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The Daily Drivers: an update on crossover updates

We live in the crossover age. These vehicles fuse features of SUVs with those of people movers. There are so many that we often find ourselves behind the wheel of different versions of models we've recently driven. Here are a few.

2014 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Unlimited

$17,895 base start, $24,990 as tested

For 2014, Subaru tweaks the wagon version of the Impreza. The result is a roomier cabin and better fuel mileage. A new gearbox — a CVT — helps produce an estimated 27 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. The downsides are the sluggish acceleration and transmission noise at higher revs. Still, the Impreza, especially its five-door guise, is a practical and comfortable daily driver with the advantage of having standard all-wheel drive. Peter was quite impressed with the cargo space, using it to deliver several large bags of clothing and toy donations to a local shelter. The car's 2.0-liter horizontally opposed "boxer" 4-cylinder engine produces 148 horsepower, which is adequate in interstate driving but seems better suited for the city. One thing you can say about the Impreza: It's predictable, and that's not a bad thing.

2014 Kia Soul!

$14,900 base start, $26,195 as tested

Based on our experience, the Kia Soul's appeal cuts across all demographics — hip-hop hamster commercials to the contrary. Unlike the boxy brethren from other carmakers, the Soul is a bestseller because it has the right mix of practicality, price and panache. In that regard, nothing has changed for 2014. The Soul does get a slight redesign that includes nips and tucks to the front and rear ends, as well as new head- and taillights. Available new items include a panoramic sunroof and an upgraded UVO infotainment system. Our top-level "!" (Exclaim) trim tester, which starts at $20,300, came with the $2,500 "Whole Shabang" package. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine gets a slight bump in torque. For 2014, the roomy interior manages to feel more sophisticated and quiet while still being fun. Kia also has increased the cargo capacity (61 cubic feet). There's a little more heart in this Soul.

2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

$19,470 base start, $23,420 as tested

Unlike its seven-seat sibling, the Mitsubishi Outlander, the five-seat Outlander Sport didn't get a significant facelift for 2014. The compact SUV still has the large trapezoidal grille that had been the carmaker's trademark and which some have described as "sharklike." (The regular Outlander now has a more stylish Tron-like grille.) The Outlander Sport looks more sporty than it drives, but it's not a bad ride for running errands in town. It, too, has a CVT that contributes to a loud drone under acceleration. Inside, the cabin seems slightly improved with better-quality plastics and finish. We liked our tester's comfortable cloth seats and their graphic-design inserts. New for '14 on some Sport models is touchscreen audio. We found the 6.1-inch screen to be on the small side; we'd still like some old-school buttons. Overall, the Sport seems more "budget" than its competition.

2014 Kia Sorento Limited

$24,100 base start, $40,395 as tested

A few months ago, we drove the 2014 Sorento in mid-level EX trim. Now we've taken a step up to the top-of-the-line Limited. We've always found the Sorento to be an agreeable midsize crossover with lots of features, a powerful V-6 (290 horsepower) in most models, available third-row seating and all-wheel drive, and a competitively priced base model. As you can tell from our tester's price, the Limited trim is loaded. Premium features include Kia's FlexSteer system, which allows you to change modes from standard to sport to comfort. There's an Infinity sound system, a vivid 8-inch touchscreen with Kia's user-friendly UVO system (one of our favorites gets better), leather seats and more. The exterior is set off by mirror-finish 19-inch alloy wheels. Oh, and there's up to 72.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded. The Limited delivers feature-laden luxury.

The Daily Drivers: an update on crossover updates 04/25/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2014 6:23pm]
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