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2016 Hyundai Tucson – Compact XSUV Benchmark?

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Raising the Bar in a Competitive Segment  The Koreans keep getting better and the new 2016 Hyundai Tucson (product code TL) is an example of how Hyundai has executed a segment-beater.  Competing against big sellers Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5, etc. the new Tucson checks all the boxes.  It is well styled and immediately identifiable as a Hyundai (looks almost too much like the Santa Fe Sport).  It has a great package – good visibility, spacious front and rear seating, good cargo room, easy ingress/egress.  The fit and finish is excellent inside and out.  The interior trim materials have moved upwards – almost up to the next higher price class.

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai Fell Behind in Segment – 2016 Hyundai Tucson Provides Conquest Opportunity  The product is good enough to begin some serious conquesting.  As the compact crossover SUV market has boomed over the past several years (growing 14.9% 2015CYTD), Hyundai has been left with a less-than-competitive product capable of selling around 45,000 per year.  As such, Hyundai Motor America’s share of the segment slipped from about 6% to 2.5%.  Some of that is due to capacity constraints from its Korean plant.  A new plant in the Czech Republic has come on line and will be supplying Europe freeing up Korean capacity.  With the new Tucson on sale in August, 2015, HMA’s volume is expected to rise to 56,200 in 2015 and up to 90,000 or higher in 2016.  The 2015 Hyundai Tucson is good enough to pull that off if there is strong marketing support behind the vehicle (the last generation was essentially a “launch and leave” proposition with little marketing support).  At 90,000 units, the Tucson will have about 6% of the segment.

Pre-Family Market Target  Who will buy the 2016 Hyundai Tucson?  HMA sees this as the entry targeted at “pre-family” singles and couples.  Tucson is 8.5-inches shorter than the Santa Fe Sport that is targeted at “post-family” couples who no longer need the seven-passenger three row capacity of the 8.5-inch longer (than Santa Fe Sport) Santa Fe.  Santa Fe is targeted at “core families”.  Tucson democratizes technology by offering most of the latest gee whiz electronic features available on higher classes of products.

Hyundai describes its styling as bold and confident and it certainly comes across that way.  It has a slightly more vertical windshield that helps ingress to the front seats.  Tucson adopts Hyundai’s new corporate face with the hexagonal grille.  From the side view, the Tucson is lean and wedgy.  Exterior styling was by Hyundai’s European studio.  The interior was styled in California.  Ergonomics are outstanding with controls placed where expected.  There is an 8-inch information screen with navigation and Hyundai’s BlueLink interface.  The only criticism is with map graphics that don’t show enough detail and seem to show only major arteries, not the interesting spur roads you pass.

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

Powertrain OK but Full Throttle is Disappointing  The base engine is Hyundai’s Nu 2.0L GDI 4-cylinder that has 164-horsepower and 151 lb ft of torque.  The 2.0 L mileage figures are 23/31/26mpg.  The 2.0L gets a six-speed automatic transmission.  The optional engine, and the engine on the majority of Tucson models, is the Gamma 1.6L 4-cylinder Turbo with 175-horsepower and 195 lb ft of torque.  The 1.6L mileage figures are 26/33/29mpg).  The 1.6L gets a seven-speed dual clutch transmission.  You definitely want the higher torque 1.6L Turbo.  The torque is the key to performance feel.  In the examples of the Tucson I drove, there was a noticeable lag when full throttle acceleration was wanted or needed from a stop (with traffic approaching, for instance).  Pedal to the metal was disappointing.  On a part throttle take off, this was not evident.  It seemed to happen only when you really wanted the oomph.  This is a characteristic an owner will learn over time, but Hyundai should sort it out ASAP.


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AutoPacific 2015 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards

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Owners rate Kia K900 top car, Ford F-150 top truck. Tesla Top Brand

TUSTIN, Calif. (July 8, 2015) – AutoPacific today announced its 19th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSAs), identifying the most satisfying vehicles on the market. An industry benchmark for measuring how satisfied an owner is with his/her new vehicle, VSAs are based on survey responses from over 66,000 owners of new 2015 model year cars and light trucks.

“2015 represents a year of diversity,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “Competition is fierce and no one automaker dominates the results.” The 2015 winners are spread across nearly every manufacturer, with wins by 9 out of 11 automakers. General Motors receives the most wins with 5, followed by Kia and Nissan, with 4 and 3 wins, respectively. Honda, Toyota, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobile), Volkswagen and Ford follow with 2 wins each. Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai each take home 1 win.

“For the 2015 model year, there are 274 models and 33 brands from which to choose a new vehicle,” says Peterson. “It can be daunting for consumers to sort through all of those options and try to predict which one will work best for them in the long run. AutoPacific VSAs help to give them a strong starting point.”

The average VSA score for 2015 is 25-points higher than in 2014 confirming products and customer handling are improving markedly. The brands with the greatest year-over-year improvements are Jaguar – improving eleven positions; Volkswagen – improving ten positions; Ford – improving nine positions.

The Kia K900 – Kia’s range topping luxury car – set an all time high and wins AutoPacific’s President’s Award. This award is given only when the overall score tops the previous high score. Interestingly, the all-new aluminum bodied Ford F-150 would have won this award if the Kia was not in the running.  The previous President’s Award winners were the 2014 Mercedes S-Class and the 2010 Hyundai Sonata.

Korean Manufacturers Take Over Top Spot in Satisfaction

Tesla, a domestic brand with only one vehicle, is the top scoring brand overall.  General Motors’ GMC division is the top scoring mainstream brand.  In aggregate, Korean brands are the top source of high scoring vehicles.  With 5 winning vehicles, including the top ranking Kia K900, Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai come out on top in combined average score, taking over the position previously held by European manufacturers. “Kia and Hyundai are continually improving owner satisfaction in key areas like reliability and quality, yet are also hitting the mark with safety, braking, handling, styling and seat comfort, not to mention a very satisfying warranty program,” explains Peterson.

AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards objectively measure owner satisfaction with 50 separate attributes ranging from interior comfort and styling to fuel economy and performance.

“In many cases, an extremely satisfying vehicle is not the car or truck that has the best absolute build quality or the best safety rating,” says Peterson. “VSAs look at the big picture, which includes owners’ experiences with their vehicle’s quality and safety, but also goes deeper into the heart of the ownership experience.”

Brand SummaryVehicle Summary

About AutoPacific

AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing and product-consulting firm. Every year AutoPacific publishes a wide variety of syndicated studies on the automotive industry. The firm also conducts extensive proprietary research and consulting for auto manufacturers, distributors, marketers and suppliers worldwide. Company headquarters are in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area. Additional information about AutoPacific and the Vehicle Satisfaction Awards can be found on AutoPacific’s websites: www.autopacific.com and www.vehiclevoice.com.

Contacts

Dan Hall dan.hall@autopacific.com 714.838.4234


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2016 Honda Pilot – Finally Good Looking

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The Honda Pilot, good as it might be, has been a blight on the road.  Its eyeball searing gawky looks were only short of the not-lamented Pontiac Aztec.  These are harsh comments, but a vehicle that makes you scream when you first see at an auto show is certainly a show stopper and not in a good way.  Honda defends the previous Pilot as having traditional sport utility vehicle styling.  That may be so, but it was very third world and inappropriate for the American market.  Lasting for an extremely long cycle for Honda – seven years – the Pilot was a very good vehicle under the skin and its interior was commodious to say the least.  But, now it’s thankfully dead and to be replaced by the third generation 2016 Honda Pilot on June 18, 2015.2016 Honda Pilot F34 VehicleVoice2016 Honda Pilot R34 VehicleVoice

 


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2016 Ford Explorer – Major Minor Change

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The 2016 Ford Explorer marks the 25th anniversary of the vehicle line.  When it launched as a 1991 model, the Explorer redefined what a sport utility vehicle should be – it was a high volume SUV with 4-doors (Ford wrongly estimated 4-door sales would be 30% of the mix – later, it became 100%).  7,000,000 sales later, Ford is launching a nicely updated mid-cycle product change.  When the 2016 Ford Explorer launches, most people won’t be able to tell the difference from the present Explorer.  While the vehicle’s sheetmetal ahead of the A-Pillar is all new and the liftgate and taillamps are all new, the differences are subtle to the casual observer. So while the change for 2016 is major, its appearance change is minor.2016 Ford Explorer F34 VehicleVoice2016 Ford Explorer R34 VehicleVoice

 


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2016 Honda HR-V – Perfectly Pleasant

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2016 Honda HR-V F34Honda launches its all-new 2016 HR-V sub-compact crossover sport utility vehicle in May, 2015.  The 2016 Honda HR-V, based on Honda’s diminutive Fit sub-compact, is very spacious for what it is.  The interior – at least the passenger compartment – feels about as big as the larger Honda CR-V.  HR-V’s wheelbase is only a half inch shorter than CR-V allowing the big seating area, but its overall length is about ten inches shorter – less cargo room.  The front seating area feels wider than you would expect in a vehicle this small.  Ingress and egress are easy to the front seats.  The rear seats are a bit tight.  You have to maneuver your feet to get between the B-pillar and the seat and there is not much knee room.  Cargo room is larger than it looks.  The best feature Honda takes from the architecture of the Fit are the “Magic Seat” rear seats that flip and fold several ways to maximize the flexibility of the area behind the front seats.


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2016 Jeep Renegade – Class Leading B-XSUV?

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B-XSUV  How can a vehicle lead a class when you don’t know that that class is?  What is a B-XSUV?  The B-Class size in Euro-speak is the second from the lowest size class.   Second, what is an XSUV?  In AutoPacific-speak this means crossover sport utility vehicle.  We refuse to call these things CUVs because it is important folks know they are supposed to be SPORT UTILITIES.  This is a very new class with entries just beginning to land – Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, the Fiat 500x, etc.

Jeep Renegade  So now lets talk about the 2016 Jeep Renegade.

The 2016 Jeep Renegade shares its platform with the 2016 Fiat 500X.  The Renegade has rough and tough Jeep cues and mechanical bits that give it great chops off-road – American.  The 500X is more of a urban cruiser – Italian.

2016 Jeep Renegade F34 VehicleVoice2016 Jeep Renegade SV VehicleVoice

It’s easy to like the all new 2016 Jeep Renegade on sale March 1, 2015.  It is funky looking in a Jeep sort of way, small but wide, easy to maneuver, easy to get into and out of, easy to see out of.  And it its base price is about $5,000 less than its new bigger brother the Jeep Cherokee.  This puts its base price in the same area as the old, old, old Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot that we were frankly surprised to realize are still in production.

The built-in-Italy Renegade has Jeep-DNA styling cues including the seven vertical slot grill and trapezoidal wheel openings.

Smaller Than a Honda Civic  While the Renegade is short – only 167-inches long – about 15-inches shorter than the Jeep Cherokee (182-inches in length), it makes up for that by being pretty wide.  Renegade has a 101-inch wheelbase compared with the Cherokee’s 106-inch wheelbase.  It is 74 inches wide, a bit wider than the Cherokee.  The 2016 Jeep Renegade has 56-inches of front shoulder room compared with the 58-inches for the Cherokee, but 56-inches seems spacious and generous in the Renegade.  Unlike the Cherokee, the Renegade has a lot of glass and good visibility.  So from a packaging standpoint, the Renegade comes across like a larger vehicle.  Thinking about a car to compare it to that everybody knows… Renegade has a shorter wheelbase and overall width than the 2015 Honda Civic, but is substantially wider.  The Renegade is larger than the Honda Fit, but smaller than Civic.  Wider than both.2015 Jeep® Renegade Trailhawk 2015 Jeep Renegade Limited

The base 2016 Jeep Renegade comes with a six-speed manual transmission and a 1.4L Multi-air turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 160 horsepower.  Optional sporting a 9-speed automatic transmission, is a 2.4L Multi-Air2 naturally aspirated Tigershark 4-cylinder with 180HP.  If this sounds familiar the 2.4L/9-speed auto is also found in the Jeep Cherokee, Dodge Dart, Chrysler 200, and Ram Promaster City.2016 Jeep Renegade Hill Descent

Capable On- and Off-Road  Where the Renegade shines is in the dynamics.  It is very maneuverable and easy to drive.  Designed to be a true off-roader, the Renegade has good suspension travel and an excellent turning radius.  The Jeep folks claim that the “Trail-Rated” Trailhawk version can traverse the Rubicon Trail, but we did not have the chance to prove it since we were in Hollister, California. We did, however, get to ease the Trailhawk down a grade that must have been about 45-degrees.  With hill descent control engaged the Renegade slowly, but surely, worked its way down the grade.

Pricing  The base price of the 2016 Jeep Renegade is $17,995 with a additional $995 for destination charges.  Sneakily, that price does not include air conditioning (even the most basic vehicles sold in the USA have AC standard in most cases).  That gets you a front wheel drive Renegade Sport with the 1.4L Multi-Air turbocharged 4-cylinder and a 6-speed manual transmission.  The top model Trailhawk begins at $25,995, but when you check all the boxes the price can top $32,000.  Not unreasonable for a new small SUV with loads of personality and capability.

What Would We Change  The 2.4L 4-cylinder has 180HP which is sufficient for most circumstances.  On the freeway, however, it would be nice to have a bit more power – maybe 200 or 205HP.  The center stack navigation screen is 5.0-inches diagonally with standard UConnect and when you upgrade to the system with navigation the screen grows to 6.5-inches.  In a world where bigger screens are better, we would have opted for a larger 8.4-inch screen.  According to the Renegade’s product planner, this decision was made on the basis of styling, not cost or utility.  Huh?  Go with the bigger screen.  On the plus side of screens, there is an available 7-inch reconfigurable display in the instrument cluster the driver can customize to display a myriad of information.  Good going.


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2016 Acura ILX Updated – Improved

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Acura’s entry premium compact car is being updated for the 2016 model year.  The 2016 Acura ILX is what Acura terms its “Gateway Model” – the entry to the Acura lineup.  The strategy for the 2016 Acura ILX is much like Honda implemented for its CR-V compact crossover SUV.  Honda termed that a Major Mid-Cycle Change.  Similarly, ILX has been freshened and given a better powertrain than before.

2016 Acura ILX F34 VehicleVoiceMild Styling Changes  The 2016 Acura ILX looks basically the same as the 2015 model.  It is a compact sedan with pleasant, slightly sporty styling.  For 2016, the car gets a new more aggressive front end appearance with LED accent lights and LED headlamps.  All Acuras will have LED front lights from now on.  The grille is tougher looking and the “parrot’s beak” has been toned down somewhat.  The tall lamps are upgraded and more distinctive than before.  In the industry, this is called a front and rear six – think of it as a face and butt lift.2016 Acura ILX SV Feature

The interior gets minor updates with upgraded seat material and contrasting stitching on the steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake handle.

Upgraded Powertrain with Only One Choice  The news, however, is under the skin.  The only engine/transmission choice now is a 2.4L direct injection 4-cylinder with 201-horsepower mated to an 8-speed dual clutch transmission.  If this sounds familiar it should because it is basically the same 4-cylinder used in the mid-market TLX.  Since 2016 Acura ILX is now made at Honda’s Marysville, OH plant alongside the TLX this communization makes sense.

No Manual Transmission – YEA!  The enthusiasts among you may be asking where the manual transmission formerly with the 2.4L went?  It was dropped in favor of the fast-shifting dual clutch transmission and the fact that no one was buying them.  Gone also is the hybrid model, also for lack of interest.  AutoPacific’s research confirms that this is the right direction to go.  Consideration for manual transmissions is very low and hybrid consideration continues to drop as gasoline prices in the USA fall.

Technology and Stuff  Recognizing that a premium brand has to deliver more refinement, Acura has increased the sound deadening in the ILX to make the car much quieter than now.  Also, following the CR-V strategy with HondaSense, AcuraWatch suite of advanced safety and driver assist features is available on the car for the first time.  This feature suite includes adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation,  collision mitigation braking system, upgraded rear camera.  Once again, we are seeing a manufacturer “democratize” its technology taking stuff formerly available on upper level models and making them available on lower line products.


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2015 Honda CR-V Major Minor XSUV Change

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It goes like this… Honda invites you to an event that is held locally to review a vehicle that is not scheduled for a meaningful change for a couple of years.  What’s up?  Well, enough that Honda can make a pretty big deal out of it.  The top selling sport utility vehicle is Honda’s CR-V crossover SUV.  The 2015 Honda CR-V looks pretty much like the 2014.  Same profile.  Same doors.  Same window openings.  What’s the big deal?  The front end looks more butch, more SUV-like.  It has really cool running lights below the headlamps.  Likewise, the rear end looks stronger.  The effect is that the CR-V looks a little bigger even though it isn’t.  Ah, the story is pretty much beneath the skin.  Honda calls it a MAJOR minor model change.  Clever.2015 Honda CR-V FV VehicleVoice2015 Honda CR-V F34 VehicleVoice2015 Honda CR-V R34 VehicleVoice

Engineering Story – Earth Dreams Powertrain  This is an engineering story.  The 2015 Honda CR-V gets a new engine – an Earth Dreams direct injection 2.4L 4-cylinder engine with 185-horsepower (same output as 2014).  Torque is up by 18 lb-ft or 11% to improve driving feel especially at lower speeds.  New transmission – now a CVT to achieve better fuel economy.  The new engine and transmission combination substantially improves fuel economy for both 2WD and 4WD versions – highway fuel economy up about 10% better for both leading Honda to claim class leading fuel economy for the 2015 Honda CR-V.

Finesse and Value In addition to better performance, Honda has finessed the vehicle giving it a quieter cabin making it more pleasant to drive.  The instrument panel has been upgraded as has the center console.  For buyers coming down from larger, more heavily equipped SUVs the 2015 Honda CR-V will not disappoint.  Honda has added a slew of standard and available features that will make tech savvy customers feel warm and fuzzy.  There are a couple of new features standard like rear air conditioning vents on the rear of the console and a sliding driver’s side sun visor.  The big news is in the high volume EX model where $1,400 worth of equipment has been added for only a $200 price increase including:  heated front seats, Honda Lane Watch, display audio, smart key start, 10-way power driver’s seat. 2015 Honda CR-V Cockpit

New Touring Model Has Available Honda Sensing System  At the top of the trim lines is a new Touring model that checks most of the features boxes.  This is where the Honda Sensing system comes into play.  Honda Sensing is a safety system developed by Honda R&D that combines several technologies to help drivers avoid crashes.  This collision avoidance system includes:  adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking and Honda Lane Watch.  John Turley, Honda R&D Americas principal engineer says, “Honda Sensing is a stepping stone to a fully autonomous car.  With a couple more big overlays of technology, Honda can have a self driving car by 2020.  One of those technologies is longer range radar and inter-car communications that can provide warnings up to 1500 meters around the car up from about 250 today.”  The government and car makers are working to develop regulations and standards that will help cars of the future connect with each other seamlessly.


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2014 Honda CR-V Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award

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2014-honda-cr-v-exterior-front4

The 2014 Honda CR-V is the highest scoring Mid-Size Crossover SUV in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The CR-V designers, planners and engineers clearly understood their target buyer and developed a vehicle that meets their requirements. The 2014 Honda CR-V beat out an impressive group of mid-size crossovers including the Subaru Forester, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, and the Toyota RAV4.

2014 Honda CR-V owners are satisfied with their vehicle and do not want a great deal of change. Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle questionnaire, the 2014 CR-V led in four categories and was within three percentage points of three other categories.

The top five highest ratings by CR-V owners are: same exterior size, same wheels, same tires, same ease of getting in and out of the vehicle, and the same exterior styling,

No vehicle is perfect and CR-V owners did want several things changed. Owners would like more power and acceleration, better driver seat visibility, and a more relaxed drivers seat. CR-V owners would also like a new information and entertainment system. Seventeen percent would like a more advanced system and eighteen percent would like a simpler system.

AutoPacificIVA Feature copy


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2014 Honda Odyssey Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award

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2015_Honda_Odyssey_Touring_Elite_04The 2014 Honda Odyssey is the highest rated Minivan in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The Odyssey designers did a great job giving the consumers what they want. In fact, the Odyssey has won AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award in four of the last six years and AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award in three of those years.  The Odyssey is at the top against an impressive fleet of minivans including the Chrysler Town & Country, Toyota Sienna, Ford Transit Connect, Dodge Grand Caravan, Nissan Quest, and the Mazda5.

2014 Honda Odyssey owners are satisfied with their vehicle and do not want much change. Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle survey, the 2014 Honda Odyssey led in one category and was within three percentage points of seven more.

The top five highest ratings by 2014 Honda Odyssey owners are: same wheels, same exterior size, same tires, same ride/handling, and same interior lighting.

There were several things Odyssey owners would like changed. Owners would like more interior storage, more power and acceleration, more safety features, and better driver visibility. Owners would also like a new information and entertainment system. While 54% of Odyssey owners want the same info/entertainment system.  The remainder were pretty evenly divided on whether they wanted a more sophisticated system or a simpler one – twenty-two percent would like a more advanced system while twenty-four percent would like a simpler system.

AutoPacificIVA Feature copy


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