By on August 22, 2017

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Confirmation bias can be a tricky thing to overcome in this business. You might not know this, but some people in this business think I have a bit of a preference for the Blue Oval. Some of my frenemies in the automotive journalism world have accused me of being pro-Honda. As for me, I’d like to think that I can objectively evaluate any car, but let’s be realistic here — we’re all humans. We have experiences and biases that rear their ugly heads even when we are doing our damnedest to shove them deep down inside ourselves.

But there’s a entire class of car I personally find reprehensible, for no other reason than I find the types of people who drive them to be, well, reprehensible. When I think “Luxury Compact CUV,” I think “Basic Bitch.” These vehicles serve no actual purpose. In most cases, they have less space than their compact car siblings, worse gas mileage, and prices that soar at least $5-7k higher. The only reason to purchase or (more likely) lease such a Basicmobile is to fit in with the other SAHMs in your subdivision who have seamlessly transitioned from college frat mattress to PTA vice-president in only 10 years flat. When a female friend of mine texted me recently with, “What do you think about the Audi Q3?” my response was so vile that I can’t put it into print (and if you think about the things I’ve written, that’s saying something).

As a result, I was absolutely determined to hate the 2017 Audi Q3 Premium when I selected it from the Emerald Aisle at Miami International Airport. There was only one problem with drinking this particular flavor of haterade.

It’s a pretty damn good car.

(Read More…)

By on October 21, 2015

06 - 2009 Kia Rondo in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

It’s unusual, though not unheard-of, for sub-10-year-old cars to show up in the cheap self-service wrecking yards; most that do are from Detroit.

Or Korea.

I saw this ’07 Sedona covered with fingerpaint and hippie stickers in Wisconson a couple months ago, and now I’ve found this ’09 Kia Rondo in Colorado. The Rondo never made much of an impression in the United States and disappeared without a trace after the 2010 model year, so it’s of some interest as a forgotten car. (Read More…)

By on October 23, 2014

15 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAhh, the AMC Eagle! So much car-industry history wrapped up in the Eagle, which was a highly innovative machine made during the very last gasps of American Motors (and continuing as a Chrysler product, briefly, before Chrysler killed the Eagle and kept the name for its new marque, which was then slapped on a rebadged and modified Renault 25). Since I live in Colorado, I see Eagles on the street all the time— there are several daily-driver Eagles living within a few blocks of me— and I see them in the local wrecking yards. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this GM Iron Duke-powered ’81 SX/4, this ’82 hatchback, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, and this ’85 wagon. The AMC Spirit-based SX/4 is much less common than the larger AMC Concord-based Eagles, so today’s find (in Denver, of course) is quite interesting. (Read More…)

By on September 9, 2013

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If you want to know why Jaguar and Lexus are introducing compact crossover concepts at the Frankfurt Auto Show this week, all you have to do is check the sales data. Crossover sales are soaring, particularly compacts. Last month, Toyota’s RAV4 was up 50% year to year, and the CR-V at Honda had its best sales month yet. Car sales in general are good in the United States right now, with overall August sales up 17%, but sales of smaller crossovers have doubled that and then some at 36%. Crossovers have gained market share for 10 straight months and now take just over a quarter of the total market, on a pace to sell about 4 million units this year. Overall crossover sales are up about 2% from last year, with compacts making most of that difference. As recently as 2007, crossovers only made up 15% of U.S. light vehicle sales. Pickup trucks are usually seen as America’s favorite vehicles, but in August crossovers outsold pickups by almost a 2 to 1 margin. (Read More…)

By on August 11, 2012

MINI is the most unlikely successful new brand in America. Why? Because the brand’s “tiny transportation” ethos is at odds with America’s “bigger is better” mantra. Of course, these contradictory philosophies explain why the modern MINI is nowhere near as mini as Minis used to be. Still with me? Hang on to your hats because the German owners of the iconic British brand have decided American domination hinges on making the biggest MINI yet. Enter the MINI Countryman. Or as I like to call it, the MINI Maxi.

(Read More…)

By on July 6, 2012

After I reviewed a Mazda that’s no longer being made, I decided that perhaps my next Mazda review ought to involve a vehicle that’s actually available for purchase. We’ve experienced Jack Baruth’s impressions of throwing the CX-5 around Laguna Seca and Brendan McAleer’s extensive review of the optioned-up CX-5 Grand Touring, and now I’m going to share my experience of putting the base CX-5 Sport through the meat-grinder of a weekend enforcing discipline at a far-from-civilization 24 Hours of LeMons race. (Read More…)

By on October 17, 2011

Though the Compact CUV segment continues to add volume, its starting to become one of the older segments, as models like Escape, Rogue, CR-V and RAV4 approach the ends of their life cycles. And yet only one of those competitors, the Toyota RAV4, has fallen off sharply. The Equinox seems to have permanently passed the Toyota model in the YTD race, and the Rogue could end up passing it as well before the year is over. Meanwhile, as we start looking ahead to the new look of this segment, there will be some divergence between the top two models that bears keeping an eye on. The Escape, long a cheap-n-rugged entry in this segment will be replaced with a more premium, European-style global crossover (see the Vertrek concept), while Honda is taking a more conservative approach, adding room but keeping the vehicle’s basic image intact. It should be interesting how those changes affect the top of this segment going forward…

 

By on July 15, 2011

To highlight the “BMW difference,” the marque traveled from dealer to dealer with not only the redesigned X3 but a few competing compact crossovers as well. Among the bunch, one stuck out as not like the others. But it was the Mercedes-Benz GLK350, not the BMW. Different in a good way? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.

(Read More…)

By on July 6, 2010

Ford’s Escape wasn’t the best-selling compact crossover in June, but it only needed to cruise to an easy victory as the best selling compact crossover in the first half of 2010. Honda and Toyota’s offerings are still over 10k units behind the mighty Escape on the half, with the Equinox claiming fourth place, and Rogue and Forester neck-and-neck for fifth.

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