MAY 2015
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE,

2015 HONDA CR-V In 2012, the Honda CR-V (Comfortable Runabout Vehicle) underwent a major transformation. And once again, the compact SUV has been refreshed this year though not on a massive scale. But it’s all for the better.

Offered as a front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the 2015 CR-V acquires the Accord’s direct-injection power train: a 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine that puts out 185 horsepower @ 6400 rpm and 181 (up by 18) pounds-feet of torque @ 3900 rpm. Power is put to the road via a new continuously variable transmission. An independent MacPherson strut front and a multilink rear suspension isolates occupants from road noise and rough bumps. The motion-adaptive Electric Power Steering, which nixes use of hoses and pumps, translates into gas savings.

The CR-V continues to maintain an aggressive and sleek look with restyled front/rear body work, mirrors and wheels. Ensconced on the unit-body structure is a horizontal two-bar grille surrounded by projector-beam halogen headlights and fog lamps underneath.

Step into the airy cabin and you will discover a new center console and armrest as well as freshly added rear air vents. The 60/40 rear seat is easy to fold. Just pull the small levers located near the tailgate and you have a flat seat to haul cargo. Our test-drive Touring trim came with rich-looking leather on the seats, steering wheel and shifter knob. Honda has been able to eke out more savings at the pump with the 2015 model (at least 3 mpg over its predecessor). And for further boost in fuel efficiency, just press the eco button on the left of the instrument panel. Also standard are dual-zone auto climate control, 7-inch display for audio/navigation system with voice recognition and rearview camera, tilt/telescopic steering column, sunglass holder, push-button start, 10-way power driver’s seat and driver information center.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag with rollover system, Vehicle Stability Assist, traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, forward collision and lane departure warnings, lane keep assist, collision mitigation braking system, three-point seatbelts, front/rear crumple zones, front-seat active head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. A handy feature is LaneWatch, which displays a wide-angle view of the passenger side road on the i-MID (Intelligent Multi-Information Display). The image appears when the right turn signal is activated.

Indeed, the CR-V maintains not just its car-like ride but also is a passenger- and cargo-hauler with an even more exceptional gearbox and improved fuel mileage. Honda’s reputation for durability and reliability should help seal the deal.



2016 Mazda CX-5 Mazda doesn’t believe in resting on its laurels. Take the 2016 CX-5, for instance. This compact crossover is barely in its third year (if you recall, it replaced the Tribute and CX-7) and has already been overhauled. Seating five in comfort and style, the sporty ride sticks to its reliable power train. Its 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder engine still develops 184 horsepower @ 5700 rpm and 185 pounds-feet of torque @ 3250 rpm while coupled to a 6-speed auto transmission. And whether you choose the front-wheel or all-wheel drive, it is equipped with the direct-injection Skyactiv, which uses a torque boost via a high compression ratio to increase fuel economy. We averaged 27.5 mpg in combined driving (AWD) to beat 26 mpg EPA estimates (city 24, highway 30). Noticeably lowered for 2016 are noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.

The new and bolder five-point grille is flanked by black trapezoidal eagle-eyed halogen headlights. Also fresh is the fog lamp surround look as well as LED headlights on some trims. The well-crafted and intelligently-designed cabin conveys a classy and tailored look. Head and legroom is adequate for adults and, best of all, is the 40/20/40 split rear seat, which folds flat via a lever release in the trunk. This opens up 64.8 cubic feet of space in the cargo hold or you can still eke out 34.1 cubic feet with occupied seats.

The CX-5 is available in base Sport ($21,795), Touring ($25,215) and Grand Touring. Changes for 2016 include a new electronic brake, upgraded center console, dash and armrest design, and a larger 7-inch screen (up from previous 5.8) for navigation, audio controls. Standard amenities include power windows and door locks, push-button start, Bluebooth phone capabilities, trip computer and a tilt/telescopic steering column. Our top-level Grand Touring arrived with dual-zone auto climate control, leather seats, power sun roof, push-button start, heated front seats, metallic-finish trim, eight-way driver’s seat and a Bose sound system.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, dynamic stability and traction controls, four-wheel antilock brakes, hill launch assist, blind spot monitoring system, rear-cross traffic alert, front/rear crumple zones and stabilizer bars, rearview camera, three-point safety belts for all, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

In just two years, the CX-5 has carved a slot in the competitive compact crossover segment. The 2016 facelift makes the ride, which delivers generous cargo/passenger room, sportiness and worthy fuel mileage, even more appealing.



2016 Kia SorentoIt’s bigger in wheelbase by 3.1 inches and width by 0.2 inches. Also overall cargo volume is up by 1.5 cubic feet and rear-seat passenger room by 0.5 cubic feet from its predecessor. Best of all, apart from the 2.4 and 3.3-liter GDI engines, the 2016 Kia Sorento is now equipped with an all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. This GDI power train puts out 240 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 260 pounds-feet of torque @ 3500 rpm. Seating five (seven is also offered in other trims), our midsize SUV is coupled with the steadfast 6-speed auto transmission.

The front-wheel or all-wheel-drive (which was ours) Sorento sticks to an independent MacPherson front strut and multilink rear suspension. The Electric Motion Driven Power steering ensures a firm feel and response. Normal, eco and sport drive modes are offered.

Up front, we must admit the LED fog lamp pockets stand out more than even the narrower projector-style headlights, mesh grille and lower intake on the steel unibody SUV. But it is the sumptuous and elegant cabin, packed with abundant creature comforts, that wins hands down. The center gauge cluster shows off a digital speedometer, flanked by analog tachometer, fuel and engine temp readings. Space is plenty with a recline-and-fold 40/20/40 second-row seat with manual sunshades. All in all, you get 74 cubic feet of space with the seats down. Second-row passengers are treated to ample head, knee and leg room. Also standard are 14-way power driver and eight-way passenger seats, heated/cooled seats, dual-zone auto climate control, push-button start, 8-inch display screen, tilt/telescopic steering column, driver information center, Infinity sound system, power lift gate and piano black trim.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, Electronic Stability and traction control, Downhill Brake Control, Hill Assist Control, four-wheel antilock brakes with Brake Assist, front active headrests, side impact door beams, front/rear crumple zones, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, rearview camera and parking sensors, rollover sensor and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

Our hats go to Kia for inducting the 2.0 turbo engine into the well-rounded Sorento lineup. By no means is the new power train inadequate to haul the 4,000-pound SUV. To top it all, the Korean carmaker’s basic 5-year, 60,000-mile and 10-year, 100,000-mile limited power train warranties are tough to beat.


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