Archive for January 2020

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4WD

It Started With A Surprise. And Not A Pleasant One

Our first encounter with the Pathfinder was something unexpected. As we were going to pick up the vehicle in Mississauga on Monday morning of the Christmas week, the vehicle was back from a very long journey deep in the USA. The windscreen got small chips along the legendary Route 66. And the hot, pressurized water at the automated carwash station turned these chips to three large cracks intersecting on the driver side of the windscreen. Bhu Kapur of Media Fleet, the company managing media fleets of several makes, acted fast and coordinated the same-day ordering of this critical part and made an afternoon appointment with Nissan Willowdale in Toronto.

Thanks to John Lim, the service manager of Willowdale Nissan in Toronto for a great service experience
Willowdale Nissan service team replaced the cracked windshield within about half an hour

As we arrived there around 5.30 p.m., John Lim, the service manager took the matter into his own hands and the Pathfinder got a brand new windscreen in about half an hour. At the same time, they also removed the rooftop cargo carrier that we wouldn’t need during our test drives and would be a problem when entering underground parking garages.
So, before we really drove Nissan’s SUV, we happened to experience a service visit to a dealership, which was great.

Drivetrain & Driving Impressions

The Pathfinder comes with only one option. 3.5L V6 Naturally aspirated engine that produces 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque.

Nissan Pathfinder comes with one engine option. It is a 3.5L V6 naturally aspirated engine that produces 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque. This engine has been used by Nissan for a really long time, including the other models. However, this one is heavily updated few years ago with new direct-injection, new pistons, and variable valve timing. It comes with Continuously Variable Transmission which mimics gears of traditional automatic transmission.

This CVT transmission, unlike the other Nissan models, has more towing capacity. Pathfinder can tow 3,500 lbs weight which is quite impressive for a CVT. Engine and transmission are matched well and they operate extremely smoothly, which you would expect it from a 3-row SUV. In our tests, Pathfinder had 11.5L /100 km fuel consumption, which is average in this class, but not too bad for a V6, considering there are some entries switched to turbocharged 4 cylinders in this segment.

Although Nissan Pathfinder doesn’t have a front or rear locking differentials, it offers center locking differential system which distributes 50/50 of power equal to the front and rear. There are three different options and it is pretty easy to use. The first one is 2WD mode, which the car moves with only front wheels. The second one is the Auto mode, which distributes the torque front and rear depending on the situation. The third one is the locking mode, which always sends same power regardless of the terrain. In our tests, it improves overall traction when you are in the mud. This locking feature is also getting rare, as all SUVs are getting softer and less off-road capable.

Center locking differential is available in Pathfinder

When we drive the Pathfinder, we immediately felt that it is a big SUV, and it is not trying to hide this. It has a front biased all-wheel-drive system as the V6 is a transverse engine, this won’t offer a fun-filled driving experience. This is an SUV meant for comfort and being smooth. With the 3.5L V6 engine and CVT, this is one of the most comfortable entries in this segment. The V6 engine likes to rev, and it has lots of torque in the mid-range rpm. The suspension is tuned extremely well, it is not too stiff or too soft. The overall ride quality is excellent for this price range.

Exterior & Interior

There are lots of legroom and headroom space in the front seats

The third-generation Pathfinder, which was launched in 2013, was refreshed in 2017. Most changes were made on the exterior, which still looks modern especially for a platform that is 7 years old. In the interior, it cannot hide its age, as the design gets old. There are no soft-touch plastics on the dashboard. There are only some soft-touch on the door panels, which falls behind the competition. However, where you usually touch is usually leather, soft-touch plastic or well-padded surface so you won’t feel any cheapness.

Second row legroom is excellent, though the bottom cushions are placed low.
With the third row up, there is still plenty of space.
Sliding and foldable middle seats facilitate the access to the third row

Pathfinder is a big SUV, and that means it has tons of interior space. We were able to put 65” TV and there were even lots of space left. It is an extremely practical SUV if you are looking for carrying big stuff or hauling people. Both the second and third rows can fold down and it can be a fully flat surface all the way to the front seats. Access to the third row is easy, and it is easy to fold back the seats when you need more space.  There are lots of legroom in the second row and the third row is not too bad. However, the third row is not the most comfortable as the floor is located high so you need to keep your legs in a higher position, which is not good for long trips. However, if you are planning to have more than 5 people regularly, maybe you should take a look into a minivan segment.

Features & Pricing

Our tester was the SV Rock Creek trim, which is a special edition that comes with few more exterior and interior visual features. However, there is no mechanical difference compared to normal version. All trims still come with center locking differential. Rock Creek model comes with unique 18-inch dark-finished wheels and black-molded fender guards, as well as roof rails with black accents.

Rock Creek rims are 18″ and it has special black accents.

Aside from special trims, Pathfinder has three main trims called S, SV, SL Premium and Platinum. For full specification list, please go https://www.nissan.ca/en/suvs/pathfinder/versions-specs.html

Though not the best in class, it still has plenty of legroom space in the third row.

OK, let’s go back to our tester. As mentioned previously, the infotainment system looks old, as it has been on the market for more than 6 years. However, it is easy to use and not too slow compared to today’s standards. It is unfortunately still missing the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which could be a deal-breaker for some people. Considering they are readily available in almost all other Nissan vehicles, this should have been included for a car costs more than $40.000. Not only that, but there are some half-baked technologies implemented in the Pathfinder. For instance, Adaptive Cruise control is available, but it doesn’t have fully stop and go technology. It will disable itself once the vehicle fully stops, and it starts to creep. Also, the car comes with LED low beams, but it was missing LED high beams. We would expect fully LED headlights from a 3-row SUV.

Cargo practicality is one of the strongest selling points of the Pathfinder.

There are some safety features that are available in Pathfinder. For instance, Blind spot monitoring, front collision warning are some of them. Also, there are memory seats, heated steering wheel, Bose premium sound system, tri-zone climate control which are some nice comfort features. Overall this is an SUV fully focused on the overall driver and passenger comfort. It can still keep up with the competition if you are not a tech-savvy person and looking for driving smoothness and comfort. Nissan Pathfinder starts at $36,500 with the S trim and it goes all the way up to $49,500 with the Platinum trim. Since this has been on the market for a long time, it is easy to find a great deal if you shop around as there is intense competition in the SUV market. This could actually be a great option if you find a great deal in Nissan dealer.

Article and Pictures by Dan Gunay and Varol McKars

2020 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate AWD

Hyundai Kona: One of the best selling vehicles in Hyundai’s lineup

Hyundai’s SUV Family now consists of five models. This is an expression of Hyundai’s success and passion to fill every gap in its model range. With the recent addition of Venue, The Korean company has no reason to complain. There is a Hyundai SUV for every budget and taste now. As per Automotive News, in the USA in 2019, SUV’s made up 53 percent of Hyundai sales south of the border. In Canada, the picture should not be much different. The Kona, introduced in late 2017 and sold in North America since 2018 in one of the three top-selling models in Canada.

Exterior and Interior

Front design looks similar to its bigger sister Santa Fe, which has daylights on top, and high/low beams at the bottom.

Kona has Hyundai’s main design elements. It looks similar to its bigger sisters, Santa Fe and Palisade. It has daytime running lights on top, and low/high beams placed at the bottom. It is a small sized SUV, but it has sporty design elements. That being said, there are some design features such as side plastic protection covers to make it look more rugged.

The rear design matches well with the overall looks. Sporty but still keeps it’s rugged design elements.

The interior of the Kona looks similar to the Veloster. There are lots of common parts used in many Hyundai models. There is some soft and hard touch plastics, which is expected for this price range. Where it falls behind is the overall legroom, especially in the rear. It is one of the smallest entries in the subcompact SUV class. However, front seats are really comfortable and have sufficient legroom and headroom. The driver’s seating position is also comfortable, and it feels more like a car rather than an SUV, this is where you feel that it is a driver-oriented SUV.

The interior design looks similar to the Veloster, with slightly more soft-touch plastics.

Overall user-friendliness is very good. You only need few minutes to get used to layout if you are new to a Hyundai. The instrument cluster and the infotainment screen are easy to use. Important features have dedicated buttons, so it is not 100% relying on the digital screen/infotainment system.

As it is a subcompact SUV, rear-seat legroom isn’t the best.

Speaking of the infotainment system, it is very good. For this price range, it is one of the best in its class. It also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is a car that is designed for Millennials and young people, so that’s why there are lots of modern features available. If you choose the top trim, it comes with an 8-way power-adjustable driver seat, lumbar support, a head-up display, an 8-inch color touchscreen, wireless charging, heated steering wheel, sunroof, lane keep assist, and so on. Please visit https://www.hyundaicanada.com/en/showroom/2020/kona/specs for more details.

Engine and Drivetrain

The instrument cluster and infotainment system are easy to use, and it has actual buttons for the air conditioning

Hyundai Kona comes with two different engines depending on the trim. Lower trims come with a 2.0L naturally aspirated engine which produces 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. If you choose upper trims, it comes with a 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 175 horsepower and 193 lb-ft of torque. This 1.6 turbo engine offers the most horsepower in the subcompact SUV class, and due to its size, it makes the car really peppy. It is not super fast, but it is fast enough for daily driving and easy to use due to its torque curve. Our tester’s fuel consumption was 9.5L / 100 km which is quite impressive for an All wheel drive vehicle.

It comes with a 4-cylinder 1.6 turbocharged engine, which produces 175 horsepower and 195 ft-lb of torque.

Kona also comes with two different automatic transmission options. The base engine is matched with 6-speed torque converter automatic transmission, whereas the 1.6 turbo engine has the 7-speed Dual-clutch transmission. In our tests, the 7-speed transmission is almost as smooth as torque converter automatic, but there are few occasions where you feel jerkiness and rough shifting especially when it gets hot.

Speaking of getting hot, if you are planning to take the Kona to off-road, dual-clutch transmissions are not the best option. As it is an automated manual transmission, it still has clutch operation, and if you do off-roading, it will overheat. This is where you should consider regular torque converter automatic transmission option.

Regardless of the transmission, Kona is not a heavy-duty off-road vehicle and the AWD system is not designed for that. It is an on-demand system and it activates rear wheels whenever it needs. If you drive it normally, it sends power to the front wheels only.

Driving Impressions

This is where Kona shines, compared to some other subcompact SUVs. Due to its peppy engine, it makes Kona fun to drive. This is one of the most driver-oriented option in this segment. What we didn’t like about Kona is, you are not allowed to fully disable the stability control. You can disable the traction control and stability control, but the car will get involved whenever you try to go sideways. We would like to disable it fully to get the most out of the all-Wheel Drive system, especially from a driver-oriented SUV.

Ultimate trim comes with 18″ rims and 235/45 tires, which offers the most grip.

Overall steering feeling and handling are nice, though you are sitting noticeably higher in Kona, than a compact hatchback or sedan. That means you have a significantly higher center of gravity, so it is not a corner carver by any means. However, it is quite impressive considering this is a subcompact SUV.

Kona is one of the best looking vehicles in its segment

Pricing and Conclusion

Hyundai Kona starts at $21,249 and goes all the way up to $32,249. If you want absolute base trim but need All Wheel Drive, it starts at $27,149. Kona offers great features for the price range, we believe this is one of the best bang for the buck in its class. If you need a small SUV that offers lots of features and easy to use, definitely check out the new Kona.

Good

  • Great engine and transmission combination (on pavement)
  • Great driving dynamics
  • Lots of features for this price range
  • Ease of use – buttons, infotainment, gauge cluster
  • Impressive styling

Bad

  • Adaptive Cruise is not the full range
  • Rear legroom and cargo space
  • Can’t fully disable the stability control

For more detailed and most up-to-date information please visit: http://www.hyundaicanada.com for more details.

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay