Archive for August 2019

Hyundai Veloster N

We personally love hot-hatches, as they offer a driving experience full of fun and yet still practical, comfortable and affordable enough you can take your family and belongings with you. Hyundai’s sports car has been popular since the end of the 1990s, especially in European and Asian markets. As automobiles get more expensive and bigger, hothatches are considered as a revolution. Instead of modifying regular mass-produced hatchbacks, car manufacturers offer “factory-prepared” high-performance versions of them for a small price premium. The hothatch market actually started with Mini Cooper in 1960s in Europe, and today it is more popular than ever. In North America, hatchbacks have historically not been popular, but this trend is slowly changing, as they get faster and more competitive with supersport cars.

Veloster N is one of the best looking hot-hatchs in 2019, light blue color makes it even better

Yes, we said Supersport cars. “Cheap” hot-hatch lap times in Nürburgring are getting closer, and sometimes even better. Hyundai Veloster N is one of them. The letter “N” is the first letter of Korean City named Namyang, where Hyundai’s headquarters is located, as well as it is primed for the Nürburgring Nordschleife. This car actually is developed by Albert Biermann, former head of BMW M division, which shows Hyundai’s effort to produce a car to challenge the big boys in its class, such as Honda Civic Type R.

Engine and Drivetrain

2.0L Turbocharged Direct Injection engine produces 275 horsepower, and it is a blast to drive

Well, it’s a hot-hatch, so we have to talk about the most important thing makes it different from a base Veloster. The Veloster N comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It weighs just above 1400 kg, so power to weight ratio is impressive, and more than enough for a small hatchback to get moving. The engine is a part of THETA family which is used in other Hyundai/Kia models, but there are significant changes such as different engine internals and turbocharger. We are impressed with the torque curve as it spools up around 1500 rpm and still lots of torque all the way to the redline. The engine is matched with 6-speed manual transmission only, and gear ratios are set perfectly for both daily and track use.

Exterior and Interior

Sporty rear bumper, bigger rear wing, two exhaust tips make it look way more agressive than the base Veloster

Veloster N exterior is looking extremely attractive especially if you are a person who likes hatchbacks. Its light blue color makes it even more distinctive in its class. Overall body lines look exactly the same with base Veloster, whereas this one has bigger wheels, sporty-looking front-rear bumpers and rear wing, which doesn’t look like cartoonish like the latest Type-R. This is one of the better looking sporty hot-hatchs in its segment. Of course, 3-door design is what makes the Veloster different and genuine. While having a coupe look, rear seats are still more accessible than a regular coupe, which makes a huge difference. Also, wheels look great, it comes with 19” rims as well as 235/35 Pirelli tires.  Well done, Hyundai.

Veloster N runs on 235/35/R19 Pirelli Summer tires

With regard to the interior features, this is where it has a lot of common points with the base Veloster, there are minor changes such as sportier seats, N badged steering wheel, different instrument cluster, N performance addition to the infotainment system where it shows performance data, and that’s it. There are no soft-touch plastics in the interior, so that’s a bummer for a car costs $35.000. For a more detailed review, please see our regular Veloster review link here . What we didn’t like about the Veloster N is, it is actually missing some vital safety features like blind-spot monitoring which is available on a base model. For a 3-door coupe, it should be a standard feature no matter what version you get. Instead of having a heated steering wheel in a sporty hatchback, we’d rather have more safety features. If it is just for cost-cutting or weight saving, we think it’s not worth it.

Other than not having blind-spot monitoring, it still has some important features, like cruise control (not adaptive), heated front seats, Infinity premium audio system, 8.0” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear-view camera, and Hyundai’s great infotainment system. If you look comfort features like cooled – powered seats, you should look elsewhere as this segment is simply not for you.

The interior looks modern and sporty, but hard plastics are all over the dashboard

There is a small difference in the infotainment system though, which is the N mode. Unlike many of its competitors, it offers great customization for suspension, steering, engine, traction control, rev-matching setups. You can choose for comfort mode, all the way up to track/sportiest setup for each section. Most of its competition offers few different driving modes and that’s it. Veloster N takes it to another level by offering not only multiple driving modes, such as N – N Custom – Sport – Comfort and Eco, you can customize all driving dynamics to your liking.

Seats are well-bolstered and comfortable enough for daily driving

Driving Impressions

This is where Veloster N really shines. As mentioned, it offers multiple customization options that makes the driving experience more enjoyable and suitable for all conditions. We kept the suspension usually in street mode, as it is overly dampened in N mode. Normal mode is stiff enough to remind you that this is not a base Veloster, but not super stiff that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you switch to N mode, this is where it gets uncomfortable, you shouldn’t be driving in this mode on public roads anyway. Steering feeling is nice, but again, they adjusted it so well, street mode is the way to go. Exhaust modes are different story though, we enjoyed it in fully open mode, as it sounds awesome. It makes popping sound if you rev it over 4000 rpms. Most potential buyers don’t even have to get an aftermarket exhaust system to get a better sound, as Hyundai already offers it out of the box.

Exterior design matches well with the overall driving dynamics

When we take the Veloster N to some tight corners, we are even more impressed. The electronic differential works extremely well, it is difficult to get the car understeer while cornering. If you are on the limit, you should be on the throttle to feel that the differential is trying to pull the car towards the corner. Braking performance is also good, Hyundai somehow decided to use modified Kia Optima brake calipers to keep the costs low, instead of using Brembo brakes. We didn’t have a chance to take the car to the track, but it is more than enough for spirited driving on the public road.

Driving mode differences are strikingly significant. When the driver wants to take it easy, Comfort mode makes the driver feel like he is driving a base Veloster, it is silent and comfortable enough to get you from home to work, but when you want to have fun, it can be a great weekend warrior and corner carver. This is why we love hot-hatch cars, as they offer multiple driving characters for the affordable price range, and the Veloster N took it to another level where you can literally daily drive it and take it to a track day with no problem.

Veloster N is missing some features, LED headlights are one of them

The traction control in sport mode is also not too intrusive, which we really appreciated as you wouldn’t want to completely turn it off on public road, and it is fully adjustable and you can make it more sensitive for wet conditions. Hyundai offers a great driving experience with the Veloster N, as it still lets the driver decide how much he wants the car to get involved and help the driver, while still being engaging, fun to drive and competitive in hothatch segment.

The rear right door is what makes the Veloster different from the others

Conclusion

Overall, we enjoyed driving the new Veloster N. It is new in its class, and competing with old boys like VW Golf R and Civic Type R. We can definitely say the Veloster N can keep up with the competition despite being new in this class, which is surprising for us. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, there is still room for improvement, but this is a legit first attempt makes its rivals nervous about the next move. The Veloster N starts at $34.999 Canadian and that’s actually the only option that you can get. Considering its rivals have MSRP of $43.000 and more, this is a bargain and it offers best bang for the buck in this segment. We can definitely recommend the Veloster N if you are looking for a sporty hatchback as it offers a great overall package that you can use it for both track days and grocery shopping, and even some short trips.

Some of our takeaways are:

+ Great driving dynamics + customization

+ Excellent handling and engine performance

+ More practicality despite having a coupe design

+ Price – Performance ratio is the best in its class

Things can be improved

– Missing some essential safety features, such as Blind Spot Monitoring and LED Headlights

– Too much hard plastics for a car costs over $35.000 CAD.

Article & Photos by Dan Gunay

Nissan Qashqai SL AWD

The Success Story Comes To North America

There is no doubt that compact crossover sales are high in North America. This is one of the most important reasons why Nissan decided to bring the new Qashqai here. It has been on the market for several years in Europe with proven success. We drove the latest Nissan Qashqai for a week to see where it stands against the competition.

the Qashqai is a smaller version of the “good-old” Rogue, which itself is one of the most successful alternatives in the mid-size crossover market. It is named Rogue Sport in the USA, but somehow Nissan decided to use its original name in Canada, unlike the States. First-generation Qashqai was first released in 2006. It was offered all around the world, except North America. It was a major sales success especially in Europe and Middle Eastern markets. It was one of the fastest times for a vehicle built in the UK which reached a half million units in a very short time period.

Engine and Powertrain

Nissan introduced the second and current generation in 2013 and made it available in the North American market in 2017. Qashqai fills the small gap between the discontinued Juke and Rogue. Unlike in Europe with several engine options, here, unfortunately, the only engine option is the 2.0L inline 4-cylinder engine, which produces 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. We wish there would be a turbocharged option at least with the top trim, as our tester feels slightly underpowered for North American highways. During our test drive, we reached an average of less than 7.8L/100 km on the highway, and around 10.0L / 100 km in the city. If you mainly commute or drive in the city, the powerband is fine and more than enough for daily driving.

2.0L inline 4-cylinder engine, generates 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque and good for daily driving

The 2.0L inline 4 engine is matched with the typical Nissan CVT transmission. It mimics like a torque converter automatic when you drive it hard, however, you can still feel CVT, especially in the low rpm range. Although many brands are switching to regular torque converter automatic, Nissan is one of the first brands which has been using CVT and seems like they have invested in the CVT platform for a long period of time. The engine and CVT transmission are matched well, and people shouldn’t expect the Qashqai to be the fastest one in this segment, but it offers one of the smoothest and most comfortable operations in its class. The All-Wheel-Drive system comes standard with the top trim. It is not going to be the off-road king, but well enough to handle wet/snowy situations on the pavement. We should mention, that it is front biased like the rest of the small crossover models, so it will continuously understeer if you lose traction in the middle of a corner. You can lock the All-Wheel Drive system manually, but it will automatically switch it off over 40 km/h. Most of the time, it is a front-wheel-drive car to save fuel, until it loses traction, then rear wheels get involved, like a regular on-demand All-Wheel Drive System.

Driving Impressions

If you don’t mind its slow pace, which is not slower than the average small crossover anyway, Nissan offers a content-rich overall package with the Qashqai. It is one of the most comfortable alternatives in its class. We like the overall comfort level and the suspension is tuned extremely well for harsh Canadian roads, despite having 19” rims and 225/45 tires with the SL trim. Another good thing is, cabin noise is significantly lower than the competition and we are impressed with that. It is easy to live with this crossover, means it is extremely easy to drive – to maneuver and it also offers great steering feeling. Speaking of the steering wheel, Nissan product development decided to use the same steering wheel with the other bigger models. A flat bottom part feels great, as you are less likely to hit your knee when you get in or get out.

Exterior and Interior

The exterior and overall design features look like the rest of the Nissan crossover lineup, especially from the front side. It is noticeably shorter than the Rogue. The second-generation Qashqai has been on the market for several years, but despite its age, it still looks fresh and aged gracefully as it is refreshed in 2017. Surprisingly, the Qashqai has wider and bigger dimensions than the average subcompact crossover, thus offering a wider cabin inside.

The functional and ergonomic dashboard is a sweetspot of the vehicle

The interior looks like its bigger sister – the Rogue, except it, has less cargo space and less rear legroom. It still has more than enough for a family of four. The legroom in the rear is better than most of the competition. Also, the cargo space is above average in the small crossover segment, which is 22.9 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and 61.1 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded. You can easily fit a road bike when you fold down the rear seats, and that is impressive for a small crossover, as usually, you must move the front passenger seat forward to get more cargo room to fit a bike. As we see in Nissan’s larger crossovers, it also comes with additional cargo storage area under the load floor, so you can divide and utilize the cargo area to keep the items sliding forward and backward.

As we take a look around the interior, there are some soft-touch, hard touch plastics, as well as piano black trims. Our opinion is they are all balanced out extremely well, they didn’t overuse the piano black trims all around the console, like some of its rivals. The overall dashboard design is very similar to other Nissan products, especially the Rogue, and there are some soft-touch plastics in the upper part, and hard touch plastics lower on the dashboard. We wouldn’t expect S-Class interior quality in a small crossover segment, and we would rate the Qashqai slightly above average when it comes to overall interior quality as they used soft-touch plastics in many areas. Our tester has leather seats and rear passengers get air vents which is rare in this class.

Rear Seats: Comfortable for two, third passenger only for short drives.

 As mentioned previously, our tester is the top “SL” trim, which offers pretty much anything available in a Qashqai.  We are really impressed with the Nissan’s ProPilot Assist and we wish it was available in all trims as it is an important safety feature. The ProPilot Assist system is capable to fully stop and go, and it works smoothly. Also, you don’t have to tap the gas pedal every time the car in front of you moves forward, you just need to press the “+” button to start moving. The SL trim also comes with LED headlights, a built-in Navigation system, 7.0” touch-screen display, Voice Recognition, SiriusXM, Push-button start along with Intelligent Key System, Remote Engine Start, Blind Spot Monitoring, 6-way power driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar support, optional Bose Premium Audio system, and so on. We think if you are interested in Qashqai, but not sure about which trim you should pick, you should definitely go with minimum SV, preferably SL. Some extras like Bose Premium Audio System is really worth getting it and makes the driving experience more enjoyable. We think that the infotainment system could be better, as it looks old, but we are glad that they offer both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Conclusion

Overall, we like driving the Qashqai a.k.a. Rogue Sport. It is a great alternative if you are looking for a daily driver, or want to get from A to B. Many reviewers all around the internet will complain about how underpowered the Qashqai is, but we, unfortunately, have few to no faster alternatives in the small crossover segment. Most of the competitors still use naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engines such as Subaru Crosstrek, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and they are not any different than the Qashqai in terms of acceleration. We wouldn’t complain about the CVT in this segment, as most of the potential buyers simply don’t care, so it is a great way to cut the costs and totally understandable to keep the price down. Nissan Qashqai starts at just above $20.000 mark, $20.198 Canadian to be exact. It can go all the way up to $35.500 Canadian if you choose the top trim as well as All-Wheel-Drive option. We think many people should go with higher trims as it offers advanced safety systems included. We would recommend the Qashqai if you are looking for great comfort, smooth driving, All Wheel Drive (optional), excellent practicality as well as some modern features and above-average interior quality.

Some of our takeaways are

+ Great comfort and overall drivetrain smoothness

+ Easy to live with – drivability

+ Overall features (especially the SL trim) and above-average interior quality

+ Large legroom – headroom and cargo capacity despite its size
+ Exterior design looks fresh, despite its age

Things can be improved

– Old looking infotainment system

– The dashboard is aging well but looks older than the competition

– More engine options, preferably forced induction alternatives

– ProPilot Assist system should be available in all trims

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

Ford Edge ST

Performance On Steroids

The new grill is the backbone of the mid-cycle facelift of Ford Edge

Crossover Utility Vehicles (CUV’s) have been getting extremely popular that even car manufacturers offer different types of it. Unfortunately, not many brands offer a CUV or SUV fun to drive. Some even don’t even care about driving pleasure, they just put a CVT to a naturally aspirated engine. Though their most important feature is family hauling, Ford offers Edge ST for people who are looking for a more performance-oriented utility vehicle. Ford stopped selling other performance-oriented vehicles such as Focus ST-RS, or Fiesta ST but kept the Edge ST in the market, which also shows that there is still a potential.

Engine and Powertrain

Let’s start with the main difference between the Edge ST, which is the drivetrain. Edge ST replaced the Edge Sport, but still has the same 2.7-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine, which is producing 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. It comes with an All-Wheel Drive system and 8-speed automatic transmission. In our tests, we really enjoyed the overall powerband and smoothness of the EcoBoost V6 engine, it feels significantly faster than average SUV. You can reach from 0 to 100 under 6 seconds, which is quite impressive and even faster than some “hot hatch” cars. Our tests show that it consumed 10.0l/100 km on the highway, and 12.0l mixed driving, which is not too bad considering this is one of the most powerful alternatives in this segment.

Driving Impressions

All Wheel Drive system is mostly front biased, and it tends to understeer when you push it hard. Maybe we are expecting too much from a CUV, but we would prefer some oversteering from a car with ST badge. Also, the transmission is not a good match with that impressive engine. Although gear ratios are short and suitable for quick acceleration, it isn’t fast when you want to shift manually. Upshifts and downshifts are smooth, but when you use paddle shifters, you feel that it is not really the fastest and sometimes it can be jerky. 7-8th gears are great for highway cruising.

We really like the suspension setup of the Edge ST. It is not easy to find the sweet spot if we are talking about a sporty SUV, as it must provide great comfort and little to no body roll. Ford Edge ST achieved this, and we weren’t expecting this level of the sophisticated suspension system. Yes, AWD system isn’t our favorite, but the suspension system is so good that it is hard to complain about the overall driving experience. It is firm, but not overly firm which is still good for long family trips.

Design

The Edge’s design is slightly outdated, yet still beautiful

The exterior design of the Edge ST is attractive, in our opinion. Wheels and bumpers are the first two things differentiate itself from the regular Edge. When we go to the interior, it is almost the same, except the seats, steering wheel, and instrument cluster. Even the latest facelifted Edge with no ST badge looks great, ST version offers a bit better visuals and sportier look.

The interior makes a high-quality impression even if some cheap plastics can be found at certain spots

The interior of the Edge ST, as mentioned, similar to the regular Edge, so that means they still use mainly hard plastics and some piano black plastics. Interior design shows its age, as latest generation Edge is on the market for a few years already. One thing that we really didn’t like is, paddle shifters feel extremely flimsy. This is something that Ford needs to update. For regular Edge, it may be acceptable, but for ST? Definitely not.

A sporty vehicle can also be very functional and utilitarian

ST badged seats look great, but it may not be the most comfortable seat in the market. I wouldn’t say it’s a disadvantage, as people who look for sporty CUV, that’s what you should get. It offers great side support and thanks to the great suspension setup, Edge ST feels more like a car than a CUV or SUV. We are really hoping that they are going to get rid of that infotainment system with the next-generation Ford Edge. However, for now, it looks old and outdated and it is no different than regular Edge or other Ford vehicles. Some other important features are, adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay – Android Auto, built-in Navigation, Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, heated-cooled seats, and heated steering wheel. Feature-wise, it is good and more than enough for many people. One feature we didn’t like is the digital rev gauge, as it looks cheesy. We would prefer 100 percent analog or percent digital for speedo and rev gauge instead.

Conclusion

The Continental tires with sporty wheels fit the character of the most powerful Edge

Yes, we would call Ford Edge ST a “CUV on Steroids” because there is a reason. Many brands, as well as Ford, is focused on the CUV and SUV segment and they want to get the most out of this market. Sales for compact cars and even hot hatches are getting less every year, that’s why Ford decided to stop selling the Focus RS, or Fiesta ST. Ford Edge ST is a great alternative for people who were in love or dreaming of driving a hot hatch when they were younger, but they still have to buy an SUV as they get older and have a family. Ford Edge ST starts at $43,827 Canadian. If you add a few features, it can go up to $49.000 before tax, which is not cheap, but you don’t have many options in this segment. We would recommend the Edge ST if both performance and family hauling are your priorities as it combines them well.

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay