UPDATED: What A Difference Eight Years Makes: The 2017 Kia Sportage SX FWD and AWD

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Kia Sportage SX FWD
The 2017 Kia Sportage SX FWD.
TireKicker is about six weeks away from its eighth birthday.  When we published our first pixel in August of 2008, the Kia Sportage was a penalty box...a cramped, underpowered, underwhelming attempt to get in on the ground floor of what then were called "cute utes".

A few weeks later, though, the 2009 model hit dealer showrooms.  It was several levels of improvement all at once.  You can read our review and see some regrettably low-res pictures here.

If the '09 was that much of a leap forward, the 2017 Kia Sportage defies laws of physics and heads straight for alchemy.  Yes, it's that good.

Minivan Marvel: The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Chrysler Pacifica
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.
The backlash against minivans is a real thing.  Ford and General Motors have been sent from the segment with their tails between their legs.  The only major players left are the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey and the replacement for the two minivans that combined, ruled the sales charts, the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan  It is the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

For A Few MPG More: The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco.
You may have read, three months ago, how the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited impressed me on one of my favorite stretches of Northern California backroad.  But what if you want a small car for the usual reasons....fuel economy and low purchase price?

Warehouse On Wheels: The 2016 Nissan NV 3500 High Roof SL

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Nissan NV 3500 High Roof SL
The 2016 Nissan NV 3500 High Roof SL.
If you are a tradesperson who believes that form should follow function and you need a lot of room in your business vehicle, the 2016 Nissan NV 3500 High Roof SL might just be what you need.

It might also help if you're something of a traditionalist, old-school type.


Mercedes With A Mazda Price Tag? The 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature.
The automotive landscape is a rapidly changing place.  Case in point, the Mazda CX-9.  We raved about it in 2011, but almost a year and a half ago, found the 2015 model (the same as the '11, with some minor modifications) was no longer one of the most compelling vehicles in its class.

That matters in a Mazda more than in most cars because Mazda is all about driving.  You know, zoom-zoom and all of that.  The new MX-5 Miata is number one on the list of TireKicker's Best Cars on the right hand side of this page.  A few slots below it is the Mazda 6 sedan.  The Mazda CX-5 is our choice among midsize crossovers, perhaps the most crowded, hotly contested segment in the market today.

Now, there's a new CX-9.  So how is it?


And Now For Something Completely Different: The 2016 Toyota Prius Two Eco

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Toyota Prius Two Eco
The 2016 Toyota Prius Two Eco.
Let's pretend that you run a carmaker, one of the world's largest.  You are known for making utterly reliable automobiles and for playing it a bit safe when it comes to changing those automobiles.  You also make the most popular hybrid automobile on earth.  It is the car most people think of when hearing the word hybrid.  Apart from the first generation, which people thought was odd-looking despite a mostly conventional sedan shape, your best-selling hybrid has benefitted from evolutionary thinking over the past two decades.  Moving forward, but not taking big risks.

And then one day, you decide to roll the dice.  Push the envelope. Instead of another smoothing of the existing design, you dare to dare.  Even the propulsion system, praised for delivering on its EPA estimate of 51 city/48 highway no longer looks good enough.  You swing for the bleachers.


Beaucoup Bucks Beetle: The 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line
2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line.
Behold the most expensive Volkswagen Beetle Convertible one has ever been able to purchase new from one's local VW dealer.  The modern-day descendant of what was the ultimate "cheap car" of the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s is not cheap in any of its guises...the base Beetle's $19,795 starting price works out to nearly $2,700 in 1966 money, adjusted for inflation.  That year, the base price was $1,585.

Even so, the price tag of the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL is a bit of a shocker.  It is $36,050.  That's almost $5,000 in 1966 money, adjusted for inflation.  Which would have bought you a 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible or two 1966 VW Beetle convertibles, the latter from which you would have had hundreds of dollars left over.


Executive Transport: The 2016 Volkswagen CC R-Line Executive w/ Carbon

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Volkswagen CC R-Line
The 2016 Volkswagen CC R-Line.
It's amazing what a sleek roofline can do for a car.  The Volkswagen CC is basically a Passat  with a slicker roof, lower stance and different taillights...but it generates "ooh"s and "aah"s and "how much?" like no Passat ever has.  And guesses as to its price, even by people who have a pretty good grip on which cars cost what, are almost always in the $50,000-$60,000 range.

Beauty Is As Beauty Does: The 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

The 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4.
You may have noticed that we have entered the age of angry comic book styling in the car world. Front ends, which once endeavored to present earnest, friendly "faces", now look like they want---no, intend---to eat you.  And none looks more hungry than the Jeep Cherokee. Even now, three years since the first one rolled onto American roads, the effect is still a bit startling to some.


A Class Of One: 2016 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback
The 2016 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback.
You're probably wondering exactly what that headline means..."A Class Of One".  There are a lot of small cars on the market.  But the Ford Focus Titanium is something different---a premium American compact.