handful of options leading to an MSRP of $41,560. As compared with the base UX, the Luxury adds a power rear hatch with kick sensor for hands-free operation, driver’s side memory settings, a blind spot monitor and much more to give its occupants a complete premium experience. Utilizing a new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers more power and better fuel efficiency than the Toyota powerplant, the UX is rated at 169 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque while using a trick CVT that’s engineered to behave more like a traditional automatic transmission with 10 simulated gears. In the urban environment for which it in intended, the driving experience is quite agreeable with enough grunt to move things along when needed, crisp steering and a chassis that profits from lightweight materials and a low center of gravity to imbue the UX with a dialed-in agility. The fully independent suspension delivers a welcome feeling of driver control while preserving a Lexus-level of comfort. It’s also quiet but not to the typically high Lexus standard…you’ll actually hear some road noise in here. It’s sized so neatly that maneuvering in traffic and finding suitable parking is a breeze…one of the best parts of owning a small car. And if the Cadmium Orange paint didn’t already awaken the senses this Glazed Caramel interior certainly will. It’s in here where this UX comes closest to earning its asking price – beautiful to the eye as well as the touch, with synthetic leather that is soft and feels like the real deal. It’s a driver focused cockpit with an optional heads-up display, cool graphics and a new twist on an old theme
Though you might not think of Honda as an off-road kind of company, fact of the matter is that their all-wheel drive system is legit and vehicles like the Ridgeline and Pilot have the ability to find traction where others struggle. So in swaggers the all-new 2019 Passport; designed for adventure-seekers who want superior off-road capability.
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As one of Kia’s best-selling models the Forte compact sedan and hatchback play a key role for the Korean brand. It’s situated in the highly competitive segment that includes the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, but that’s OK because this all-new 2019 model has evolved into a much more sophisticated car delivering a decidedly upscale experience.
This is one of the most impressive new cars I’ve driven in some time. It’s tastefully styled, brimming with features and a joy to drive. Just about everything about it belies its low sticker price. It plays with the compacts but it’s actually a midsize and its new powertrain delivers vastly improved efficiency. Engine output is the same as before, but with an over 20% increase in mpgs and a larger gas tank, the Forte’s driving range has added over 100 miles, to 476 in total. Rated at 30mpg city/40mpg highway, the Forte is neck-and-neck with the all-new Corolla as the segment’s mileage leader.
But this isn’t a story about a car that’s put fuel efficiency above all else. This range-topping EX trim, priced from just under $23,000, is a car you’ll be proud to own and enjoy driving.
Not even Kia could have foreseen the runaway success of this little runabout when it was introduced in 2009, but shoppers quickly took to its combination of quirky styling and practicality to catapult it to one of the brand’s best-sellers. And now the next generation is here – immediately recognizable as a Soul but with numerous enhancements to keep the masses satisfied.
While its similarly boxy competitors have been relegated to the automotive graveyard, the Soul has not only endured, it has thrived. And the changes Kia has made to this all-new 2020 model are well-received. It’s a high value proposition with captivating design and that’s a winning formula.
So to an unseasonably cold San Diego we go to get fully immersed in the Soul’s rock and roll lifestyle. Though it comes in 6 trim levels Kia has us focused on the 2 new kids on the block; the GT-Line and X-Line. If you’re a passionate driver who is attracted to bits such as a sport-tuned suspension, chrome-tip center exhaust, larger brakes, and sporty styling then the Soul GT-Line is for you.
Or perhaps you’re more of the off-road type who’s into the rugged look with more body cladding, bigger fenders, 18” wheels, and an optional 2-tone paint job – well, if that’s you then it’s the X-Line you’ll want.