By on June 19, 2017

A Class Concept Mercedes, Image: Daimler AG

Get ’em young and get ’em poor upwardly mobile. That seems to be Mercedes-Benz’s rationale behind the upcoming A-Class sedan, which should arrive in the U.S. later next year.

According to dealers who spoke to Automotive News, the German automaker has confirmed the front-wheel drive model will indeed appear on these shores, slotted below brand’s current least-expensive car, the CLA. No longer a somewhat geeky, Euro-centric mini hatch, the global A-Class appears tailor-made to lure buyers away from other brands. (Read More…)

By on May 24, 2017

A Class Concept Mercedes

Like Steve Austin’s doctors, Mercedes-Benz engineers realized they had the technology to make the brand’s four-cylinder engines better than they were before. Better, stronger…smaller.

As the automaker prepares to expand its lineup of compact, front-wheel-drive offerings to eight models, new powerplants are the order of the day. Designed to propel vehicles using the next-generation MFA2 platform, the new engine family comes in a variety of flavors, one of which will likely appear stateside. (Read More…)

By on May 22, 2017

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer - Image: MitsubishiAs Mitsubishi prepares to launch a new small crossover, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Mitsubishi’s car lineup continues to shrink.

The Galant died in 2012. The Mitsubishi Lancer, it was revealed earlier this year, will cease existence in the U.S. market later this year. But the Lancer’s American goodbye, via a blacked-out Limited Edition, won’t represent its final North American goodbye.

Mitsubishi Canada still wants the Lancer, the brand’s best-selling model as recently as last year, at least until 2018. And Mitsubishi Canada won’t bid farewell to the Lancer until the car can be given “a uniquely Canadian sendoff.”

We assume this means Tim Hortons’ double-doubles inserted in the cupholders straight from the factory along with a hockey bag in the trunk and a curling broom roof rack. (Read More…)

By on April 29, 2017

[Image: Kia Motors]

We’re not talking about the K900 flagship sedan, as Kia’s luxo barge actually gets people talking — mainly due to its slow sales and LeBron James connection. No, the model lying in the casket this morning bowed out of people’s minds long before it vanished from Kia’s product cycle.

The Forte Koup.

Kia has confirmed there’ll be no future for the two-door variant of its popular Forte, though the writing was on the wall for some time. On the company’s website, too. (Read More…)

By on February 14, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Cruze PRemier hatchback - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

It’s not easy to live down past embarrassments.

In a junior high school basketball game, I banked in a free throw. Two decades later, do you think my older brothers have forgotten?

More than two decades ago, General Motors launched the third-generation Chevrolet Cavalier. The degree to which it was an abysmal excuse for a Honda Civic rival became increasingly clear over its decade-long run. Although its replacement, the Chevrolet Cobalt, won’t go down in history as an all-time great, it was a meaningful leap forward. The Cobalt’s replacement, Chevrolet’s first Cruze, was full of big car manners in a small car body.

Now we have the second-generation Cruze, thankfully offered in North America in a hatchback bodystyle.

The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback is by no means perfect, but if you haven’t already re-written the line in your brain under “Chevrolet Small Car Reputation,” it’s time to do so. (Read More…)

By on February 9, 2017

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT driving shot, Image: Hyundai

Hyundai lifted the veil on the next-generation Elantra GT today at the Chicago Auto Show, revealing a compact hatch that dispenses with the “cute little car” template.

For 2018, the Elantra GT grows in all the proportions that matter, putting forward a more mature design that — Hyundai hopes — looks more expensive than its sticker price. It also offers up more power, if you’re willing to dole out a little more. (Read More…)

By on January 25, 2017

2017 Toyota Corolla iM

Long, long ago (2003), in a land far, far away (Torrance, California), Toyota’s American division woke from a fever dream of beige sedans, took a long, hard look at its life, and promptly embarked on a midlife crisis.

While the flow of staid and sensible Corollas and Camrys never ebbed, a funky new alter ego with a polar opposite personality emerged on the automotive scene. Scion was the Mr. Hyde to Toyota’s Dr. Jekyll. Youthful, offbeat, unapologetically boxy — anything but beige.

Poochy Scion made a splash, but even crises have a shelf life. Eventually, the free-thinking, free-wheeling designs that temped college graduates a decade prior morphed into warmed-over second-generation models with watered-down attitudes. The brand’s original clientele, having abandoned their amateur photography websites and once-a-week DJ gigs for babies and 401(k)s, fell away.

After 13 years, it was time to ditch the gold medallions, torch the little black book, and go home to the wife. But Toyota didn’t pull up in the driveway empty-handed. (Read More…)

By on December 21, 2016

2017 Mazda3

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base trim that — all things considered — might just be the primo choice for that particular model. Here’s an example.

When we started this nonsense Ace of Base series all the way back at the beginning of August, our very first contendah was the 2016 Mazda3 i Sport. Since then, the boffins in Hiroshima Prefecture put their heads together and applied their considerable skill in updating their compact sedan. Can a slathering of new styling and a further refined driving experience keep the 3 in the hunt for base-model supremacy? Is G-Vectoring Control simply a marketing gimmick only found on top trims? That’s what we’re here to find out.

(Read More…)

By on December 14, 2016

2017 Mazda 3 5-Door red - Image: Mazda

“It’s the one to have,” we said of the 2017 Mazda 3 on the last day of November, “but not the one you’ll buy.”

Pat TTAC on the back for such an accurate forecast, as the very next day, Mazda revealed that Americans acquired fewer Mazda 3s in November 2016 than at any point since January 2014, a 34-month low.

With the worst U.S. sales results in nearly three years, Mazda USA’s most popular car is now on track to potentially see annual volume fall to a decade low in 2016.

There’s nothing new about the American car buyer’s prerogative to avoid critical advice when it comes to Mazda’s compact sedan. The degree to which the Mazda-supporting suggestion is ignored, however, is, increasingly apparent. (Read More…)

By on December 14, 2016

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback vs 2017 Mazda 3 5-Door - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

Until recently, American car shoppers generally treated hatchbacks with a level of disdain normally reserved for that fetid cheese you forgot about in the back of the fridge.

It made sense; most of them were base-model penalty boxes with all the charm of plain oatmeal. Now, though, the market is awash with five-doors featuring content levels and power outputs formerly reserved for much more expensive machinery.

Honda recently re-entered the hatchback game with its 2017 Civic, while Mazda has been hawking a five-door 3 since its introduction a dozen years ago. Last week, the stars aligned and the press-fleet gods shone upon TTAC by placing a Honda Civic Hatchback and Mazda 3 5-Door in the grubby hands of Tim and Matt during the same week.

While the two cars were optioned differently (a CVT-equipped Civic LX and a manual-equipped Mazda 3 5-Door Grand Touring), we nevertheless took the opportunity to get these two hatchbacks together and ask the question: “Which is gooder?” (Read More…)

By on November 30, 2016

2017 Mazda 3 5-Door - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

American consumers acquire more than 200,000 new compact cars every month. Only 4 percent of those cars are Mazda 3s.

Compact car buyers are far more likely to drive away from a new car dealer in a Corolla, Civic, Sentra, Elantra, or Cruze; more likely to choose a Focus, Jetta, or Forte, too.

While U.S. sales of compact cars are down 4 percent this year, Mazda 3 volume is down 11 percent.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the more popular compacts. The 2017 Mazda 3 is better than those cars. And this particular 2017 Mazda 3, a hatchback in top Grand Touring trim with the 2.5-liter engine upgrade and — oh my goodness, a manual transmission — is better than other Mazda 3s.

But you remain unconvinced. (Read More…)

By on November 18, 2016

2017 Honda Civic Coupe Si – Image: Honda

Imagine a world without war. More specifically, imagine a world without the horsepower war that has dominated the automotive landscape over the past fifteen years.

It’s easy if you try. The Corvette would still have 350 horsepower; mid-engined Ferraris would have about 400. The Mustang? 260 raging ponies. Most pickup trucks would have under three hundred horses, and some would have fewer than two hundred. The V12-powered Mercedes sedans would have just a bit more than half the puissance they currently possess. The Subaru STi would have 300 hp to humiliate the VW GTI’s 200 hp, while the top-spec Nissan Sentra would send 180 hp through a six-speed manual, about which a big deal would be made.

Perhaps you experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance while reading that last sentence. After all, the current Subaru STi has 305 horsepower now, facing the 210 horsepower of the GTI, and the just-announced Sentra Nismo is expected to put out 188 ponies. Compared to their turn-of-the-century ancestors, both of those cars actually have a worse power-to-weight ratio today. And while the new Civic Si is expected to put up a slightly better number than the 2006 Civic Si, it’s going to come from a 1.5-liter turbo engine that will likely be stressed to the gills, not a tuned-down variant of the Type-R’s two-liter.

So, while the wealthy car buyers among us are enjoying an era of unprecedented power in their sports cars, SUVs, and big sedans, the entry-level buyers are being asked to do more with less. Sounds familiar, right?

(Read More…)

By on November 9, 2016

2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base trim that — all things considered — might just be the primo choice for that particular model. Here’s an example.

A few weeks ago, Ace of Base looked at a base model truck from The General. The thing is, at an instant ramen price point, the compact truck is a rear-drive-only affair. Let’s now imagine a base-model shopper who doesn’t care about payload or bringing home grandfather clocks from estate sales but does want their power shuttled to all four wheels. What to do?

(Read More…)

By on October 27, 2016

2014 Toyota Corolla

Is there a tiny pinpoint of light that can stir some meager hope in the heart of the compact and midsize passenger car segment? No, no there isn’t.

Even as sticker prices for these vehicles rise and as manufacturers endow them with enough technological goodies to make your mom’s car from yesterday look like a chuckwagon, retained value is dropping as fast as the segments’ market share.

Once a driving force, the segment has now become a red-headed stepchild at auction. (Read More…)

By on September 10, 2016

2017 Nissan Sentra Turbo

Nissan is filling in all the unfilled niches today.

The automaker unveiled a turbocharged variant of the sensible and unexciting Sentra today at the Miami International Auto Show, promising a performance version of a sedan known mostly for its value and grocery capacity.

In doing so, Nissan implies that a hotter NISMO version is around the corner, while closing the casket lid on the IDx concept once and for all. (Read More…)

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