Displaying items by tag: SUV

 The verdict: The 2022 Hyundai Kona’s tidy dimensions make it city-friendly, while available all-wheel drive and decent cargo space make it a true SUV.

Versus the competition: The Kona’s engaging road manners make it more fun to drive than many in this class, but a tight backseat and small cargo area make it one of the smallest you can buy.

The 2022 Hyundai Kona was updated with more dramatic exterior styling, additional rear legroom, and an updated multimedia system with larger screens. Hyundai has also added a sport-inspired N Line trim with more aggressive styling that uses the Kona’s upgraded turbocharged engine. 

The Kona competes in the ever-growing subcompact SUV class against the likes of the Honda HR-V, Kia Seltos and Subaru Crosstrek.

The Kona has a comfortable ride for a vehicle with such a short wheelbase. The ride is on the firm side, but it lacks the choppiness that can sometimes impact a tiny SUV’s ride quality. Bumps are decently absorbed and excessive body motions kept in check. Overall, it has a taut, controlled feel and a tight turning radius that helps with maneuverability. It’s engaging to drive but not overly sporty, though popping it into Sport mode helps.

The N Line trim also uses this engine, while a forthcoming performance-oriented Kona N will use a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 276 hp, paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. In the Limited, the 1.6-liter works with a revised version of 2021’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. That pair is an upgrade from the base powertrain, a 147-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder mated to a new continuously variable automatic transmission.

The powertrain in the Limited sometimes felt a little Jekyll and Hyde: composed one minute and moody the next. It pounced from a stop, and the quick-shifting — though abrupt — transmission kept things rolling nicely. At a stop, however, the engine felt and sounded rough, with a pronounced idle shudder that gave off an unrefined vibe. Against the competition, however, the Kona smokes the loud, slow Crosstrek (with its base engine) and the HR-V.

It does well when it comes to fuel economy, too. The Kona is rated 30/35/32 mpg city/highway/combined in base front-wheel-drive trim with the standard engine. The turbo 1.6-liter I tested has similar ratings with FWD, at 29/35/32 mpg; AWD brings it down a smidge to 27/32/29 mpg. Those numbers were achievable in real-world testing: I averaged 33 mpg during a 310-mile trip that included mostly highway driving.

The Kia Seltos, which is the Kona’s sibling, has the same powertrains and is rated similarly: 29/35/31 mpg in base FWD trim with the standard engine. The turbo 1.6-liter is available with AWD only and is rated lower, at 25/30/27 mpg. The Subaru Crosstrek’s base engine is also rated lower, at a weak 22/29/25 mpg with standard AWD and a standard manual transmission; opting for the CVT brings it up to 28/33/30 mpg. The Crosstrek’s larger engine is rated 27/34/29 mpg. Lastly, the Honda HR-V is rated 28/34/30 mpg in its base FWD trim.

Hyundai also offers an EV version of the Kona, but there’s a catch: The model, which uses a 201-hp electric motor and has a listed range of 258 miles, is only sold in the 12 states that require increasing sales of zero-emissions vehicles. Of the competitors listed here, it’s the only one with an electric-only variant available anywhere, though the Crosstrek is available as a plug-in hybrid.

Clean Controls, Dull Design

The cabin lacks any sense of style or design, with a black-on-black-on-black theme that just drags on. The highlight of the cabin is Hyundai’s refreshingly simple multimedia and control system, which the Kona thankfully still uses (other newer Hyundai models, such as the Tucson, have largely ditched it for a more complicated, touch-sensitive control system that has drawn our ire). For 2022, the previously standard 7-inch and optional 8-inch touchscreens have been replaced by 8- and 10.25-inch units. Both still have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the 8-inch unit adds wireless smartphone integration. As in the new Elantra, however, the 10.25-inch display reverts to wired smartphone connections.

I tested the larger screen, which sits high on the dash for good visibility and an easy reach; its large tuning and volume knobs are also handy. The system is easy to use thanks to a straightforward menu structure and a few extra touches, such as a helpful search function. This feature allows you to quickly access settings you’d like to adjust without hunting through menus.

One hiccup, and it’s one I’m used to, is the execution of Android Auto. Apple CarPlay uses the full width of the Kona’s widescreen, but Kona drivers with Android phones (like me!) have to settle for much less. The Android Auto interface displays in a much smaller section of the screen, with a black box taking up the rest of the space to its right.

There’s a setting to enable “split-screen” functionality, but it only displays minimally helpful info, including a compass, time and weather. I hoped it would show something Android Auto-related — like if the map were on the main screen, my audio choice could be on the little extra screen — but this isn’t the case.

Space Constraints

Even with additional rear legroom for 2022, the Kona is still on the smaller side of this class, and it shows when you get inside. With 35.2 inches of rear legroom, it trails the Seltos, HR-V and Crosstrek; the Kona also has a smidge less rear headroom than those competitors.

The backseat is tiny, but that little bit of extra room did help the 2022 Kona do better with car seat accommodation than older versions of the subcompact SUV, though it still didn’t secure top scores in our Car Seat Check.

In terms of cargo space, it again sits at the bottom of the pack. By Cars.com’s measurements, the Kona has 10.89 cubic feet of space, below the Subaru Crosstrek’s 13 cubic feet and well below the Kia Seltos’ 16.3 cubic feet. It’s not all bad, though: The cargo area is nice and tall, and it has a handy little underfloor storage area to contain smaller things. The front seat also has a decent amount of small-item storage space.

Safety and Value

The 2022 Hyundai Kona starts at  $22,375, and AWD adds $1,500 (prices include destination). It’s roughly the same price as a Honda HR-V and about $1,000 less than a base Kia Seltos  or Subaru Crosstrek, both of which come with AWD standard; the Crosstrek’s base model does, however, use a manual transmission.

The Kona I drove was a Limited AWD trim that cost $31,330. The only extra was a floormat package that cost $155.


The Kona’s price is appealing — and so is its safety features list, which has grown for 2022. The standard automatic emergency braking system with pedestrian detection adds optional cyclist detection for 2022. Hyundai’s lane-centering steering system, called Lane Following Assist, is also standard for ’22, along with  a driver attention monitor and a rear occupant reminder system that alerts you to check the backseat after you’ve parked.

Available features include adaptive cruise control (now with stop-and-go functionality), as well as upgraded blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert systems that gain braking intervention if they sense danger when you try to change lanes or back up, respectively.

As this crowded class continues to add models, shoppers are faced with an ever-growing list of choices, but if you’re looking for a small, affordable and fun SUV, the Kona stands out.


Published in Hyundai
Thursday, 25 November 2021 07:14

Lexus NX SUV review

New Lexus SUV is a huge upgrade over its predecessor


  • Comfortable and refined to drive
  • Good electric range
  • New infotainment long overdue


  • Not exactly exciting to drive
  • Only average practicality
  • Steering wheel controls confusing

Is the Lexus NX any good?

This is the new NX – Lexus’ answer to the likes of the BMW X3, Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60.

The old car was a big-seller for Lexus and the new model certainly hopes to inspire the same reaction. On paper, all looks promising. It’ll be available as a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid – Lexus’ first – and all models debut the brand’s new interior design, complete with shiny new infotainment.

Lexus says 95% of the car is new compared with its predecessor, but the styling hasn’t changed much in the process. It’s still a striking-looking thing, with a front end dominated by the brand’s signature ‘Spindle’ grille, while the sides and rear feature interesting surfacing. A full-width taillight dominates the tailgate.

Lexus NX rear three quarter
 We can absolutely say that this is a big improvement over the car it replaces – it’s better to drive, higher-tech, but retains Lexus hallmarks like comfort and reliability, backed up by up to 10 years of warranty cover. But is it as good as the competition?

What’s it like inside?

Lexus has given the NX a complete interior redesign, and while some aspects are recognisable from existing Lexus models the overall structure and shape is new and exciting.

The cockpit architecture is based around a concept called ‘Tazuna’ – supposedly mimicking how a horserider can control their steed through a single rein. Luckily, the NX retains a steering wheel and pedals, but it does mean the cabin has a strong driver focus, with controls closely grouped around the driver’s seat and the infotainment angled towards it.

Infotainment has been a stumbling block in Lexus models for at least the last decade thanks to the firm’s insistence on operating it via a joystick or later, a touchpad. We’re pleased to report that the all-new Lexus infotainment system, now fully touchscreen, works a treat.

Lexus NX interior
It’s controlled via a massive 14-inch screen (lower-spec models will have a 9.8-inch screen, but Lexus doesn’t expect to sell too many of those) which is bright, sharp and clear. The interface, though not as immediately intuitive as the system on a BMW X3, is nonetheless easy to navigate through and reasonably responsive.

It’s a vast improvement on what came before and we can’t wait for more Lexus models to feature the new system.

Less nice to use are the new steering wheel controls, which are unmarked and multifunctional – you need to look in the head-up display to figure out what does what, and it felt quite awkward.

Of course, a family SUV can’t just be nice for the driver. The NX has plenty of room in its rear seats and a 545-litre boot – that’s just a little smaller than the competition but it’s in no way cramped. And material quality is peerless all round. This is a very nice place to sit, though we must admit the sports seats in our F-Sport test model were slightly huggy for those who are wider in the withers.

What’s it like to drive?

We tested the plug-in hybrid NX 450h+ model. This uses a 2.5-litre petrol engine paired up to electric motors and a large battery pack sitting under the floor.

The engine and one electric motor drive the front wheels, while a separate motor drives the rears – giving the NX an electric four-wheel drive system.

Lexus NX front tracking

Total system output is 309hp and 227Nm of torque – healthy numbers both, and with the electric motors providing plenty of get-up-and-go from a standstill the NX 450h+ will get from 0-62mph in just 6.3 seconds.

And being a plug-in hybrid, it’ll run as a pure electric vehicle if the batteries are topped up. Lexus claims a 42-mile electric range on mixed roads, or up to 55 miles of purely urban mileage. That’s just slightly better than the Range Rover Evoque PHEV’s 41-mile mixed figure and it’s significantly more than the 34 miles that the BMW X3 xDrive30e can muster.

Charging up takes just two hours and 45 minutes using a home wallbox, and Lexus will provide these free of charge to customers who place an order in 2021.

Running on electric can often display refinement issues – with no engine to drown out wind and road noise it becomes more prominent. That’s no issue with the NX, which remains impressively silent whether the engine’s off or on. Even switching into Sport mode doesn’t make things too raucous.

Don’t think the Lexus NX is a sporty SUV, though. Its focus – even in models covered in ‘F Sport’ branding – is on comfort and ease of driving. The healthy power output isn’t there to tackle a B-road with aplomb, it’s there to make joining a motorway effortless. The handling reflects this, as it’s tidy and precise but far from engaging.

What models and trims are available?

There will be three model grades and several options ‘packs’ to add. The unnamed base-spec car is still very well-equipped – it comes with the smaller 9.8-inch touchscreen, but still gets all-round LED lights, heated front seats, a powered tailgate and 10-speaker stereo.

Lexus NX infotainment
You can add a Premium pack to this with keyless entry, privacy glass, ambient lighting, a wireless phone charger and electric seats, or a Premium Plus pack that gives you larger alloy wheels, digital instruments, seat ventilation and a headlight upgrade, among others.

There’s also a sporty F Sport model which has a styling upgrade with black details and new badging plus adaptive suspension and unique alloys, to which you can add a Takumi pack with a digital rear-view mirror and an upgraded Mark Levinson sound system.

At the top of the range is Takumi spec, which has just about everything already mentioned plus a sunroof, wooden interior inlay, automated parking and another new alloy wheel design.

Safety equipment is a real focus of the NX regardless of model. Every single model comes with adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, road-sign assist and automated high beam. Higher models add front cross traffic alert, lane change assist, blind-spot monitors and automated parking.

There’s also e-latch – electronically actuated door handles which will actually refuse to open if they detect something in their blind spot, aiming to prevent you from opening your door into an unsuspecting cyclist or pedestrian.

Lexus NX e-latch

A final nice touch is that the NX is available in a wide array of real colours – not just monochrome shades.

What else should I know?

The NX is available with Lexus’ ‘Relax’ warranty. That means, as long as you service it at Lexus dealers, you can have up to 10 years and 100,000 miles of cover, and that’s transferable to the next owner. At the moment, that’s the best warranty in the business – and it shows Lexus has total confidence in its cars. Something that’s well deserved, as they often top the charts in reliability surveys.

Running costs with a PHEV depend mostly on your charging behaviour, so the combined WLTP figure of up to 313.9mpg for the 450h+ is a little meaningless. But CO2 emissions as low as 21g/km mean Benefit-in-Kind tax is extremely low, even among similar plug-in hybrids.


Published in Lexus
Thursday, 18 November 2021 06:45

Audi Q5 Sportback Review: As Practical as It Can Be


The verdict: The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback trades some of the regular Q5’s utility for a sportier look — and sacrifices less practicality than expected in doing so.

Versus the competition: The coupelike SUV trend is a bit of a head-scratcher to us, given the body style often leaves less interior space than a traditional SUV (for more money). The Q5 Sportback doesn’t deviate from this formula, but its relatively few trade-offs enhance its overall appeal.

Besides the new Sportback body style, the 2021 Audi Q5 also gets updated exterior styling, a standard mild-hybrid base powertrain and a new multimedia system that drops the knob-based controller Audi has used for years in favor of a touchscreen interface. Take a look at the differences between the 2020 and 2021 Q5 in our side-by-side comparison.

Our 2021 Q5 Sportback test vehicle had an as-tested price of $56,540, including a $1,095 destination charge. It was equipped with the Premium Plus Package as well as Audi’s navigation and sport packages, the latter featuring a sport suspension and 21-inch wheels with summer tires. The car we drove also had an optional Bang & Olufsen stereo.

How It Drives

The Q5’s standard 261-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is a smooth-revving, responsive engine that moves this SUV well; a new mild-hybrid system has boosted efficiency of the regular Q5 for 2021, giving it a combined EPA rating that’s 1 mpg higher than the 2020 Q5’s. The engine is hurt, however, by very gradual accelerator pedal response in the transmission’s Drive mode, which makes the Q5 feel sluggish when starting off. Putting the gear selector in Sport improves drivetrain response immensely, though it also keeps the transmission in lower gears. The turbo four-cylinder works with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that’s quick to kick down when you floor the gas pedal.

Our test vehicle’s sport suspension and low-profile tires on 21-inch wheels contributed to a firm, unforgiving ride that sometimes felt brittle on rough pavement. The Q5 Sportback does, however, stay relatively flat in fast, sweeping turns, and it’s a confident and poised cruiser on smooth pavement. Apart from some tire noise, the cabin is very quiet at highway speeds.

Like other Audis, the Q5 Sportback has highly assisted steering that makes it easy to turn the wheel but doesn’t offer much in the way of feedback. Steering precision is good, however, and the Q5 responds readily to steering inputs.


The Interior

Cabin materials’ quality and fit and finish are good, with soft-touch surfaces on the upper part of the dashboard and doors, but our test car’s all-black interior color scheme had a somberness to it that even a scattering of metallic accents couldn’t overcome. Some of the shinier center console trim even reflected sunlight into my eyes at times while driving. The console doesn’t have much storage space, either.

Power-adjustable front sport seats with manual cushion-length adjustment are standard. The driver’s seat is comfortable and not overly restrictive, and front headroom is good. Leather seating surfaces and front seat heaters are standard.

The Sportback’s sloping roofline doesn’t significantly compromise rear-seat headroom, which is adequate for taller adults. The rear bench seat is comfortable, and it reclines and slides forward and backward. There’s good foot space under the front seats, too.

The Sportback’s cargo area is only marginally smaller than the regular Q5’s, according to Audi’s measurements: The brand says the Sportback has 24.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat up and 51.9 cubic feet with it lowered, versus 25.9 and 54.1 cubic feet in the regular Q5. The Sportback’s roofline reduces the height of the cargo area, and there’s a slight incline in the extended cargo floor with the backseat folded. Seatback release handles in the cargo area make it easier to fold the backseat when standing at the back of the SUV. 

The Q5’s new touchscreen multimedia interface is simpler to use than the knob-based control system it replaces, and the ubiquity of smartphones should make it easier for owners to familiarize themselves with it. A 10.1-inch screen atop the center of the dashboard is standard. The system also includes wireless Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, but wired-only Android Auto.

The touchscreen has high-quality graphics, and CarPlay uses the screen’s full width. It’s easy to toggle between the multimedia system’s built-in interface and CarPlay, and the Premium Plus model adds a wireless charger — helpful for reducing battery drain in a wirelessly connected smartphone.

Premium Plus versions also add Audi’s Virtual Cockpit Plus digital instrument panel. It features a configurable 12.3-inch high-resolution screen in place of traditional gauges, and it can also show satellite image overlays in its navigation mode.

Safety and Driver-Assist Features

The Q5 Sportback received good ratings in all Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crashworthiness tests, and its standard automatic emergency braking system earned superior and advanced scores for its vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian performance, respectively.

Other standard active-safety features include lane-keeping assist, blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear parking sensors. Premium Plus models add adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, and the top-of-the-line Prestige version adds a head-up display with traffic-sign-recognition capability.

Should You Buy the 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback?

The Q5 Sportback’s $48,895 starting price (with destination) undercuts base prices for the 2021 BMW X4 and 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 Coupe, but it’s more expensive than an Infiniti QX55, which is new for the 2022 model year (see their specs compared).

With nearly as much cargo space as a regular Q5 and comfortable seating for adults in both rows, the Q5 Sportback takes some of the practical reasons for choosing a regular Q5 SUV off the table. The Sportback’s starting price is $4,500 more than a Q5 SUV, but the Sportback also comes with larger 19-inch wheels and a panoramic moonroof in addition to its sleeker exterior. If you like its styling and the extra expense isn’t an obstacle, the Q5 Sportback offers most of the attributes of an SUV without looking like most SUVs.


Published in Audi
Friday, 05 November 2021 06:24

Range Rover first details, specs and prices

Fifth-generation Rangie showcases luxury and electrification 


  • Interior quality far better than old model
  • Two body lengths, now available with seven seats
  • Long electric-only range for PHEV versions


  • You'll have to wait until 2024 for EV version
  • Price has risen sharply over old model
  • Option it up, and the price will sky rocket

This is Land Rover's new 2022 Range Rover, and although it looks outwardly similar to the outgoing model, there's a lot going on under the skin as the company's luxury flagship moves towards electrification. It's been launched with a pair of long-range plug-in hybrid versions, with a full-electric model following in 2024.

The fifth-generation Range Rover continues the march upmarket with an accent on luxury, and the armoury to fight its arriviste rivals, such as the BMW X7, Mercedes-Benz GLS and Audi Q8, as well as the more exclusive Bentley Bentayga and even the far more expensive Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Considering that once upon a time, the Range Rover had this market all to itself, things are looking a whole lot more competitive now – and yet, no rival has successfully displaced the British icon yet.

In a world dominated by climate change, even luxury SUVs need to bow to social pressure – and prove their green credentials. So, under the familiar yet smoother styling, there are several electrified versions with a lengthy battery-only range. The car looks less intimidating, more environmentally responsible, and loses the old model's fussy visual jewellery.

Range Rover review (2022) profile view

What's it like inside?

Although we're months off the launch of this car, Parkers has already sat inside a pre-production Range Rover and can confirm that it feels every inch the £100,000+ luxury limousine now. The choice of materials inside is first rate and the uncluttered cabin feels calm and upmarket – especially the new porcelain door inserts. Yes, really.

The Pivi Pro infotainment system has been upgraded. It's now available with Amazon Alexa voice control, Spotify and Land Rover says it's more reliable, stable and faster-acting than earlier Land Rover touchscreens. We'll reserve judgment until we get our hands on one, but considering how good Pivi Pro is in the Defender, we have high hopes.

Buyers get the choice of a standard or 20cm-stretched long-wheelbase (LWB) model. The 'normal' version has a number of rear seat configurations – as before – but for the first time for a Range Rover, the LWB model is available as a seven-seater with three rows of forward-facing seats. Given all of its aforementioned rivals can be configured as seven seaters, this is welcome move by Land Rover.

Range Rover review (2022) interior view
 What engines are available?

The Range Rover will be available as a pure electric, hybrid or combustion engine car, although the EV version isn't due until 2024. However, every other combination will be available from launch in May 2022. The line-up will look like this.

P400 petrol: The entry-level Range Rover uses a 3.0-litre six-cylinder, with mild-hybrid technology. It develops 400hp, averages 29.7mpg and puts out 215g/km of CO2.

P530 petrol: The V8 option remains, but is now a BMW-sourced 4.4 bi-turbo, tuned to deliver 530hp for a 0-60mph time of 4.4sec.

D300 and D350 diesels: Both of these models are powered by Land Rover's 3.0-litre straight-six diesel, but with two states of tune: the D300 makes 300hp while the more muscular D350 musters develops 350hp. CO2 emissions are 198g/km.

P440e and P510e PHEVs: These plug-in hybrids are the first step to electrification for the fifth-generation Range Rover. Its 3.0-litre petrol is mated to a 105kW motor for 450 or 510hp and are good for 26g/km of CO2 in WLTP testing.

All models are four-wheel drive and come with an eight-speed gearbox, with a low-range transfer ‘box for effective off-road ability. You get all of the Land Rover systems, too, such as dynamic air suspension, Terrain Response 2, and a 900mm wading depth. This ability might not be a priority for many Range Rover drivers, but it's still an important part of the car's DNA.

Plug-in hybrid range and charging

Both PHEV models are powered by a large 38kWh lithium-ion battery for a relatively long range for a plug-in hybrid. They are claimed to offer a 62-mile electric range and Land Rover says that three quarters of customers’ journeys could be driven on silent electric power during daily duties.

Range Rover review (2022) rear view
Unlike most contemporary plug-ins, the Range Rover P440e and P510e can be fast-charged at up to 50kW DC, meaning they can be topped up in less than an hour (or five on a 7kW wallbox at home).

What else should I know?

UK sales are expected to begin in May 2022 and UK prices have been confirmed to start at £94,400, which is quite a rise from the outgoing model which starts at £83,525.


Published in Range Rover
Tagged under

Subaru hopes to make “Wilderness” the “STI” of off-roading.

The "STI" name holds a special place in the hearts of Subaru performance enthusiasts. Usually affixed to the rump of a WRX in this country (but also found on Foresters, Legacys, BRZs and more in Subaru's home market), STIs are the ultimate road-going Subarus. With the launch of the new 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness, the second off-road focused Wilderness model in the brand's portfolio, Subaru hopes to make the Wilderness sub-brand just as meaningful for fans and buyers. After beating on the new Forester Wilderness for a day on Central Oregon's forest roads, we think the company may be on to something.

What Is The 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness?

The Forester Wilderness is a new addition to the revised-for-2022 Forester line. The most obvious change across the lineup are new ovoid-shaped headlights on the modified front fascia, some subtle nips and tucks to the Forester's rear end, and the newest iteration of Subaru's Eyesight advanced driver assist system. But the automaker spent some time under the skin, too. Though the 182-hp and 176-lb-ft 2.5-liter flat-4—the sole engine option the Forester offers—remains the same, new engine mount brackets were added in an effort to improve NVH levels, while elsewhere Subaru revised the Forester's suspension tuning to reduce the body roll and porpoising we complained about in our last Big Test.

The Forester Wilderness amps things up a bit further in an effort to improve off-road capability. Longer coil springs and shock absorbers increase ground clearance by a half inch to 9.2-inches, while Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires coupled with revised X-Mode off-road settings ensure that the all-wheel drive system (standard on all Subarus, save the BRZ) has even better traction in low-friction surfaces. The Wilderness model also gets a bespoke version of the Forester's standard CVT. It features a lowered final drive, increased gear ratio spread, and a stronger variator pulley, all of which work together to improve low-end torque off-road. As an added bonus, Forester Wilderness models are rated to tow up to 3,000 pounds, versus just 1,500 for other models in the lineup.

2022 Subaru ForesterWilderness Bend 41
 Rounding the package out inside is a "Startex" cloth interior (designed to be easily cleaned), additional hooks in the cargo area, and a liftgate-mounted LED light that shines down on the ground when the hatch is opened. Outside, the Forester Wilderness gets a heavier-duty roof rack with a 220-pound dynamic load capability (or 800-pounds static; enough for a three-person rooftop tent), some extra black cladding, subtly reworked bumpers to improve the model's clearance off-road, and an aluminum skidplate under the engine (though Subaru offers additional skidplates, including a thicker engine skidplate, plus fuel tank, transmission, and rear-differential skidplates). Approach/breakover/departure angles improve from 20.0/19.6/24.6-degrees on the standard Forester, to 23.5/21.0/25.4-degrees on the Wilderness. Though that gives the Forester Wilderness the best all-around off-road angles of any Subaru, those are relatively middling numbers compared to a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk—trust us when we say that you'll want to budget a few hundred extra for those optional skidplates.

Is The Subaru Forester Wilderness Good Off-Road?

While Subaru's own research shows that only 16-percent of Forester owners go off-road ("off-road" is defined as however the survey takers perceive the term), it is nevertheless the reason why the Forester Wilderness exists. To Subaru's credit, it didn't hold back with a challenging test route, unleashing us on the surprisingly diverse forest roads surrounding Bend, Oregon.

The trails largely consisted of rutted dirt roads, high-speed washboard gravel, and low-speed skull-sized rocks, with some mud, snow, moguls, and water crossings thrown in for good measure. The 2022 Forester Wilderness acquitted itself well. Unlike the Outback Wilderness, where you're always fighting body roll and purpoising at higher speeds off-road, the Forester's suspension does a fantastic job of ironing out impacts and washboards, making sure they're one and done affairs. The revised CVT—which does its best to convince you it's an eight-speed auto—coupled with Subaru's already stellar all-wheel drive system, also lends to the overall capability of the Forester Wilderness. It keeps the engine in the meat of the powerband, turning easier washboard gravel sections of the road into impromptu rally stages, like the kind the STI brand cut its teeth on.

The Forester's improved approach angle versus other Subarus lends to that level of confidence as you worry less about bashing its nose into the ground…until you inevitably do. Multiple times. Offset pits were usually approachable at low speeds, but larger ditches were more of a gamble, introducing our Forester's optional engine skidplate to unassuming small rocks on multiple occasions. Though battered, the upgraded skidplate ultimately did its job.

The Forester Wilderness other weak point is one it shares with other Subarus. Much as we found with the Outback Wilderness in our budget overlander comparison, low speed, low-traction, uphill climbs—especially when a wheel is unloaded—can be tricky to traverse as the relatively modest output of the flat-4 and CVT conspire with a lack of off-the-line torque. One sandy uphill obstacle in particular, at an off-road park that Subaru says is about the absolute limit of what a Forester Wilderness is engineered to handle, bogged our vehicle down as X-Mode struggled to send power to the tires with the most available traction. While the Forester eventually built up enough torque and traction to get over the obstacle, for owners, momentum will often be your friend in climbing steep, slippery grades. Just mind that nose.

It's worth pointing out that we're not convinced our day of off-road driving was anything a stock Forester couldn't handle. That said, the Wilderness adds some extra peace of mind in the form of off-road upgrades to the Forester's already relatively high baseline capability.

How Is The Forester Wilderness On Road?

While off-road capability may have been the primary focus for the Forester's mid-cycle update, the 2022 model is unquestionably nicer to drive on road than pre-refresh versions. The biggest change is in how the Forester Wilderness rides and handles. The 2022 Forester no longer wallows down the road, instead it feels planted, poised, and confidence inspiring. Steering is quick, well-weighted, and natural-feeling, if a touch dead on center which we suspect is likely due to the all-terrain tires.

Powertrain tuning is better, too. Subaru attempted to make the pre-refresh version of the Forester feel quicker than it actually was with hair-trigger throttle response that snapped occupants' heads back when accelerating. That trait is thankfully long gone. No one will mistake the Forester Wilderness for being quick, but it accelerates off the line linearly, and feels quick enough for city duty. Highway passing will likely require a bit of planning, but that's the case with pretty much every non-turbocharged Subaru.

2022 Subaru ForesterWilderness Bend 73

Not having driven lesser versions of the 2022 Forester yet, it's tough to say how much the Wilderness hardware is responsible for the better on-road manners, but we're cautiously optimistic for the rest of the lineup.

The Forester's cabin remains a comfortable place to soak up hours on the road. Visibility is excellent, and the seats are comfortable and roomy. The cabin can be a bit noisy at highway speeds—the all-terrain tires certainly don't help matters much—but the off-road capability tradeoff makes it worth it.

Is The Subaru Forester Wilderness Worth It?

Based on the Forester Sport (which starts at $30,890), prices for the Forester Wilderness start at $33,945—or $34,394 if you factor in the skidplate upgrades. Although not as big of a value slam dunk as the Outback Wilderness versus lesser Outbacks, the Forester Wilderness still makes a compelling case for itself; a Forester Sport upgraded with all-terrain tires, 17-inch wheels (downsized from the stock 18-inch to match the Wilderness and allow for a more aggressive tire), and with the Wilderness' upgraded skidplates would set you back about $34,117. A couple hundred less, and that's still without the suspension lift, improved off-road angles, upgraded CVT, and features like that heavy duty roof rack.

The Verdict?

Ultimately, the 2022 Forester Wilderness is not just the best Forester we've driven in the past few years, but the most convincing Wilderness product yet. While there's likely a ways to go before "Subaru Wilderness" has the same cachet as "Subaru STI," the Forester Wilderness is a solid step in the right direction, bringing a sense of capability and durability to the line that Subaru owners will most certainly use.


Published in Subaru
Thursday, 28 October 2021 07:33

New Honda HR-V 2021 review

The new Honda HR-V compact SUV has arrived in the UK and it ticks plenty of boxes 


Ingeniously practical, well-built and impressively frugal, the HR-V ticks many of the compact SUV boxes. Our time driving in the UK has put to bed question marks over fuel efficiency - few cars in this class can offer the HR-V’s potential. It even drives smartly too, although it isn’t quite class-leading in any one area. Unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver enough to justify its relatively high retail price compared with some key rivals. Still, it’s the most convincing family car Honda has produced in years.

Back in the late nineties Honda dubbed its first-generation HR-V “The Joy Machine”, and now into its third iteration, this new compact family SUV will need to leave us grinning from ear to ear if it’s to topple rivals like the Toyota Yaris Cross, Renault Captur and Ford Puma from the top of a fiercely competitive crossover class.

Our first encounter on German roads in left-hand drive form showed that there’s plenty to like, but the HR-V didn’t live up to Honda’s promise of class-leading fuel efficiency from its hybrid powertrain.

Step inside and the driver is presented with a neat, uncluttered environment. Build quality is excellent and feels as plush as anything else in the class. It’s backed up by Honda’s latest infotainment system, which is lightyears ahead of what the previous HR-V was lumbered with.

It’s towards the back where the really smart stuff starts, though. Overall knee room is up by 35mm, and in this area the HR-V measures up very strongly against its rivals. It’s just a shame that the boot is relatively pokey - the 319 litres on offer is disappointing. It does make up for this slightly with Honda’s ‘Magic Seats’ though. These not only fold forward, but the seat bases can also flip upward, which is ideal for carrying taller items.

This is made possible by the way that Honda’s engineers have packaged the fuel tank; it’s slotted beneath the front seats, as opposed to beneath the rear bench as in most cars. It’s partly because the HR-V uses a full hybrid, too.

On paper, the HR-V’s petrol/electric set-up is clever. Under the bonnet sits a 1.5-litre petrol engine, but for the most part this only serves to act as a generator for the battery and motor. In fully electric this motor/generator can be decoupled altogether, while under hard acceleration its energy isn’t transferred through a gearbox, but as a direct drive - again, in the name of efficiency.

If this sounds familiar, then it is; this set-up is very similar to that used by the Jazz supermini. It offers more here, though; the petrol engine gets a power boost (up 9bhp to 106bhp) while the battery is more compact but also 25 per cent more energy dense; the the overall output stands at129bhp.

In some ways, it feels like a fully electric vehicle. Moving off from a standstill is silky smooth, but increase the speed further and we were left wishing for more pep from the electric motors. Accelerate onto a motorway slip road, for example, and that initial electric boost has little influence - instead, you’re left waiting for the engine to wake up, and the drive systems figure out how to most effectively deploy its power to the road. The delay here is similar to that of a standard automatic transmission kicking down - only it’s accompanied by a flare of droning revs from the 1.5-litre unit. This only happens under hard acceleration though; for the most part it’s fairly peaceful. 


The rest of the drive is impressive, if not game-changing. It’s stable and secure through the corners rather than fun like a Ford Puma. The steering is precise and well weighted, but the extra assistance some rivals offer around town make them easier to manoeuvre. Some low-speed fidget aside, the ride is comfortable, though there is slightly more road noise than we’d have liked.


But for all the engine's slightly unnatural noises and slightly dull throttle response, on our first encounter we were left somewhat baffled by a car which struggled to hit 45mpg. On this occasion, the HR-V managed to match its claims - and then some. We regularly saw in excess of the official 52.3mpg figure, reaching over 60mpg in mixed use, which is impressive and towards the top of the class.

Unfortunately, it’s also at the pricey end of that sector too, starting from £26,960. To counter this, the HR-V is well equipped across all three trim levels. The base model Elegance gets 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, plus LED headlights, digital dials, heated front seats, and a nine-inch touchscreen with a reversing camera.

Above that sits this Advance trim, which is predicted to make up 60 per cent of HR-V sales. Among its extras are a hands free tailgate and dual-zone air-conditioning, but the price climbs to £29,210. The range tops out with the Advance Style, which for £31,660 introduces a contrasting roof finish, wireless smartphone charging and a premium hi-fi.

Model: Honda HR-V e:HEV Advance
Price:  £29,210
Engine:  1.5 4cyl petrol hybrid
Power:  129bhp/253Nm
Transmission:  Single speed, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:  10.6 seconds
Top speed:  106 mph
Economy/CO2:  52.3mpg/122g/km
On sale:  Now
Published in Honda
Tagged under

With its tidier dimensions and lower price, the hiked-up Forester Wilderness proves that less is more—until you stab the throttle.

As applied to the Forester, the Wilderness formula is very familiar. Compared to its siblings, it sits a half-inch higher atop its four-wheel independent suspension thanks to longer dampers and taller springs, and that amounts to a healthy 9.2 inches of minimum ground clearance and an improved breakover angle of 21 degrees. Since the Forester isn't nearly as long as an Outback, the jacked-up stance conspires with stubbier front and rear overhangs to produce more favorable approach and departure angles of 23.5 and 25.4 degrees, respectively. It's also some 2.4 inches narrower, so it's more compatible with brush-lined trails even before Subaru slathers on the Wilderness-spec layer of protective body cladding. Conversely, the Forester Wilderness is 2.0 inches taller than its Outback counterpart, but we'll take that because it comes with a more upright driving position that makes it easier to see over the hood and pick your way along a trail. Blind crests are no problem because there's a front camera, but the button to activate it is nowhere near the display itself.

2022 subaru forester wilderness

A drive along forest roads near Bend, Oregon, proved that the Forester execution works equally well on both smooth gravel roads suitable for stage rallies and lonely meandering two-track forest trails that haven't seen the blade of a road grader in years. Subaru's Wilderness-specific shock and spring tuning readily soaked up washboard surfaces on high-speed tracks, but they also went about the quiet business of damping out head toss through rocky sections, snaking around fallen limbs, or easing down eroded ledges. None of this was black-diamond rock crawling, but vehicles built for that use case would have punished us with the heavy unsprung mass of solid axle overkill thumping up from below. Independent-suspended crossovers have their place out here if they can muster sufficient clearance and traction, and the Forester Wilderness proved to have enough of each.

A good deal of the necessary extra traction comes from a set of Yokohama Geolandar A/T tires, with outline white-letter sidewalls adding spice to an otherwise black background of alloy wheels and cladding. There's even a matching, full-use spare with its own TPMS sensor in the underfloor well.

2022 subaru forester wilderness
Whereas other Foresters have seven simulated gears in their continuously variable automatics (CVT), the Wilderness version has eight, like the Outback. But it differs from even the Outback Wilderness in that it has a wider overall ratio spread across its working range, with an ultra-low 4.07:1 "first gear" that gives the Forester Wilderness a better low-speed crawl ratio when the exclusive Dual-mode X-Mode detects conditions that call for hill-descent control. The 2022 Forester also debuts an improved X-Mode logic that no longer shuts completely off if the driver momentarily exceeds its maximum operational speed of 25 mph. It now goes into a standby mode and will automatically reengage when the car slows to 22 mph. That prevents constant dithering if your speed lingers near 25 mph. The hill-descent control features a related improvement that more quickly resumes the original crawl speed if the driver temporarily adds throttle and then backs out.
2022 subaru forester wilderness
The Wilderness will, of course, spend the bulk of its time on pavement, so it's good there's nothing overtly off-roady or off-putting about its on-road demeanor (probably not something that could be said if you bolted on random off-road mods you read about in forums). Subaru's engineering team has delivered a smooth and composed ride that is never harsh. The body doesn't pitch or bound, and there's a smidge more reassuring control and less squishiness than with the Outback Wilderness. Frost heaves don't upset it, and the all-terrain tires were remarkably quiet until we came to a particularly coarse stretch of asphalt that had been chewed by studded tires in previous winters. When pushed, the Wilderness does not feel like it's standing on tiptoes. It turns into corners smartly, with a modest amount of body lean that builds up gradually and takes a reassuring set. The thing that flummoxes the steering is cruising straight at highway speeds, where the feel is dull and indistinct.

That's small beer compared to the lackluster engine performance, but this won't surprise any current-generation Forester owners because the Wilderness has the same 2.5-liter flat-four with a middling 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Why not the 2.4-liter turbo as in the Outback Wilderness? Outback product planners had two homologated engines to pick from, but the fifth-generation Forester has only one, since the turbo 2.0-liter was dropped with the previous model in 2018. For what it's worth, we didn't notice a serious lack of beans driving in the forest, and the car felt reasonable enough around town.

2022 subaru forester wilderness
That might be because its final drive ratio is a short 4.11:1 instead of the regular Forester's 3.70:1 gearing. Combined with the CVT's lower initial gearing, this might shave a couple of tenths off the 8.4-second zero-to-60-mph time we previously measured with a standard Forester, but the more significant benefit of this change is the new 3000-pound tow rating.

Our experience also makes us think the aerodynamic penalty of a rooftop tent will be easier to bear, which is relevant because the Forester Wilderness is specifically courting those buyers. It has beefier wide-set roof rails that can accommodate 220 pounds of mass while in motion and 800 pounds when parked—enough for a three-person tent with occupants. The penalty for the shorter gearing is lower fuel economy, particularly on the highway. A regular Forester is EPA rated at 29 mpg combined (26 city/33 highway), but the Wilderness manages just 26 mpg combined (25 city/28 highway). Nevertheless, this still bests the Outback Wilderness and its estimates of 24 mpg combined, 22 city, and 26 highway.

2022 subaru forester wilderness
All 2022 Forester models debut the fourth iteration of Subaru's EyeSight, which features dual cameras with nearly twice the field of view. On our back-road tour, it proved to be surprisingly good at detecting faint centerlines that have been so thoroughly bleached we weren't immediately conscious of them. You'd think that kind of sensitivity would lead to a raft of unwanted warnings elsewhere, but we didn't find ourselves hunting for an "off" button when clipping apexes. The system behaved as if it were able to project a forward path to distinguish a true inattentive lane departure from spirited driving, which isn't that far-fetched when you consider the kind of added logic that would've been necessary to support the new lane-centering feature that supplements the adaptive cruise control.

The 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness will arrive in December at a price of $33,945. That amounts to $4625 more than the Forester Premium we generally recommend, but it's also a full $4175 less than the larger and more powerful Outback Wilderness. From where we just sat, the Forester Wilderness is a more right-sized interpretation of the Wilderness concept that does a proper job off the pavement but still comes across as a pleasant daily driver if you're merely going for the off-road look. Either way, you can now gratuitously toss around the word "overlanding" in conversation. Come to think of it, please don't.


Published in Subaru
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