Here we go again! Round 3 of this year's roundup of vehicles that I worked with but appear elsewhere in the mediasphere.
Sometimes, it is hard to track which vehicles were published where. However, CarSoup.com has been getting the lion's share of my work lately. It is with intention, as they try to build traffic for vehicle reviews before site visitors select which vehicles they should choose from. It works that simply. But, hey, at least V&R gets some traffic on here for our (er, my) reviews. You've read them, right?
Without further ado, here's a summary of what I have been working with over the past few months…
2020 KIA SOUL: Kia has traded in those cute Hamstars for a chameleon to help sell its popular little crossover/tall wagon. This seems appropriate, as the newest Soul undertook a serious revamping inside and out. My X-Line tester is in the middle of the road, which helps consumers get plenty of content at a good price. What they also get is a sharpened design on the outside, including a little floating roof applique for good measure, a more mature interior that still has a bit of cool with some serious parts for mainstream customers, more space, and a new CVT for the revamped 2.0-liter engine. In all, this is going to be a great fun vehicle for Kia. Price as tested: $22,615. Vehicle provided by Kia Motors America
2019 MAZDA3: For Mazda to make its move upmarket, they had to create a Mazda3 that goes beyond just competing against the likes of the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Jetta. They had to show that it is a better premium small car than the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Before I grant this as "mission accomplished," one could conclude on how much the Mazda3 has improved in various ways. The sedan design is absolutely stunning, while the hatchback offers a completely different look unseen in Mazdas in the past. The interior quality and design are stunning. For now, Mazda will offer only the Skyactiv 2.5-liter engine on the 3 with a promise of more innovative motors to come. Put this on your shopping list, please? Price as tested: $31,055. Vehicle provided by Mazda North American Operations
2019 NISSAN MURANO: The two-row mid-sized SUV segment is getting a bit crowded. That does not mean one should pass on this innovative and original member of the club. For 2019, Nissan revamped the Murano with a new grille and taillights, along with a few more innovations inside. My SL tester only came with front-drive, but you can still get all-wheel-drive to connect to the 3.5-liter VQ V6 engine and its Xtronic CVT. What consumers looking at the Ford Edge, Chevrolet Blazer, and other similar vehicles should pay attention to is the Murano's quality and design execution. Nissan always touted the Murano as a "premium" offering, which one would assume that this should have been an Infiniti rather than a Nissan. Actually, it means that you truly get more for the price of a similarly equipped rival – plain and simple. Price as tested: $42,885. Vehicle provided by Nissan North America
2019 CHRYSLER PACIFICA HYBRID: As I mentioned a month or so ago, one should not nail the coffin on the minivan. Not when you have one that drives wonderfully, takes on electrons, and offers both superb styling and absolute comfort for seven adults. The Pacifica offers its own argument against the likes of a Chevrolet Suburban or smaller three-row SUV. In that case, the minivan wins. But, there's more. The level of technology and content on the Limited model I tested is staggering, including the UConnect Theater for second-row occupants. Not to mention the way the Hybrid system works when it is no longer in battery mode and how it still regenerates the battery without needing to plug it in. This is a great minivan and excellent for families with growing children. Price as tested: $50,375. Vehicle provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
2019 GMC SIERRA 1500: It is a big truck. It stands taller than any General Motors pickup I can recall. Maybe, it's a perception? After all, I worked with the AT4 model and its two-inch lift with knobby Goodyear Wrangler tires. Plus, its available 6.2-liter V8 with Dynamic Fuel Management and the MultiPro tailgate. With the exception of the tailgate, I found the rest of the half-ton full-size pickup as "meh." The controls across the instrument panel are either inaccessible, clumsy to use, and illogically positioned. That goes for the steering wheel. The ride was a bit indifferent on rougher surfaces. And, the quality of the infotainment system was less than stellar. I don't know…I'd rather have a Ram 1500, Ford F-150, or a Toyota Tundra than this or the Chevrolet. Price as tested: $66,445. Vehicle provided by General Motors
2019 BUICK ENVISION: If one vehicle represents the trade tug-of-war between the USA and China, it is this one. Here is a Buick that is quite popular in China. It is also produced in China for the few markets Buick is sold in. We get them here as premium compact SUV/crossovers for traditional Buick customers stateside. It is a decent SUV, with enough space for 4-5 people, plenty of turbocharged power, and a handsome design. Drawbacks? I'm not a fan of half of the controls, the instrument panel design, the instrumentation, and I wished the seats had more support. It rides OK. Just OK. Price as tested: $49,925. Vehicle provided by General Motors
2019 HYUNDAI TUCSON: This has to be the most improved vehicle this year. It was as simple as replacing the much unloved 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and its seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine and a six-speed automatic. This simple specification change has transformed Hyundai's compact SUV into a prime contender in its class. Aside from the engine, this compact SUV is a friendly vehicle that makes easy work of driving and coddles 4-5 people in a roomy cabin. If you're shopping for a compact SUV, please include this one on your shopping list. Price as tested: $34,130. Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America
2019 HYUNDAI IONIQ PHEV: This vehicle comes with a story. I headed to Chicago for a drive event and was considering taking an Uber to my hotel, to the event, and back to the airport. Instead, Hyundai threw me the keys to their most sustainable vehicle at an off-airport parking location and told me to drive it to my hotel, the event, and back to the airport. I will admit that it was an interesting segue to a day with the Palisade that it would play a part in the two-day time in Chicago. I also found it ironic (or Ioniq…don't you think?) that I had the Toyota Prius up to a few days earlier. Ironic, indeed! Price as tested: $33,335. Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America
2019 CADILLAC XT4: A question popped up while testing this new small crossover/SUV from the brand that used to be the "standard of the world." Is this really a Cadillac? It may wear the badge – a modernized crest without the wreath – and it may have the modern design clues of one. However, I found it short on a few things. It wanted to be a Cadillac, but it ended up like any other premium small SUV in the market. There is some level of "special" in this vehicle, yet there was a hodgepodge of good and not-so-good all around. I really did not have an answer that would be positive about this vehicle. Granted, it was not terrible, but I certainly don't think it's a Cadillac in the way that it should be. Price as tested: $50,685. Vehicle provided by General Motors.