New Model News

Refreshed 2021 Kia Rio gets mild-hybrid engine, high-tech upgrades

Kia has given the Rio a solid mid-cycle refresh.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The Rio is the smallest car in Kia's lineup, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't pack a heck of a punch. The refreshed version of the fourth-generation Rio broke cover today delivering a host of upgrades.

The new model retains Kia's signature tiger nose grille but updates it to fall into like with the new K5 and Cadenza sedans, among others. It pairs with a wider front bumper and new fog lamp housing. Full LED headlamps are standard. Kia has added Perennial Grey and Sporty Blue paint jobs to the roster as well as new 16-inch alloy wheels.

The car is now available with a Perennial Grey paint job.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Under the hood is a new turbocharged 1.0-liter mild-hybrid engine, replacing the current 1.0-liter powers-ant. It features the same 48-volt lithium-ion battery technology that is present in many mild-hybrid vehicles from the Ram 1500 to the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The new engine produces 100 or 120 horsepower, depending on the buyer's choice, the same as the outgoing power plant.

European versions of the car will be available with additional engine options.

The car comes standard with Kia's new clutch-by-wire manual transmission. It works with other car systems to activate Kia's auto start-stop technology while maintaining traditional gearbox characteristics. The engine is automatically switched off when the brake and clutch pedals are simultaneously pressed as the car comes to a stop. When the pedals are released, the engine is turned back on.

Kia has equipped the Rio with a Drive Mode Select system, giving drivers the choice of Eco, Sport, and Normal drive modes.

At the front, the car has design cues in line with the new Cadenza and K5.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The new Rio is available with an 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen. It has Display Audio or navigation, depending on vehicle specification. The list of standard features includes Bluetooth while wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available when buyers opt for a model with the larger screen.

Buyers can also get "Phase II" of the UVO Connect telematics system, which includes live traffic information, weather forecasts, points of interest, fuel prices, and details of potential on- and off-street parking – including price, location and availability. It also features online voice recognition, supported by server technologies, which lets users give voice commands, hands-free, to search for nearby points of interest, addresses, weather updates, or send text messages.

The UVO App is compatible with Android and Apple smartphones, and allows owners to activate a range of functions and features remotely. Depending on country, users can remotely send route directions to their car before a journey, check the location of their vehicle, and access vehicle reports and diagnostic notifications.

More details about the system will be released closer to the car's on-sale date.

In front of the driver is a 4.2-inch digital display.

2021 Kia Rio The driver information screen displays information at a higher resolution than in the past.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Owners can choose from a number of interior customizations whose availability depends on the market. The color options add colored seat bolsters, dashboard, and door arm rests, as well as contrast stitching. GT-Line models are offered with a black single-tone interior with white contrast piping and stitching on the seats, and a faux carbon fiber dashboard.

Standard and GT Line Rio models are now equipped with driver and optional front passenger seat height adjustability.

The Rio is also available with a long list of safety and driver assistance features including forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian, vehicle, and cyclist detection, intelligent speed limit warning, smart cruise control, rear cross traffic assist, rear occupant alert, lane departure alert, and lane following assist.

2021 Kia Rio New color options add contrast stitching to the Rio's seats.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Pricing and an on-sale date will be announced later this year.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Subaru Crosstrek has been refreshed for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

Long beloved for its zippy drivability and spacious cargo area, the Subaru Crosstrek is also just underpowered enough for some drivers to make it a non-starter. The automaker is now offering a 2.5-liter four-cylinder option for the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek.

Buyers can choose the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque or the 2.5-liter that is shared with the Forester and gets 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek The car is mostly unchanged at the rear compared to the 2020 model and still just as capable. Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

Both engines are paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in most trim levels. The standard six-speed manual transmission in the Base and Premium grades is paired with the smaller engine. Models equipped with the CVT get Intelligent and Sport drive modes.

The larger engine gets 27 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined. The smaller engine, mated with the CVT, achieves 28 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg combined. With the manual, the Crosstrek gets just 22/29/25 mpg city/highway/combined.

All models will continue to be sold with standard all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring technology. Base models get a Low Shift Mode for descending hills.

Models with the CVT come standard with a suite of Subaru EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. That suite now includes adaptive cruise control with lane centering (debuted on the 2020 Outback) in addition to automatic pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure prevention, lead vehicle start alert, automatic start-stop, rear seat reminder, and SI-Drive.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek The Crosstrek Sport features blacked out interior and exterior elements. The Crosstrek Limited is the most refined model. Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek will start at $22,245, just a $100 increase over the price of the 2020 model.

Subaru is adding a Sport grade ($26,495) to the Crosstrek lineup for 2021. It, along with the Limited trim level ($27,995), comes standard with the larger engine. The Crosstrek Sport gets dual-function X-Mode, which also debuted on the Outback, and includes hill descent control with snow/dirt and deep snow/mud selectable settings.

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek will make its way to a dealership near you this summer.

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The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross takes its name from the beloved cars.

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

I wasn't a big car guy growing up. Some kids can tell you the horsepower and engine and endless stats about every car on the road. Or they'll notice the difference in taillights between individual model years, or any of a million other nips and tucks that carmakers do to differentiate their cars.

These days, it's my job to know that stuff, but when I was in high school, I didn't know much — but I knew what a Mitsubishi Eclipse was. As I got ready to write this review, I went back and watched perhaps the most famous 90's-era Mitsubishi Eclipse you could find: Paul Walker's bright green ride in "Fast and the Furious".

2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross The car is more traditional up front than it is in the back.Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

The second-generation Eclipse, built from 1995 to 1999, was the best-known (and best-looking) of all the cars, and became a vehicular icon for my generation in no small part to the role it played in "Fast and the Furious". Though I remember the car, I'd forgotten how terrible this movie is. The dialogue is cringeworthy, the cars are absurd (how many gears does that thing have?), and the story is outlandish. But it's still a hoot, and I may end up rewatching the whole series.

But then in 2011, Mitsubishi ended the Eclipse line for good. Or so we thought. Now we have a new one, only the sporty looks and movie-star glamour is long gone. It's called the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and it's... a compact crossover SUV of no particular importance.

That might be a little harsh. It's actually quite an interesting looking vehicle, which is more than can be said for most crossovers. Though the front isn't particularly exciting, the rear has more going for it. There's a dual-window design on the rear tailgate, with a light bar running across the middle. It's very much a love-it-or-hate-it design, but at least it's not boring.

There's a crease running up the doors to the back as well, which looks particularly sharp on the Red Diamond review unit that Mitsubishi sent me for a week. It stickered for $32,720 on the SEL trim, though you can likely negotiate a nice chunk of change off of that at your local Mitsubishi dealer.

2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross The touch screen is okay but the trackpad that is used to navigate it is detrimental.Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

Feature-wise, the Eclipse Cross is well-equipped, with a tiny 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower. That's not a ton of power, but for a family crossover it's plentiful and turns in a combined 25 miles per gallon.

Mine had the $2,100 Touring Package, which kicks in a lovely panoramic sunroof, the ever-important adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection and auto-braking, a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, and some other minor additions.

If you look at the feature list, the Eclipse Cross is a solid vehicle. The interior design is a little rougher, with hard plastic everywhere and not-so-luxurious touch points. The trackpad to control the screen is terrible, as are the up/down buttons to control the dual-zone climate control (though the heated seats work excellently).

The infotainment screen could be bigger, and the dash screen needs some polish. The engine gets the job done, but it's not exactly quiet. It's a middle-of-the-road crossover. It does what it's supposed to do. You can get it for a good price and it's well-equipped.

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