JULY 2017
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE – motoringtampabay@gmail.com

2017 HYUNDAI IONIQ HATCHBACK HYBRID The wonderful city and state/regional parks of Durham, N.C., served as the backdrop for our test drive of Hyundai’s all-new compact vehicle, Ioniq, to compete with the ever-popular Toyota Prius. In Blue, SEL and Limited trims, the front-wheel-drive hatchback will be available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure electric vehicle.

HYBRID: A 1.6-liter gas direct-injection 4-cylinder engine, coupled with a 32 kW electric motor and 1.56 kWh, 240-volt lithium-ion polymer battery, will put out a total of 139 horsepower. Instead of the usual continuous variable transmission in most hybrid vehicles, the Ioniq gets the smooth-shifting 6-speed auto gearbox. With the 60/40 rear seat folded, there is 26.5 cubic feet of space. And the battery is under the rear seat, opening up more cabin room. Regenerative braking allows the vehicle, when coasting or slowing down, to capture kinetic energy that would be lost. It converts the energy into useable electricity to recharge the battery.

Standard amenities on the base Blue model include dual auto a/c, premium cloth seats with 6-way height-adjustable front seats, 4.2-inch LCD instrument panel, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and a 7-inch touchscreen display.

Safety is assured via dual front and side airbags, driver knee airbag, side curtain airbag, vehicle stability and traction control system, hill start assist, four-wheel antilock brakes, rearview camera and tire pressure monitoring system.

On an 11.9-gallon tank, the Ioniq touts EPA mileage figures of 57 city and 54 highway, which assure you of at least going over 550 miles before a refill. Base priced affordably at just $22,200, we can bet the impressive Ioniq will definitely serve as a fierce competitor to the hot-selling Prius.

PLUG-IN: This version, which should be available by the fourth quarter, goes 27 miles on pure electric. It is also equipped with a 1.6-liter Atkinson four-cylinder engine, 45 kW (60 hp) electric motor and an 8.9 kWh lithium-ion battery.

ELECTRIC: To be sold only in California, the electric Ioniq will have a 124-mile drive range with a 136 MPGe rating. It can put out 118 hp and 218 pounds-feet of torque with the 28 kWh lithium-ion battery.

Look for a detailed review of the Ioniq in the near future.


2017 KIA SOULAs if 161 horsepower wasn’t enough, the Kia Soul now gets a bump to 201 hp @ 6000 rpm, thanks to an all-new 1.6-liter gas-direct 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. Also receiving a boost is torque of 45 to 195 @ 4500 rpm. And out goes the previous 6-speed auto to be replaced by a seamless 7-speed gearbox. Regardless of these and other changes, nowhere on the road would you miss the funky, tall and boxy look of the subcompact wagon. Indeed, it has turned out to be one of the turnaround vehicles for the rapidly-growing Korean carmaker.

Redesigned clear-lens headlights and fog lamps flank the chrome grille surround up front as the high-mounted vertical tail lamps stand out in the rear. For the first time, the Soul gets dual chrome twin-tip exhaust. The 4.3-inch instrument cluster hosts deeply recessed gauges while an 7-inch touch screen displays navigation, radio and vehicle readings. Storage areas are abundant: there’s the two-tier glove box, center armrest bin and best of all a huge under-floor cargo organizer. Auto a/c, 60/40 split fold rear seat, 10-way power driver’s seat, D-shaped leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel, remote keyless entry, push-button start and power windows and door locks are standard.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, vehicle stability and traction control, rearview camera, front seatbelts pretensioners, hill start assist, front/rear crumple zones, side impact door beams and tire pressure monitoring come at no extra cost.

The reasonable Soul is an attention-grabber. At the same time, the wagon delivers a decent amount of power to result in a comfortable and classy ride. Plus, the Soul comes with notable power train, basic and roadside assistance warranties. Beat that, competitors!



2017 LEXUS GS200tThis entry-level luxury sedan was inducted just last year into the Lexus GS stable. Though weighing 3,805 pounds, the GS200t is a splendid peppy ride that can take off 0 to 60 mph in just 7 seconds with top speed of 143 mph.

A 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline-4 cylinder gas engine pumps out 241 horsepower @ 5800 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm. The rear-wheel-drive car is mated to a standard 7-speed auto gearbox, which also can be shifted via steering-wheel paddles. Soaking up hurdles with skill, sure-footedness and poise is a double wishbone front and multilink rear suspension. Handling and steering feel is solid, thanks to a variable-speed sensing power system. And depending on road conditions (and sometimes the mood!), you can take off in eco, sport, normal or sport+ modes.

Ensconced on the unitized steel body are arrowhead-shaped BI-LED headlights surrounded by the Lexus spindle grille, and LED rear combination lamps. The F Sport package ($7,670) will get you heated/cooled front seats, power rear sunshine, 14-inch front-brake rotors with four-piston calipers, 16-way power driver’s seat, Naguri aluminum trim, black headliner, among other performance-oriented traits. Luxury amenities include power tilt/slide moon roof, dual-zone auto a/c, power tilt/telescopic steering column, keyless access and start, and LED ambient lights. And you can toggle navigation, climate, audio and phone controls for the massive 12.3-inch touch screen with a mouse-like controller on the console.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management with stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, front/rear crumple zones, three-point seatbelts for all, collapsible steering column, blind-spot monitor, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. Lexus Safety System, which consists of pre-collision warning and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and lane keep assist, is new for 2017.

If in the market for an entry-level luxury sedan with an energetic turbo engine under the hood, decent gas mileage and ample creature comforts, the GS200t fits the bill. Indeed, its addition to the GS lineup makes sense. And a lot of difference.



2017 TOYOTA AVALON HYBRIDFor 2017, the Avalon hybrid continues as is except for a now-standard Toyota Safety Sense, which includes a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians, lane departure assist and dynamic cruise control. Otherwise, the fine front-wheel-drive car ekes out 40 city/39 highway stretching the miles to over 600 on a full tank. It all comes at a somewhat hefty price – $42,550.

Once again, the 2.5-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder gas engine puts out 156 horsepower @5700 rpm and 156 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. It is coupled to an electric motor, which boasts hp up to 200. The sedan is fitted with a 244.8-volt nickel-metal hydride battery, which is recharged by energy captured as the driver applies the brakes or coasts. Also, the Continuous Variable Transmission-equipped car gets a regenerative braking system.

The Avalon operates in three modes: EV, which allows the car to travel for about a mile at 20 mph in perfect conditions; Eco, which is an efficient mode where the driver can control the throttle opening; sport, for the enthusiast behind the wheel. Just keep an eye on the needle-type Hybrid System Indicator and you will eke out substantial fuel savings.

That this is a hybrid version of the sedan is evident from the blue tint in the Toyota emblems as well as the badging on both front side doors. White-ice interior ambient lights enhance the cabin look and feel along with striking wood that dots the dashboard. Other niceties include three-zone auto a/c, power rear sunshade and moon roof, 10-way power driver and 8-way front-passenger seats, heated and cooled front seats and perforated leather seats. Storage bins are abundant in the 102.3 cubic feet of passenger space though the trunk area (14 cubic feet) is limited because of the battery.

The Avalon hybrid is a good-looking, practical and admirable gas sipper that will take you to Miami and back home in comfort and style. All you need to do is fill ’er up.


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