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“Everything that Glitters – ” 2021 KIA Seltos SX Turbo AWD

When the press fleet driver pulled up at my home with a new KIA, I immediately was pleased with the glittering gold paint job that I was seeing out the front door.  When I pulled the window sticker out of the glove box, I was surprised to find the name of the paint was “Starbright Yellow”.  It brought to mind for me the song by Dan Seals – “Everything that Glitters is Not Gold”, from 1986.

Dan Seals is one of my favorite all-time singers, and is often heard on K96.9 FM radio, including him performing the number one hit that he co-wrote.  “Everything that Glitters is Not Gold” involves the song’s narrator and an estranged female lover, now popular on the livestock rodeo circuit.  The rodeo star, with her flowing blond hair, is burnished in the singers’s brain and he struggles to deal with his little girl’s curiosity about the ex-lover riding on her horse “with the sunlight in her hair”.   

So it is that I had a yellow KIA to test, and along with the distinctive paint, it featured terrific styling.  KIA Motors, based in South Korea, is that country’s second largest auto manufacturer, trailing only Hyundai, its one-third owner.  As recently as 1986, KIA only produced 26 automobiles, but the total was 658,000 in America last year.

The 2021 Seltos that was brought to me was an SX turbo upgraded all-wheel drive model.  Total M.S.R.P. came to $29,485.00, including freight charges of $1,120.00. With the SX, a buyer gets heated front seats, cargo cover, heated outside mirrors, and a Bose stereo.  The seating was black leather with room for five and luggage space came to 26.6 cubic feet behind the rear seat.  Electronics included the navigation, backup camera, pushbutton starter, proximity keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input, and power seats.

The 1.6 liter turbocharged gas engine produces 175 horsepower and 195 lb. ft. of torque.  With its seven-speed automatic transmission the KIA reportedly accelerates from zero to 60 in 7.7 seconds.  Fuel economy ratings are 25-city and 30-highway with a 27 combined reading.  I averaged 28.8 mpg with the SX – the gas tank holds 16.4 gallons on this model.

The wheels were 18” ten spoke alloys with red center trim rings.  Tires were Kumho 245/45R18 all-season radials.  Dual exhausts peeked out from the rear of the SX,  and brushed nickel door handles and window trim was on the car.  Matching roof rails were on top and deep tint windows were all around the rear.

Ruth and I drove the SX to a Denver destination one afternoon; the KIA’s road manners were fine as were its guidance and road noise.  Turning diameter (34.8′) is minimal, reducing stress on the narrow streets in parts of the Mile High City.  And the perky turbo engine makes for a fast escape in city traffic after the visit.

The KIA test car turned out to be a bit of a favorite of mine with a generous amount of glitter and audacity.  

 

 

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2020 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

 Honda Motor Company started exporting motorcycles to America, from Japan, in the early 1960’s with a clever slogan, “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda”.  I became  an early customer when I purchased a new 1964 Honda while in high school in Grant,  Nebraska.  All three Wright brothers eventually bought Hondas, and of course mine was the smallest, the Honda 50, a little machine I rolled past the Perkins County fairgrounds on thinking I would impress those patrons inside with my little exhaust report.564569_4530557393104_1470037628_n

 It was later, in the 1970’s, that Honda started exporting automobiles to the U.S., and in 1997 they sent their first in-house designed sport utility vehicle, the CR-V to our shores.  The CR-V (compact recreational vehicle) is based on the Civic sedan and is currently in its fifth generation configuration.  Sales of the CR-V started off at 67,000 in the first year and they have swelled to over 300,000 per year for the last seven years.  

   Recently, a 2020 Honda CR-V 1.5T Touring edition was loaned to me out of the press fleet, and I drove it for a week.  The CR-V comes in a hybrid, LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring edition, which is the top model and the one I tested.  For $35,845.00, including freight, the Touring edition has a leather interior, navigation system with backup camera, adaptive radar cruise control, heated steering wheel, lane departure warning, moon roof, and dual heated power bucket seats.  

   The driving experience when behind the wheel of the CR-V is excellent, with a somewhat quieter environment than the unit I drove in 2018 but with similar guidance, handling, and ride; all good.  Visibility is top-notch, and real-world economy for this reviewer came in at 25.5 mpg, right on target with the EPA estimate.  

   The mid-sized Honda CR-V rolls on 19” ten spoke alloy wheels with Continental P235/55R19 Cross Contact all season radials.  All CR-V’s were refreshed for 2020, and the power train is now a turbocharged 190 horsepower four with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

   In high school I  fantasized about someday driving an automobile with the quality and innovation of my little Honda 50.  Never would I have imagined that sedans would become so unpopular (along with small motorcycles) and that “sport-utility” vehicles would basically take over the roads.  Nonetheless, someday arrived after a fashion a week ago when I tested the very capable, American made Honda CR-V.  And, I suspect, you still “Meet the Nicest People in a Honda”.       

2021 Toyota Corolla XSE

Radio review at Pirate Radio featuring George Gray and Matt Arguello:

The Toyota Corolla XSE that I was recently able to test came in a pleasing Blueprint blue metallic paint scheme and featured black SofTex seating surfaces.  The Toyota Corolla, one of the best-selling nameplates of all time, has moved over 45 million cars onto driveways around the world (well, mostly driveways), and the car is in its twelfth generation configuration, having been around since 1966.

The 2021 front wheel drive Corolla sits on a 103.9” wheelbase, is 70.5” wide, 57.1” high, and weighs 3,060 lbs.  The way that Greeley and Ft. Collins have grown, it seems you are always poking around looking for parking space, so with a car that’s 172 inches long, it is not too difficult with Toyota’s Corolla.

Acceleration, handling, visibility and guidance were all acceptable for the Corolla.  The power was supplied by a 2 liter, 4 cylinder engine, putting out 168 horsepower through a continuously variable (CVT) transmission.  Silver and gray ten-spoke alloy wheels were fitted with P225/40R18 all-season radials on the car.

The 5 passenger interior of the Corolla was comfortable and the seating was supportive and looked good.  The car had a backup camera, 8″ touchscreen, cruise control, power windows/locks/mirrors, tilt/telescope steering column, and keyless entry.  M.S.R.P for my test Corolla came in at $29,289.00, including freight.  The biggest item added to its $25,725.00 base price was a premium audio/navigation package ($1,715.00) consisting of a JBL stereo and dynamic navigation.

The Corolla did a super job for me during the test in Northern Colorado.  The slick styling caught a lot of eyes, the car kept pace at the stoplights, and with the 38 mpg highway mileage rating, I spent a nominal amount of money on gas.  I’d say it is a good value.

2020 Subaru Outback Turbo Onyx Edition

This last week I received a Subaru to test, a 2020 Outback with the four-cylinder turbocharged engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT). It was the Onyx edition in Abyss Blue Pearl with two-toned gray StarTex interior. This car is made by Fuji Heavy Industries, a Japanese firm, with final assembly taking place in Lafayette, Indiana.  The Onyx is one of the the top-line Outbacks out of seven models offered in both turbo and non-turbo configurations. This one had an option package that included Starlink 11.6” multimedia navigation infotainment system, moon roof, and reverse automatic braking.  This $1,845.00 package, plus $245.00 for wireless charger, brought the total M.S.R.P. to $37,995.00, including freight. I really enjoyed the charger in the console for keeping my flip phone charged up.  

The Outback is a derivative of the Subaru Legacy wagon, introduced in 1994. It was originally called the Legacy Outback, and the Legacy name was dropped in 2003. Subaru in the 1990s did not want to spend the money for a new design for its crossover SUV to be produced, so simply modified an existing offering. They added side body cladding, raised the ground clearance, and added a rugged-looking rack on the top. In 2009, the second generation Outback was introduced, and sales since then have been brisk – over 181,000 in 2019. Crossover SUVs are quite popular nowadays, and a large part it is the result of the Subaru Outback.

Power for the Outback is supplied by a turbocharged 2.4 liter, boxer four-cylinder, DOHC, all-aluminum engine with 260 horsepower and 277 lb. ft. of torque. The boxer designation refers to its horizontally-opposed configuration, like a Corvair or Porsche. Think of a boxer, throwing punches. The weight of the engine, although modest, is kept at a lower center-of-gravity with this design. Ground clearance, however, is a category-best 8.7 inches. The transmission is a Lineartronic continuously variable automatic with Hill Holder feature and eight-speed manual mode – paddle shifters are behind the steering wheel. Symmetrical all-wheel drive, is, of course, standard equipment. Fuel economy is rated at 23-city and 30-highway for the car, and the fuel tank holds 18.5 gallons of regular gasoline. Acceleration from zero to sixty is reportedly 7.37 seconds.  Wheelbase/length/weight are 108.1”, 191.3”, and 3,915 lbs., respectively.

The front buckets in the Outback are nice, and the three-passenger rear seat is split and reclines somewhat. Cargo space is 34 cubic feet with the back seats up and 75.7 cubic feet with the back seats dropped down. The center passenger in the rear has a shoulder belt, adding to the Outback safety reputation. Both of the front seats are power-adjustable, and the driver ergonomics are fine.

The ten-spoke black 18” alloy wheels on the Onyx are attractive, and they are surrounded by 225/60R18 all-season radials. The blue paint was offset with the dark cladding and bumpers, and the black roof rack gave the car an off-road look. I did not go off-road, but took some bumpy dirt roads with satisfactory results. I like the hefty, solid feel of the car both in town and out on the highway.

A few days with the Subaru Outback, and this reviewer can see the reason that these Outbacks are so popular, particularly in our home state of Colorado, where they outsell everything else. Crossover shoppers would be well-advised to consider an Outback at purchase time.

2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWD

The Highlander was taken over the the Pirate Radio studios for an analysis by the DJ’s, George “Elvis”Gray and Matt “The Big Kahuna” Arguello:Ruby Flare pearl metallic paint – heated leather jet black interior – 7 passenger seating with 4 buckets – Navigation system with 12.3” touchscreen – Radar dynamic cruise control – Power sunroof and power rear tailgate  – JBL AM/FM/MP3/CD/Satellite stereo with eight speakers – Pushbutton start and backup camera – Blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist – 243 horsepower hybrid four – 2.5 liter with stop/start technology – CVT automatic transmission   All wheel drive – 20” polished aluminum wheels and P245/55R20 Bridgestone Dueler H/L 422 all season radials – $52,512.00 window sticker – 34 mpg highway gas mileage – 35 mpg city gas mileage – 35 mpg combined gas mileage   Made in Princeton, Indiana

2021 Buick Encore GX Essence FWD

Radio Review:

Buick, now a division of General Motors, actually was the company that established GM in 1908.  Traditionally, Buick products have had an appeal for older, wealthier buyers, but with the foxy SUV’s they now market, their demographic is getting younger. Buick’s lineup of six models (sans any sedans) provides an SUV for pretty much anyone’s taste, and in the midst of the group lies the Encore GX compact crossover. 

     Weld County Garage recently loaned me an Encore GX, and it was painted Deep Azure (blue) metallic and featured Ebony perforated leather seating for five.  It was the Essence model, a trim level that is located atop of the GX line, and includes the leather seating, LED lights front and rear, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and in-vehicle air ionizer, among other things.  No moon roof was on hand, but luxury items such as power lift gate, surround vision camera, head up display, adaptive cruise control and navigation were  included on the Buick as components of the “advanced technology package”.  

     The Encore GX is a cousin of the Encore Buick, sold by dealers since 2012.  I have tested several of the Encores, with good impressions of them.  I think sales of the Encore have taken the breath away from Buick executives, and I mean that in a positive way.   It seems as if they are everywhere you look, and nationally the sales topped 100,000 in 2019.  The new Encore GX, however, is not really much like the “classic” Encore, and its size suits me quite a bit better – 171.4” long, 1.6” longer than the Encore. 

     Power for the Encore GX is supplied by a three-cylinder turbocharged engine with a continuously variable (CVT) transmission and a front wheel drive arrangement.  All wheel drive can be had on this model Buick and certainly will be popular in Colorado.  Personally, I could go for the front wheel drive for myself and could pocket the $2,000.00 savings effected by such a purchase.  

     Buick promised more power for this new Encore GX when it was announced, and they came through despite dropping a cylinder when compared to the “classic” Encore.  Horsepower is 153, and I found the vehicle performance to be totally satisfactory even with four adults on board.  Gas mileage ratings are 32 mpg on the highway, 32 combined, and 31 city miles per gallon with a 13.2 gallon fuel tank.  My observation was 29.3 miles per gallon in predominantly city driving.  

     The list price of my test car was $33,465.00 including freight ($995.00), the aforementioned technology package ($1,790.00), convenience package ($770.00), power lift gate ($520.00), fancy paint ($495.00) and the 153 horsepower upgraded engine ($395.00).  The power lift gate operation can be initiated by a foot motion and lighting is on hand for finding where to wave said foot at night with a tri-shield (Buick insignia) beam on the pavement beneath the rear bumper.  

     The Buick Encore GX was a pleasure to drive around for a week and in my mind the styling, comfort and performance of the vehicle would provide a prospective owner long term satisfaction.