Jul 19, 2019

What we're driving: Mazda3 hatchback

Mazda3 hatchback. Photo: Mazda

This week I'm driving the 2019 Mazda3 hatchback, which starts at $23,600, but with the premium all-wheel-drive package, sells for $28,900.

What's new: The hatchback's Polymetal Gray is a newly developed exterior paint option that fuses the hard appearance of metal with the glossy smoothness of plastic for a unique look.

  • Inside, the red and black interior's soft-touch materials gives this compact car a real premium feel.
  • It's available with a manual transmission, but my test vehicle had an automatic mated to the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

Overall impressions: Like all Mazdas, it's fun to drive and high quality, but the back seat is cramped, rear visibility is limited and the infotainment system is difficult to use, with many tasks requiring at least two steps.

Advanced safety stuff: Mazda's i-ActiveSense suite of advanced safety features is standard on most versions, including a driver attention alert, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic warning.

  • Yes, but: The base Mazda3 doesn't even come with standard automatic emergency braking, which, through a voluntary industry agreement, should be standard in virtually all cars by 2022.

The bottom line: I've always been a Mazda fan, and the Mazda3 is excellent, but a handful of disappointments, like the clunky infotainment system, could cause me to choose another model.

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What we're driving: 2019 Kia Niro EV

2019 Kia Niro EV. Photo: Kia

This week I'm driving the 2019 Kia Niro EV, a battery-powered compact with a 239-mile driving range.

The bottom line: As with most Kia brand vehicles, the Niro packs in a lot of features ordinarily found in more expensive cars. The sticker price on my tester, outfitted with the top-of-the-line EX Premium trim plus a $1,080 cold-weather package and $1,000 worth of other extra goodies, is $47,155 before a $7,500 federal tax incentive for EVs.

Go deeperArrowAug 2, 2019

Don't expect Carmageddon to kill driving anytime soon

Photo: Kian Eriksen/Total 911 Magazine/Future via Getty Images

Carmageddon is upon us: Before we know it, robo-cars will be ubiquitous and crowd out human-driven cars.

What they're saying: After all, Elon Musk has said that buying anything other than a Tesla that can drive itself will be as financially insane as owning a horse. But horses survived, and driving will too.

Go deeperArrowAug 16, 2019

What we're driving: Lexus UX 250 F-Sport

Lexus UX. Photo: Lexus

This week I'm driving the 2019 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport, an entry-level Lexus with awfully big ambitions.

Details: The UX (urban crossover) is aimed at millennials looking for adventure in the city. It tries to be both sporty and efficient, affordable yet luxurious. Though labeled a crossover, it's really just a hatchback.

Go deeperArrowAug 16, 2019