Test Drive: Plenty of room in 2018 Prius Three Touring

Fifteen years ago, the redesigned Toyota Prius was the hit of the subcompact-car market. But it was a one-size-fits-all vehicle — a nice-looking 4-door hatchback that seated five and delivered incredibly high fuel economy, but wasn’t much fun to drive. Moreover, Toyota used lightweight materials to maximize fuel economy, and these plastics, fabrics and interior panels felt cheap. Most of those deficiencies were ironed out long ago; meanwhile, Toyota now offers a Prius for almost every possible taste. While none of today’s numerous incarnations of the Prius is performance-oriented, qualities such as near-luxury, expanded cargo-carrying capacity, superior fuel economy and … Read more

Test Drive: Elantra Eco sacrifices performance for fuel economy

Not so very long ago, choosing a compact or subcompact Hyundai meant sacrificing comfort, performance and refinement — at least in comparison with cars of similar size and shape built by Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Nissan and Honda. The tradeoff was the Hyundai’s lower cost and longer warranty. Some car-shoppers undoubtedly took note of the fact a new Hyundai cost about the same, or even less, than a comparably equipped competitor’s model with a few thousand miles on its odometer. Having driven several Hyundai Elantra compact sedans in recent years, we’ve seen close-up how much they’ve improved. They’re just as smooth, … Read more

Test Drive: 2018 Tiguan has a distinctly European feel

Taking delivery of Volkswagen’s much-improved Tiguan compact sport-utility vehicle was bittersweet, coming as it did the same week VW announced it would halt production of its iconic Beetle. But it had to happen. Many automakers are rushing to build the best possible SUVs and turning their backs on the first four letters of their collective identity — the auto. Perhaps the Beetle will come back someday. It was discontinued once before, then revived 18 years later, after all. In the meantime, we eagerly grabbed the opportunity to find out firsthand where this venerable German brand is headed in the new … Read more

Test Drive: Fiat Spider is an enjoyable date

It’s probably a bit unfair to dismiss the Fiat 124 Spider convertible as a Mazda MX-5 with an attitude, even though there’s some truth to that characterization. The Spider is assembled in Hiroshima, Japan — half a world away from Italy, its place of origin — and it contains numerous Mazda components. Still, its engine, body and suspension tuning are Italian products, and so is its personality. In truth, we didn’t expect to like the Spider. For one thing, we’ve been there and done that; we even came close to buying an used MG Midget back in the day. For … Read more

Test Drive: Toyota C-HR trims space to compete with smaller SUVs

In its never-ending quest to right-size the great American sport-utility vehicle for every possible preference, Toyota has gone small with the C-HR. This stylish little SUV, which joins the Yaris iA in Toyota’s roster of rebadged Scions, is faintly reminiscent of the retired Toyota Matrix and its sister model, the Pontiac Vibe. Neither was as fun to drive as the new C-HR, but both scored higher on the functionality scale, thanks to their larger cargo compartments and available all-wheel drive. The C-HR nameplate suggests a connection with the bigger RAV-4, as well as a competitive relationship with the Honda HR-V. … Read more

Test Drive: Range Rover Sport sacrifices space for luxury

In at least two respects, not much has changed in the Land Rover and Range Rover lines since the mid-1990s, when we were the proud owners of a red Land Rover Discovery. Like the Disco, our latest test car, a Range Rover Sport HSE, somehow communicated a sense of drama upon launch from a dead stop. Also like the old Discovery, it’s a lot smaller, functionally speaking, than it looks. How much smaller? With the back seat folded down, it actually has significantly less cargo room than the maximum square footage available in the diminutive Fiat 500L wagon we tested … Read more

Test Drive: Fiat 500L is surprisingly roomy

Most retro-styled cars are a little hard to live with because they emphasize form over function. A notable exception is the Fiat 500L, a diminutive 5-door hatchback that’s surprisingly accommodating for passengers and cargo. It’s not to be confused with the Fiat 500, a tiny 2-door sedan from which the 500L derives its styling cues. We test-drove a black-and-yellow 500L Trekking, which fills the gap between the base Pop and the top-of-the-line Lounge. Its major strengths are its roomy back seat, impressive cargo capacity, its eye-catching looks and Italian personality. Reliability and build quality have been issues for the 500L. … Read more

Test Drive: Outlander Sport trails behind leading crossovers

Go figure. Most reviewers agree the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport trails the subcompact-crossover herd in almost every category that matters. Meanwhile, the Sport’s year-to-date sales figures in North America, as of May 31, totaled 19,035 units sold, compared with 12,361 during the same period in 2017. Some American drivers must actually favor the Outlander over its major competitors — which include the widely admired Honda HR-V, Kia Soul, Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota CH-R, Chevrolet Trax and Nissan Juke. So what’s the attraction? Arguably, the urge to drive something different is a factor. As briskly as the Outlander Sport is selling this year, … Read more

Test Drive: 2018 Prius loses sleek design

For the automotive writer, the 2018 Toyota Prius Prime is more challenging than most to review objectively. It’s hard not to love the plug-in hybrid’s efficiency — about 57 mpg without using the plug-in option — but we had to live with the Prius for just one week. Would we be happy with it over the long haul? Or would we eventually find the car’s deficiencies aggravating after 10,000, 20,000 or 100,000 miles? For people who value style, the new Prius might well prove to be disappointing. Toyota has clung to the styling cues that helped make the car the … Read more

Test Drive: 2018 Toyota Yaris is a car for urban drivers

The 2018 Toyota Yaris is a city car, pure and simple. It’s tiny, weighs barely a ton and is reliable to a fault. In liftback form, it can take on 15.3 cubic feet of cargo, and transport four to five people. And it’s inexpensive, so owners won’t mind so much when the rear fascia gets scuffed, or someone creases the door in a parking lot. All of that applies to the 5-door model. The long doors on our 3-door test car render it less suitable for urban conditions than the 5-door. We’re not sure who Toyota is targeting with the … Read more

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