A few months ago I took Alexander and a friend to Amelia Island. I’d been there on a press trip a few months before and knew that it was the perfect vacation for my boy but not for my daughter. Since Jane was on a class trip overseas and Mr. G would be working I decided to take Alexander and a friend to the resort.
The best part of being a car reviewer is that you can sometimes review a car on vacation so when I told the folks at Kia that I’d be in Florida they said they had a Soul! there. Apparently the Soul! was meant to be ours, just check the plates.
I’m sure you’ve seen these little SUVs on the road. They’re similar in size and shape to the Nissan Cube and do believe that the two have cornered the market on adorableness. There’s some sort of anthropomorphic fun to be had with the profile of the vehicle.
I see these on the road and wait for a Disney animator to make it speak.
I’d always looked at the Soul and thought it was a young person’s car. Like a recent grad or even a college student but after having spent a week in it with all our gear I think it’s actually a great family car too.
The trunk space isn’t deep but because it’s a hatchback it’s efficient. There were three of us in the car and we put a good number of miles on it and we were all quite comfortable.
There are sedan drivers and SUV drivers. There are people who are quite simply drivers but the devoted SUV or minivan crowd who relishes the upright front seats will adore the Soul. As I was sitting bus driver style with my knees as close to a 90 degree angle as any vehicle would ever let me be I just grinned like an idiot and understood the allure of the minivan (though I still can never in good conscience allow a friend to drive one).
The Soul! isn’t a fast vehicle but it has pretty good pickup. It’s a 4 cylinder engine with 164 hp at the redline but with a fairly light curb weight of 2,778 (as low as 2,615 on a manual transmission) it’s fun and safe to accelerate onto highways (because my readers would never be racing off a red light).
The real joy of the Soul is in the cabin. It’s light and bright and although I was in a compact SUV I never felt like I was cramped (as is possible in compact vehicles). This isn’t a wide car so I don’t see it accommodating three car seats but two would be easy. Since the seats are so upright it would be easy on a mom’s back if she’s pulling kids in and out of their seats.
Unfortunately for Audrey the cargo area won’t be large enough to accomodate a Newfoundland Terrier but it’s a fantastic choice for just about anyone, particularly folks who occasionally haul things and for anyone who loves a road trip.
The model I drove was fully loaded at $23,575 and Kia has a 10 year/10,000 mile powertrain warranty so it’s the perfect option for people who actually make fiscal plans.
Also… icing on the cake? Check out the sound system at night. So. Much. Fun.
We took the Mazda CX-9 to Jane’s last soccer tournament. It was a few hours of driving with anywhere from two to four teenage girls, their soccer bags, their pillows, their overnight bags, their mounds of miscellaneous crapola and a bag or two of fresh food (I know, I have issues). I felt smug because the vehicle never felt too crowded and I never felt like I was driving a truck. Mazda manufactured a miracle.
With three rows of seating the CX-9 still manages to feel like more of a car than a truck. Perhaps because the CX-9 is on Ford’s CD3 platform along with a list of cars that I’ve also loved to drive: Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, Mazda 6 and more. The front wheel drive model that I drove has a modestly powered V6 engine that cranks out 273 hp with a curb weight of 4,528 lb.
While the CX-9 isn’t a performance vehicle it is sturdy and stable and accomplishes all it sets out to do. There’s room for 7 full sized people (to be fair our tallest was 5’10” and everyone was comfortable in all three rows), all our junk and the ride is smooth. I can’t explain why but I love the look of front of the vehicle. When the CX-9 was parked at the soccer tournament I sort of scanned the rows and decided that I really love the pointier front end as opposed to the boxier look on most of the other CUVs.
As I said before the engine is modestly powered but you can overcome the slowness of this by using the ActiveMatic and geting the CX-9 a little closer to the redline. Of course when you do this you’ll be giving up on the 19 mpg fuel economy but some fun is worth having. The Mazda is not a loud car in that there’s no engine rumble or rattling bits but there is highway noise once you hit about 60mph.
The cabin design is the highlight of the CX-9. Drivers and passengers are equally courted by a comfortable cabin with an intuitive dashboard. There’s no fumbling and wondering where things are, they’re exactly where they ought to be. My vehicle was equipped with a tech package that includes Sirius radio. Pandora was also incorporated into the dash and we took advantage of that. With terrestrial radio tanking these are great options. The navigation system was a little unwieldy and unfortunately it froze on me midway through the week so I never had the opportunity to figure it out. I am not easy to please with a navigation system. My Mercedes navigation has some pretty major flaws, the Jaguar is an abomination and Acura has nearly perfected theirs. With smartphones and navigation apps an underperforming nav system shouldn’t dissuade anyone from a purchase but a great one could help seal the deal.
With an MSRP of $34,785 (mine was loaded at $38,115) the CX-9 is a brilliant purchase for an active family or anyone who wants the conveniences of an SUV without having to actually drive an SUV. The 2013 star safety ratings aren’t out yet but IIHS gives the 2007-2013 mostly good ratings, I feel very safe with this particular vehicle.
When the Acura ILX showed up at my house I was really excited. I thought that it would be nice to compare with my Lexus HS… apples to apples sort of thing and all. Well, that’s really not possible because the HS is no longer made, though I am looking forward to driving the Lexus ES hybrid for 2013. It doesn’t seem to compare well to either vehicle as it’s (surprisingly) in a different pricepoint.
The car I drove is the ILX with the tech hybrid package with a total drive off price of $35,295. The window sticker says to expect about 38 MPG combined city and highway on it and I found that to be fairly accurate.
The interior is spacious and luxurious. The kids have plenty of room in the back seat and one of the kids in our carpool is a leggy 5’10”.
When I get these cars I drive like a jerk for the first day or two. The ILX is interesting because just to the left of the steering wheel is a little button that says “ECON”. Most hybrids assume that the driver cares not one whit about performance and that they’re content to chug along with a gas pedal that could double as a suggestion box. Acura assumes you want performance so days one and two were spent in sports mode with the ECON button not depressed and me racing off the line at red lights like it’s the Indy 500. It’s a horrible way to drive a car and not particularly joyful unless the car has decent pickup and the ILX has more than decent pickup when you’re not conserving precious fossil fules.
Fortunately the ILX hybrid doesn’t cater only to jerks and for the next several days I played with the car in drive and ECON mode. For the week combined I ended up with an average of 36 MPG and on the days when I drove like a normal human being should (not hypermiling either) I consistently was between 41-43 MPG. Keep in mind that I’m a mostly city driver and hybrids are perfect for lifestyles like mine.
This is the MPG when I’m driving in sport mode and racing everyone off the line. It’s impressive.
I felt like I was in a really snazzy Honda Accord. The dash is low and the visibility is good. I’m not sure why in recent years automotive manufacturers haven’t given us better views of the road. Maybe it’s because they’re busy accommodating the navigation systems?
Speaking of navigation systems I’m ready to declare the Acura navigation system to be my favorite of all time. I know, I’m not supposed to play favorites but theirs is done right. It’s intuitive and it’s complete. It’s the only navigation system that I’ve used which offers accurate traffic. As an Angelino I cannot emphasize enough how valuable this is.
We didn’t love the audio package. It was a little tinny and I might suggest an upgrade if you are a music lover. It would probably be fine for me as equipped because, let’s face it, no amount of tuning will make Call Me Maybe sound good and I lost control of the radio a few years ago.
Safety is critical and the 2013 Acura ILX has received the highest possible safety rating of top safety pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting vehicle occupants involved in front, side and rear crashes, plus rollover performance based on ratings in the Institute’s tests. It is worth noting that the IIHS uses these tests to determine how much your auto insurance costs so they have a few million reasons to be as accurate (and tough) as possible.
A couple of details for my friends who love buying American: 45% of the parts are US or Canadian and just 35% are from Japan and the final assembly point is in Greensburg, Indiana.
Every car has a personality and the Hyundai Santa Fe is no exception. The Santa Fe is an interesting vehicle because at first glance you could be tricked into thinking it’s a Mom Car. This crossover is a Mom Car but not in the defeated way that a minivan is a mom car. The Santa Fe is an everyone car and with the trim level I was in it’s a little bit snooty to let kids in but still affordable.
The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is a crossover that makes you look smart.
I’ve never driven a Hyundai for more than a test drive before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’ve also not owned a crossover and I’m not sure that I’ve ever had an extended drive in one. My friend Vincent at Slashgear got great video that shows you some of the terrain we covered. I took some video too, but it was decidedly less great.
We left the hotel and took paved and unpaved roads for a few hours from Deer Valley to Sundance. There are a few things I noticed about the Hyundai Santa Fe right away.
It handles like a luxury car but looks like a truck (or SUV whatever…)
The rear seats are heated
It’s very fuel efficient
The cabin is quiet even when the road is rough
You can go 45 MPH on an unpaved road, slam on the brakes and there’s ZERO fishtailing. This thing is safe.
The Santa Fe is an attractive crossover. Crossovers by their very nature aren’t particularly sexy so the folks at Hyundai had to really work at this. I found the styling (particularly on the front grille) to be very attractive. It speaks of luxe to me. The vehicle has a very aerodynamic look to it that extends to the trunk area and saves it from looking like a clunky SUV.
I drove that car like the biggest jerk on the road. On pavement, I switched the steering from comfort to sport and back again all the while wiggling the wheel (and my poor passengers). I did experience a slight bit of tightness to the drive with it in sport but I wouldn’t call it dramatic. I accelerated wildly and then slammed the brakes on both on paved and unpaved roads, the vehicle performed perfectly.
Let’s talk about the interior. There’s space here. A lot of space actually. We were driving the Sport model which seats 5. I sat comfortably in the rear seat with a six-foot tall man in front of me. It was quite roomy, exceeding my expectations. They’ve also added an airbag at the knee to keep the driver in her seat in case of an accident. I hope to never need that feature but I like that it’s there.
The Santa Fe has great pickup. They’ve shaved more than 260 pounds off the curb weight of the vehicle without sacrificing safety. Hyundai uses high tensile steel which means that it can stand up to higher levels stress before necking. Why does this matter to you? Well, if you combine a lower weight vehicle with a little more torque all without giving up on safety you end up with a car that can get you up a ramp and onto a freeway at 65 MPH without feeling like you’re holding up traffic. It also means that you can quickly accelerate to change lanes or to avoid an accident because the dopey guy next to you is checking tumblr…
The price-point of the Santa Fe is extraordinary. It starts at $24,450 and ends at $29,450 for the turbo model with All Wheel Drive (money well spent if you can swing it). There are add-ons available for up to $6,600 so with every bell and whistle the Santa Fe could top out at $36,050. Let’s talk about some of those bells and whistles, shall we?
I love panoramic sunroofs. One of the most tragic moments in my life was when I realized that the only way to get a five-seater convertible was to buy a Bentley. My husband won’t buy me a Bentley, he just doesn’t love me enough. True story. Panoramic sunroofs take the sting out of not being able to buy a convertible when you’ve got two kids (which kid isn’t allowed a playdate because Mommy wanted a cute car?). I’m also someone who just feels better with sunlight. The sunroof is the size of Texas, I love it more than words can say.
There’s a lot of hidden storage in the cargo (trunk area) so you can leave your electronics and whatnot under the “floor”. If you get the longer wheelbase you can have a Santa Fe that seats 7 and since the interior of that one is still top secret I have no idea what happens in that cargo area.
Speaking of interiors the only part of the Santa Fe that has a whiff of Mom Car is that if you get fabric it features YES. Which is a stain resistant technology that keeps the seats clean and dry. I didn’t sit in a car with YES but if you prefer cloth seats then this might be a huge selling point.
Hyundai has a 5 year 60,000 warranty along with a 10-year 100,000-mile powertrain protection warranty and a few others too (see the site because there’s a lot to read there). While I was driving the Santa Fe I was thinking that it would be a smart car to buy (I lease cars not buy them), it’s got every luxury that a crossover can have (except air conditioned seats but I’m pretty sure that’s not a deal breaker). With a lower price point than most in its class, a longer warranty and a fuel-efficient engine it seems like a no-brainer.
There was a slew of great writers on this trip so here’s a wrap up of their stories:
I’ve just spent a few hours and a few hundred miles in the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe. I’ve driven it at a luxury hotel (and it looks lovely and perfectly in place there). I’ve driven it on the highways in Utah at altitudes between five and eight thousand feet above sea level. I’ve driven the Hyundai Santa Fe on an unpaved fire road at 45 miles an hour and slammed on the brakes just for fun. The car stopped, it didn’t skid or turn sideways. It just stopped. I could feel the ABS brakes pulsing faster than a hummingbird beats her wings and I knew I was safe.
I am so impressed.
Later this week I’ll give you a ton of details about what I loved about the Santa Fe (because there was a lot to love) and hopefully I’ll have a little video to share as well. I was surprised by the Santa Fe’s handling. It corners like a car with the visibility of an SUV. Speaking of visibility my kids adore vehicles with stadium seating, Alexander insists it helps him avoid car sickness.
I sat in the rear seat for a time and noticed that like the 7 series BMW the rear seats are heated. Fancy. Also at 5’6″ I had plenty of room to sit… forget fancy, that’s just good.
I took a ton of pictures and I’d sure appreciate you checking them out here. Remember when you’re looking at these photos that I’m the product of what happens when you get participation trophies.
Once I’ve caught up on my sleep I’ll have a lot more to say about the New Santa Fe.
The folks at Hyundai provided me with a trip to Utah (including everything) to road test the Santa Fe.