Kia has taken the once so-so Rio subcompact and turned it into a contender in this increasingly crowded marketplace. Right off, you notice the more sporty, sophisticated exterior styling, thanks to new sculpted contours and a posture that makes a 1.6-liter car look fun. Inside, the Rio delivers high marks for its class. The design not only ensures you won’t be bored behind the wheel, the newly extended wheelbase offers expanded passenger room. Fuel economy gets a boost with the 1.6-liter Gasoline Direct Injection engine when equipped with Idle Stop and Go system, which shuts off the engine when the car is at rest. There are three trim models: LX, EX and SX. Unfortunately, for driving aficionados, the 6-speed manual is only available in the LX, while EX and SX get the mandatory 6-speed automatic. Choose the Rio 5-Door hatchback…really.
Introduced in 2006, Hyundai’s minivan sees little change for 2008 save for a few minor interior package changes (optional power equipment package with dual power side doors, back-up warning system, audio controls on the steering wheel, etc.) and the availability of Bluetooth phone connectivity. The Entourage comes with thoughtful standard features: three-zone climate control with dual driver/front-passenger settings for all three seating sections and heated side mirrors. Active front head restraints are part of the safety fare. The 3.8-liter V-6 produces an impressive 250 bhp in a fairly quiet if workmanlike manner, its 5-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and allows drivers to manually toggle through the gears via the gear selection lever, thanks to Hyundai’s Shiftronic setup.
The soft interior materials are of a high quality all around, as should be expected in any car with this price. They've always been good with Acura. Premium Milano leather is standard for the first two rows, while satin and simulated wood-grain trim accents the cabin. The steering wheel is stitched leather.
The instrumentation is well laid out, and the display screen is shaded and easy to read. The gauges are beautifully backlit with LED lighting, while LED lamps with programmable brightness are used on the center console and front foot wells.
One major change and improvement for 2014 is the center stack, now with 9 buttons where there used to be 41. The layout saves significant space, now used for storage forward of the shift lever.
Center console storage space has more than doubled in size, thanks to repackaging of the HVAC system; it's under a sliding leather armrest. It can easily hold a purse and tablet computer, maybe both. Big SUVs and pickup trucks have center consoles like this, but not many luxury crossovers.
Front seats are on the roomy side, we'd prefer more bolstering, especially with a car that boasts Super Handling. And the A-pillar gets in the way of forward and downward visibility.
All three rows of seats are more than one inch lower, which not only improves ingress and egress, but reduces body roll. Except in the case of the driver, you'll want to crank the seat up so it gives that command-of-the-road position of a big SUV.
The longer wheelbase and more compact rear suspension allow for entry to the rear seats that's 4.5 inches wider, and 1.8 inches lower at step-in when compared with pre-2014 MDX models. It's a relative delight to get in and out. The second-row seatbacks have five reclining positions, and six inches of travel to make maximum legroom; snooze time on road trips.
The second row flops down with a touch of one button located in three places, so it couldn't be much easier to reach the third row. Acura calls it One-Touch-Walk-In, and it is.
The ILX is an all-new offering from Acura in the compact luxury sedan class. The ILX looks to provide an entry point into the Acura line-up for first-time luxury buyers.
The ILX buyer has a choice between two different powertrains, a 150-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired to a five-speed automatic with paddle shifters; or a more powerful 2.4-liter making 201-hp through a six-speed manual transmission. The ILX includes a long list of standard features such as keyless access with push-button ignition, heated exterior mirrors, aluminum wheels, speed sensing wipers, leather steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth cellular and audio connectivity, Pandora internet radio, power glass sunroof and a rearview camera. Standard safety features include electronic stability and traction control, active front head restraints, tire pressure monitoring, six airbags and anti-lock brakes with panic assist. Premium and Technology packages provide even more luxury features such as a navigation system with real-time traffic, HomeLink and a 10-speaker Acura/ELS sound system.
For 2014, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated seats and a power driver seat are standard equipment on the 2.0L trim.
Nissan's Quest is so new that it enters 2012 with no changes. There is already plenty to work with if you're in the minivan market. The Nissan has a bold "face" and is boxy, which is appropriate to minivans. Like any good people-hauler, the interior is quite flexible, making it a place to haul the family or cargo. The easy fold-flat second- and third-row seats see to that, and the third row folds forward so there's no need to stow it. The standard and optional equipment list is extensive, some obvious, such as the one-touch power sliding doors. Others are just simply great ideas, like the Advanced Climate Control system that reduces allergens and bad smells. Or the fill alert that beeps the horn when you've inflated the tires properly.