Chevrolet Equinox:

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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2010 Chevrolet Equinox: First Drive

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More, Better
X10CT_EQ031.jpgWe recently drove the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, with brief jaunts in both a front-drive I4 model and an AWD V6 model. This generation has grown leaps and bounds over the SUV it replaces, in refinement, features, but not size. The Equinox now slots in at the top of its class.
Equinox is more comfortable inside, better-looking outside, and better screwed together. The exterior develops a smart and expressive family look. Among the achievements is a quieter and more pleasing interior environment. We began to see the fruits of GM’s interior work with products from the latest Tahoe to the Malibu to the orphaned Saturn Aura. But GM continues to prove an internal shift in understanding. Seems repetitive to mention the point again, but perception still lags reality. So, again: GM is building vehicles with excellent interior and exterior styling and quality. Equinox continues the evolution and reinforces corporate commitment.
Our short drive revealed improved driving dynamics, with a far more stable on-road feel. The V6 and I4-equipped models use the same basic suspension, but with specific tuning. The I4 is tuned with a ride along the more traditional truck direction, stiffer and more rugged, while the V6 models tip toward the softer, luxury-oriented end of the spectrum. Each personality is appropriate for price point and target buyers.


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Nissan Rogue Adds to Crossover Count

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The Nissan Rogue is a small Crossover SUV derived from the Nissan/Renault global C-Class platform – i.e. Nissan Sentra, Nissan Qashqai, Renault Megane. VehicleVoice was given the chance to drive several Rogues in the desert East of San Diego. Here’s the scoop.

Nissan Rogue F34.jpg

Justification for Rogue – It Was Easy to Do
The 4-cylinder-only Rogue begs the question, “Why?” Did Nissan feel they HAD TO add a small Crossover SUV to their lineup to compete with the Honda CR-V? Yes. Is there anything particularly intriguing about Rogue? No. It is another is a plethora of conveniently sized, pleasant to drive, reasonably priced small wagons available with all wheel drive. So, I guess it is OK to call it a “Crossover SUV” because definitions in the segment are very broad.
Rogue’s styling does not turn heads. Its target market is the same one as all the other small wagons – married male in early 30s just starting a family and needing more utility than his previous sporty coupe (or more likely Chevrolet Silverado or Dodge Ram full size pickup) gave him. Not that we are down on the Rogue. It’s just that it doesn’t answer questions much differently from any other small Crossover SUV.
Nissan Rogue Dominick.jpg

Nissan North America Vice President of Product Planning, Larry Dominique, gives walkaround of new Rogue in San Diego

Conclusion: Nissan had a competent, flexible global platform that could be efficiently stretched from a sedan (Sentra) to a small Crossover. It couldn’t carry a V6, but that’s OK because the class leading Honda CR-V doesn’t have a V6 either. So here we have a low cost program, assembled in Kyushu, Japan that can fill a niche in the broad Nissan lineup.


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2007 Suzuki XL7 – Needs Lessons in Quietness

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SUZ XL7 FV.jpg

We have been wanting to drive the new Suzuki XL7 ever since we heard that it would be a larger derivative of GM’s Theta platform that underpins the Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent. What separated the XL7 from its GM brethren is its 3.6L V6 engine with 252HP . The GM models have a 3.4L V6 with 185HP. The staffers at AutoPacific and VehicleVoice have just finished a week-long evaluation of the new 2007 XL7.
XL7 Can Be Priced Above $30,000!
To match its size and power, the XL7 is base priced a bit above $22,500 and tops out at $29,000 for a Limited AWD model. Add the nav system like our evaluation XL7 had and the price peaks at $31,200. Wow! A Suzuki priced above $30,000. Base-to-base the XL7 is about $1,000 over the smaller Pontiac Torrent but reaches much higher. BTW: a base Ford Explorer XLT is $24,600 (V6), about $2000 higher than the XL7 and can top out over $33,000. But the Suzuki is certainly in the same price category.
Apparently this pricing strategy has caused Suzuki dealers some indigestion and they have asked Suzuki to shift the model mix being produced from being heavily loaded models to more base models. This will give them models at a lower price point at the dealership.
XL7 is LARGE
The XL7 has a 112.4-inch wheelbase, an overall length of 197.2-inches, overall width of 72.2-inches and overall height of 68.9-inches. We were lucky enough to have an Explorer in our parking lot to compare with the XL7. Explorer is 113.7×193.4×73.7×72.8… longer wheelbase, shorter overall length, a bit wider and a bunch taller. It’s surprising that the Suzuki is actually larger in some respects that the Explorer.
The photo below shows the XL7 parked in a spot adjacent to an Explorer – almost hidden in the background.
SUZ XL7 SV.jpg


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2007 Chicago Auto Show: 2008 Toyota Highlander

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Highlander Evolves with More Size and Power
Ahead of sales in July 2007, Toyota used its traditional opening press conference of the 2007 Chicago auto show to launch the 2008 Highlander. Toyota’s new Highlander keeps its personality as a car-based crossover SUV, updated to the latest Camry/Avalon platform. The new Highlander is bigger and heavier, but Toyota gives it more power, with both the Hybrid and new standard 3.5L V6 estimated to deliver 270HP. The Hybrid goes on sale shortly after the standard model.

show_intro_bl.jpg

Highlander already offered a third-row seat, but the extra three inches in wheelbase and four inches in length should make for a more comfortable interior. The new size is a bit bigger than the Honda Pilot and the same length as the Chevrolet Equinox. It is bigger than the Mazda CX-7 and Ford Edge, but smaller than Mazda’s CX-9 or the newly renamed Ford Taurus X (the XSUV formerly known as the Ford Freestyle). Highlander is better sized for those using the third row as occasional-use seating, instead of emergency seats.
So, the question is whether or not the new 2008 out-Pilots the excellent Honda Pilot?
Toy_08_Highlander_Hybrid_bl_a.jpg


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Suzuki Reinvents the XL7 and Shows New Entry AWD SX4

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XL7 Was the Star, But SX4 Made U.S. Debut in New York
Suzuki‘s show stand at the New York auto show introduced two new entries for their 2007 model year lineup, one at the entry level and one to sit at the top of the range. The SX4 was officially introduced at Geneva in March and its small size means it will be a lower-volume vehicle for Suzuki, so the XL7 had top billing in New York. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific were there in the audience and got to take our first look at the new entries.
Has Suzuki Finally Solved the Equation for Success?
Point, Counterpoint… more Point: With these two new entries it appears that Suzuki may finally hit stride in the United States. Well styled and well priced, the concept for each of these new SUVs seems to be on target. No longer does Suzuki have to apologize for weirdly styled and packaged SUVs. These are mainstream and competitive – at least from a styling and package perspective. In the final analysis, it may be how well they drive.
SX4: AWD for $15,000
The SX4 is based on a European Suzuki product called the Swift, which is a small front-drive car. Suzuki is targeting the $15,000 to $18,000 price ladder for this entry product, though pricing will be finalized closer to launch. The powertrain is a 2.0L DOHC four-cylinder, standard with a five-speed manual or optional with a four-speed automatic. The SX4 slots in below the Grand Vitara and functionally takes the place of the Aerio all-wheel-drive wagon, which is being dropped. We covered the SX4 in a previous VehicleVoice blog entry.

Suz_SX4_bl_face.jpg

Suzuki’s First Mid-Size SUV Offers Real Room for Seven
The real news for Suzuki in New York was the XL7, which the company reinvented with help from GM, losing the small, truck-based package and gaining a product that seems just right for the market today. The XL7 takes advantage of Suzuki’s involvement in the joint GM-Suzuki CAMI plant in Ontario, Canada. The previous Grand Vitara was kicked out when GM started building the Theta-based Chevrolet Equinox at the facility. In the form of the XL7, Suzuki adds a variant of the Chevrolet Equinox, though the XL7 takes the package further and offers more seats and more power.
Suz_07_XL7_bl_show.jpg

With a new platform also comes a minor change to the name: The old, truck-based version was spelled XL-7. With the 2007MY, Suzuki dropped the dash and the model is now just XL7.
Suz_07_XL7_bl_front.jpg


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Crossovers… Media – Industry Forcing a Definition

We at VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and the VehicleVoice Blog-o-Rama (http:/.vehiclevoice.com) often feel that we are fighting an uphill battle concerning the use of the word “Crossovers”. This is a term that has come to mean SUVs based on car platforms and mechanicals. That’s fine. However, it is industry jargon that has not been adopted by the public. The media, picking up on industry jargon is forcing the term where no-one needs it.
An SUV is an SUV or Its NOT
Based on our research, it’s simple. American vehicle buyers have categorized vehicles into several basic categories: cars and trucks further subdivided into luxury cars, mid-size cars, economy/compact cars, sports/sporty cars, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and vans/minivans.
The SUV category seems to be giving folks the most trouble. To a typical vehicle-buyer, an SUV is an SUV is an SUV. There are big ones and small ones, but an SUV is an SUV. Muddying the playing field, however, is the notion of a “crossover”. A Traditional SUV in this more complicated world is a truck-based SUV like Ford Explorer or Toyota Sequoia. A crossover SUV is an SUV based on a car platform, a “unit-body” platform. But people often forget that the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Liberty, Mitsubishi Montero are all based on unit-body platforms but are not car-based. Does this make them a crossover? NO!
TBlazer Blog.jpg
Chevrolet Trailblazer… a “real” Truck-Based SUV

Post-Modern SUV… Soft Roader… NOT Crossover

So, it’s pretty muddy. What crossovers need to be are at-a-glance SUVs. The basics of the SUV equation are well known so deviating is a risk. An SUV must have a basic two box bodystyle, relatively tall glass for good visibility, a relatively upright windshield that provides a stiff A-Pillar allowing easy ingress/egress, and a command seating position. At the same time interior roominess and the ability to carry cargo is very important. From our perspective, this most American of vehicle types is very easy to understand but easy for a foreign car company to get wrong.
Torrent Blog.jpg
Pontiac Torrent… Car-Based Post-Modern (Crossover) SUV
Let’s read on about how USA Today recently reacted to the issue of “crossovers”…


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Suzuki SX4: A Post-Modern SUV for Suzuki

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Suzuki’s new small Post-Modern SUV (or crossover, or sport wagon) joins its North American lineup after an introduction at the 2006 New York show in April, 2006. Sales are scheduled for late Summer 2006 in the States, and the U.S. and European spec versions will carry similar styling. The SX4 is the result of a joint project between Fiat and Suzuki, with production by Suzuki at their plant in Hungary and using a Suzuki platform. (The Fiat, called Sedici will, of course, not be seen Stateside.) While this product is well-suited for international markets, its appeal in the States is likely to be limited and largely driven by a combination of value-pricing and its relatively fuel-efficient 2.0L DOHC I4 drivetrain. North American buyers will choose between a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

Suz_07_SX4_a.jpg


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