SMALL SUVs, BIG MONEY

This Is the New York Auto Show Trend You Have To Know About


April 18, 2019 Cars By

They’re breeding like Tribbles on the starship Enterprise. They’re blowing up like no other vehicle category on the planet. They’re compact crossovers, and the New York International Auto Show is chin-deep in the latest specimens.

For novelty’s sake—or maybe the planet’s—the new crop of high-riding sorta-hatchback models included some intriguing electric vehicles. Mercedes-Benz promised that its gussied-up EQC Edition 1886 will reach showrooms by 2020, alongside the standard EQC that is the first fruit of Benz’s “EQ” sub- brand. A sizable 80-kWh battery tucks below the eggshell-smooth body, with a pair of asynchronous electric motors, all-wheel-drive and a promised range of 293 miles…or less, if drivers liberally apply the EQC’s 402 horsepower and 564 pound-feet of torque that make it good for a claimed 4.9-second sprint from 0 to 60 mph.

Above: Mercedes-Benz EQC 1886

The painfully punny Kia HabaNiro cranked up the Scoville scale with an out-there electric concept: an industrial-mawed crossover EV with four butterfly doors, as well as artificial intelligence to monitor and adjust the interior according to its driver’s mood. Kia envisions the HabaNiro offering enough self-driving capability to let occupants watch movies projected on a head-up display that spans the entire windshield, thus making it very clear this is a concept car.

Above: Kia HabaNiro Concept

In contrast to those EV sizzlers, Audi’s redesigned 2020 Q3 made a relatively quiet debut, even if it exponentially more Americans will actually buy the Audi. And compared with its underwhelming predecessor, this Q3 may actually be worth buying, offering everything from Audi’s Virtual Cockpit display to a jumped-up 2.0-liter turbo four with 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The Q3 reaches showrooms in summer, at a price of $35,695 to start.

Above: 2020 Audi Q3

Ford’s luxury car division debuted its third new SUV in as many New York Auto Shows in the form of the compact 2020 Lincoln Corsair. Sharing a modular platform with the latest Ford Escape, the new Corsair bucked one all-too-common small crossover trend: It just wants to be stylish, comfy and luxurious, with a refreshing lack of claims-to-sportiness that end up being broken promises in so many SUVs.

Above: 2020 Lincoln Corsair

In an update from the Too Little, Too Late Department, Mazda dropped its serially-delayed Skyactiv-D diesel engine into the otherwise excellent CX-5 crossover. Inexplicably, the diesel makes less horsepower and torque than the CX5’s optional, 2.5-liter turbo four—168 horses and 290 pound-feet, versus the 2.5’s respective 250 and 310. More inexplicably, at 28 mpg combined, the 2.2-liter diesel delivers a negligible 2-mpg gain over the basic gasoline-powered CX-5.

Of course, the show wasn’t just smallish crossovers; companies up and down the Javits Center also rolled out lower-riding vehicles, from the show-stopping Porsche 911 Speedster to the Genesis Mint concept. Hyundai was among the automakers putting a brave face on the waning family sedan category in New York, showing its dazzler of a 2020 Sonata and reminding us that Americans are still buying 5 million traditional cars each year. 

“While some automakers have lost interest in these buyers, we haven’t,” said Brian Smith, chief operating officer of Hyundai’s American arm. (Hint: Smith is referring to the geniuses running Ford and Fiat Chrysler, who are largely abandoning traditional cars in the hope that every last American can be talked into a pickup or SUV.) And the Alabama-built Sonata looks like a home run, from its swoopy, expressive body and daring lighting signatures to leading-edge technology like a smartphone-based virtual key that can manage locking/unlocking, remote starting, and myriad presets for multiple users.

Above: 2020 Hyundai Venue

Yet even Hyundai couldn’t resist unveiling another crossover SUV, giving it a total of six on sale by the end of 2019. The Hyundai Venue is a funky, cocktail-weenie-sized urban runabouts, and executives quietly promised it will start from less than $20,000 when it goes on sale by year’s end. Measuring 5.1 inches shorter than a Hyundai Kona, the Venue is tiny, but surprisingly substantial looking, and you can even have a six-speed manual transmission. Stick shifts in SUVs? Now there’s a crossover trend that’s easy to get behind.

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