We've got some catching up to do…
It is not that I have been neglecting to publish reviews on this site. I have been working through several vehicles for other publications. In those instances, I have to adhere to a specific formula and balance to present to those magazines and websites.
However, V&R gives me a bit of freedom. To turn a phrase, to say something else. You get the idea.
Last year, I did several postings on a quarterly basis to catch you up on what I have been working for those other publications. Just to keep you in the loop, dear reader.
What have I been working on elsewhere? Let's begin with something rather…ahem…
2019 MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE CROSS
If we overlook the nomenclature and the rear end design, you will find a very competent and rather fun compact SUV. The new 1.5-liter turbocharged engine has some kick to it. The continuously variable transmission is one of the most improved of its kind – and, yes, it shifts at the right ratios under normal load. You will also appreciate the great road manners, excellent handling
However, let me make a couple of points here. First, if you happen to be one of those early adopters of the original DSM Eclipse and happen to have children these days, then you may appreciate the nod Mitsubishi made for the name of their latest SUV. Secondly, as much as you hate the Pontiac Aztek – even if you're a fan of "Breaking Bad" – then, the rear roofline design of the Eclipse Cross will grow on you. In other words, for those two points alone…deal with it!
My SEL Touring tester turned out just fine. Better than what the haters think. That is what matters, folks!
Our Fuel Economy Average: 24.5 MPG
Sticker Price as Tested: $32,015
Vehicle Provided by White Bear Mitsubishi, White Bear Lake, MN
2019 KIA FORTE
This may be the most improved sedan in its class. Then again, we're saying this as we await the first shipments of the 2020 Toyota Corolla. For now, the new Forte exhibited excellence where it counts – all influenced by the awesome Kia Stinger.
The Stinger may have lent some design upgrades, including a fastback-like roof profile. It also lent some inspiration to the cabin and instrument panel. The quality is up overall inside. The 2.0-liter engine is very good, even combined with Kia's new continuously variable transmission. The latter does a good job shifting when it needs to under normal throttle. On hard throttle, it just screams up to 4,000-5,000 RPM and kicks down when it's done doing what you wanted it to do.
Still, the new Forte is looking like a huge win for Kia. In a segment that needs all the help it can from consumers, producing higher quality compelling products is the way forward towards regaining a footing in the market. If there is gold in opportunity, the 2019 Kia Forte is mining it.
Our Fuel Economy Average: 34.4 MPG
Sticker Price as Tested: $26,515
Vehicle provided by Kia Motors America
I will not get into the reason why I ended up with a Sportage. It filled a blip in my experience with another vehicle. With that said, it is good to reacquaint myself with a rather fun, but unique compact SUV.
My "tester" came in the LX trim with all-wheel-drive in Clear White. Before you get into it being "basic," this is actually better than bottom-of-the-line. The 2.4-liter engine is quite sprightly with a solid driveline managing the snow and ice. The cabin is solid, with cloth seating that is durable and everything I need to keep myself entertained and informed. Not to mention the largest rear doors available in its class – great for adults to get in and out of the back seat.
For all the necessities, the sticker price is under $27,000 complete – great for those who fear getting a huge loan or lease for something over $30,000. That is what the Kia Sportage is truly all about – value.
Our Fuel Economy Average: 22.1 MPG
Sticker Price as Tested: $26,730
Vehicle provided by Lupient Kia, Brooklyn Park, MN
2019 HYUNDAI ELANTRA
This is another vehicle that has been a volume seller for its brand that is not an SUV. One could attribute the Elantra's sales volume to fleet deliveries. However, retail consumers also love the Elantra as a value-for-the-money proposition. For 2019, the Elantra underwent a mid-cycle refresh that is now aligned with the Sonata and the current design movement at Hyundai.
Some have called out the front end to be a bit more adventurous than usual for Hyundai. And, lest we forget about the Sonata from 2001. Nonetheless, the Elantra's nose should be given a pass while the new rear end should be celebrated. You will find minor adjustments inside, with a larger, more driver-oriented infotainment touchscreen and a few sporty embellishments all around. My Limited tester came in a tasteful red with light beige leather interior, which makes it quite handsome.
The 2.0-liter engine is pretty sprightly, connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. It made the job of driving it just fine. The ride quality and cornering agility is quite good. I wished it had a quicker brake distance and better modulation. Otherwise, I found the updated Elantra a good compact sedan to drive overall.
Our Fuel Economy Average: 34.3 MPG
Sticker Price as Tested: $26,960
Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America