Mini-Lexus: The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Platinum

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Toyota RAV4 Platinum
The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Platinum.
Twenty-three years ago, Toyota began the small crossover SUV revolution in earnest with the original RAV4. It was inexpensive, utilitarian and rugged.

Today?  Pretty much the same formula.  Except....if you're willing to go all the way and check all the boxes...you can also get one that could very nearly pass for a model from Toyota's luxury division, Lexus.


30 Minutes With: The 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i

Front 3/4 view of 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i
The 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i.
Publisher's note: Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series features cars we spent half an hour driving during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, get a different car at The Quail, and repeat. Apart from an hour's lunch (this year sponsored by Nissan), this is the day from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., although heavy rains forced us to call it a day at 2:30 this year, reducing the number of cars we could drive.

I took the 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i for the first run of the morning (the longest of the day, from the host Monterey Tides Hotel at Sand City, past Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca , onto Laureles Grade and back west via Carmel Valley Road to the Quail.


Minimalism Has Its Upside: The 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door
The 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door.
It's been a while since we said it (for that matter, since we've been given the opportunity, with all the fully-loaded top-of-the-line vehicles that have landed in our driveway), but the real test of a car's goodness is to drive the base model.  With no panoramic sunroof or thousand-watt audio system to distract you, you can focus in on what the manufacturer got right and wrong, decide if the car is something you'd enjoy owning for the length of a loan and then make decisions about higher trim levels or option packages.

The Kia Rio 5-Door came to us in LX (base) version a few days ago, with only two options...an automatic transmission and carpeted floor mats. 

And we love it.


More MPG, Less Money: The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL S-AWC

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander.
Value for the dollar.  That's what the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander is all about.  As we've noted in previous reviews, when judged against the competition for features and freshness, the Outlander is fighting a losing battle.  This is a vehicle introduced five years ago that, because of Mitsubishi's financial straits at the time, was far from cutting edge then. 

But there are people in 2018 for whom a brand-new 2013 vehicle with a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty at a significant discount would be exactly the right thing...and the Outlander fills that role like no other.


The Next Step: The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid Limited

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid
The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid.
Last year, the big news from Hyundai was the introduction of its Prius-fighter Ioniq Hybrid.  Now, for 2018, there's a plug-in version---and we like it better than the original.


Vehicular Fitness: The 2018 Honda Fit Sport

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Honda Fit Sport
The 2018 Honda Fit Sport.
When you want to offer a "sport" version of a car, but can't offer a more powerful engine, it's time for paint, trim pieces, black wheels and a six-speed manual.

That, in a nutshell, is the formula for the 2018 Honda Fit Sport.