We’re in West Virginia today to sample the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Chrysler rep Lisa has promised a group of east coast journalists that a group of Cherokee Trailhawks won’t be getting stuck today on a course of mud bogs and steep slopes they have devised for us to drive on. Being a more civilized Virginia resident myself, where we prefer our roads paved, I am quite sure I’m going to get this diminutive crossover stuck. Right over there on that 20 foot muddy cliff that they’re going to make me drive up.
Tag - Road Test
The Jeep Grand Wagoneer has already established itself as a solid alternative to the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator in...Read More
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a soft spot for sporty hatchbacks. When Hyundai announced the original Veloster, I was immediately intrigued. The final product, however, was underwhelming. A competent car, for sure, it was ultimately no more impressive than Kia’s run-of-the-mill Rio.
So when Hyundai confirmed that we’d be getting a hot version of their quirky subcompact, I was more hesitant to get my hopes up. I wasn’t so sure that a turbocharger and bigger wheels could solve the Veloster’s performance problems. As it turns out, I was right.
To be fair to Hyundai, this is more than just a Veloster with a turbo kit and some Pilot Super Sports wrapped to bigger wheels. But to be fair to you, the reader, it’s not much more than that either. Yes, the suspension has been re-jiggered for a sporting ride, but aside from the extra grip and power, the Veloster Turbo’s character is largely the same as that of the base car’s, and therein lie its shortcomings.
Let’s start with what they got right. The 1.6L engine is punchy. 201 horsepower is enough, though not what I’d describe as overkill. It’s not going to impress the Focus ST or Mazdaspeed3 drivers in the audience, but it’s appropriate for the class (look no further than the new Fiesta ST for comparison). The seats, which carry over from the regular Veloster with slight revisions (and “TURBO” embroidered in the seatbacks), are also excellent. They’re attractive, reasonably trimmed and supportive, much like the seats in the also-underwhelming Lexus CT hybrid.
Putting that power to the ground in our test example is a set of 18” Turbo-specific wheels wrapped in perhaps the most out-of-place optional upgrade in this segment—a set of Michelin Pilot Super Sports in 215/40R-18. Yep, the second-most expensive option on our loaner’s Monroney is a $1200 set of super-high performance summer tires. If you’ve been reading reviews that include instrumented testing of the Veloster and came away impressed with the roadholding ability of the revised suspension, you may want to peruse the as-tested specs again. Odds are that impressive skidpad result was obtained with a little help from our favorite fluffy mascot.
So, what did they get wrong? In short, just about everything else. I hate to bag so hard on Hyundai’s first shot at a hot hatchback, but given the long-standing models they could have benchmarked, it’s hard to understand why they fell so far short of the other excellent cars that share this basic format. The weakest points—the steering and the chassis—are usually the components of the sport compact formula that redeem otherwise underwhelming cars. Look no further than Honda’s Civic Si for an excellent example.
The Veloster Turbo doesn’t deliver on either. The ride is busy, and the big wheels and aggressive tires try to communicate with the driver through the dulled connections provided by the indifferent suspension. There’s no precision in the steering and only slightly more feedback. It feels completely artificial, and it’s thoroughly unsatisfying to push.
And while the Veloster may be powerful enough to get out of its own way, it’s still inexplicably heavy. At 2,900lbs, it’s 200lbs heavier than the aforementioned Ford, and in the same ballpark as the larger, IRS-platform cars an entire size class up. This makes the Hyundai an odd sort of ‘tweener, and in many ways, it’s the worst of both worlds: the compromised suspension packaging of a subcompact paired with the weight of a larger car. It’s a formula that they just haven’t mastered.
All of this would be more forgivable if Hyundai didn’t have the excellent Genesis Coupe sitting ten feet away in the same showroom. A well-equipped Veloster Turbo will run you roughly 25-large if you want the Michelins. That will get you into the turbocharged Genesis (base or R-Spec, pick your poison), which is, to be frank, a superior car in every objective and subjective way. Buy that now; thank me later.
Coupe exterior photograph courtesy of Hyundai. All other photos by the author.
Our last write-up of the current Hyundai Elantra was one of current SSL associate John Kucek’s earliest reviews. Written to a specific purpose, that series evaluated the then-new Elantra and Ford Focus to see which got the best mileage in a controlled loop (and, secondarily, to see how closely their real-world mileage matched that which was suggested by the EPA). A lot of water has flowed under that particular bridge since those articles were posted, and in the intervening time Hyundai has also introduced two new models to the Elantra lineup. For this piece, we’ll take a look at the Elantra Coupe and GT to see if these quirkier variants add any charm to Hyundai’s efficient and reliable workhorse.
When I first drove the 2013 CX-5 last year, I found it pleasant if a bit underpowered. That should come as no surprise. The original two-liter SKYACTIV gas engine was only good for 155hp and similar torque numbers. For 2014, Mazda has added a 2.5-liter SKY engine as an upgrade on the Touring and Grand Touring trims. At 184hp and 185lb-ft of Torque, this new mill makes the CX-5 power-competitive with the other non-turbocharged offerings within the class. It’s still not the clear leader in sheer grunt, but it brings enough hustle to keep it in the running in a class topped off by 250-horsepower Escapes and Sportages.
Thirty thousand units: it would represent a fantastic month for the Ford Fusion or Nissan Altima, but Mazda isn’t thinking in terms of months. That is the year-end sales goal for the 2014 Mazda6. Mazda sold 42,000 CX-5s in 2012—its abbreviated launch year—and more than 120,000 Mazda3s, but the number crunchers in Irvine are aiming for just 1.5% of what I’ve called the most important segment of the U.S. auto market, and one that represents more than two million sales in the United States each year.
As much as we’d all like to believe that the trail-riding, rock-hopping, parked-in-the-pine-needles-down-by-some-deserted-lake image of “sport utility vehicles” we used to hold wasn’t firmly in the rearview mirror, reality seems destined to prove the contrary. In fact, typing out “sport utility vehicle” made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve even heard the term. The class has evolved, and at the same time spawned enough of its own orders, families, genera and species to muddy our roads with so many two-box designs that the notion of buying a sedan or coupe seems almost quaint by comparison. The common vernacular now points to “crossover” or “CUV” being the de rigeur label we associate with pavement-bound mall-roaders, and beyond that lies any number of different marketing terms fabricated by the automakers to splash up their wares.