CAR REVIEWS

The performance-oriented 2018 Audi A5 is aimed at those who love driving.

Luxury car buyers are very picky, but also very loyal. If you get them to be a fan of your brand, the key is to not mess things up so they’ll stick around and not jump ship.

In the case of the Audi A5 coupe, which I recently tested, the vehicle has been updated for 2018. This competitor in the luxury coupe segment keeps most of its heritage but also sees key improvements; Will it be enough to keep buyers loyal and not have they sway over to BMW or Mercedes or other Audi competitors?

LOOKS

With Audi generally more focused on what’s under the hood, exterior design on the A5 is attractive (including the instantly recognizable Audi grille and four-ring logo up front), but not overall showy or gaudy like some of the competition. The A5 features sharp-looking 18-inch 10-spoke wheels and all-season tires, with options to upgrade to 19-inch or 20-inch wheels.

 

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2018 Audi A5 coupe
  • Price as tested: $55,300 (Price starts at $42,800)
  • Best feature: Nimble, responsive and fast ride -- a true driver’s car
  • Rating: 4 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Luxury coupe buyers who love to drive
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The 2018 Hyundai Sonata competes well in the busy midsize sedan segment

There seems to be an endless stream of midsize sedans available these days, so it’s easy to lose sight of some of the better options. One such diamond in the rough is the updated 2018 Hyundai Sonata, which faces tough competition but holds its own against the Camry/Accord/Fusion/Mazda6, etc. brigade.

Here are a handful of key points you need to know about the Sonata if you’re shopping for midsize sedans.

Stellar safety ratings

Let’s talk crash test numbers. You get a 5-star government safety rating overall; and 5 star ratings for front crash (driver and passenger sides) and side crash (front and rear seats); The only non 5-star rank is the 4-star rollover rating. Not too shabby.

In addition, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert  is now standard equipment on the Sonata. That’s something that’s only optional on the competition, so it’s a score for the Sonata. Other safety features such as forward collision warning, lane keep assist and auto emergency braking are optional.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2018 Hyundai Sonata
  • Price as tested: $25,710
  • Best feature: Responsive ride, safety features
  • Rating: 4 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Midsize sedan buyers seeking an enjoyable, safe ride
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The 2018 Toyota Avalon hybrid is a rare find -- full-size sedan with a hybrid option.

In the world of non-luxury hybrid vehicles, the Toyota Avalon hybrid is a unique animal. With the vast majority of hybrid sedan offerings being in the midsize or compact realms, this is the only hybrid offered to U.S. buyers among full-size sedans. And considering that full-size sedans are already a rare offering, the Avalon hybrid is sort of a rarity within a rarity.

I recently spent some time in this unicorn and I’m back with a full report on my experience.

LOOKS

The Avalon is the largest sedan offered by Toyota, and you can tell when you get inside. It’s spacious all around, and feel very comfortable for all passengers. My only complaint on size is that the trunk could have been bigger. Materials used are quite high-end, as least when compared to all other non-luxury sedans (and even some of the entry-level luxury models).

 

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2018 Toyota Avalon hybrid
  • Price as tested: $44,302 (starts at $37,500)
  • Best feature: Excellent fuel mileage for a large sedan, comfort/quality of interior
  • Rating: 4 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Hybrid sedan buyers who want strong mileage and some roominess in their vehicle
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Kia Optima hybrid gets a high-tech update Featured

Dec 29, 2017
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The 2017 Kia Optima hybrid competes well in the busy segment of midsize hybrid sedans.

The midsize sedan is a key battleground for hybrid vehicles, with everything from the Fusion and Malibu to the Camry and Accord and Sonata in the mix. But there’s another contender that saw some major upgrades for the 2017 model that is looking to stake its claim -- the Kia Optima hybrid.

I recently spent some time in an Optima hybrid and I’m back with a full report.

LOOKS
The exterior of the Optima is one of the better looks in this class, in particular if you opt for the all glass panoramic roof. The interior can also be one of the most well-appointed for the class.

Dual-zone auto climate control with rear vents is standard, and you can opt for leather trimmed seating, heated and ventilated front seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and heated rear seats.

Space inside the Optima hybrid is about standard for the segment, and rear passengers will be comfortable. Five can be seated without any complaints.

16-inch wheels come on the base model, but you can upgrade to 17 inches.

 

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2017 Kia Optima hybrid
  • Price as tested: $26K to $35K
  • Best feature: Top-notch technology and safety features, affordability
  • Rating: Four out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Hybrid sedan buyers looking to get a lot of features for less money
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The Cadillac CT6 is a formidable competitor among flagship luxury sedans.

When it comes to high-end vehicles, there are luxury sedans, and then there are flagship luxury sedans -- the creme de la creme full-size vehicles that will shine brighter than the rest of the crowd.

For Cadillac, that flagship is the Cadillac CT6, which has been around since 2016 and competes against the likes of the Audi A8, BMW 7 series, Lexus LS, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. That’s stiff competition, but after testing a 2018 CT6 I can say with confidence that Cadillac pulls through in style, power and technology to make it a very fair fight. Read on for a full report.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2018 Cadillac CT6
  • Price as tested: $91,685 (starting price is $54,095)
  • Best feature: Superb Cadillac styling, powerful engine options, excellent tech features
  • Rating: 4.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Luxury car buyers who want to get a full-size sedan and save a bundle over non-domestic alternatives
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2018 Kia Rio offers low price, impressive interior Featured

Dec 02, 2017
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The 2018 Kia Rio is the automaker's offering in the subcompact category, and comes in four-door or five-door (hatchback) versions.

Cars come in all shapes and sizes, and serve various purposes.

And while all the hype is about larger vehicles these days, for people who don’t need much cargo space and are seeking a commuter car, there are a lot of options in the subcompact category -- including the 2018 Kia Rio, which I recently had a chance to test.

LOOKS

The 2018 Kia Rio is a little sedan, by all measures (as the term subcompact would clearly indicate). The back seat was nearly non-existent (only small children will fit comfortably), and my head was near the ceiling (I’m six feet tall). The vehicle is made for single people who don’t carry a family around, or families who need a second, smaller car for getting to and from work.


On the plus side, I was very impressed with the sharp red and black color scheme in my test model, which featured quality and comfortable leather seating. There was lots of hard plastic in the Rio,  as can be expected in the class, but the seats themselves are impressive for the class.

The exterior didn’t stand out much in the class, and mostly blended in.Space is also an issue, not only for passengers but also for trunk space, which is limited. You do, however, get the choice between four-door and five-door (hatchback) offerings.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2018 Kia Rio
  • Price as tested: $20,225 (base price is $13,900)
  • Best feature: Affordability, interior design/comfort
  • Rating: 3.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Small car buyers on a budget
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The Lexus IS 200t offers a unique look in the class of compact luxury sedans.

Those considering their first foray into the world of luxury cars have a cornucopia of impressive options at the entry level -- with notables including the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3-series and the Cadillac ATS. But there’s one entry from the Asian market that should also not be overlooked -- the Lexus IS.


I recently spent some time in a 2017 Lexus IS 200t, and I’m back with a full report on how it compares in this heavyweight segment.


LOOKS

One thing I can tell you with certainty: You won’t confuse the look of the Lexus IS with any of its competitors. Lexus’ bold front grille design is one of the most recognizable in the auto industry, and the brand has done a great job distinguish its look from the European models. It’s not trying to blend in, and that’s a good thing.

Is it a beautiful design? That’s up for debate. It won’t be to everyone, that’s for sure, and some people may downright dislike it. But no one will say Lexus is trying to follow the crowd. I’ve always been a fan of originality.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2017 Lexus IS 200t
  • Price as tested: $45,324 (base price is $37,825)
  • Best feature: Unique look, well-designed interior, responsive ride
  • Rating: 3.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Those in search of a fun entry-level compact luxury sedan
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The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid is aimed at the eco-friendly buyer.

No ifs, ands or buts about it: When Hyundai came up with the new Ioniq -- which comes in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and EV-only varieties -- it had one thing on its mind: Siphoning buyers away from the Toyota Prius.

That’s no easy task, with the Prius having carried the banner for hybrids for two decades now, but it’s a task Hyundai is taking seriously.

Of the three versions of the Ioniq, I tested the one that is most accessible and likely to succeed, the hybrid, and I’m back with a full report.


LOOKS

If we’re talking hybrids and the topic is looks, there’s bound to be some shade thrown in the process. That’s because these vehicles often have what I can only call “unique” looks, that won’t always sit well with everyone. Thankfully, the design of the Ioniq hybrid is somewhat tame compared to the goofier/bolder design of the Prius, which may be a blessing for Hyundai if people cross-shop. Even those who love driving a Prius often mention the looks as something that could be improved, and I would say the Ioniq wins the beauty contest, both inside and out, over the Prius.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid
  • Price as tested: $25,910
  • Best feature: Fuel economy, which is the whole point of the Ioniq
  • Rating: 3.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Hybrid buyers seeking to maximize fuel economy and looking for a more affordable alternative
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