Thursday, January 28, 2016

2016 Accord excites the senses, remains rock-solid

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

Sacramento, California ­– You don’t mess with a good thing, and Honda apparently knew this going in with the 2016 Honda Accord.

Honda messed with its venerable Accord for the current model year but did so in a good way.

A more angular, sculpted look is featured on the front end.  The rear bumper fascia is likewise more sharply sculpted.  New wheel designs also are part of the new package.

None of these things take away from the Accord’s long-standing strengths: practicality, affordability, dependability and a wealth of standard features, with plentiful versions still available in the $20,000s.

I’ve been in several 2016 versions of the Accord in the past few months, including the 2016 Sport sedan with “Honda Sensing.”  Honda is making a big deal about this suite of safety and driver-assistance technologies, and rightly so.

The package includes adaptive cruise control, a collision-mitigation braking system, a lane departure-warning system, a forward collision warning system, a lane-keeping assist system and road departure mitigation.  In addition, all 2016 Accords feature a standard, multi-angle rearview camera and an "expanded view driver’s mirror."

I’ll admit that some of these features sometimes can be quick on the draw and annoying, particularly the lane-monitoring systems, but I have to give it to Honda for offering up so many perks in the name of safety.

Honda seems to be covering all the bases, and given the various mistakes and distractions of driving these days, I would guess that any motorist driving a “Sensing” Honda is going to be bailed out of a crash at some point during the car’s lifetime.

Who can argue with that?

Even though I’m a grumpy advocate for driver control, I confess that the Honda Sensing features made me feel extra secure behind the wheel.  Dare I say it?:  The vehicle was likely going to correct any mistakes I made before I even knew I was making them.

Beyond all this, the midsize Accord remains the embodiment of trouble-free no-nonsense transportation.

Yes, there are gutsy engine options to be had, but the 2.4-liter four-banger rated at 189 horsepower does just fine, thank you very much.

Fuel mileage with that power plant is excellent at 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

The ride is smooth, and steering is responsive.  Rear seat roominess is pretty fair.

This being a Honda Accord, it’s expected to run forever and flawlessly, limiting your visits with mechanics to routine maintenance.

Does all this make the Accord popular in California and across the nation?  Do I really need to answer that?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Turbocharged Sonata gets better with 2016 perks

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

Sacramento, California ­– Even in the land of the highly recommended, practically priced midsize sedan, a little performance must prevail.

And so it is with the willing 2016 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T, a vehicle I last tested in 2014 trim.

Things have changed since then.

For 2016, Hyundai turned the engineers loose to make changes inside and out.  The changes include aluminum suspension components to make the ride more sporty, a conventional sunroof standard on all Limited models and freshly designed 18-inch alloy wheels.

On the outside, it works.  My tester looked ready to rumble at first glance.

On the move, it more than rumbled.

The tester’s turbocharged, four-cylinder engine was a growling, enthusiastic power plant maxing out at 245 horsepower.  That number of horses on a car this size will plant you firmly into your seat.

Not that I was complaining.

The tested Sonata was incredibly responsive, with no turbo lag attached.  It zipped into tight holes during busy freeway commutes and in heavy downtown traffic.  The jump-to-it response dished up a big dose of driver security.

And yet, fuel mileage comes in pretty nice at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the open road.

This being a Sonata, you get a lengthy, generous list of standard comfort and convenience features.

On the tester, that included an 8-inch touchscreen on the navigation system, leather seating surfaces, an electronic parking brake, a hands-free smart trunk opener  and the previously mentioned tilt/slide sunroof.

The list of safety technology was likewise generous.  It included automatic emergency braking, a lane departure-warning system and a blind sport monitor/rear cross-traffic alert.

By the way, the 2016 Sonata gets top-tier federal government five-star safety ratings nearly across the board, the only exception being a still-strong four-star rating in rollover tests.

Not surprisingly, the generous load of goodies on the turbocharged tester bumped the starting price up to $34,075, compared with a bare-bones starter Sonata starting at 23,400.  To be honest, I’d splurge for the better-equipped Sonata as you’re still getting a deal at 34K and change.

I recommend the Sonata to a lot of folks looking for a no-nonsense, run-forever, midsize sedan, and none of the changes in the 2016 Sonata have changed my mind about that.

I give this current-generation Sonata a solid “A” grade.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mazda scores with new compact crossover vehicle

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

Sacramento, California ­– Mazda makes its play in the super-competitive small crossover segment with the all-new-for-2016 CX-3 sport-utility vehicle.

We had our first peek at the CX-3 at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, and now that it’s here in numbers, I have to say it’s a noble first effort.  It’s packed with customer-pleasing standard features, gets exceptional gas mileage and is easy on the eyes.

My recent tester was the front-driving Grand Touring version dressed up in snappy-looking “Dynamic Blue Mica” exterior paint.  Naturally, it has a fairly imposing-looking grille, and the profile view is low-slung and sleek, with a long hood line.

Mazda has all sorts of words to describe its vehicles these days – SKYACTIV Technology, KODO and Soul of Motion design are high on the list.  But I think I can boil it down for you by saying that the tested CX-3 was equipped with numerous driving-enhancing, convenience-laden perks and was sculpted inside and out to make a large segment of motorists sigh with contentment.

The biggest surprise for me was stepping into the vehicle and seeing much more interior space than I anticipated when I was looking at the CX-3 from the outside.   I call this the TARDIS effect, and fans of the long-running “Doctor Who” television series will know what I’m talking about.

For the rest: Wow, there’s more room in here than I thought.

So, I happily loaded the tested CX-3 up with volunteer passengers and bulky cargo, just to see how much the vehicle could take on.  Amazingly, I had not a single verbal complaint from passengers or cargo.

The interior cabin included standard heated front seats, thoughtfully positioned control buttons on the steering wheel and leather surfaces.  Safety features ran the gamut, including a blind-spot monitor, and LED headlights gave me a long, comforting look at the road ahead.

One thing I did not understand was placing the center cupholder under the folding armrest.  If you have even a small Thermos-brand coffee holder, the arrangement presents a problem.

On the fly, the CX-3 was comfortable, responsive and smooth.  The four-cylinder engine rated at 146 horsepower is not a burner, so you have to pick your spots to be aggressive in freeway traffic.  And as of now, that’s the only engine available.

The other side of that coin is fuel mileage ratings of 29 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.  Those numbers go a long way toward curing horsepower envy.

The starting price on this newcomer is a most-reasonable $24,990, although my ride was dressed up with a tech package that added almost $2,000 to the sticker’s bottom line.

Attention motorists in the market for a compact crossover: You have a new entry to add to your test drive list.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Venerable Forester pleases on pavement, or off

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

Sacramento, California ­– I’m pretty sure that of all the motor vehicle models I’ve test driven over the past 15 years, I’ve logged more seat time in the Subaru Forester than all others.

I like the vehicle.

I’m not alone.  It was the first model to win Motor Trend magazine’s SUV of the Year award twice.

And yet, strangely, the Forester never shows up in a lot of conversations about sport-utility vehicles.  I suppose that’s because it’s not flashy enough, or pricey enough or whatever.

I’ll buy that, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a genuine on-pavement/off-roader that’s more reliable, better equipped or more reasonably priced than the Forester.  That will win you a lot of converts among folks who are serious SUV devotees.

Take the recently tested 2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited.  The starting price was $28,795, and even with a $2,100 option package with a navigation system and a primo harman/kardon audio system, the bottom line on the sticker was still a sane $31,790.

For this price, you get a lot.

Let’s start with 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, boxer-style engine rated at 170 horsepower and linked to Subaru’s matchless all-wheel drive system.  This is the perfect powertrain marriage.

While not a super-powered vehicle, the Forester moves with authority and purpose on paved streets and highway surfaces.  Off the road – something Forester drivers actually do with their SUVs – the Forester handles with remarkable sure-footedness.

Don’t take my word for it.  My comparatively modest off-road meanderings are walks in the park compared with those of other reviewers who take Foresters over rocks, streams and mountains.  Consistently, they come back from their off-pavement treks with smiles on their faces.

Keep in mind that this marks the fourth generation of the venerable Forester.  Over that time, Subaru has added a blizzard of driving-enhancement features and safety devices that add to the driving experience.

Key standard features in the tester included 17-inch all-season tires, a rear vision camera, a power panoramic moonroof, heated front seats/side mirrors and Subaru’s STARLINK infotainment system that offers equal portions of fun and security.

The exterior styling on the Forester is pretty SUV-basic, but that’s fine for a crossover that is not meant to be coddled.  The Forester is equipped to deal with searing summer heat, knee-high snow and relentlessly slippery surfaces.  It wants to be driven.

I might need to get back in one again real soon.