The Frugal Sonata: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco
2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco.
Much like the Phoenix Bureau and its recent test of three 2015 Toyota Camrys, we here at TireKicker World Headquarters in Sacramento have had a trio of 2015 Hyundai Sonatas in the last few weeks.  We've already covered the luxurious Limited and the more performance-oriented Sport 2.0T, which charmed its way onto a spot on the list of TireKicker's Best Cars (see right-hand column of this page). Now comes a completely different flavor, the Sonata Eco.

A Tale Of Three Camrys: The 2015 Toyota Camry XLE, XSE and Hybrid SE

Front view of 2015 Toyota Camry XLE
The 2015 Toyota Camry XLE.
2015 is a year of significant change for the Toyota Camry.  Long derided, somewhat unfairly, as a transportation appliance devoid of personality, the 2015 Camry has had a significant refresh.  Only the roof is carried over directly from last year, the styling is more aggressive and the interior has had a thorough makeover, as well.

Beyond that, Toyota is marketing the Camry with models that have their own distinct personalities. We've driven three of them, very nearly back-to back, recently.


The Surprise Inside The 2015 Honda Civic EX-L Sedan

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Honda Civic EX-L
The 2015 Honda Civic EX-L Sedan.

Just days ago, I gave a positive review of the 2015 Honda Civic Si sedan, praising its 205 horsepower V-TECH engine and six-speed manual transmission. Seven months ago today, I wrote a review of the 148-horsepower 2014 Honda Civic EX-L sedan with a continuously variable transmission and said that, playing with my own money, I'd buy a new Corolla instead.

As I've said before, though, an awful lot of how you feel about a car has to do with where and under what conditions you drive it.  Last summer's '14 Civic EX-L was driven in and around town, to and from work...a 70/30 mix of urban freeways and city streets.  The '15 racked up a bunch of highway miles.  And showed a completely different side of its character.


Gimme Five: The 2015 Mazda 3 S 5-Door Grand Touring

Front view of 2015 Mazda 3 5-Door Grand Touring
The 2015 Mazda 3 S 5-Door Grand Touring.
The Mazda 3 four-door sedan has held a firm place on the TireKicker's Best Cars list in the right column of this page ever since this generation of Mazda's compact was introduced.  That changes today.  The one to have...is the five-door.


Happy Trail: The 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Trail Premium

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Trail Premium
The 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Trail Premium.
Toyota's 4Runner is one of the few real truck-based SUVs left in its size and price class.  Most of the others, the Nissan Pathfinder among them, have become car-based crossovers.  In the face of this, Toyota has done something I find very admirable. It has embraced its inner and outer truck, and introduced a model that reminds us of the 4Runner's original mission from when it was introduced 30 years ago.


CRaVe? No. Admire, Yes: The 2015 Honda CR-V Touring

Front view of 2015 Honda CR-V Touring
The 2015 Honda CR-V Touring.
Been a while since our last-go round in a Honda CR-V.  Nearly three years, in fact.  The basics haven't changed much...what was once called a "cute-ute" is now a pioneer in the hottest segment in all cardom, the small crossover/SUV.

The CR-V is still powered by a 2.4-liter, 185 horsepower four-cylinder engine (now with i-VTEC).  The transmission has changed from a five-speed automatic to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), and because of that change, the EPA mileage figures have improved.  What was 22 mpg city is now 26 and what was 30 highway is now 33.

But the big news for 2015 is a new top-of-the-line trim level.

The 2015 Mazda 5, Reconsidered

2015 Mazda 5 front 3/4 view
2015 Mazda 5.
Three and a half years ago, I wrote a glowing review of the Mazda 5 minivan. As with most Mazdas, I wondered why it didn't sell as well as vehicles from Toyota, Nissan and Honda.  I now know the answer.

The 2015 Toyota Sienna SE: Same Swagger, New Video, New Features, Better MPG

Hip-hop and minivans do not usually mix, but Toyota got laughs and accolades for its 2010 music video when it introduced the 2011 Sienna "Swagger Wagon", and now that the Sienna's been refreshed, they've enlisted Busta Rhymes for a new "Swagger Wagon" video:

Call me old school, but I preferred the original video.  The 2015 Sienna, on the other hand, is much improved.

V-TEC Just Kicked In, Yo: The 2014 Honda Civic Si Sedan

Side view of 2015 Honda Civic Si Sedan
The 2014 Honda Civic Si Sedan.
Regular TireKicker readers will remember my review last summer of the 2014 Honda Civic EX-L, in which I, a former Civic owner, had to reluctantly admit that for the out-the-door price of $25,030, I'd probably go with the 2014 Toyota Corolla S I'd driven a week earlier and pocket the $1,460 in change.

Here's a TireKicker Top Tip:  Plunk down an extra $280 at the Honda store and get the 2015 Civic Si sedan.

The Car You'd Have Never Bet They Could Build: The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T

Side view of 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T
The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T.

The evolution of the Hyundai Sonata has been an amazing thing to watch.  Seven years ago, this was a car that, if handed the keys to one at the rental desk, you'd ask for a free upgrade and seriously consider paying for that upgrade if that was what it took.  Now it's sleek, stylish, well-made and has a model called the Sport 2.0T.

What's In A Name?: The 2015 Infiniti QX70

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Infiniti QX70
The 2015 Infiniti QX70.
In automotive circles, the re-naming of Infiniti's entire lineup is old news.  It happened in late 2013.  However, if you do not follow the inner workings of the automotive industry and are simply a luxury crossover owner whose lease is coming up and are beginning to shop around for the next, it might be helpful to note that the Infiniti QX70 is the vehicle you've known for 12 years as the Infiniti FX35 and/or FX37.

Beyond the name change, the mission is the same: To build a crossover that competes directly with the Lexus RX 350 with more power and far more flamboyant styling.


Electrified Soul: The 2015 Kia Soul EV

Front 3/4 view of the 2015 Kia Soul EV
The 2015 Kia Soul EV.
Full disclosure: I have a very spotty record with EVs. I don't handle range anxiety well, for openers.  After 43 years of having a driver's license in my wallet, I very much appreciate sticking the nozzle into the gas tank for three minutes and immediately curing any potential stranding of myself, knowing that time spent will give me the ability to get anywhere from 250 to 700 miles away from wherever it is I am.

Secondly, it seems either the EV itself is a pain in the backside (Mitsubishi i-MIEV, Nissan Leaf) or the fellow EV drivers on whose decency one depends to get re-charged and back on the road are (Honda Fit EV).

The Kia Soul EV is a breath of fresh air.

James Bond's Family Sedan: The Ford Fusion SE

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Ford Fusion
The 2014 Ford Fusion (Titanium model shown).
American family sedans (Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Dodge Avenger) were thought not to have a chance against the Japanese competition (Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima) not too long ago. Today, the Avenger is dead and gone, the Malibu is largely forgotten but not gone and the Fusion is a serious choice for a lot of intenders in that segment.

Chalk it up to the Aston-Martin inspired nose and the slick bodywork trailing it that debuted for the 2013 model year.  But the Fusion's beauty is more than skin deep.

To Its Own Self It Is True: The 2015 Lexus RX 350

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus RX 350
The 2015 Lexus RX 350.
Tell me, if you can, the name of one other car that is still fulfilling the same mission as it did in 1999, with instantly recongizable styling between this year's model and the one from 16 years ago, and is still a top seller.

I thought not.

Under-Promise and Over-Deliver: The 2015 Toyota Yaris

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Toyota Yaris
The 2015 Toyota Yaris.
The Toyota Yaris, on paper, seems like a horrible car.  The name is neither memorable nor pleasing to the ear, it is not particularly attractive---the new aggressive corporate face looks rather angry and frustrated on the Yaris---its 106 horsepower trails even that of the Nissan Versa by three, the Honda Fit by 24, and its EPA fuel economy estimate is only 30 city/36 highway, which brings up the rear in that group of the big Japanese three's subcompacts.

Blame that on a four-speed automatic transmission as opposed to the Versa and Fit's continuously variable transmissions. Four gears equates to higher RPMs at speed, which means worse fuel economy, and a higher level of noise and harshness.

Vehicular Fitness: The 2015 Honda Fit

Front 3/4 view of the 2015 Honda Fit
The 2015 Honda Fit.
If you read other automotive publications, you're likely to find more than a little whining about the new-generation Honda Fit.  My TireKicking brethren and sisteren tend to think the styling has gone soft, so has the handling and thus, it's now no good.

This is why I started TireKicker seven years ago...to stop the madness and to evaluate cars on their own merit, in a way that is actually of some use to the people who spend their own money to buy them.  And for those people, the 2015 Honda Fit is still a solid choice and a strong value proposition.

Getting More With Less: The 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T
2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T.
I have yet to see it in advertising, but Volkswagen has a new slogan on its window sticker: "Great. For the price of good." It is a summary of Volkswagen's approach the past few years, which has seen the automaker, which once charged premium prices for somewhat over-engineered German compacts, shift to simply competing with Japanese makes like Toyota, Honda and Nissan on features, content and price.


Ford's Prius V Fighter: The C-Max Hybrid

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid
2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid.
If you were among the living in the late 1960s, you will probably remember the advertising campaign: "Ford Has A Better Idea".

Ford Brochure from 1968
1968 Ford Brochure.

In the C-Max Hybrid, Ford's Toyota Prius V-fighter, it has a different idea.  Better?  Let's see.

The Toyota Prius Plug-In: How To Nearly Double The Mileage of a Prius

2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In front 3/4 view
2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In.
When the 51 miles per gallon city/48 miles per gallon highway of a standard Toyota Prius is not enough, there's a solution. The Toyota Prius Plug-In.


UPDATED: Why The Toyota Venza Is What The Camry Wagon Should Have Been

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota Venza
The 2014 Toyota Venza.

Over the past few years, we've made our admiration known for the Toyota Venza.  It's the closest thing extant to a Camry wagon, and looks a lot slicker than the last iteration of those.

Venzas don't get a lot of love from the enthusiast automotive journalism community, but for those few of us who write from a more everyperson perspective, Venza's about as solid as they come.