2017 Kia Forte S Surprises with Huge Value

As a brand Kia has come a country mile here in North America from a struggling maker of entry-level cars to a very successful  full line automaker.  The power to surprise is one the advertising tag lines used in marketing campaigns it is quite appropriate.  Recently, I got to spend  a week behind the wheel of the 2017 Kia Forte S which surprised with its content level and performance as well as bang for the buck.

The second-generation Kia Forte was launched in 2013, alongside its Korean counterpart, the K3. Penned by former Audi designed Peter Schreyer, the second-gen Forte is a significant departure from its predecessor in just about any department. Sporting a modern appearance, a more upscale interior, and new engines, the new Forte has help change the way consumers think about Kia-badged compacts. The second-generation model received its mid-cycle facelift for the 2017 model year.

The new trim level is dubbed the “S” trim and is slated to sit between the entry-level LX trim and range-topping EX trim.

Kia didn’t change the Forte enough to make it that indistinguishable from the current model. Kia  claims that “the tiger nose grille has been extended to connect with the new headlights” . What was really extended was the headlights. On the 2016 model, there is spacing between the grille and the lower half of the headlight. On this 2017 model, the headlight isn’t quite as tall, and the entire inboard edge of the headlight meets the grille. It gives the car a much better look, but that isn’t all that changes up front.

For the most part, the hood has remained the same. It is able to sit a little lower on the sides thanks to the facts that the headlights aren’t as fat. Those headlights, by the way, still wrap around the front end, terminating on the fenders. Down below, the fascia has been changed dramatically. The fog lights have been moved inward and sit next to the air dam. It should be noted that those fog lights are a bit larger too. Now that the fog lights have been moved inward, Kia added a small air vent on each corner, giving the front end a much sportier look.

Looking at the back of the Forte S, there are minor changes. The deck lid has a slightly more pronounced lip, and the tail lights have a double-layered look to them. Down below, a small body line has been added to the corners, giving way to a sportier rear end, and the reflectors have been dropped down a little. The insert on the bottom of the rear fascia has a straight edge on top, and the exhaust outlet is now oval-shaped instead of round.

Exterior features are dependent on the trim model at hand. For instance, the new “S” trim receives 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, a rear spoiler, and chrome exhaust tip.

Inside, there isn’t that much change in comparison to the 2016 model. The gill-like styling on the door trim remains and has been added to the passenger side of the dash between the center stack and the passenger dash vent. The seats retain the same general design, however, technology and material features vary by trim level.  My test vehicle S trim, with the S trim receiving exclusive black cloth with white contrast stitching. The S trim also receives a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. y.

The S trim also come standard with UVO3 telematics, which is Kia’s infotainment system. It includes a seven-inch touchscreen and connects to mobile devices via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The coolest part of the new Forte is that every trim level comes with Drive Mode Select as a standard feature. This function changes the way the car shifts, accelerates, and performs dependent on your selection. Normal mode is pretty self-explanatory, Eco mode tunes the car to cut back on fuel usage, while sport mode will allow the car to have quick shifting and longer periods between shifts  allowing the car to take advantage of the entire rev range. Naturally, some fuel economy will be sacrificed in Sport mode.

For the  2017 model year, the Kia got rid of that old 1.8-liter four-cylinder. LX and S trim levels receive a new 2.0-liter, Atkinson four-cylinder. Both trim levels come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but a six-speed automatic as my test car had is optional.

Te new S trim receives a sport-tuned suspension.  At second glance The new grille and headlights on the 2017 Kia Forte look like they’re straight from the bigger Kia Optima sedan. This also true for the tail lights, which retain the original shape, but have been redesigned to look more like the Optima sedan

The new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder base engine in the Forte sedan puts out 147 horsepower and
132 lb-ft of torque  while delivering excellent feel economy numbers 29 mpg city and 38 mpg when connected to the 6 speed automatic.

The new Forte S model sedan starts at about $20,000 which is quite a great value for the dollar.  The Forte S sedan  surprised across the board.  It is fun, playful and affordable.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-FWD  6 speed Automatic

Highlights

Value

Interior content and build quality

 

Lowlights

A few cheap plastics

The Long Drive Rankings 1 Low 10 High

Exterior Styling 7
Interior styling and quality 7

Handling 5

Braking 5
Fuel Economy 9
Performance 6
Trunk-Cargo Capacity 8

Audio System 6

Value 10

 

 

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander SE= Great Value

In the over 20 plus years that I have been receiving press vehicles to evaluate each week.   I have only had four Mitsubishi products to test out.  During my ten years at Motor Trend there was lot of exposure to one of the most sporting models from the brand history the Evo but not much else.

When I got word that I was going to be evaluating a new Mitsubishi product I was not overly excited and my expectations were low.  The automaker has stumbled in recent years and  I occasionally have heard rumors about a pulling out of the North American market place. However after a week by the wheel of a 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander SUV my brand perceptions were dramatically changed and I find myself recommending this vehicle to listeners of my nationally syndicated radio show Autoworld.

The Outlander not be a well-known commodity, but when compared to the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Dodge Journey, it stands up surprisingly well. With a choice of 4- or 6-cylinder engines, two all-wheel-drive (AWD) systems and a host of cutting-edge safety and infotainment features, Mitsubishi’s Outlander crossover SUV proves both competent and affordable. With a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, the Outlander’s coverage is nearly double that of the Subaru Outback, but identical to the Kia Sorento. A small dealer network may limit your buying options, but if a vehicle that rings spectacular value to the table the Mitsubishi gets raves from this journalist

For 2017, Mitsubishi’s Outlander SUV gains a number of upgrades. There’s a simplified AWD system on base models plus new features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert, a heated steering wheel, auto high beams and a multi-view camera system.

Behind the wheel the standard for cylinder engine paired with an excellent CVT transmission delivers surprisingly strong off-the-line acceleration and fuel economy up to 30-mpg highway. This is one of the best CVT automatics I have ever tested. The CVT is efficient, quiet and responsive, it squeezes every drop of power from the 2.4-liter engine while returning impressive fuel economy.

The 2.4-liter inline-4 cranks out 166 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque  while delivering in front wheel drive configuration 25 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
On the road the Outlander is not the best handling vehicle in the marketplacebt bt most average drivers they will never notice.  Braking is decent and the overall ride and drive is also pleasant

 

The Mitsubishi Outlander comes standard with seating for seven, who will enjoy an even nicer cabin for 2017. Controls are easy to use, and.interior has a more a more premium fee. The materials are nice, the design is clean and the interior is pleasantly quiet. Flipping and folding the second row is now easy, thanks to a system of straps and levers. That offers easy entrance to the very small third row. Fold down both rows and you create over 63 cubic feet of cargo space.

The styling revisions that debuted for 2016 carry over including the Outlander’s  aggressive nose and rear for a look that is unique, but isn’t universally loved. The angular nose, while definitely fitting into the Mitsubishi family, also hints at the looks of the Lexus NX SUV. Cool features like the electric windshield-wiper de-icer that helps keep ice and snow from building up n the wipers, a shark-fin antenna and power-folding side mirrors add an upscale feel.

The 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander is available in four trims: ES, SE, SEL and GT. The vehicle ES model came with automatic climate control, keyless entry, 6-speaker touch-screen audio, rearview camera, Bluetooth, heated side mirrors and 18-inch alloy wheels. My SE test model had a rearview camera, fog lights, dual climate control, heated front seats and push-button start. The Touring Package also includes navigation, rain-sensing windshield wipers, windshield-wiper de-icer, power-folding side mirrors, auto on-off headlights, a power tailgate, a heated steering wheel and power sunroof.

Attention  audiophiles,  the 2017 Outlander SUV offers a kicking 710-watt, 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio upgrade guaranteed to please the music lover in all of us. Deep bass is provided by a powered sub, and the system can be paired with a 40-gigabyte music-storage hard drive.  This system really impresses and fits the fun character of the vehicle as well.

My loaded test vehicle came to about $27,000 simply,  a tremendous value.  Want something different packed with a lot of vale in three row seven passenger SUV check ot the 2017 Outlander.

 

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-FWD CVT Automatic

Highlights

Value

Simple layout

Rockford-Fostgage Sound System

Lowlights

A few cheap plastics

Not for those who vale great handling skills

The Long Drive Rankings 1 Low 10 High

Exterior Styling 7
Interior styling and quality 8

Handling 5

Braking 5
Fuel Economy 9
Performance 5
Trunk-Cargo Capacity 8

Navigation 8
Audio System 9

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring is Pure Driving Joy

It’s hard to believe that the year 1989 was first year of the Mazda Miata.  It has gone on to become the best-selling roadster of all time and on any given weekend there are more Mx-5 Miata’s being raced or auto crossed in events across North America than any other car.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend a whole week behind the wheel of the all new model which debuted for the 2016 model year.  This car is all about fun.  The all new Mazda MX-5 is a little smaller than its predecessor, weighs less and has a bit less power, yet it’s still as nimble, quick and fun as ever. Best of all, it has a newfound sense of refinement thanks to a modern interior inspired by the Mazda3, and an unprecedented focus on driver placement makes the new MX-5 comfortable even if you’re well over 6-feet tall.

Balance is the key to what makes the new Mazda MX-5 so wonderful to drive.. Since the original Mazda Miata, the MX-5 has never been a car for drag racing, or for maximum cornering loads, or any of the big-tire, big-engine shenanigans generally associated with Mustangs, Camaro’s or Challengers.

Instead, the new MX-5 carries on the tradition of offering enough power to be quick but not so much that the car’s a handful. The suspension is firm enough for spirited cornering, but not so harsh that it rattles your teeth. The steering is quick, and allows the driver to carve u  corners with ease.

The new Mazda MX-5 roadster has a simple, straightforward and modern interior. It’s similar to the new Mazda3, with an upright infotainment screen on the dash, push-button start on some models, and a surprising amount of soft-touch materials, considering last year’s hard-plastic everything. Mazda says it literally designed the car around the driver, and the MX-5 offers excellent steering-wheel, pedal and shifter placement. Despite the small size, it’s surprisingly accommodating for tall drivers, with a tilt steering wheel, and a convertible top that affords good headroom. There’s even a usefully sized trunk..

Hands down in my opinion this is the best looking MX-5 Miata to date.   The tiny headlights are LEDs, complemented by tail lights that look like miniaturized versions from the Jaguar F-Type. The profile keeps the classic long-hood/short-deck proportions.

All new MX-5 models come with LED headlights, push-button ignition, air conditioning, power windows and the  easy to use manual cloth top.   Cruise control is also standard, and the little steering wheel is packed with audio and cruise-control buttons. My Grand Touring test model also had leather upholstery and navigation. along with the excellent Mazda Connect infotainment system with its touch-screen display and multifunction knob, plus headrest speakers with Bose sound.

The only engine in the new Mazda MX-5 is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. It comes standard with an all-new 6-speed manual transmission, and even if you don’t know how to drive a stick, it’s worth learning just so you can enjoy this one.

The action is light, the shifts are short, and the clutch operation is simply the best.  I love the clutch and the short throw gearbox combination..  There is no other manual gear box like it until you spend a lot more money.  It reminds me of six figure Porsche gear boxes.  Yes you can get an excellent 6 speed automatic but this one vehicle that I recommend highly with the manual.

The 2.0-liter inline-4 puts out 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque.  Fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. Despite its modest power the MX-5 does not feel slow in anyway.and for little over $31,000 loaded the MX-6 Miata is pure driving joy.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-RWD 6 speed Manual

Highlights

Styling

Simple layout

Manual Transmission

Lowlights

Could use a tad more power

The Long Drive Rankings 1 Low 10 High

Exterior Styling 9
Interior styling and quality 8

Handling 9

Braking 7
Fuel Economy 7
Stereo System 8

Performance 5
Trunk-Cargo Capacity 4

Navigation 8
Audio System 7

2017 Toyota Camry XLE is the Best Camry To Date

With the debut of the next generation Camry at the North America International Auto Show in Detroit around the corner.  Recently I had week-long very pleasant visit with the current 2017 Camry that you can walk in to the dealer and purchase right now.

The 2017 Toyota Camry remains among the most poplar sedans for a wide range of buyers. Now celebrating its 35th year, there’s no one single reason why the Camry midsize sedan is among the bestselling vehicles in the nation, but rather a combination of winning factors. Whether you desire reliability, efficiency, easy driving manners, great resale value, or some of the latest safety features like automatic emergency braking, the Camry checks all the boxes. Like the Honda Accord, the Camry is available with 4- and 6-cylinder engines, as well a hybrid. The Camry excels as a no-fuss commuting companion and comfortable chariot for family and friends.

The Camry is very good at a lot of things, but it’s not necessarily the best at any one. Toyota’s midsize sedan isn’t as fun to drive as a Mazda Mazda6 or even an Accord, nor is it as fuel-efficient as either. If you want all-wheel drive for improved traction, look to the Subaru Legacy or Ford Fusion.

Thanks to revised suspension tuning that came with the 2015 revamp, the latest Camry sedan delivers a slightly livelier driving experience. But don’t confuse the Camry for a corner-carver: Its emphasis remains quiet and comfortable road manners. The standard 178-horsepower 4-cylinder engine that most Camry buyers will choose is more than adequate for everyday acceleration and passing power. Linked exclusively to a 6-speed automatic transmission, it is a willing and faithful partner in the city, on country roads, or on interstate highways around Orlando Florida or anywhere in North America.

The 5-passenger interior of the 2017 Camry isn’t as stylistically forward as its exterior might suggest, but it’s hardly bland. Moreover, it’s supremely functional.

Big cup holders and multiple storage nooks surround the sporty gear selector, and even the steering wheel has a familiar feel and looks more sophisticated now with its bevy of integrated controls. The Camry has good room for passengers up front and in back, and the trunk has a sizable 15.4 cubic feet of space.

The winning formula of the Camry is in my opinion due to the fact it is plain and simple.  For example the Camry uses traditional knobs and dials around its standard 6.1-inch or optional 7-inch display infotainment  screen. The controls are big, easy to read and simple to use. The standard JBL audio system in my test vehicle also was very good.

No doubt this is best looking Camry to date. The significant revisions to the sheet metal that arrived a couple of years ago still look fresh for 2017. Bookended by an eye-catching front end and a nicely detailed rear, the stylish but not outlandish  Camry is sure to attract new buyers without scaring away longtime devotees.

My test vehicle an XLE trim Camry has a choice of three powertrains. Most buyers will be more than satisfied with the standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that offers a good blend of performance and fuel economy.  Power is rated at 178 Hp along with 170 lb-ft of torque delivering an EPA average of 24 MPG city and 33 mpg pn the highway.  My XLE model starts  at a very reasonable $27, 145

If you enjoy a more sporty sedan I would recommend the Mazda6 but if you not an enthusiast driver.   Its taken me a long time bt now I understand better why Toyota sells so many Camry vehicles.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-FWD 6 speed automatic

Highlights

Styling

Comfort

Simple layout

Lowlights

Not a drivers car

The Best Camry ever but still a little bland

The Long Drive Rankings 1 Low 10 High

Exterior Styling 7
Interior styling and quality 8

Handling 6

Braking 6
Fuel Economy 7
Stereo System 8

Performance 5
Trunk-Cargo Capacity 8

Navigation 8
Audio System 7