2015 Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year (ALV) Awards – Chandler, Arizona

Odometer (Legend):  538,420


Odometer (ILX):  143,798


Let’s get a little mud on the tires!


There are so many “vehicle of the year” contests in the world today that it’s sometimes tough to keep track.  This one in particular is unique in that instead of vehicles being evaluated by automotive journalists alone, the ballots are cast by the end users who actually plan on putting the vehicles to work for their designed purposes.  For 4 years now, I’ve joined forces with Event Co-Founder Nina Russin of Carspondent.com to put the event together each October.  This year, we also engaged the efforts of Test Driven TV’s own Sam Haymart, who played an instrumental role.


The Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year (ALV) program has now concluded its 12th season, bringing automobiles and athletes together with the intent of identifying exactly which new (or significantly improved) vehicles in today’s marketplace are optimal for someone who has demanding needs and an active lifestyle.  We’re talking about the outdoorsy people – triathletes, ball players, kayakers and adventure-seekers of any type.  They’re rating vehicles based on things like all-weather capability, ease of using climate control functions with gloves, hauling capacity, ease of loading, and many other criteria unique to this demographic.

Here are my write-ups on ALV programs of years prior:

With each year, the size and scope of the event grow and what once started as just a handful of athletes getting together to review some new cars has now turned into a full two-day event that draws over 60 athletes, many of whom are elite competitors in their respective sports.  Also on the guest list are several retired NFL football players and media representatives from local agencies.

ALV 2015 kicked off on Friday with a “Media Day” for credentialed journalists who wanted to come see & experience the vehicles that were entered this year.  Some 20 vehicles were set up in the parking lot of our host facility, the historic San Marcos Crowne Plaza in downtown Chandler, Arizona.  The following day, we had about 60 athletes come on-site for the ride-and-drive.  Meet my team:

  • Rear:  Tyson, Chuck, Paul
  • Front:  Jack, Alan, Matt, Chandler
  • Not pictured:  Mike


We were assigned to evaluate the following four “URBAN” vehicles, each of which stickered at < $25,000:


Fiat 500X:

  •  Base MSRP: $20,000
  • Horsepower: 180 Hp @ 6400 rpm
  • Torque: 175 lbs.-ft. @ 3900 rpm
  • Off-road: No
  • Towing: No
  • Bicycle friendly: Yes
  • Fuel economy: 21/31 mpg city/highway (FWD)


Scion iA:

  • Base MSRP: $15,700
  • Horsepower: 106 Hp @ 6000 rpm
  • Torque: 103 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
  • Off-road: No
  • Bicycle friendly: No
  • Towing: No
  • Fuel economy: 31/41 mpg city/highway


Scion iM:

  • Base MSRP: $18,460
  • Horsepower: 137 Hp @ 6100 rpm
  • Torque: 126 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
  • Off-road: No
  • Bicycle friendly: Yes
  • Towing: No
  • Fuel economy: 27/36 mpg city/highway


Kia Soul:

  •  Base MSRP: $15,900
  • Horsepower: 164 Hp @ 6400 rpm
  • Torque: 151 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
  • Off-road: No
  • Bicycle friendly: yes
  • Towing: No
  • Fuel economy: 24/31 mpg city/highway

Each car had its own merits, but in the end, the Kia Soul took home the prize in this segment for various reasons.  The most important reason, I think, was its power delivery.  In a class of vehicles that are clearly economy-minded, the Kia definitely felt like it had the best power.  “This one actually gets up and goes,” Jack said when he took the Loop 202 onramp for the freeway portion of the drive route.  Additional niceties that put it at the top of its group were the large panoramic sunroof and the best-in-class stereo.

Other winners for this year’s ALV program were as follows:

  • Best Value On-Road:  Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Best Value Off-Road:  Ford F-150
  • Best Value Family:  Ford Edge
  • Luxury On-Road:  Mercedes-Benz GLE450
  • Luxury Off-Road:  Jeep Grand Cherokee

More photos follow!  First, with journalist and fellow ALV Jury Panel member Sue Mead


Dave Lee from Toyota discusses the new 2016 Tacoma


Alex Fedorak from Mitsubishi talks about the new Outlander


Darryll Harrison from VW introduces the Jetta GLI.


This one was fun!  It had a 6-speed manual.



Nicole Ellan from ClassicCars.com agreed.


Nissan’s newly-redesigned Titan even made an appearance!


The GMC Canyon Diesel came dressed to impress in all sorts of gear-hauling equipment.  The off-road category was exceptionally competitive.


Fleet coordinator Carrie Owens had her work cut out for her.


PAPA (Phoenix Automotive Press Association) members Kyle & Zac Baker took the Jeep Renegade for a spin.


ALV Planning Committee at last night’s banquet dinner


My team learning about the Kia Soul before starting the driving portion of the event


Chuck taking the wheel in the Scion iA


Don Connors from Toyota teaching us about the Scion iM


7 Responses to “2015 Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year (ALV) Awards – Chandler, Arizona”

  1. Looks like it was a fun event! So Toyota, VW, Kia, Ford, and others. Did Honda Motor Co. go out of business when I wasn’t looking? 😉

    • Ha, a keen eye you have. Honda bowed out of participation at ALV this year for a variety of factors — I think fleet car availability and scheduling conflicts were among them. It’s a shame because I think they would have done very well with this demographic if they’d brought the new Pilot or an HR-V. Maybe next year! Hope you’re having a great weekend.

  2. I didn’t get a chance to check out the Kia Soul – it looks super kickass. I’m kind of bummed the Tacoma didn’t take the Off-Road Trophy. It was a fun day. Too many cars to drive in just one day.

  3. A nice selection of cars, and yes I also noticed no Honda entry. Oh well.

    • Dave, you’d be a great evaluator for this program. Maybe we should fly you down here in Oct 2016 as a “celebrity judge.” 🙂 And I’m hoping to get Honda involved with the program again. They have entered the CR-V in years prior and also done very well with the MDX.

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