2020 Toyota Camry- Aiming for Above Mr. Average

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The macrocosm of automobile enthusiasts has many layers. Some car nuts get off with hydraulics that bounce their rides several feet in the air. Some raise their trucks high enough to look eye-to-eye with the Rocky Mountains whilst crushing any obstacles in-between. Some lunatics on the outer fringes add more speakers than a Drake concert or cover their cars in sod, or some type of modern art. And when you think about it, performance cars that can do 0-60mph times in less than three seconds are stuck in the same bumper-to-bumper LA traffic. They just like to make a grander entrance. But there’s one undeniable group of car enthusiasts that outnumbers the rest of them; the Toyota Camry owners.

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2019 Hyundai Sonata- The Pendulum Swings

There’s an old adage that “you can’t please everyone.” Hyundai knows that all-too-well when it comes to its long-running family sedan; the Sonata. Picture it…….the United States….2010. Hyundai debuts its radical fifth generation Sonata to much fanfare. For the first time ever, there were waitlists for……a….Hyundai sedan. Annual sales nearly doubled by the time I tested that Sonata in 2013 and the car became a true force to be reckoned with. But alas, all was not well in the kingdom and back in Hyundai’s home market, the new look was too showy for Korea’s conservative tastes. To win those buyers back, Hyundai went a conservative route with the all-new sixth generation in 2015. The tactic worked, initially. But like the little Dutch boy plugging the hole in the dike with his finger to save Haarlem, another leak sprung and demand in America dropped to pre-2010 levels. Desperate to find middle ground, Hyundai did a major refresh in 2018 to liven up the Sonata’s personality in an effort to make everyone happy. But can they, and did they, succeed?

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2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport- Tying the Knot

It was irony, in an Alanis Morrissette sense, that my husband and I would have a Mitsubishi Outlander Sport during our anniversary weekend. We’ve been together for nine long blissful years and our relationship has endured as long as the Outlander Sport has been on sale. Coincidentally, when our relationship was fresh back in 2011, so was the Outlander Sport during the model’s first year on the market. And while we’ve both evolved in that near-decade, the same can’t be said for the little “Mitsu.” Aside from an occasional trim change throughout the years, the 2019 model you see in this photo is almost interchangeable with the original. The Outlander Sport is the grand-daddy of CUV’s and the subject of scrutiny from many car critics. But is it well past its prime, or gotten better with age?

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2019 Renault Kwid- Kwid Pro Go!

“Your car is going to be a Renault Kwid”, declared the upbeat hire car agent in a matter-of-fact tone. “A Kwiiddd?”, I slurred as my mouth wrapped around the stunted word. It rhymes with “squid”, and is pronounced exactly like “quid”, the slang term for the British Pound. But I had no idea what type of car this quirky namebadge would be attached to. My delicate ego had been bruised as I pride myself for being a self-proclaimed encyclopedia of cars. This one had me stumped. Like a spotter scouring the woods for Bigfoot, there was much anticipation as a I approached stall #14 at the Cape Town Airport to score my first-ever Kwid sighting. Then voila! In an anticlimactic moment, concealed behind a Land Cruiser, was the small, diminutive silver car that you see in the above photo.

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2019 Renault Captur- The French CUV Connection

Maybe it’s my simpleton taste buds, but I’ve never appreciated French cuisine.  Bouillabaisse, moules mariníères, and escargot may please the most demanding pallets, but are much too complicated, and let’s face it, strange, for my asinine taste buds.  The amount of work and presentation that goes into preparing these dishes is admired, but the flavours go by the wayside.  Nope, give me an unappreciated crepe or chocolate mousse any day.  Much like their delicacies, French cars have had a similar destiny.  For decades, their cars have always been perplexing, intricate, and once again, strange.  Some are so bizarre, like the infamous Citroen 2CV (that in itself is a symbol of France) or super futuristic Renault Avantime van, that the only word to describe them is “waouh!”  But the car, highlighted in this article, is the approachable Nutella crepe on the French menu; the Renault Captur.

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2019 Ford F-150- Let Freedom Ring

Ladies and gentlemen, the truck before you is the most popular vehicle in all of America. This is the Big Kahuna. The automotive heavyweight. The Big Cheese. The Big Enchilada. The Top Dog. It’s what every new car strives to be; popular and a huge moneymaker. And this is not just a fluke. Year and year, two things are certain; we’ve completed another circle around the Sun and the Ford F-150 was, yet again, number one in U.S. sales. The F-Series has been the best selling truck since 1977, and best selling vehicle, of any kind, since 1986. Last year alone, over 909,000 F-150’s found their way from the bustling Dearborn and Kansas City factories into driveways. Those numbers are more than double of the best selling passenger car, the Toyota Camry, and more than the entire Hyundai brand. Yeap, the F-150 couldn’t be more American if it played the Star Spangled Banner and had bold eagles released from its rugged bed. It was time to get acquainted with this American all-star to learn how it gets its mojo.

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2018 Nissan Versa- The McDaddy of Small Cars

Someone at Nissan must’ve been paying attention to Ray Kroc’s business playbook for McDonald’s; sell ’em in big volume, sell’ em cheap, and- oh, yeah- sell ’em in big portions. For the better part of this decade, the Nissan Versa has tenaciously defended its title as America’s most affordable car. Against a dwindling legion of subcompacts, such as the Chevrolet Spark and Mitsubishi Mirage, the Versa has stubbornly undercut the price of admission by several hundred dollars year-after-year. Compared to the competition, the Versa has always boasted more interior room, a larger engine, and, for American tastes, a more formal sedan instead of a chintzy, poverty-spec hatchback. The tactic worked, and the Versa is handily the best selling subcompact in the country. Since the debut of this second generation in 2012, Nissan has moved over 660,000 Versas. Impressive for a category that is often the butt-of-late night jokes. So I was thrilled to inherit the keys to a Versa sedan and see what makes the country’s cheapest car, about a third of the cost of the average new car, tick.

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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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