Thursday, February 20, 2020



Hyundai has rounded out its portfolio of SUVs and crossovers with the 2020 Venue.

As a subcompact, it is the smallest of the South Korean automakers SUV fleet that includes the Kona and Kona Electric, Tucson, Santa Fe, Palisade, and the hydrogen fuel-cell NEXO, but it punches way above its weight with a long list of features not usually found in its class.

Miami media got a look at it at a special preview luncheon in January (see my files for January for an overview), and more time in the Venue recently essentially confirmed what they had to say.

This is a ideal vehicle for an urban environment with all the traffic and parking ills that come with that, and it is a vehicle that is suited for young singles and families with a particular appeal to first-time new-car buyers as well as “empty-nesters” looking for something with outside-the-box styling and lots of safety and convenience features.

It comes in three trim levels starting with the base SE (starting MSRP $17,350). The SEL version ($19,250) not only adds more standard features but also accommodates such options as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, push-button start, heated front seats, and an 8-inch touchscreen display with navigation, all features that are mostly standard on the top-of-the-line Denim model ($22,050).

All Venues are front-wheel drive and have a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine (121 horsepower, 113 pound-feet of torque) under the hood. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard on the SE, and the SEL and Denim trims get what Hyundai calls an Intelligent Variable Transmission that is a nice take on a CVT.

Fuel economy with the manual is 27 miles-per-gallon city, 35 highway and 30 combined. EPA numbers for the IVT are 30/34/32.

This review is based on the SEL that in addition to such standard equipment as Forward Collision Avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist, driving modes that include a snow setting to go with normal, Eco, and sport, Android Auto and Apple Carplay, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel had such options as a sunroof, sliding armrest for the center console storage box, blind-spot warning, LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels replacing the standard 15s, and the 8-inch touchscreen with navigation.

That ran the final total to $23,280 with the $1,095 destination and delivery charge added in.

Despite its subcompact designation, the Venue offers pretty good interior space for both passengers and their stuff. Those in the front get just over 41 inches of legroom while those in the back have a bit less at 34.3 inches.

The two-level floor in the back can be expanded to 18.7 cubic feet for storage with the rear seats in place and up to 31.9 cubic feet with those seats folded.

You can imagine with such modest horsepower and torque numbers the Venue is not a hot performer, but it was effective enough in my street and city expressway driving. Putting in Sport mode does liven up things. The IVT includes false shift points to simulate manual gear selection and has more the feel of a regular automatic transmission, not a tradition CVT. 

What I liked about the 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL: The Venue SEL comes with many features not usually found at this price level with many of them standard. Technological functions, and there are a surprising number of them on the upper trims (navigation, for example, is included on the top-of-the-line Denim models and all trims get Bluetooth hands-free phone with voice recognition as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) are easy to operate.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL: The engine could use some more punch, but the Intelligent Variable Transmission is a big improvement over past CVTs. If you don’t like it, a 6-speed manual is standard. All-wheel drive is not offered.

Would I buy the 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL? Actually, the first real new car I bought years ago was a model very much like the Venue, so the answer has to be yes. My new car obviously didn’t have nearly the features of the new modern Venue but was a small wagon that was very adaptable for a small, growing family, just like the Venue. The Venue also is practical for empty-nesters as well.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020



Introduced as a replacement for the midsize GLK-Class, the GLC-Series has become the most popular SUV in the Mercedes-Benz stable in just four years, outselling even the company’s much-admired, entry-level C-Class sedans and coupes.

Also available as a coupe, GLC-Series sales in the U.S. were 73,650 for 2019, up 5.6 percent over 2018 numbers and over 24,000 more units than the C-Class, the company reported.

Though not quite due for a redesign, the 2020 GLC gets several mid-cycle updates that include new front and rear bumpers, redesigned LED taillights, a more powerful 4-cylinder base engine, the company’s new MBUX infotainment system, and special design elements to give it an updated look that includes LED headlights as standard and a new front grille.

It comes in five trim levels starting with the base GLC300 with rear-wheel drive and GLC300 4MATIC, the company’s all-wheel-drive system. An electric power train is offered on the GLC350e, while the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 and GLC63 serve as high performance, gas models.

This review is based on the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 that carries a base MSRP of $59,500.

The AMG GLC43 is equipped with a 3.0-liter, biturbo V6 engine that is rated at 385 horsepower — and increase of 23 hp over previous years — and 384 pound-feet of torque compared to the 255/273 horsepower/torque you get from the 4-banger in the 300.

If that isn’t enough for you, the turbocharged 4.0-liter in the AWD AMG GLC63 delivers 469 hp with a peak torque of 479.

You pay for that in mileage, of course. The AMG GLC43 has EPA figures of only 18 miles-per-gallon city, 24 highway, and 21 combined — using premium fuel, of course.

The AMG GLC43 scoots from zero-to-60 mph in 4.7 seconds, according to company clockers, who caught the AMG GLC63 in 3.8 seconds. MSRP for the AMG CLC63 starts at about the same level that a well-equipped AMG GLC43 does, so if that second means that much to you, have at it!

The biturbo V6 in the GLC43 is mated to an AMG Speedshift 9-speed transmission, and an AMG sport-tuned suspension and AMG-enhanced braking system are standard. You can choose from five driving modes — Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual and Slippery.

The AMG GLC43’s interior is full-on luxury with high quality materials throughout and standard sport seats offering support to both the driver and front-seat passenger. The AMG Performance Steering Wheel features Nappa leather with a perforated grip area. It has a nice hefty feel to it for confident maneuvering.

If you can’t get comfortable in here, you just can’t get comfortable.

Automatic dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android, are among convenience features, and AMG illuminated sill plates add a nice touch to the interior.

Safety systems in addition to the usual seat belts and airbags include Active Brake Assist and Adaptive Braking technology and blind-spot warning.

Options and packages on my test AMG GLC43 included Driver Assistance (Active Steering Assist, Lane-keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, and Active Emergency Stop Assist), 21-inch, AMG split 10-spoke wheels,  AMG Performance Exhaust system, and a Parking Assist program featuring a surround-view camera and hands-free parking.

The saddle brown/black leather interior added $1,620 and the panorama sunroof $1,500 to the bottom line. 

All that totaled out to $74,075 for the test vehicle.

What I liked about the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 SUV: The interior is spacious and luxurious though a bit more than the 37.3 inches of legroom for backseat passengers would be nice. Designers have incorporated the 10.25-inch touchscreen more into the flow of the dash that on some earlier models looked like it had been stuck at the top of the center stack as an afterthought. You can turn off the automatic Stop/Start system by pushing a button on the console.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 SUV: The new MBUX touch system for infotainment takes some getting used to, at least more than a week for anyone who is an inveterate surfer on the audio system (though the system does respond to “Hey, Mercedes” requests quickly). Some may be annoyed by the pounding exhaust tones, especially when sportier setups are engaged.

Would I buy the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 SUV? I would like it better with a less fussy infotainment system, but other than that this is one of the best in a very competitive class.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020


After a redesign for 2019, not a whole lot was left for Hyundai to do with its sporty little Veloster hatchback for 2020.

It still retains the innovative three-door design with one coupe-sized door on the driver’s side and two sedan-like doors on the passenger side for easier access to a small backseat, and it offers a generous 19.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats that more than doubles to 44.4 cubic feet when those second-row seats are folded.

And it still has the kind of sassy attitude that the original Veloster exuded when it was introduced for the 2012 model year.

What’s different for 2020 is more a matter of subtraction than addition in features. Most notably, a 6-speed manual transmission is no longer available on the Turbo Ultimate trim level. If working a clutch pedal to shift gears is your thing, you’ll have to look at the base 2.0 model, the Turbo R-Spec or the performance-oriented Veloster N. Not bad choices, by the way.

Other tweaks include blind-spot collision warning with rear cross-traffic warning as standard on the Turbo R-Spec, wireless charging as standard on Turbo and Turbo Ultimate trims, cargo area tie-downs on all trims, new front and rear fascia accents, and gloss black side skirts in place of flat black.

The Veloster is offered in six trim levels starting with the base 2.0 that has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated either the 6-speed manual ($19,755 including destination and delivery) or a 6-speed automatic transmission for $1,000 more.

That engine is rated at 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, which is OK for your daily commute but not much in the way of fun.

Other trims get various engine/transmission combos with the 2.0 Premium coming with the 2.0 4-banger/Shiftronic transmission as standard while the R-Spec Turbo gets a 1.6 turbocharged 4-cylinder (hence the trim name) with the 6-speed manual.

The upgraded Turbo and Turbo Ultimate have the 1.6-turbo engine with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission, and the Veloster N comes with a slightly larger, 2.0-liter turbo-4 and 6-speed manual transmission.

The turbo engines offer more in the way of get-up-and-go with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, though mileage figures are about the same for either engine (28 miles-per-gallon city, 34 highway and 30 combined for the turbo and 27/34/30 for the 2.0 trim with an automatic and 25/33/28 for the manual).

The Veloster N packs a punch of 250 horsepower with the standard package and up to 275 horsepower with the performance package.

This review is based on the Turbo Ultimate that carried a bottom-line MSRP of $29,215 with the only extra $135 for carpeted floor mats.

No extras really are needed for the Ultimate with a long line of standard features that include such niceties as LED low-beam headlights, LED tail lamps, Infinity Premium audio with 8 speakers, navigation with an 8-inch display screen, SiriusXM satellite radio (unless you live in Hawaii or Alaska), wireless charging pad, head-up display, automatic climate control, power lumbar support for the driver’s seat, a 3-yard subscription to Hyundai’s Blue Link systems, leather seats, and adaptive cruise control.

Standard safety features include lane-keeping assist, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot warning.

Frankly, that’s a pretty impressive list for a vehicle in this particular class.

What I liked about the 2020 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate: It is a fun car to drive, and the infotainment functions are all very easy to operate. The head-up display shows not only your speed in digital form but serves as a tachometer as well, handy if you are using the paddle shifters. The big improvement is that the hologram does not disappear if you are wearing polarized sunglasses.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate: No manual transmission is offered on the Turbo Ultimate trim for 2020. Where is the fun in that? The latch to release the front seatback to provide access to the rear from the driver's side is at the bottom of the seatback, making it a two-handed operation to return the back to the desired position. When the lever is lifted, the seat back snaps back but not all the way to its previous location. With a rear door on the passenger side providing access, it’s not a deal breaker, but still can be inconvenient at times

Would I buy the 2020 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate? Yes. If I was looking for a sporty hatchback for basic workday commutes and perhaps weekend getaways, this would be high on my list of prospects.