Kia didn’t make many changes to the 2018 Cadenza. In a way, they didn’t need to; the mini full-size sedan didn’t need much. They did what they called some “minor packaging enhancements.” The V6 luxury package now includes the panoramic sunroof and interior LED lighting. I had that package. There was V6 the engine, it is the only engine available and my test car did have a panoramic (glass) roof. This engine was quiet and impressive. Once I parked, got out of the car and the engine was still running. It was that quiet. A couple of times, I had to check and make sure that I had turned it off after I parked, before I got out of the car. And it was a fairly potent power-plant.
The 2018 Hyundai Accent was a pleasant surprise. It was a subcompact sedan with a manual transmission. Normally, I’d say that would make it boring. But the Accent had some spunk. Powered by a 1.6-liter direct injected four cylinder engine that made 130 horsepower and 119 pound feet of torque, this car was actually fun to drive. That may have had something to do with the six-speed manual transmission that transferred power to the pavement.
The Mazda CX-5 is the automaker’s bestselling model and after a week test driving the 2018 version, it is easy to see why. The CX-5 is basic in what it does but it performed excellently. Acceleration was great. Under the hood was a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation. It made 186 horsepower and 187 lb.-ft. of torque. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The fuel rating was 24 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined. That wasn’t bad for all-wheel-drive; there is also a front-wheel-drive version of the CX-5. How does the fairy tell go? This engine was just right. The CX-5 had just enough power to push it passed wimpy. The 2.5-liter was quiet, the transmission was so smooth I couldn’t even feel it shift into higher gears beginning with fourth and it handled with rifle shot accuracy. Inside there was a simple, clean, comfortable layout. Mazda is one of the best at designing an uncluttered dash. About the only thing you could see was the climate controls and they were beneath the central vents. Everything else was controlled from the infotainment touch screen or discretely placed buttons like for the seat warmers.
In a sense, we came here to see Cadillac’s future. From now through 2020, the luxury brand says it will introduce a new model every six months. First up was the 2019 Cadillac XT4 crossover which goes on sale this fall. Caddy has spent years introducing top flight luxury sedans, burnishing its tarnished luxury badge image, improving its quality and sharpening its styling. The effort has made it the second most improved brand on the market. The only problem is that as Cadillac has improved so has its competitors, namely the German luxury brands. That’s why as we were told the XT4 is extraordinarily important.
The 2018 Genesis G90 still draws lots of attention. During my test drive I answered so many questions about the car that they kind of caught me off guard. Two guys even pulled up next to me and shouted “what kind of car is that?” That’s because the Genesis was a big stately full-size four-door sedan with the looks of a super luxury car but not the price. At $71,825 it is a bargain.
There was a time that Mitsubishi was the technology leader of all the Asian brands and back then that meant Japanese automakers. But bad business decisions disrupted the automaker’s sound footing and put it at risk. Now the company is being stabilized by a new partner and there just might be some hope. I test drove the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander and discovered that the automaker has held on to its engineering chops. The sport utility, read crossover had a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine that made 166 horsepower. It was mated to a continuously variable transmission that was the quietest I have test driven. This engine made 162 pound-feet of torque. The powertrain moved the three-row Outlander vehicle effortlessly. The CVT was so quiet I had to be sure that it was a CVT so I got down on the accelerator. The powertrain was smooth, quiet and the CVT didn’t make a lot of noise under hard acceleration as most do. That was quite an accomplishment.
The new Kia Forte flies in the face of the market. It is a compact sedan in a sea of crossovers. However, from 2013 to 2017, Forte sales almost doubled. So there is little choice but to give buyers what they crave — a new Kia Forte. For 2019, the third generation Forte has grown. It is longer, wider and a tad taller than the outgoing model. What they’ve done is give it a sleeker look, using Kia’s hot new Stinger sport back for design cues. The new Forte had a drag coefficient of 0.26. There was a long hood, short deck, fastback silhouette, LED headlights that curved into the front fenders, circular vents inside and a floating touchscreen. Kia said the cowl point was moved back five inches, creating a more athletic stance that makes the Forte appear well-planted to the ground. That is a PR little hyperbole but the car did have the sporty look of the Stinger.
Smooth, really smooth is what I first thought of Toyota’s C-HR. And after one week of test driving, my opinion did not change. This small crossover from Toyota had a 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine under the hood that made 144 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to an all-new continuously variable transmission with a new belt structure to reduce cabin noise. This CVT could be put in sport mode and it could simulate a 7-speed transmission. This mode increased responsiveness of the throttle, quickened the CVT’s automatic artificial “step-up” shifts, and maintained high engine speed to enhance acceleration. The EPS’ feedback was weightier for a more confidence-inspiring feel. Pushing the gearshift over to the left while in Drive engaged sequential shiftmatic, and let drivers shift simulated gears at their convenience.
I turned onto McNichols Street headed west quicker than I should have. A minivan coming my way was just too close, about a half block away, but I did it anyway. That’s because I knew my 2018 Volvo XC60 could get from a standstill to out of harm’s way quickly. With just a little prompting from me, the Swedish crossover was approaching 50 mph before I reached the next block. That’s what the Volvo XC60 T6 can do. In fact any Volvo with the T6 designation has a 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that is equipped with both supercharger and turbocharger. This combination of blowers produces 316 horsepower and 295 pound feet of torque at a relatively low 2,200 rpm.
I was given the choice of test driving a Subaru Impreza equipped with either a continuously variable transmission or one with a manual gearbox. I chose the manual and I’m glad I did. The car was powered by a 2.0 liter four cylinder boxer direct injection engine that made 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a five-speed short throw manual transmission. The combination had an EPA rating of 23 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined.