2019 Dodge Grand Caravan- Long Live, the Minivan King

Throughout the pages of automotive history, there’s a handful of icons that forever changed the driving landscape and society. The Ford Model T, for example, was the first vehicle that made car ownership obtainable for the masses; not just the elite. The Pontiac GTO spawned the muscle car craze over 50 years ago that continues to this day. The Toyota Prius became the first hybrid that was a household name and enlightened the public that hybrids were practical and not just science experiments. But what about the lowly minivan? We take them for granted today as the go-to, soul-sucking choice for parents who have given up on life. But at one time they were nothing short of revolutionary. The Dodge Caravan, when introduced in 1984, was a breakthrough in packaging and kickstarted the minivan craze. Now that the market and Caravan have matured over the years, let’s see how the Granddaddy of minivans stacks up.

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2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen- The Diesels of Our Lives

What we have here are the makings of a television soap opera. Or for the Mexican-built Jetta Sportwagen, a “telenovela”. The little humble, red wagon that you see in the picture above was the subject of lust, desire, betrayal, and scandal. There were a few plot twists that emerged during the Sportwagen’s tenure in the VW lineup until it was discontinued in 2014. Those bombshells lead to obtaining the keys for this five-year-old grocery-getter from a rental lot in 2019. That’s right, this is not an old review that was stashed away in the Disney Vault. It’s a fresh writeup about a model that has not been manufactured for half a decade. But it has an interesting story that forever influenced the automotive landscape and should be shared. This blog rarely dips its toes into politics and chemistry, and as much as I’d love to just dwell on the Jetta’s qualities, it’s unavoidable in this juicy tale.

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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe- The Zia Sun Still Shines

It was only befitting that our test car in the proud state of New Mexico was the all-new 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. Refer to your geography books, or what you learned in sixth grade, and you’ll recall that Santa Fe is the capital of the self-proclaimed “Land of Enchantment”. Aside from sharing the same namesake, the city and the vehicle each have historical significance. Founded in 1610 by Spanish colonists, Santa Fe retains its title as the oldest U.S. state capital after it became the seat of government for the new colony of Nuevo Mexico. Debuting for 2001, the Santa Fe marked a major shift for Hyundai when it became the brand’s first, and currently longest-serving, SUV. But that’s where the similarities end. One is made of abode. The other is primarily steel. The city has 65,000 inhabitants. The car can only hold a maximum of five. But wait! Isn’t the Santa Fe capable of holding seven?! While that was recently true, it’s also marks a change in the Santa Fe’s evolution as it enters its fourth generation, and like the city, reflects back on its humble roots.

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2019 Hyundai Elantra- Bizarre Triangle Love

There’s a death chant for the sedan across America. More and more car buyers are discovering the attributes and conceived rugged image of crossover SUV’s and migrating from the traditional sedan in droves. Case in point, Ford has pledged that they will discontinue all of their cars (bar the Mustang) to…ahem….focus solely on trucks and CUV’s by 2020. Rumours circulate that GM may follow suit. But don’t tell Hyundai and their buyers. Of the seven vehicle lineup that they offered in 2018, including three SUV’s, the Elantra was easily the best selling model for the brand and 7th best selling car in the country. Over 200,000 found homes last year, outpacing the next runner-up, the Tucson compact crossover, by more than 65,000 units. Of all the Hyundais sold in the U.S., one in four was an Elantra. For every Velostar that left the dealer, they were able to move 20 Elantras. You get the idea; the Elantra sells! Against all odds and the writing on the wall, the second-smallest Hyundai is tenaciously bucking the trend. But what makes buyers keep coming back for this compact sedan? Let’s find out.

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2018 Jeep Renegade- Please Like Me

Ahhhh…… the Renegade. There’s already a collective, uncontainable tribal chant from diehard Jeep devotees with this car, and this review. “That isn’t a real Jeep!” is the universal outcry.

“It’s a Fiat! It’s not a real Jeep!”

“It’s not American! It’s not a real Jeep!”

“It can’t off-road! It’s not a real Jeep!”

Okay, okay! Let’s get all of this out in the open before discussing the Renegade any further. No, it is not a Wrangler. It never was intended to be and never will. The Wrangler will always hold the title as the most iconic and capable Jeep out there. But, with Wrangler prices skyrocketing north of $40k and becoming unobtainable for the masses, this little critter starts below $20k and is intended for budget minded buyers and soft-roaders who can’t afford the “real Jeep”. The two products do not overlap or compete, and the Renegade is not replacing the Wrangler anytime soon (unlike the situation 30 years ago when Ford planned on replacing the beloved Mustang with the Probe). Sure, it’s built in Italy on a platform shared with the Fiat 500X. Yet Jeep has beefed up the suspension, raised the ground clearance, and added the same 4WD systems that are shared with other noteworthy Jeep models, namely the Cherokee. Sure it’s the first Jeep product ever built outside of North America, but this is becoming a globalised world. Now that all of our panties aren’t in bunch, let’s move on…..

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2018 Kia Forte- The Name Game

What’s in a name? Well, according to Kia; a lot. Their compact sedan offerings have gone through a slew of names over the past two decades. Released for 1994, their first compact player in the U.S., the Kia Sephia, not only sounded like a car from a Dr. Seuss story, but was equally fun to read out loud. That car lasted two generations until being replaced by the more serious Spectra in 2004. The more grown-up moniker reflected on Kia’s ambitious goals to be a major contender in the industry. Finally, the Spectra was replaced by the Forte in 2008, and the name has since tenaciously stuck through three generations. The definition of “forte” is a strength or skill, and Kia would like to make you think that their small car as a strong competitor. But does the name stack up?

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2016 Kia Sportage- The Ultimate Battle of Sport VS Utility

thumbnail_image9Ask any Kia enthusiast (and yes, they do exist) which model is the longest running nameplate in the brand’s history, and the easy answer is “the Sportage!”.  Sure, the Kia brand has been around since 1944, but didn’t reach U.S. shores until five decades later; 1994.  The Sportage arrived a year later and has been a common sight in Kia showrooms ever since.  That first Sportage, along with the Suzuki Sidekick/Geo Tracker twins, and the Toyota RAV4 shortly after, helped kick-start the small “cute-ute” SUV craze that continues to this day.  That inaugural Sportage was indeed cute, adorable even, and being based on a Mazda truck platform, was a rugged, capable off-roader.  A random, useless triva note is that it was also the first production vehicle ever to have a knee airbag, way back in 1997.  Despite all of that, a lot has changed with the Sportage and Kia since then.  That’s our excuse to look at Kia’s most well-established model.

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