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
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
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.
New Maxima Job #1 in April 2015 The 2016 Nissan Maxima is assembled at Nissan’s huge Smyrna, Tennessee plant. Smyrna has become the highest capacity single plant in the United States with a capacity of over 650,000 units per year. The 8th Gen Maxima Job #1 was in April 2015 and dealers began getting the cars in early June. Competing with the likes of the Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus and Acura TLX, the new Maxima pushes the design envelope with its “energetic flow” styling. The styling is head turning and certain to be controversial.
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.
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.
Honda 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.
Shared Platform with Renegade – Different Mission At a glance, the 2016 Fiat 500X is a solid addition to the Fiat lineup in the USA. Built alongside the Jeep Renegade at FCA’s Melfi, Italy plant the 500X shares the Renegade’s platform but has a dramatically different mission that demands tuning and settings to be very different. While the Renegade Trailhawk is at home off-road, the 500X is for the cities and suburbs.
2017 Lincoln Continental
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.
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.
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.
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.
First, it was the Ford Transit Connect van from Turkey that has been ubiquitous in Europe for years before being seen on American roads. Small, styled with a brash quirkiness, tinny beyond imagination especially in taxi fleets, the Transit Connect caught on. Then Ford replaced the original Transit Connect with a lower roof, more stylish van built in Spain that is actually fun to drive. Nissan responded with the Nissan NV200 that is supposed to be the Taxi of Tomorrow for the New York City taxi fleet. It is assembled in Mexico. Not so fun to drive and assembled with more than a dollop of plastic. Most recently is the launch of the Ram (FCA US LLC, aka FCAGroup, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Dodge Trucks) Promaster City. How would I compare the three?
Ford Transit Connect Van
2015 Ram Promaster City
2014 Nissan NV200
Transit Connect Most Minivan-Like The Transit Connect ($22,330 – $29,185) is the most minivan-like. It has a instrument panel that mimics that in the Ford Focus. The seats are comfortable, but a choppy ride offsets the seat comfort. Performance is adequate with its standard 2.5L 4-cylinder engine having 169-horsepower coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. Optionally, the Transit Connect has a 178-horsepower EcoBoost 4-cylinder. Transit Connect is available in two wheelbases.
NV200 Spartan The Nissan NV200 ($20,270-$24,435 in cargo van version) is the most Spartan of the three. Its interior has been stripped bare of most ornamentation and the execution yields the most basic of transportation modules. A passenger version of the NV200 is not available unless you get the taxicab version starting at $29,700). Powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine mated to a CVT (continuously variable transmission), the NV200 is the most anemic of the three. Like the original Transit Connect, the NV200 can be a rattletrap. That brings me to the Ram Promaster City.
Promaster City Best Driving Feel Built in Turkey, the Promaster City ($23,130 for van version and $24,130 for the passenger version – maximum $29,275) probably falls between the Transit Connect and NV200 overall. It does, however, have the best driving feel of the three. The Promaster City is powered by the Fiat Tigershark 2.4L 4-cylinder engine mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Sounds like the Dodge Dart or Jeep Cherokee. With much of the North American development work being done in the pothole-filled environs of Auburn Hills, Michigan, the Promaster City suspension has been beefed up and given more travel. Promaster City also has a fully independent rear suspension. The result is the ride comfort in the Promaster City is more comfortable in most conditions than the Transit Connect or the NV200.
The Battle for BIC – Best In Class: Transit Connect and Promaster City are vying for Best In Class claims. Promaster City claims best in class horsepower at 178-horsepower. This is correct for base engines, but if you consider Ford’s EcoBoost at 178-horsepower you have a tie. Promaster City has a fuel economy rating of 21mpg city/29mpg highway. Transit Connect is 20/28mpg. Promaster City claims the largest cargo volume at 132 cubic feet – Ford has 129 cubic feet in its long wheelbase van. Promaster City claims the highest payload at 1883 pounds – Ford has 1620. Its 48.4-inches between the rear wheelhouses allows you to put 4-foot wide materials flat on the rear load floor. The 72-inch load floor length does not allow a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of plywood to be transported enclosed, however. So, Promaster City wins the brochure war and its base Tigershark engine and 9-speed automatic transmission edges out the Transit Connect, but it is very close.
3rd Generation Murano The 2015 Nissan Murano crossover SUV went on sale Friday, December 5, 2014. The third generation of the Murano pushes the envelope on crossover styling and brings new Nissan design cues to the vehicle. The Murano has been a sweet spot among crossover SUVs since its launch. Each iteration has been very easy to live with and the 2015 version is no exception. Easy to drive, maneuverable, quiet and up to date, the Murano provides Nissan with a suitable vehicle to attract its target buyer. Media attending the product preview in Napa Valley were surprised that Nissan admitted its target market is empty nester couples 45 years of age or older. These people do not need seven or eight passenger seating they might have required during their family formation years, but they do want reasonable cargo capacity and a spacious rear seat. This 5-passenger crossover SUV meets their requirements
The Murano review was held during an early December storm with gale force winds. The Murano handled the inclement weather with aplomb. It was very stable even in vicious cross winds.
Exterior Given its sporty, futuristic styling, you might think the visibility would suffer, and it does to the rear, but overall visibility is pretty good. For years many in the industry have been stripping vehicles of exterior ornamentation, but not the 3rd gen Murano. There is a striking bright flash running from the upper edge of the front door rearward over the rear fender kickup. Very distinctive and nicely done. Murano follows the trend of front lighting with LED signature lights and available LED headlamps. LED “boomerang” taillamps are standard.
Interior The interior comfort is excellent with “Zero Gravity” seating. Ergonomics are excellent with a large 8-inch center stack screen standard. For those who like an open air feeling, the Murano offers a large panoramic moonroof. The top of the line Platinum model includes leather seating surfaces and comes across as a very premium place to be. The lower level SV model, loses the leather, but the interior retains much of the premium feel of the Platinum version. In essence, spending less does not result in a vehicle feeling cheap.
Technology The 2015 Nissan Murano comes with the expected suite of available technology: blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, moving object detection and forward emergency braking.
Powertrain The engine is essentially carryover – Nissan’s venerable 260HP 3.5L DOHC V6 (VQ). The continuously variable Xtronic transmission has been improved with subtle “shift points” added to the shiftless gearbox. The driving experience is effortless.
Pricing The base price of the 2015 Nissan Murano os $29,560 for the S model. The next step up is the SV at $32,620. Then the SL at $35,950 and the range topping Platinum at $39,000. Adding all wheel drive adds $1,600 to each model. Checking all the boxes on a Platinum – adding premium paint, Technology Package and 20-inch wheels – brings the price to $44,975.
Production While Nissan’s huge Canton, Mississippi plant is the main source for the Murano worldwide, there is a secondary source in Pusan, South Korea should the USA need more volume. The Pusan plant is part of the Samsung Renault Nissan relationship.
Research Results Over the years, Murano has done very well in AutoPacific’s Satisfaction Research. The 2015 Nissan Murano promises to deliver strong satisfaction results just as did its predecessor generations.