2019 KIA FORTE REVIEW

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.

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2020 KIA SOUL REVIEW

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.

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2019 ACURA RDX REVIEW

How important is the RDX to Acura? Not only is it their best-selling vehicle but this 2019 redesign is being heralded as the beginning of a new era for Honda’s luxury division. Remember the Super-Handling All Wheel Drive system that was skipped in favor of a lighter, simpler setup for the 2013 redesign? It’s back. And the original’s turbocharged engine? That’s back, too.

MSRP as-tested: $50,495

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2019 FORD EDGE REVIEW

So you’re considering an Edge; good timing. Ford has updated their 5-passenger midsize SUV for the 2019 model year to keep it a compelling choice.

Though most Ford shoppers opt for the smaller Escape or larger Explorer, the venerable Edge is still a big volume player for the brand. It has staying power, name recognition and has long since received positive reviews from me.  Built upon Ford’s CD4 platform which also underpins products such as the Fusion and Lincoln Continental, this 2nd generation Edge debuted for the 2015 model year and moves into 2019 refreshed with a new look and host of new features.

So the 3.5-liter V6 is no longer, replaced across the board, with the exception of the sporty ST, with this 2.0-liter turbo making marginally more horsepower than before and working through a new 8-speed automatic producing relatively impressive fuel economy of 23mpg on regular unleaded.

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2019 HYUNDAI SANTA FE REVIEW

This all-new Santa Fe showcases Hyundai’s bolder and bigger design language and really reignites the brand’s mojo which has been slipping in recent years. This 2019 model is the most complete, family-oriented SUV in its segment.  It’s that good.  Now, if you’re on a tight budget there’s the front-drive Santa Fe SE for under $25,000.  But 6 trim levels up is this range-topping Ultimate 2.0T AWD for $39,970 before any available incentives.  And that includes everything the Santa Fe offers as standard. It’s incredibly well-stocked, drives with a reassuring polish and pays special attention to cabin aesthetics and ergonomics.  It recaptures the MO from Hyundai’s maturation process; providing a generous, modern package at a price that undercuts the competition.

At 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, the 2.0-liter turbo’s output doesn’t wow on paper but it never feels inadequate, producing strong low-end acceleration, mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission that doesn’t interfere with the fluid driving experience. I also like having this Smart drive mode in addition to the Comfort and Sport settings that automatically selects the proper steering effort, engine and transmission control logic based on the driver’s habits.  It works really well and helps save a little gas and that’s a good thing, because at 21mpg the Santa Fe trails the more powerful Ford Edge by 2mpg in mixed driving and 4mpg on the highway.

The interior dimensions of the Santa Fe have grown to give 2nd row passengers more space.  And, there’s more cargo room behind these seats.  All told it’s a great place to spend time with this beautiful panoramic sunroof, 2 USB ports, slide and recline heated seats, and window sunshades.

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