Category Archives: cars

Review: 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited

Sometimes it is best to start by saying the nicest things first. When it comes to the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited my highest praise is that it is built by a car company we love. In fact, we currently own two Hyundai vehicles.  There is more to say, though. 

The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited found its way into our driveway for an extended test drive through my continued collaboration with Drive Shop USA. We put it through the paces and found that some of the upgrades and features were rather impressive.   Others, a bit lacking. 

In keeping with the “nice things first,”  motif I will start by saying that the extended seating and panoramic sunroof were both super-cool. In addition to that, there are some other impressive features; 

things to like about the 2017 hyundai santa fe limited
  • safety features: multiview parking camera, lane departure warning*, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and adaptive headlights. 
  • seating: the model we drove had 3-row seating for 7. The second row of seats included captain’s chairs. These are a nice change from the typical bench seating in many crossovers. 
  • tech integration: the available Android Auto Phone is fantastic. It allows you to use almost all the features of your android-based phone within safety parameters. Programing road-trip tunes, listening to emails, finding a place to eat, all doable. 
  • touchscreen display: you might not think this is a big deal, but for me it is. I am not a huge fan of cars that are using the turn-dial or mouse-type control mechanisms for the vehicle tech suite. To me, these can be distracting and possibly a tad unsafe. 
  • style: the retooling of the exterior on the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited gives it a sleeker profile that echoes some of the higher-end crossovers out there. Optional woodgrain trip for the interior (which the model I tested, had) is a nice little luxe touch.

things you need to know about the 2017 hyundai santa fe limited
  • handling: this car was equipped with drive-mode select options; Sport, Eco, and Normal.I’d have expected that Sport mode would have meant better handling but I can’t say that I noticed a difference in any of the modes.
  • console: While I appreciated the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment controller the console is clunky and feels like they put too much into a small space. 
  • seating: captain’s chairs are a great edition, but configuring the seating is confusing and not very user-friendly. 
  • cargo: with all seven seats in use the cargo space in negligible. 

Our affinity for the quality and versatility that Hyundai brings to moderately priced, standard-option packed cars that are great for first-time drivers as well as families, has not diminished. That said, the 2017 Sante Fe Limited didn’t earn a permanent spot in our driveway. 

 

Beyond the use of the vehicle, I haven’t been compensated for this post. Like all my reviews of cars (or anything) all opinions are my own. 

2017 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring: A Driver’s Dream?

I like to drive. You might have deduced this from the number of car reviews you find here on The Nuggets or the years that I contributed to automotive publications. Every once in a while a car comes along that makes that love deepen. The 2017 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring might just be The One. 

Through my continued collaboration with the folks at DriveShop, I was able to spend a week with the 2017 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring AWD. I would like to thank Mazda USA for also allowing us to give back to the Assateague Island Alliance.

The alliance is a charity we support that helps preserve the wild horse population of Assateague Island as well as its unique environment. Part of our extended test drive included a visit to the island that you can see in the video below.


 

Let’s get one thing out of the way right up front… I love this car. Typically any car review I write comes with a robust list of pros and cons because really all cars have their faults. Or rather I feel that were I designing them I could have done a much better job, duh!  So, I prepare you in advance that is review will have a very small list of cons. 

5 Things Reasons to Love the 2017 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring (AWD) 

Handling – Crossovers aren’t as clunky as mini-vans when it comes to handling but it’s a close second in most cases. While this car doesn’t quite reach the performance levels of the limited edition Corvette I zoomed around South Florida in a few years back, it still handles like a sports car. Acceleration is seamless, steering smooth and breaking a breeze. 

Tech – From audio app integration (hello, Pandora!) to both iOS and Android carplay compatibility, this car is a techie dream. MAZDA CONNECT – their proprietary the infotainment system – lets you own the road and still be connected. Really if you’re at all the road tripping type this is the ultimate. 

Safety – Advanced blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and smart break support are just the little things in the safety package. Mazda steps up their game with the addition of smart break support just for city driving (we break more in traffic), lane assist (stay in your own lane, bud!), distance recognition support (no riding tails anymore), roll stability and even automatic emergency notification. Top all that off with a camera system that essentially gives you a 360 view and even lousy parallel parkers like me are safe and sound.  

Room (SO. MUCH. ROOM) – Most cars with third-row seating either come with only enough leg room for passengers born with disproportionally short legs or just enough cargo space for a sack of potatoes. With the CX9 Grand Touring Mazda has cracked the code and given you both. 

Easy one-handed controls allow you to configure seating with ease giving extra cargo space when needed and a comfortable amount of space when using all seating options.

Style – This car is sexy! The driver’s side feels like a cockpit. Leather wrapped steering wheel, dual lighting for the vanity mirrors, a center console that feels like a lounge, all contribute to a sense of style that is echoed in the lines of the body. 

This car is packed with pros but it has a few cons too, starting with the navigation. While I love all the tech offered, and especially the heads up display that projects speed and directions onto the windshield,  the navigation system is not intuitive. We spent a week with this car and failed to fully figure it out.  

The fuel efficiency is great on the highway but could be better in the city. It isn’t bad though by any stretch. Price point is a bit of sticker-shock. The average cost for the base model of the grand touring awd comes in around $40,500. I will say though that after our drive was over and I went back to our car, I quickly resigned that I’d be more than willing to pay that be driving the Mazda again. 

Beyond the use of the vehicle and a gift card for the charity, I haven’t been compensated for this post. Like all my reviews of cars (or anything) all opinions are my own. 

Chrysler Pacifica: A Minivan for Anti-Minivan People?

This post is sponsored by FCA US; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

I am not a minivan person. This is exactly what I said when I was asked if I’d be interested in reviewing the Chrysler Pacifica. To me minivans are clunky, chunky, boxy and just don’t get me excited about driving. I like to drive. I like a car that has some oomph, style, and maybe just a touch of sexy.  So, not a minivan.

I also like a challenge and after learning that Car and Driver ranked the 2017 Pacifica as the number one pick in the category I thought I’d take this one on.  After a week-long test drive I hoped to answer this question;

Is Chrysler Pacifica a minivan for anti-minivan people?

Minivans do rise to the top of the list in one really important category; safety. The Pacific holds the crown in this category with somewhere around 100 safety features including lane departure warnings, a very impressive surround-view camera, forward-collision alert, and parking assist (perfect for lousy parallel parkers like ME!) Does it make me a bad mom that safety isn’t my only consideration?  I get that it should be, but… I want to enjoy the ride too! 

The Fun Factor

If I could design a family crest it would half to have some sort of road trip reference. We’ve gone from beach houses to cabins atop mountains, hotels big cities to tents the middle of nowhere, and four wheels took us most of those places. Keeping everyone entertained is key to a successful road trip and Pacifica truly has something for everyone in this category.

Any car, in fact most cars these days, can have a DVD player. Chrysler’s Pacifica goes far beyond this with a suite of interactive games (no wifi needed), wireless and USB port compatibility with nearly any device, available satellite radio and more.   

Our family put Pacifica through the paces on our annual Holiday Hot Cocoa Rally. Every year we pile into the car with full thermoses, fresh cookies, and wrapped gifts for charity. After stops to drop off gifts, it’s a marathon of holiday lights, tunes, and memory making. After all it is the most wonderful time of the year, right? 

The Pacifica did a great job setting the mood with a really impressive sound system, heated seats and steering wheel. Where the car truly stood out was in its ability to allow you to configure the seating with one-hand operation stow-and-go in the second row seats. That feature turned the car into a cafe, theater, and arcade all in the space of one evening!

Even this non-minivan person was impressed with how this was so much more than a ride. I will say that with all the tech and features included in model we test drove, I can see it taking some time to learn how to optimize these options. I’m not sure if Chrysler dealers offer an in-house “How To” session but if they do I’d highly recommend availing yourself of this education. 

Bonus Smart Features

When it comes to life in cars, my kids have what I can only think is destructive power on par with a tornado. I can leave the car wash with a sparkling clean ride and within an hour of picking them up it looks like a band of gypsies have taken up residence in the back seat. That’s on an average day. The force is increased immeasurably when we’re on an epic eighteen hour jaunt from Maryland to Louisiana.   Add to that our new furry family member; Gordon the Frenchie (who has white fur, what was I thinking?!) and keeping a clean car is a pipe dream.

Then came Pacifica’s built-in vacuum cleaner. Pure BRILLIANCE!

Some other great bonus features to the model we drove, included;

  • a panoramic roof
  • touch-free trunk door operation
  • second level rear storage
  • heads-up display for navigation, trip tracking, systems alerts and more

Plus, it makes for a pretty sweet break room when you’re working events on the go… or trying to get five minutes of kid-free time in your day.

Final Analysis

There is no denying that the Chrysler Pacifica has some really amazing features. You’d be hard pressed to find a car that offers more in terms of being family-friendly and offering cutting edge safety features. The tech integration makes a mobile lifestyle both fun and productive.  As a family ride, the adaptability is unbeatable.

So, did the Pacifica make a minivan person out of me? Not-so-much.

While it’s packed with awesome options for safety, storage, and entertainment, it still drives like a minivan in my book. The body shape is sleeker than most but still a bit boxy for my tastes and the profile sits a bit low. I like a higher ride if I’m not in a performance car.

Being that we have a big family and love us some long drives, I may have to ponder on this just a bit longer. Were I to wake up on Christmas day and find a big red bow festooned Pacifica in my driveway I wouldn’t be disappointed.  If Ryan Gosling were in the passenger’s seat… Hey Minivan Girl!

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2016 Mazda CX-3 Touring (review)

Mazda CX-3 Touring ReviewThe quest continues. Our second in line to the keys – the 17 year old – is still in need of a car and we’re still looking.  Thus far we’ve taken fully loaded SUVs and cool crossovers through the paces. Now we’re starting to think a little smaller.

Collaborating with Drive Shop has allowed us to do a few extended test drives (averaging a week or so) for cars we’re considering. The newest ride to hit our driveway was the 2016 Mazda CX-3. Let’s say this was a whole new road for us.

2016 Mazda CX-3 Touring Review

It would be remiss of me to not mention [before the review] that it’s been quite awhile since we’ve spent time in a sedan.  Even with not-so-little nugget number four off on his own doing the grownup thing, we are still a big family. Five humans, one french bull-dog who loves his bye-bye. I typically takes a bit more car to get us all around. There was certainly and adjustment period with the Mazda CX-3.

Is It Big Enough for 5?

If you don’t have too far to go, and the dog doesn’t mind staying at home, five can fit. The leg room may not be much if you had full-size folks in the back seat though. Were the teen just shuttling her sibs or besties about, it works out fine.

Best Safety Features?

Three BIG pluses in this category:

  • Blind Spot Monitoring – In my humble opinion this safety feature should be as mandatory as a seat belt. Every car has a blind spot therefore they should all have this potentially life-saving feature. 
  • 24 Hour Roadside Assistance – Toss me a thumbs-up if you’re a parent and could rest easier knowing your kid had this!
  • Skyactiv Body Ring Structure – So, explaining this can get a little engineering-deep and I’m no engineer. To put it simply Mazda has figured out a formula that makes the body structure both lighter and more rigid. How is that a safety feature, you ask? Basically they built a better egg shell. Learn more about Skyactiv and why I was blown away by how it improves safety, here.

Let’s Talk Tech

Here is where I started to figure out that I may be just a little bit on the spoiled side when it comes to car tech. Though the CX-3 we drove came equipped with navigation system and satellite radio, the tech pretty much stopped there. Beyond the fact that it was tech-lite the monitor/hub isn’t integrated into the design very well. It pops up above the dash and is just cumbersome. 

 

 

Kick off Monday with a laugh and a new ride for a week. Gives me hope Monday might not suck too bad.

A photo posted by Lara DiPaola ✈ (@dipaolamomma) on

The model we drove was supposed to have integrated technology that works with Pandora® but we couldn’t get that to work. The teen herself practically lives on Pandora so she was stoked about this. Seems though that it may only work with a paid subscription.

SSM Text Messaging sounds like a great feature for a teen-driven car. The problem is this works about as well as most other talk-to-text platforms… meaning, not so good.

Gas Mileage

Here is where the Mazda CX-3 Touring gets the biggest points. (drum roll please) We averaged 33 miles highway and a whopping 29 driving around town. WOWZERS! That could really go a long way towards saving a college kid some coin.

Price Tag

One surprising perk of stepping down to a sedan from an SUV or crossover – in this case at least – was GOOD sticker shock. I can’t recall the last time took a car for a test drive that boasted a price tag under $30k. This particular car came it at $26,150. That included some premium package additions. 

Lifestyle Points

Not much to report here. The rear seats do fold flat to give you extra cargo space, but you pretty much can’t have passengers when you do that. I will say though that the lines on the body are pretty cool. This doesn’t look like a sedan, and honestly it may even have a different classification, but to me 4-doors and a low profile says, sedan. It has a unique profile that sort of says crossover but in a sedan sort of way. Maybe when an SUV and a sedan have a baby you get the Mazda CX-3 Touring? ha!

Sometimes I think my parents had it easier – “You want a car? Go get a job. Until then  you can borrow the station wagon if you pay for your own gas.” In retrospect that was likely better.

2016 kia sorento SXL AWD (review)

It’s a funny thing, how different the lives of our kids can be from those we lived as children. For example, my offspring have zero clue what a hand-me-down is. My first car was one, and yet my husband and I are still on a quest to find the right brand-spankin-new car for our teen.  I call this the, up hill in both directions’ effect. Always wanting better for our kids while continually reminding ourselves how we never had it so good. Ha! 

Collaborating with Drive Shop has allowed us to do a few extended test drives – one week or so– for cars we’re considering. The latest ride to go through the paces was the Kia Sorento SXL AWD.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD Review

First let me start by saying that I completely get that this car isn’t exactly what most would think of for a 17 year-old. I’ll go a step further and say that part of me is green with envy at the thought of my kid driving a shiny new set of wheels all decked out with nearly every bell and whistle you can imagine.

Here is the thing, it seems the kiddo has her heart set on a couple of colleges in the frozen North. Like… way north! So having a car that can handle both harsh winters and ski gear could be a plus. Also, she’ll be home for well over a year so this is going to start off as a family car. That brings us to this 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD review – and spoiler alert this one tops her list so far.

Is It Big Enough for 5?

Driving around town it certainly felt like it fit the bill. It has tons of leg space and three rows of seats you can configure to your needs.

That configuration ability is a saving grace as the rear cargo space is nearly non-existent. As we’ve done with all the cars we’re testing though our Drive Shop collaboration, we took this one on a road trip for a real test.

2016 Kia Sorento XSL AWD reivewThree hours – and enough in tolls to nearly make a car payment— later, we landed in the Big Apple. Packed into the Kia were not only bags for a family of five, but also our newest fury family member, Gordon Von Ottawa du Barkimedes a.k.a Gordon the Frenchie. I swear this dog has more gear than all the kids combined. All that fit easily into this car. 

Major points in the roominess category and extra props for the panoramic sunroof that makes you feel like the space is even bigger.

Best Safety Features?

Three words… Electronic Stability Control. Driving in harsh winter weather is about more than scraping ice off off the windshield. My first winter on the East Coast Maryland got hit with an epic storm. After three days being snowed in when I finally ventured out I took a epic skid on black ice. It was terrifying. If my kid is going to drive in the Tundra THIS is the must-have safety feature.

This model also boasts Side Curtain airbags in the first and second row seats and my other must-have feature, lane departure warning. I have to tell you, going back to a car without lane departure warning is tough. It’s like walking a tightrope without a net. Seriously, how is this not a mandatory feature?

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD review of tech

Let’s Talk Tech

Hands down the tech in this car is the reason it makes the whole family’s short list. As you might expect the kids were stoked about the plethora of power outlets for their gadgets. We aren’t talking just a couple of old-school cigarette lighter style outlets that need an adapter.

Just about every seat has a USB port nearby. There is even a rapid charge USB port in the center consul. The real swoon inducing moment was finding the AC plug! I’ll admit it takes some getting used to how it works – plug, turn, push – but man what a great option for a family on the go.

Telematics. Know what that is? You need to. It takes the rear camera concept and turns it into an all-around view from above. I am the worst parallel parker in history – or I was until Telematics. 

Infinity surround sound was made for satellite radios and people who love to drive. Or in my case mothers who like to cruise the pickup line at school with the base cranking on some Jamiroquai. The kids totally loved that, not-at-all.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD review safety feature

Gas Mileage

Every rose has it’s thorn my friends. You might find yourself getting poked by a few at the gas pump. While we aren’t talking Hummer-bad gas mileage here we aren’t exactly in hybrid land.

I drive a minimum of fifteen miles a day and with an average of around 19 miles to the gallon… ouch. The Sorento did do better on the highway clocking in at about 24 mpg.

Price Tag

The 2016 Kia Sorento follows on the heals of it’s older brother , the 2015 winner of the JD Power “Highest Ranked Midsize SUV in Initial Quality” and the price tag reflects that champion lineage. That said, with all the tech, safety and luxury features {hello Napa leather cooled and heated seats and surround view monitor} I’d say it’s still a good deal.

The 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD we drove came in at $45,600.00

Lifestyle Points

50/50 fold third row seats. Panoramic sun roof. Kickin’ sound system and tech galore made this ride score super big in the Lifestyle category.

 

Having the roller coaster all to yourself.

A photo posted by Lara DiPaola ✈ (@dipaolamomma) on

We trekked to, from and around New York without one single, “She’s touching me.” That alone puts this one high on my list. I may not let the teen abscond to college with it.

Do you have a teen driver? What are you looking for in a car for them? I’d love some advice!