JUNE 2021
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –motoringtampabay.com

2021 HYUNDAI SONATA HYBRID After a major redesign last year, the Hyundai Sonata hybrid continues as is for 2021. With a range of over 550 miles on a tank (13.2 gallons), thanks to its gas/hybrid technology, the midsize sedan can safely and surely take you to West Palm Beach and back or even all the way to Atlanta before a fuel stop.

The credit goes to a 2.0-liter GDI 4-cylinder engine that puts out 150 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 139 pounds-feet of torque @ 5000 rpm. When paired with the 39-watt kW electric motor, the Sonata hybrid peaks at 192 hp. A powerful 56 kW lithium-ion polymer battery pack contributes to improved gas mileage. Another fuel saver is an all-new solar roof, which recharges the battery when the car has been turned off, thereby boosting driving range. And as always, during regenerative braking, the battery is recharged by the captured energy as the driver brakes or slows down. At stops, the gas engine shuts down for fuel savings and zero emissions. Power reaches the front wheels through a flawless 6-speed auto gear box. Keeping the car stable enough to soak bumps is an independent suspension of front MacPherson strut and multilink rear. The motor-driven power rack-and-pinion steering is accurate and steadfast.

The seventh-generation Sonata hybrid conveys a four-door coupe appearance. LED headlamps and daytime running lights surround the cascading cross-hole grille adorned in a mix of liquid chrome and dark metal with active air flaps. For the driver’s convenience, an analog instrument gauge solely devoted to the hybrid display, portrays charge, eco and battery readings. With 104.4 cubic feet of passenger volume, the cabin is comparable to other passenger sedans. And trunk capacity is 16 cubic feet, beating Toyota Camry volume. Dual a/c, eight-way power driver and four-way front-passenger heated and cooled seats, 60/40 rear seat, leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel with paddle shifters, 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch touch screen for phone and audio capabilities come at no cost.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, front/rear parking sensors and crumple zones, electronic stability and traction control, blind-spot, forward and rear cross-traffic collision assists, highway driving and lane-keep assists, front seatbelt pretensioners, remote keyless entry and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

Base-priced at $35,300 (our Limited edition totaled $36,464), the Sonata hybrid is even more enticing once you factor in EPA fuel estimates of 45 mpg city, 51 highway and 47 combined. The sedan responds with agility irrespective of road/weather conditions, guaranteeing an enjoyable and relaxed ride. And, of course, daring design, an attribute missing in hybrids.



2021 SUBURU LEGACY LIMITED XTFor too long, sometimes feeling like eternity, the Subaru Legacy has been pushed by the wayside. It should never have been so because the midsize sedan is nearly as good as the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Mazda6, Kia K5 and forth. With a total redesign last year, the Legacy should inspire plenty of interest. After all, the car demonstrates incredible nimbleness, remarkable handling and response. Partial credit, of course, goes to the standard symmetrical all-wheel-drive system that Subaru equips in all its vehicles.

The seventh-generation Legacy is equipped with a 2.4-liter horizontally-opposed, turbo 4-cylinder engine blasting off 260 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 277 pounds-feet of torque @ 4800 rpm. The continuous variable transmission with 8-speed manual-shift capabilities contributes to a compelling performance while ensuring gas savings.

Ensconced on the unitized body structure is a frameless hexagonal grille and lower air intake with centered Subaru star cluster insignia, flanked by C-shaped LED headlights. Outdoor-loving folks will appreciate the mounting brackets atop the roof to haul a canoe or surf board. A twin cockpit with electroluminescent analog gauge displays for speedometer, tachometer, fuel and coolant temperature give the cabin a rich feel. A huge 11.6-inch tablet-style touch screen to control navigation, audio and phone along with circular control knobs is easy to use. Drivers of different heights in the family will appreciate the three-spoke tilt/telescopic steering column. Trunk capacity of 15.1 cubic feet matches rival offerings. Other standard comforts are dual auto a/c, 10-way adjustable power driver and eight-way passenger seats, 60/40 fold rear seat, rear-seat a/c outlets, overhead sunglass holder and power moon roof.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle dynamic control, stability and traction system, rearview camera, blind-spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert, reverse auto brakes, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights come at no extra cost. The standard Eyesight assist monitor, which features lane departure warning and active cruise control, ensures that the driver maintains a straight path while the DriverFocus distraction mitigation system sounds a warning if its camera and facial recognition software finds tiredness signs or driver diversion.

It’s about time the redesigned Legacy begins to attract serious attention among sedan buyers. For us in the Tampa Bay area, the standard all-wheel-drive will be practical during the rainy season. Plus, the first-rate cabin and tremendous safety features makes the Legacy a terrific daily ride.



2021 KIA K5 GTAfter test driving the K5 EX just a couple months ago, Kia dispatched a sportier version of the midsize sedan, i.e. the GT version. All-wheel-drive system makes the ride an even more appealing proposition to tackle wet or untoward road conditions. Pick sport from the drive modes (normal, smart, custom and snow also offered) and you can have a fun and lively jaunt.

The GT is equipped with a 1.6-liter turbo gas inline-4 cylinder engine developing 180 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 195 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. It is coupled to a seamless 8-speed auto. An independent MacPherson front and a multilink rear suspension handles the bumps of irregular surfaces with little sacrifice. The column-mounted motor driven power steering is perfectly weighted and provides adequate feedback.

Length and wheelbase in all the K5 sedans increase by 2 and 1.8 inches respectively and width rises another inch though height is down by 0.8 inches. Sitting on the steel-unibody based car is a wide and thin silver-metallic radiator grille extending into LED headlights and the hood. Dual chrome exhaust tips and a rear spoiler are clearly visible. The cabin offers such helpful amenities as a 10-way power driver and 6-way manual passenger leatherette seats, 60/40 rear seat, manual tilt/telescopic and flat-bottomed steering column, panoramic sun roof, dual auto a/c with rear vents, push-button start, 4.2-inch LCD instrument display, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, and an infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen. Satin chrome accents on the center console garnish, dash pad bezel and air vents convey elegance. Trunk volume is excellent at 16 cubic feet.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, stability and traction control systems, forward and blind-spot collision avoidance assists, as well as lane-keep and lane-follow assists, rearview camera, front and rear crumple zones, side-impact door beams, three-point front seatbelts with pretensioners, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

The reasonably-priced K5, like the outgoing Optima, is not your average sedan. A spirited, fun-to-drive attitude, coupled with a muscular stance and all-wheel-drive capabilities, render this Kia a best buy. Indeed, it is a difficult act to beat if you consider the Korean automaker’s basic 10-year/100,000-mile limited power train and 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranties.

K5 (GT)

Nitish S. Rele, editor/publisher of Motoring Tampa Bay (www.motoringtampabay.com) and Khaas Baat (www.khaasbaat.com), was an automotive editor/columnist for The Tampa Tribune.

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