2022 HONDA CIVIC HATCHBACK TEST DRIVE

There is no more Civic Coupe or Civic Hybrid but there is a stellar new sedan, frisky Si model and an upcoming high-performance Type R. And when you begin with a car that’s this good you might as well make as many variants as possible. So here’s the Hatchback, priced with a $1,000 premium over the Civic with a trunk for a starting MSRP of $24,365 including destination. How much different is it than the sedan? It’s 5” shorter, can be had with a 6-speed and takes cargo volume with the seats up to over 24 cubic feet or the same as an HR-V. That’s basically it. And the sedan does have a couple of advantages…more paint choices and better gas mileage. This top-of-the-line Sport Touring trim comes only in black, white or gray and in an apples-to-apples comparison loses up to 3mpg when equipped with the standard CVT. But if you crave this kind of short throw shift for yourself fun make sure you choose one of the 4 Hatch trims that starts with the word Sport otherwise you’re getting a CVT…not a bad one but still. And then if you want the stick and the turbo? Well, you’re looking at it…you’ve got to go Sport Touring. The good news is that the manual is a no-charge option and the turbo is actually more fuel efficient than the 2.0-liter base engine. In typical Honda fashion there’s just about zero personalization options but at least everything you see here is standard for an as-tested price of $31,260. And for that price you are getting a well-stocked car with leather, sport pedals, heated seats, a moonroof and the full panoply of driver assistance features. And it’s the Sport Touring that’s the only hatch that gets such goodies as parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rear view mirror with garage door opener, a power passenger seat though one without height adjustment, and more substantive stuff like wireless phone projection, the big touchscreen with navi, an awesome sounding 12-speaker Bose sound system with sat and HD radio, a wireless phone charger, rear USB ports, and the bigger and better driver info screen. Outside, this is the only one to get fogs and dual exhaust finishers. With sharp styling, an exciting drive and SUV-fighting cargo room, the Hatchback is yet another variation to the Civic lineup worth keeping.

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2022 AUDI A3 TEST DRIVE

Last year Audi sold nearly 3 times as many SUVs as it did cars despite a lineup of coupes, sedans and sport models that come in every size and flavor. So it’s fair to question the relevance of this redesigned gas-fueled subcompact sedan in a market dominated by SUVs and burgeoning EVs. But if you still appreciate a sporty, German-engineered, turbocharged ride this new A3 has got your back.
So you want an Audi but your bank account is borderline. Well, meet the A3. With starting MSRP of $35,895 it’s one of only 2 Audis priced at under $40,000. The other is this car’s SUV counterpart, the Q3 which outsells the sedan nearly 5 to 1. So why choose this? Well, it’s a little cheaper than the Q3, its new mild-hybrid powertrain is significantly more fuel efficient and it’s quicker making for a sportier drive. But with a trunk instead of a hatch it has less than half of the standard cargo volume even though the A3’s backside gets a little bigger this year. The A3 is now a tad longer, wider and taller than before, 66 pounds heavier and slower to 60mph by a half a second, clocking in now at 6.3 seconds. But before you roll your eyes you should know that this 48-volt electrical system provides eboost upon takeoff and fills the 2.0-liter turbo with additional low-end torque so the immediacy to go is still there; impressively so for an engine alone that now makes only 201 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The big benefit of this electrical assistance though is of course gas mileage which rises from 25mpg to 31mpg in combined driving and all the way to 36mpg on the highway. Regular gas? No problem. This also increases the driving range from 330 miles to 450 miles. And this car is so comfortable up front and quiet that long highway cruising is most certainly in play. I say front because the A3’s rear seats aren’t nearly as accommodating, this is a subcompact after all. You can fit 2 back here and it’ll be OK but 3 across is definitely a no. If it’s all out performance you crave remember the S3 and RS3 are here to fill those needs. But this A3 – with quattro all-wheel drive, the 4-cylinder turbo, 7-speed dual clutch transmission and Drive Select is the perfect blend of silky smooth sedan and frugal fun.

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2022 BMW X3 TEST DRIVE

If BMW doesn’t sell more models than any other automaker then it’s pretty darn close. There are a dizzying array of body-styles and variants from which to choose but it’s this one here, the X3, that outsells them all. And now into in the 5th year of its 3rd generation, the 2022 X3 receives some notable updates.
The difference between a 248 horsepower X3 and one with 382 horsepower is the main reason this M40i model is the one to have. It’s not the range-topping X3M mind you but honestly, if it’s a quick, sporty, fun-to-drive SUV you’re looking for this M40i is more than adequate. All-wheel drive is standard for a starting MSRP of $58,795, about $12,000 more than an X3 xDrive30i. Yes, that’s a hefty premium and if you’re more into the show and less into the go the M40i’s performance upgrades will be lost on you but for those who get excited by a launch controlled 4.4 second 0-to-60mph time, sophisticated handling and racy sounds this is the one you’ll want. And the 3.0-liter turbo-6 gets a boost this year from a 48-volt battery that adds 11 horsepower of electric drive, contributing to the stellar acceleration. This setup also supports regen braking which helps to smooth out and extend the duration of the engine start/stop function when paused in traffic. With the M Sport Differential, real leather seating, the Premium Package and heated rear seats MSRP is $64,290 or an $876 per month lease. With phenomenal performance, the X3 M40i is the small SUV calling all drivers.

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2022 VOLKSWAGEN TAOS TEST DRIVE

The Tiguan and Atlas now have a little brother. The 2022 Taos is a subcompact SUV though one that’s smartly packaged to maintain sizable interior proportions. Now, I’ve been running this little guy all over the place this week – through the mountains of New England, taking it on day trips, etc. and it’s clear: VW has yet another winner in their growing SUV stable.
The Taos is one of the most pleasant surprises to come across my test drive schedule this year. It performs far above its $33,000 as-tested price by exceeding expectations in nearly every area. The drive is spot-on VW with dynamic characteristics on par with the Golf. The Audi-like tech features have me double checking the sticker price and all of the intangibles just click; it looks good as you approach it, it’s accommodating to its passengers and the size is perfect for day trips and running errands. I’ve averaged over 32mpg on regular to boot though VW recommends using 91 octane to achieve the engine’s full power. If you don’t need the Tiguan’s bigger cargo area the Taos is a no-brainer. Even so, with the 2nd row seats folded flat and locked in place the Taos’ max cargo volume is nearly identical to that of the Tiguan’s. Where the Tiguan gains an advantage is cargo volume behind the 2nd row. And what if I told you this one actually has more rear seat legroom? I also love the shopping bag hooks back here which can each hold 5 pounds. Unlike in the Tiguan and Atlas there’s no R-Line available here so this SEL trim serves as the highest Taos example and everything you see here – other than the floor mats – comes standard for $33,185; that’s quite the attractive price when you consider all that the Taos is. The only notable option my tester doesn’t have is the $1,200 panoramic sunroof. And if you were thinking of adding a hitch the Taos is not designed for towing a trailer. But this SUV is a real delight. VW should sell a ton of these and it’s easy to see why.

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2021 FORD RANGER TREMOR TEST DRIVE

Just as Ford is preparing to reveal the next-gen Ranger due in 2023, I’m running through the mud in this Cyber Orange Ranger Tremor and loving every minute of it. Following the off-road oriented Super Duty Tremor comes this Tremor package for the Ranger. It gives owners a truck with even more capability, taking it several notches beyond the FX4 Package. Powered by a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder turbo producing 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, the Tremor Off-Road Package is priced at $4,290 and is available on XLT and Lariat grades exclusively in the SuperCrew 4X4 configuration. A lifted suspension provides nearly another inch of ground clearance which combined with the new 32” Grabber tires improves the Ranger’s off-road metrics. FOX shocks with external reservoirs at the rear and hydraulic rebound stops keep things comfortable even over severe terrain. A steel front bash plate, skid plates, 2 new recovery hooks in the rear, a locking rear differential and a Terrain Management System round out the package. Even the traction control system has been recalibrated for improved acceleration while driving on loose surfaces. Now the price of this one is $48,755 – certainly not cheap – but it’s a fully loaded top of the line Tremor. A more plebeian XLT Tremor starts at $42,745. It can tow 7,500 pounds with the optional trailer tow package. This is one rugged truck with a soft side that satisfies on a number of fronts so if you’re in search of an off-road rig that still fits in your garage and is ready to go right out of the box, the Ranger Tremor would be my first choice. FOR TESTDRIVENOW CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES’ COMPLETE VIDEO REVIEW & TEST DRIVE OF THE 2021 FORD RANGER TREMOR, GO TO: https://testdrivenow.com/ford-ranger-tremor-test-drive/

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