Saturday, January 31, 2015

Driving Soul EV keeps eyes on the mileage prize

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California – I was thinking about those brave motorists of the early 20th century during my recent week in the 2015 Kia Soul EV, the all-electric version of Kia’s quirky-cool vehicle.

Imagine being a motor vehicle owner at the dawn of the automobile age in America.  You like the car and consider it the wave of the future.

But you’re asking: Where can I fuel it up?

And how to keep it in one piece, looking at the rutted minefields that passed for roads back then?

I’ve written a lot copy about electric vehicles and the accompanying infrastructure over the past 20 years, and let me say up front that EVs and their alternative-powered ilk are absolutely the wave of a glorious, diversified energy future in California and elsewhere.  Bravo to the automotive engineers and technicians making it happen.  Bravo to those who turned ideas into hardware reality.

But I was a nervous wreck after my week in the Soul EV.  I can boil it down to one word: infrastructure.

In my little corner of the world – which includes a daily round-trip commute of about 30 miles – there is not enough quick-charge infrastructure to ease my mind with an EV in my hands.  To be sure, there are quick-charge EV sites within fairly close range of where I live, and in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are plentiful outlets.

But in my commute loop, the infrastructure is not yet developed to the point where I can hook up and charge up conveniently.

And that left me with one option: Use the on-board, standard, plug-in charger.  The owner’s manual on the Soul EV calls this a “trickle charge.”

And they aren’t kidding.

I received the vehicle with a range of 55 miles on it, and it was around 39 miles when I got home that night.  An overnight charge brought it back up to 57.  WOW!  I was actually fortunate in that there was a standard plug on a light pole in my workplace parking lot.  An uninterrupted, eight-hour charge, however, bought me only an additional 22 to 25 miles at a time..

Suffice it to say that my eyes stayed almost constantly glued to the mileage range readout when I was driving the Soul EV.  It was an obsession…”Oh no, I lost another mile,” I would say in my head. “It didn’t seem like I was driving that fast.”

That’s another thing.  I am not the only Soul EV driver who confessed to – I hate to say it – “driving like grandma” trying to conserve as much range as possible.

And that’s a shame, because the Soul EV that was totally redesigned last year is an otherwise enjoyable motor vehicle.  With a sloped-back roofline, it looks ready to take off like a scalded cat at a moment’s notice.  Interior comfort and controls are exceptional.  Storage area is likewise impressive.

But if you’re a daily commuter, as I am, all other issues are crushed by the need to conserve energy … not a bad thing in the scheme of things, I suppose.  And you do get help from the car, which charges the on-board battery under braking and coasting.

Kia computes the equivalent horsepower to 109, adding that the EPA-estimated miles per gallon gasoline equivalents are 92 miles on the highway and 120 mpg in the city.

As for me, even with an all-night charge, the biggest mileage range number I saw on the in-dash readout in my week with the Soul EV was 85.

More numbers: The price range on the Soul EVs two trim levels is about $33,500 to $36,000.

Bottom line: I like the car and the technology.  And I’m sure my EV-driving grandchildren will, in the distant future, love driving incredibly evolved EVs with 300-mile ranges on roadways where getting a quick-charge boost will be as routine as stopping at a Starbucks.

I can envision their future, and I feel good about it.  But as for me, where did you say the nearest charge point can be found?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mazda3: A small package with large appeal

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California – I hadn’t spent serious seat time in a Mazda3 in something like forever, so my recent week in a 2015 Mazda3 i Touring four-door model reminded me just how charming a compact-size, affordable vehicle can be.

Mazda certainly seems pleased.  The Mazda3 is the automaker’s top-selling vehicle in North America.

Not much mystery there.  Low-riding and aerodynamically pleasing to the eye – especially in profile – the Mazda3 looks attractive parked in any driveway, regardless of household income level.

I like the relatively stretched wheelbase (106.3 inches, according to the manual) on this ride, and maybe that contributed to its solid, no-wiggle handling at high speed.  The 2-liter, four-cylinder engine has a max 155 horsepower, so you’re not going to get that drag strip rush.  But the power plant certainly handles most things rather well.

Here’s something that’s sure to impress: 30 miles per gallon in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.

Currently low gas prices might negate the good feelings those numbers normally bring, but rest assured, they feel good standing at the gas pump.  And if you think gas prices will not be heading up again, well, check with me later.  I have an East Coast bridge I want to sell you.

The back-seat area is not cavernous, but volunteer passengers said they were comfortable in our short rides around town.

The Mazda3 is a pleasure to operate from the cockpit.  Vision is good all the way around the car, and standard rearview camera and blind spot monitoring equipment made me feel secure.

The Mazda3 was extensively reworked for the 2014 model year, so it goes into 2015 pretty much unchanged, which is all good.  The starting price on the tester was an easy-on-the-eyes $20.645.  An optional package with some technology goodies pushed the bottom line to $23,410, still pretty good in this class.

Perhaps the largest praise I can give to this Mazda3 is that it’s a compact that doesn’t feel, or drive, like a compact.  It feels midsize all the way in my hands.

Safety ratings, by the way, are top-tier.

This is a great second family car or a safe and secure ride for young folks just starting out in the work-a-day world.

It gets a solid “B” from me.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hold the phone!: Get a load of THIS Genesis

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, CaliforniaHold the phone!  Last week’s posted review of the 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 was really cool and everything.

But if you can get the 2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 rear-driver sedan instead, you should do just that.

Why?  Here’s a hint:  VROOOM!!!!

The 5-liter V-8 engine making a max 420 horsepower with the 5.0 is a major boost.  I can’t overstate it.

I can demonstrate it, however.

During my recent week with the Genesis 5.0, I encountered one of those freeway situations that makes the hair stand straight up.  I’m in the extreme left lane when the driver of the car five lengths ahead of me slams the brakes.  I glance up in the rearview mirror to see that I have maybe two feet of clearance between my rear bumper and the grille of a car one lane over moving at about 65 miles per hour.

Instinctively, I hit the gas and dart for the tiny opening one lane to my right. An eye-blink into the maneuver, the Genesis just bolts like a runaway comet.  Even as I’m escaping disaster, I’m thinking: “Can you believe this car?  It’s killing this move.  Jeff Gordon would be wide-eyed if he was my passenger.

And so it went.  Several more times during my week in the car, I asked it to dig in and create a Star Wars-like, warp speed burst that would blur the surrounding lights and the stars overhead.  Every time, the car responded like a champ.

Ordinarily, I don’t get all that excited over a 109-horsepower difference in models – the 2015 Genesis 3.8’s V-6 power plant makes 311-horsepower – but the 5.0’s performance was so much more profound that it made my head spin.

Yes, you will pay a price at the pump for the extra power.  The Genesis 5.0 is rated at 15 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the open road, as opposed to 18/29 in the 3.8.  So you have to do the economic math and determine whether a periodic heart rate rush is worth the extra cash.

Starting price on the tested 5.0 was a hefty $51,500, and a luxo package of extras pushed the bottom line to $55,700.  So, yeah, that high-level math definitely goes into the mix when you’re pondering the Genesis.

Dollar signs aside, this Genesis gave me a satisfying week of muscular performance.  Think of it as a Genesis 3.8, only way faster.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A new beginning: Hyundai's reworked Genesis

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo reviews of the latest motor vehicle models also can be seen on The Sacramento Bee’s website at

This review originally appeared in the November 2014 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Way back when, the Hyundai Genesis was a car few – me included – believed the South Korean automaker could have built.

Luxury to the max.  Dripping with appealing comfort/convenience features.  Able to turn heads in a single parking lot.

And now, a new beginning.  The extensively reworked 2015 Genesis sedan is better in every way than the previous generation.

I did not need a press release to figure this out.  When I walked up to the tested 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8, it bore little resemblance to the Genesis cars of recent years past.  The grille seems to have doubled in size, now resembling something of Bentley-like proportions.  The design is also much smoother and aerodynamic over the top, a wind-cutting machine for sure.

Hyundai calls this “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0,” but my simple brain boiled it down to: “Wow, this Genesis looks sharp.”

The good feelings remained climbing into the cockpit, where I was greeted by a thoughtful layout of controls amid a cabin both luxurious and comfortable.  Some of the features blew me away: 12-way power front seats, a blizzard of high-tech safety features and puddle lamps that project the image of the Genesis logo on the street with you hit the key fob.

That last feature drew open-mouthed stares from passersby and curious neighbors in the twilight hours.

The tester was dressed up to tuxedo levels with plush, techy extras that brought the bottom line on the sticker to around $50,000.  Pricey, you say, but I’m telling you this reshaped Genesis sedan looks, smells and quacks like a Lexus of equivalent value.

Drives like one too.  Putting the rear-drive Genesis tester through its paces was not a chore, but a pleasure.  Acceleration from the 3.8-liter, 311-horsepower V-6 was forceful, but not a noisy experience.  High speed felt smooth and buttery.  A sport-tuned suspension was a road-hugging joy, and the sedan dug in and climbed steep hills with comparatively little effort.

Speaking of hill climbing, I saw multiple fellow motorists gawking at me as I blew past them on particularly challenging ascents.  That’s not unusual.  What is unusual that I was blazing along at maybe half-throttle.   I’m not into auto snobbery, but I confess: It felt really good.

I almost put a sign in the back window: “Follow me to see my puddle lights.”  Alas, I thought that would be a bit much.

Fuel mileage on the Genesis is fair at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

You can’t have too much good stuff, but personally, I would have taken this Genesis, sans extra goodies, for the starting price of $38,000 and been perfectly happy.  And yes, I’m a sucker for good looks, which this Genesis has.

Overall, a former “B-plus” car gets a solid “A” grade in its new skin.