Spring is in the passing lane and running at wide-open throttle, with the busy month of April behind us and May is off and running. After a two-year hiatus, the New York International Auto Show returned to host the automotive industry’s latest and greatest, and Earth Day shined a bit more light on the advancements of hybrids, EVs, and other alternatively powered vehicles. In fact, for this edition of What NEMPA Members are Driving, we have journalists’ impressions of two Ford hybrids, one of which is enjoying what’s best described as wicked good sales. We’re also covering some of a diverse selection of SUVs and crossovers, as well as a surprisingly affordable boosted hatchback.
2022 Ford Escape PHEV Titanium
Text and images by Craig Fitzgerald
This past week was Dumpster Day at Holliston (MA) High School, where the senior class has three dumpsters available for all your stuff you can’t get rid of at the “recycling center.”
This is an event that I seriously look forward to with more anticipation than Christmas.
It’s best with a pickup, but this week I had a 2022 Ford Escape plugin hybrid.
While a pickup might be more convenient, a crossover is to my advantage because I can fill it full of stuff for $40 rather than $65 for a truck.
The Escape has 65.4 cubic feet of cargo volume with the seats down. I managed to get all of the rotten boards off my back deck inside, with enough room left for a busted plastic wheelbarrow, a bunch of other scrap lumber, some busted milk crates, and other miscellaneous garbage.
If you ask me, a plug-in hybrid is the way to go if you’re interested in an EV, but can’t do the math to figure out if you actually drive 250 miles every day (SPOILER ALERT: you don’t).
With a PHEV, you can do all of your in-town driving on electric power, then have the gas engine at the ready for longer trips. It’s a great compromise, and even with the gas engine running, you get an estimated 100 MPGe.
The drawback is the price, which is $43k on this loaded Titanium trim. You can buy one cheaper but not by much. They start just under $35k.
In the ocean of crossover SUVs, I’m quite fond of the Escape. A few years back, I ran a decibel meter inside an Escape and the current CRV. The CRV had improved a lot versus the whistlebox it used to be, but the Escape was still quieter on the highway, registering an average 73db to the CRV’s 77, in the rain with the wipers running.
The people who own these tend to love them. Erica Seifert Plunkett and Victoria Pridgen can tell you more about how they operate over the long term, but for me, the Escape is always inoffensive, competent and reliable, which is what most Americans who buy these and other appliances are after.
Base Price: $39,185
Options: Rapid Red Metallic paint – $395 (Note: The price listed on Ford.com is $495, but this is the price on the sticker) Titanium Premium Package – $1,895
Equipped Price: $43,395
2022 Ford Maverick XL
Text and images by Matt Smith
Who would have guessed that the market’s most-affordable hybrid vehicle would be a pickup truck? While many automakers highlight their fully loaded models in marketing materials, Ford has taken a different approach with the 2022 Ford Maverick; it’s the truck’s base XL trim which offers the most compelling value proposition. Even more astonishing, the bargain bin race isn’t all that close, with the second-cheapest option being the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid—roughly $3,000 more expensive than the Maverick.
It’s been years since we’ve had a truly affordable, small pickup truck on the market. With the Maverick, Ford is offering more than a low price. Thanks to a standard hybrid engine (albeit one that’s available only with front-wheel drive), the Maverick also provides city fuel economy in excess of 40 miles per gallon. So, where did the cost-cutting take place to make the Maverick such an affordable option, both at the dealership and the gas pump?
Well, the interior is an array of hard plastics and cheaply produced materials. The infotainment system runs a bare-bones spec of Ford’s lower-tier software. And on the exterior, you’re sure to notice the salvage-yard-special steel wheels. But, despite all this, pragmatic folks (like us in New England) are wont to point out the upside: The interior remains comfortable, the tech is simple to use, and those steelies look pretty sweet.
Ford has developed an identity around its “Built Ford Tough” tagline, so it should be no wonder that its new entry-level option has a truck bed. The 2022 Maverick comes in plenty of flavors—a top-of-the-line Lariat trim delivers 250 horsepower, has all-wheel drive, and loses the steelies—but it’s arguably most intriguing in its lowest-cost configuration.
2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige
Text by Silvio Calabi, image courtesy of Genesis
My wife, who over the past 20 years has lost her eyesight but has ridden in more than a thousand different cars, climbed into this one and—even before we’d left the driveway—said “Oh, this feels really comfortable.” Then she ran her fingers over the center console and dashboard and added, “Really nice, too!” Even the blind can tell.
2022 Kia Sorento X-Line SX-Prestige
Text and images by Tim Plouff
Georgetown is similar to many coastal villages along the Maine coast. Water abounds, with coves, inlets, ponds, and no less than three major rivers—Kennebec, Sasanoa, and Sheepscot—running around what is essentially a large island southeast of Bath. In several ways, Georgetown is just like the village of Sorento in Downeast Maine except that Georgetown doesn’t have one swell crossover named after it.
Updated last year, Kia’s mid-size wagon offering still retains its three-row seating despite being shorter, lighter, and better in every driving dynamic. Poised to drive, refined to ride in, and well-balanced to live with, the Sorento X-Line excelled at conquering every road-going adventure.
Packing the brand’s 2.5-liter turbo-four engine—281-hp, 311-pound/feet of peak torque—the top Sorento ($45,120) was responsive and reasonably thrifty, returning 25-mpg during 500-miles together, right in the EPA’s estimated sweet-spot. A front-drive hybrid is also available, around $35,000, while a plug-in hybrid with AWD and 32-miles of electric-only operation is slated to hit showrooms—or dealer order-banks—later this year.
With enhanced chassis refinement, including selectable drive modes for the AWD, the Sorento shares the design emphasis of its larger Telluride sibling. These characteristics are also visible throughout the handsome two-tone leather interior. A huge dual-panel sunroof overhead, supportive second-row bucket seats with one finger tilt-and-slide for third row access, plus USB ports at all positions and above-average controls at the helm give the Sorento owner all of the wants, needs, and wishes for every driving adventure.
While exploring Georgetown’s leaf-less roads in search of summer hide-aways, the Five Islands Lobster Co. showed signs of springing to life, even in early April. Nestled against the tiny islands on the west side of the Sheepscot River that give the village its appropriate name, the Sorento seemed anxious to shuffle a family to one of the dock’s famous lobster dinners.
With a portfolio that oozes with value and outright competence, the Sorento will never leave its driver thinking, “you can’t get there from here, dear.”
2022 Land Rover Evoque R-Dynamic S
Text and images by Mike Geylin
Last week I was driving the 2022 Land Rover Evoque R-Dynamic S compact SUV in and around the highways and byways of Cape Cod (photo taken at Stage Harbor in Chatham). The small-on-the-outside, roomy-on-the-inside four-wheeler lived up to its Range Rover legacy offering superb luxury, amenities, and technology in a package capable of scaling mountains and traversing less-than-wonderful terrain.
2022 Mazda3 Hatchback 2.5 Turbo AWD
Text and images by Thom Blackett
When I started reviewing cars about 20 years ago, I worked for an editor who never seemed to meet a Mazda he didn’t like. He’d owned several Miatas, sometimes more than one at a time. Though I lacked his experience, I quickly came to view Mazdas as genuinely fun-to-drive vehicles characterized by sporty handling and eager – if underpowered – engines.
Fast forward a couple of decades and we have models like my recent test car: a 2022 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD Hatchback. Like its predecessors, this Mazda3 is a hoot to drive on twisty roads but is equally at home cruising at 80 mph on straight stretches of highway. That can be attributed to a suspension tuned to be firm but not jarring. Paired with the chassis components is a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces a healthy 227 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque, all of which is dispersed to the front and rear wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. That same powertrain was fitted to the Mazda CX-30 I drove the previous week, though the Mazda3 averaged 27.5 mpg compared to the CX-30’s 24.1 mpg. Interesting, since I was much more liberal with my use of the 3’s gas pedal.
Inside, the Mazda3 offers limited space, though the rear seat is more comfortable and spacious than the bench seat in the CX-30. Premium materials give the cabin an upscale feel, with soft-touch surfaces on nearly every surface and hard plastics reserved for out-of-sight areas like the lower dash. Even the edges of the center console, against which the driver’s knee will often rest, are padded and wrapped in high-quality vinyl.
Put it all together and you have what I view as the relatively affordable version of the Ultimate Driving Machine. No, the 2022 Mazda3 is not a BMW, but with an as-tested price of $35,810, it’s also not priced like one.