Monday, 08 August 2022

Big pickups have long dominated U.S. auto sales — from the Ford F-150 to the Ram 1500 and Chevy Silverado.

And while those types of vehicles will likely never stop being dominant, in recent years trucks have been trending smaller. First we got a large contingent of midsize trucks introduced over the past decade by multiple automakers, and now we’re getting something unimaginable a decade ago: The introduction of compact trucks that are quite popular.

Now, to be clear, Hyundai doesn’t call the Santa Cruz a compact truck. They call it a “Sport Adventure Vehicle” — painting it as a mix between an SUV and a pickup.

But let’s be honest, it fits most people’s definition of a truck simply by having an open bed in the back, so that’s how most of us will refer to it.

This smaller size is popular for many reasons. For one thing, it’s more maneuverable and easier to park than a larger truck. And it’s still useful despite the smaller size — I had people tell me they would have plenty of room to throw their bikes in the back of the truck and drive their family out to where they want to ride. (Trucks don’t only need to be about hauling rocks, dirt and gravel)

This vehicle recalls past attempts at this style of vehicle — such as the Subaru Baja and the Ford Explorer Sport Trac — but improves on those vehicles quite a bit.

I recently spent some time driving a 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz and I’m back with a full report.

Published in SUV / TRUCK REVIEWS

Hyundai’s been on a roll lately with some strong additions to its SUV lineup, and now they have turned their eyes to their existing SUVs that were due for a refresh to match their modernized design standards.

Among the latest vehicles to get a brand new look is the compact Hyundai Tucson SUV, and as an added bonus a sharp new trim level has been added called the N Line.

Competing in a segment packed with strong vehicles, from Ford’s Bronco Sport to Asian rivals Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4, Hyundai has to come out strong to compete in this popular class of SUVs.

I recently spent some time behind the wheel of a 2022 Tucson N Line model, and I’m back with a full report.

Published in SUV / TRUCK REVIEWS

 

While smaller car options are slowly disappearing in this country, the midsize sedan is one segment that continues to maintain a level of popularity. And those who have remained in the battle are stepping up with new weapons in the battle for relevance in this segment.

For example, let’s talk about the 2021 Hyundai Sonata, one of the top competitors in the segment who is looking to grow its presence while battling heavy hitters like the Mazda6, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

After a redesign in 2020, the 2021 Sonata brings one major upgrade — the brand new N Line trim level offering more power, unique styling and better handling — along with other more subtle updates across the lineup.

I recently spent some time in a 2021 Hyundai Sonata Limited model, and I’m back with a full report on how well it competes.

LOOKS

The exterior design on 2021 Sonata features a bold, muscular design that is distinct — including a wide and oversized grille, sharp headlight design, attractive wheels, and an attractive ellipse-shaped window design. It’s not a stretch to call this vehicle one of the best looking sedans available. The Sonata features 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting, and heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators.

In terms of practicality, you get a ton of trunk space. Travelers will be happy to hear that they can fit several large luggages comfortably in the massive boot area.

Moving inside the Sonata, you’ll find a surprisingly upscale design for the price range. My Limited model featured extremely comfortable leather seating, and tons of head and leg room all around. Nothing feels cheap. It almost feels like luxury-lite, and better than the interior setups you get from most sedan rivals.

The vehicle also features a panoramic sunroof, plus heated and ventilated front seats.

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HOW’S THE RIDE?

Several powertrain options are offered on the 2021 Hyundai Sonata.

My test vehicle featured the 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine, which offers 180 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque.

There is also a non-turbo 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, with 191 horses and 181 lb.-ft.

Last but not least is the addition of a more powerful engine option on the N-Line trim level. The N Line features a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine boasting an impressive 290 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft., strong numbers for the segment. Opting for the N Line means you’ll get all the comforts of the standard Sonata, with a bold edge in terms of power, handling and design — including dual exhaust pipes, and sport front seats with red stitching.

There is also a hybrid version of the Sonata for those focused on fuel economy. All versions of the Sonata are Front-wheel drive (with no AWD options) — AWD is something you can get on most rivals, so this is an area where it’s lacking.

The Sonata features an automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and its Drive Mode Select lets you choose between Custom, Sport, Normal and Smart modes.

While the numbers on the Sonata power plants are not overly impressive outside of the N Line, the Sonata Limited that I tested was still quite impressive in terms of overall drive quality, especially in Sport mode.

Zero to 60 times are not fantastic in the 1.6 turbo engine, approaching 8 seconds, but the N-Line numbers are closer to 5 seconds.

In my experience driving the vehicle, the Sonata’s handling, braking and responsiveness to driver input was more than adequate, making it a worthy competitor to its main rivals. Include the N Line option in the discussion, and the Sonata has much of its competition beat.

There is a unique shifting system that saves space in the center (with push buttons for  P-R-N-D instead of a shifter). And the Sonata offers a quiet and smooth ride with limited noise intrusion.

Also, it’s worth noting that the Sonata’s electronic parking brake won’t release and allow the vehicle to move until you fasten your seat belt.

TECHNOLOGY, SAFETY 

From the moment you step into the 2021 Sonata, you’ll be impressed with the technology setup. The vehicle features a well-designed and easy-to-use center screen and infotainment system.

The 10.25-inch touchscreen can show three different informational segments at once — such as Navigation, radio and weather. The Navigation system was very accurate in my experience, getting me where I needed to be expeditiously.

My test vehicle also featured a booming sound system — specifically a Bose Premium Audio 12-speaker setup including a 9-inch subwoofer. From deep bass to the highest notes, everything was crystal clear and sounded great at all volume levels.

Also available is wireless phone charging, conveniently located up front.

Voice commands in the Sonata (for radio, phone and navigation) worked well for me, working on my first attempts nearly every time, and the simple commands are easy to master. 

Other tech features in the Sonata included a 12.3-inch color LCD cluster with custom settings on the dashboard, offering lots of great info about the car.  It features AM, FM and HD radio;  USB and auxiliary input jacks; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration; and a 90-day trial of satellite radio. 

BlueLink Connected Services are also complimentary for 3 years — with features including Automatic Collision Notification and SOS Emergency Assistance, teen driving monitors such as Curfew Alert and Speed Alert, Remote Door Lock/Unlock, and maintenance reminders. 

The Sonata comes with excellent safety ratings, nearly perfect in fact, especially important for families looking for a safe vehicle. It features Smart Cruise control, with stop/start capability, and has a ton of standard tech features.

Among the safety features on the 2021 Sonata are:
— Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist
— Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist
— Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, with Pedestrian Detection
— Parking Collision Avoidance Assist, Rear
— Surround View Monitor with Front and Rear Parking Sensors
— Safe Exit Warning

Smart Park is an advanced feature that is standard on the Limited trim, and allows the Sonata to pull itself into a parking spot, and pull out of the parking spot, in some circumstances. It’s not a feature you’ll need every time you go out, but it’s one of those touches that makes the Sonata stand out, and a sign of what the future holds.


MPG

The official fuel mileage numbers on the 2021 Hyundai Sonata come in at 27 city/37 highway/30 combined. I averaged around 27 mpg … right on target, as most of my driving was in the city.

While fuel efficient, these numbers were slightly less impressive than some of the competition, but the differences were minor and not enough to be a deciding factor against the Sonata. 

The hybrid variation of the Sonata gets 45 city/51 highway/47 average … which are very impressive numbers. If you are in the market for a hybrid, the Sonata hybrid should definitely be on your list of vehicles to test.
 

PRICE

The 2021 Sonata is available in multiple trims: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited and the new N Line performance option. There is also the Sonata hybrid option.

My test vehicle, a Sonata Limited model, was one of the more high-end offerings and was priced at $35,000, but the Sonata base price starts around $24K if you want to skip some of the bells and whistles and save. The N Line starts around $33K.

Most of the key competitors in this midsize sedan segment start around this same price, so it’s really a matter of looking at what features are included with the Sonata vs. the competition at various trim levels. Head-to-head, the Sonata comes out quite well in these comparisons, making it a strong value in the segment.

To sweeten the deal and give you peace of mind regarding repair costs, Hyundai continues to have some the best warranties in the business, including:

— 5-year, 60K new vehicle warranty
— 10-year, 100K powertrain warranty
— 3-year, 36K complimentary maintenance
— 5-year, unlimited mile roadside assistance

BOTTOM LINE

With a state-of-the-art technology setup, strong safety features, and a spacious and upscale interior, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata finds itself firmly in the discussion of best midsize sedans available today.

The addition of the N Line offering can only help the Sonata grow its following, by attracting buyers who are looking for a more powerful and sporty sedan.

 

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Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.



Published in CAR REVIEWS

Compact, nimble and affordable.

Those are the three words that best describe the 2021 Hyundai Venue, a relatively new subcompact SUV offering (it debuted in 2020) that’s a strong fit for city dwellers and those who don’t want or need a larger vehicle.

I recently spent time in a Venue and I’m back with a full report on how it stacks up to the growing number of mini-SUVs on the market right now.

Published in SUV / TRUCK REVIEWS

 

The Genesis name and reputation has been gaining steam in the auto industry over the past few years, starting with the introduction of its first luxury sedans. The upscale brand put out by Hyundai is quickly showing the competition how to get things done.

It was only a matter of time before Genesis put out SUVs. Enter their latest magnum opus, the GV80 midsize SUV — their new flagship vehicle that will no doubt put the competition even further on notice due to its sharp design and overall performance capabilities.

Attractive, powerful, and tech-savvy, it’s hard not to like what the GV80 offers. And few competitors offer as complete a package as you’ll find here.

Published in SUV / TRUCK REVIEWS

As other OEMs drop out of the compact sedan segment to focus more on larger vehicles like SUVs, Hyundai is re-upping its efforts, completely redesigning its long-trusted Elantra sedan for 2021 in hopes to gain market share in an area of the auto market that is shrinking but still has a significant amount of fans, both domestic and worldwide.

Hyundai has jazzed up the styling on the Elantra, ramped up the technology and safety features, and even offers a performance-level version this year. I recently spent time in a 2021 Elantra and I’m back with a full report.

LOOKS

The redesigned look of the Elantra for 2021 features a bold and futuristic appearance that stands out in a segment where many options are pretty ho-hum. The sprawling, in-your-face front grille in particular gets your attention quickly.

My test vehicle’s exterior featured a sharp blue paint scheme, 17-inch alloy wheels, a sun roof, LED headlights and heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators

Going into the Elantra, you’ll find a roomy vehicle in both front and back seats, so you’re not cramped even with a full load of people. That’s another thing you can’t say about every vehicle in this segment, but Hyundai clearly recognizes that compact doesn’t have to mean dreading getting into the back seat.

Published in CAR REVIEWS

Entering the large SUV market with a bang in 2020, Hyundai debuted the impressive Palisade model, which has been flying from dealer lots ever since its debut. The upscale 3-row model is the largest and one of the most expensive vehicles sold by the automaker, but sales numbers remain high as it impressed straight out of the gate in looks, performance and technology.

In its second year for the 2021 model year, most of the Palisade remains unchanged. The main difference is the addition of the more upscale Calligraphy trim level, and the options packages are slightly adjusted.

I recently tested a 2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy model, and I’m back with a full report.

LOOKS

Most SUVs aren’t traditionally known for unique or attractive exterior designs, but the exterior of the Palisade is one that will grab your attention.

Highlights include an especially eye-catching front grille, and a sharp wheel design. My Calligraphy trim level test vehicle also featured an exclusive 20-inch wheel.

Published in SUV / TRUCK REVIEWS

You don’t get to be a NACTOY Car of the Year nominee by slouching. That’s the first hint that the Genesis G80, a relatively new vehicle getting its first overall redesign for 2021, is a luxury sedan worth noticing.


With more powerful engines offered, and more plentiful and improved tech features to enhance the experience, the G80 continues to be a surprisingly strong contender in the very stacked midsize luxury sedan segment.

While the Genesis brand — an offshoot of Hyundai — is still relatively new and lacks the cachet of many longstanding luxury brands, it’s one that continues to turn heads, and could soon find itself on the rise.

I recently spent some time in a 2021 Genesis G80, and I’m back with a full breakdown.

Published in CAR REVIEWS

For sedans to remain a strong competitor in the battle for customer interest, they have to keep things sharp. So, many are undergoing redesigns. One of those is the Hyundai Sonata, which gets a brand new look for the 2020 model year.

In baseball terms, sometimes automakers hit a double or a triple when they unveil these remodels, but Hyundai has knocked it out of the park here. The 2020 Sonata looks brilliant, drives wonderfully and has a tech bonanza inside. Read on for my full thoughts on the vehicle, which is bound to do wonders for Hyundai and the sedan category as a whole.

LOOKS

First let's talk about the paint job. The vehicle I tested was a stunning color called Glowing Yellow. I've never quite seen this color on another car and was extremely impressed with the look. 

The overall design of this redesigned Sonata is truly eye-catching and had heads turning when I drove it. With a low and lean profile and a sharp-looking panoramic moonroof, this Sonata looks like a vehicle of the future, not of the past.

Published in CAR REVIEWS

Despite a healthy lineup of SUVs already in their arsenal, including the tiny but lauded Hyundai Kona, Hyundai decided that another, even smaller, subcompact was needed.

Aimed at city dwellers who need a compact ride for small parking spaces and strong fuel mileage, but want more than a subcompact sedan, the Hyundai Venue debuted for the 2020 model year.

I recently spent some time driving a 2020 Venue, and here’s a full report on my experience and where this vehicle fits in the growing SUV/crossover landscape.

LOOKS
Measuring several inches shorter than the already diminutive Kona, the Venue is not meant for people who regularly transport passengers who are not small children or tiny adults. It’s also not meant for road trips due to its lack of power and lack of storage space. It’s a commuter car through and through, so my advice is to use the rear seating as a storage area.

The exterior design of the Venue is one of the nicer-looking in the segment, combining the looks of a hatchback with crossover styling.

Published in SUV / TRUCK REVIEWS
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