Tag: Hatchback

By on September 7, 2011

Here’s an open secret: the Mazda3 is the auto-journo’s cop-out. “Hey,” inquires the prospective punter, “I’m actually kinda/sorta in the market. What do you recommend?” Nine times out of ten, the sporty little ’3 is gonna get a plug. Tenth guy wants a truck.

Now around here, obviously that’s not the case. Ask the TTAC boys what you should buy and Jack Baruth is going to punch you in the face and sleep with your wife, Sajeev Mehta will get a far-away look in his eyes thinking of all the non-running personal-luxury-coupe crap-cans he could add to his stable for the price of a new car, Bertel Schmitt’s going to give you a fascinating but interminable lecture on the nuances of some improbable menage a trois between Nissan, Geely and Fisher-Price, and me? Well, I’m new around here. Again.

Which is why I’m going to extoll me a little Zoom-Zoom.

(Read More…)

By on August 18, 2011

When Toyota built the first generation of its Vitz subcompact in 1998, the firm had no plans to sell it in the US under the Yaris nameplate (as it was called in Europe). Instead it sold a four-door and two-door version of the Platz, which was mechanically identical but had unique sheetmetal (except for the front doors), as the Echo. The Echo fell into a pattern that seems to have repeated itself several times in Toyota’s recent subcompact past: a year of growth, and then a drop. Eventually, Toyota brought the Yaris nameplate to the US, with a hatchback option in tow, and found its strongest performer in this class since the Tercel.

Now, with the hatchback bodystyle back in vogue, Toyota’s dropping the Yaris sedan altogether for the new generation, debuting later this year. It’s not the JDM/Euro Yaris/Vitz which Bertel showed us back in December, but it is being built at the revolutionary Sendai plant he visited in Fbruary. And without a sedan counterpoint, it will definitely mark an entirely new approach for Toyota’s US-market subcompact strategy.

By on August 10, 2011

With Hyundai’s eye-catching “fluidic sculpture” design language working its way through the lineup, the Hyundai Elantra Touring was starting to look like the sensible but homely middle child of the family… according to my guide to codger-friendly pop culture references, the Elantra Touring had become something of the family “Jan Brady” (whatever that may have been). But as Michael Karesh found in his recent review, the Touring model, which is sold in Europe as the i30, is something of a hidden gem, as

no other car offers a similar combination of crossover functionality and hot hatch driving enjoyment.

And now that it’s joining the family at the fluidic sculpture salon, the new Elantra Touring brings some style to the table as well. Look for the new model to debut at the forthcoming Frankfurt show, and hope along with us that it’s new-found good looks don’t change its fun-meets-function personality.

By on August 5, 2011

Ever since I test drove the original Honda CRX a quarter-century ago I’ve been a big fan of small cars. In everyday driving I’d rather have a small car with limited power than a large car with a lot of it. And yet I’ve never quite connected with the MINIs I’ve driven. Perhaps I just needed more time in the seat? To find out, I recently spent a week with a MINI Cooper S—a small car with plenty of power.

(Read More…)

By on August 1, 2011

As recounted in an earlier review, the new Focus in Titanium trim is good enough to justify a price tag over $27,000 for a compact Ford. But what if you don’t want to spend that much, or want a manual transmission, which is not available with the SEL or Titanium trim levels? How much do you give up with the SE? I requested a $21,380 Focus SE hatchback with the Sport Package to find out.

(Read More…)

By on July 18, 2011

Once issued a challenge to write a novel in just six words, Ernest Hemingway famously produced, “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” Well that’s a bit depressing. No wonder he shot himself. It’s rumoured that Hemingway considered this snippet his best work. Get ready to eat your heart out Papa Bear, ’cause I can sum up the Mazda2 in one syllable: “Wheeee!”

Eh? Hmm, seems that’s not good enough for our Editor. But wait, there’s more!

(Read More…)

By on July 12, 2011

The US car market contracted by 23 percent between the 2006 and 2010 model-years according to WardsAuto data [via the Detroit News], but over the same period the total number of hatchbacks sold per year has increased some 63%, from 291,853 to 475,048. That’s right hatchback fans, after decades of underachievement in the US market, your favorite bodystyle is back in a big way.

(Read More…)

By on July 12, 2011

Remember the early Nova hatchbacks? They didn’t sell very well, probably because the hatch cost $150 more ($810 in 2011 dollars) than the Nova coupe with a traditional trunk. I can’t remember the last time I saw one, and I wouldn’t have noticed this one in my local self-service yard, had it not been for the sharp eyes of the Tetanus Neon LeMons team co-captains, visiting Denver from Houston and stopping at the junkyard on their way to the airport for some Neon throttle-body shopping. (Read More…)

By on June 9, 2011

If we learn from history, we won’t expect this funky-fresh five-door to ever come to the US. Though we may get a sedan version of this generation of Einser, chances are we will probably still just get the coupe again. And because the new 1er is longer (by 8.5 cm) than its predecessor and heavier (by between 5kg and 35kg) in all but 118d trim (where it remains the same weight), it’s also more practical, with a few more centimeters of rear legroom and 30 liters more storage. Which is all the more reason to bring these workhorse versions to the US (with manual transmission and diesel options, natch) rather than limiting our choices to a now-even-heavier coupe. Especially now that the 1 Series is apparently a four-cylinder-only affair (specs here). If you’re already a devotee of the Einser hatches be sure to surf over to Auto Motor und Sport, where even more photos of the next-gen five-door await your perusal…


By on May 31, 2011

No, this is not another installment of Steve Lang’s “Lease, Rent, Sell or Keep?” series. Wards Auto is reporting that Toyota facing a decision over whether to kill its Matrix hatchback when a new version of the Corolla on which it is based debuts sometime “before 2013.” Toyota’s Bob Carter tells Wards that

There’s no change right now on the car, (but) we haven’t made the decision yet

So, what to do? Toyota doesn’t break sales of the Matrix out from the Corolla, but according to Wards:

The hatchback reached its pinnacle in 2002, selling 66,836 units, Ward’s data shows.

Annual deliveries have declined since then, except for 2008, the second-generation model’s first full year.

However, Matrix volume plunged 47.3% to 26,121 in 2009, from 2008’s 49,567, and last year slid 44.5%, with only 14,492 deliveries.

Toyota’s Carter insists that the forthcoming “Prius C” compact hatch “attracts a different type of buyer,”  an argument he’d probably also apply to the Scion xB, another Corolla-based hatchback. So, should Toyota develop a new Matrix along the lines of its predecessors in hopes that the third iteration brings back some magic to the nameplate? Or, would a re-styled xB make a better Toyota than Scion, opening up Scion’s lineup for a version of the Verso-S? Or perhaps Toyota could offer its European Auris as a Hyundai Elantra Touring-style contrast to the very American Corolla. Or, Toyota could look to the Verso for a larger, more utilitarian alternative to a traditional Matrix.

In any case, with so many possible options, it’s no wonder Toyota hasn’t made a decision yet…

By on May 30, 2011

Once upon a time Japanese cars came to our shores promising high fuel economy and despite feeling small and cheap, buyers flocked to the dealers. Over time however, the Japanese auto industry grew up. “Small and flimsy” are qualities that modern Japanese imports do not possess but as is the way with the world, better quality came with a price: lower fuel economy. The first generation Prius proved that good fuel economy did not mean jamming yourself into a two-seater light-weight vehicle full of compromises a family of four just couldn’t make. Still, it was far from perfect; it was dreadfully boring, felt small and cheap and was not large enough for many families.

In an era when ginormous SUVs were all the rage, the Prius’ mileage was nothing short of show-stopping and they sold like hotcakes once the Hollywood set made them the latest fashion accessory. When the third generation Prius saw the light of the automotive press, it was obvious that the upstart had grown up. Unlike the other Toyota family members however, the Prius becomes more efficient and larger with every revision. One complaint however has stuck: the Prius is just too small for some.

(Read More…)

By on October 13, 2010

Possibly having caught word of the fact that Americans are all-too willing to spend up to $500 extra for hatchbacks, Hyundai-Kia are aiming a load of trunkless wonders at our shores. First up should be Kia’s Forte Five-Door (above), which will probably hit dealers next year, alongside a new six-speed automatic transmission and optional navigation. These new options and the Forte5′s subtly slick looks should help the nameplate keep up its sales momentum. Sometime after the Forte5 (actual name may vary) drops, Hyundai’s new Accent should be joined by a five-door version as well. It’s not yet 100% clear if that model is headed stateside, but at this point, we’d be surprised if it didn’t join America’s burgeoning hatchback party. And finally, Hyundai should bring out one of the strangest little hatches in the business when its “Veloster” (again, actual name may vary) hits the market, likely in the next year as well. Recently-captured photos of its weird glass access-door-cum-hatchback are almost as intriguing as its claimed target of 40 MPG highway, possibly out of a turbocharged version of Hyundai’s direct-injection 1.6 liter engine. In any case, if Ford is to be believed and hatchbacks are back, Hyundai-Kia will (once again) be poised to make hay on the trend. And as far as we’re concerned, it’s all good news: the hatchback has been wandering the desert for too long.

By on August 4, 2010

For many Americans, the words “Ford Fiesta” dredges up memories of a crappy claustrophobic tin can that fights the Geo Metro for the title of Worst American Small Car of the decade. The only time I ever wanted a fiesta was during a drunken weekend in Cabo, but the fiesta in mind had more to do with Cabo Wabo than Dearborn Michigan. Of course “Mr Euro” types know that the Fiesta has changed considerably since it last visited our shores, and as Jack Baruth found out at Ford’s Fiesta launch fiesta, Ford’s subcompact is now the most Euro-thentic subcompact on the market. But how well will a Fiesta actually handle an American commute? Ford lent me a baby-poo yellow example for a week to answer just that question.

(Read More…)

By on April 26, 2010

Everybody knows a “Mr. Euro”. Hell, you may even be “Mr. Euro” to your friends. Mr. Euro is the guy who, for some reason, wants the cars he cannot have in the United States. He’s the guy who says he would drive a 520i “in a heartbeat” given the chance, the dude who thinks we’re missing out because the Renault Twingo stays on the froggy side of the pond, the fellow who desperately wants a Vauxhall Zafira for child-lugging purposes. I still fondly remember the conversation I had with a similar fellow, whom I shall call “Mr. JDM”, around 2004 or so:

“I would buy a Japanese Skyline sedan in a heartbeat, if only they would bring them here, and I’m not worried about the money.”

“Good news. They did. It’s called the Infiniti G35. Allow me to drive you to the dealership so you may make your cost-no-object dream a twenty-nine-thousand-dollar reality.” Alas, the grass is never so green when it’s cut into sod and shipped to our lawns, and perhaps that’s why so many Mr. Euros find themselves conspicuously absent from the lists of Saturn Astra or VW Rabbit owners. It’s also possible that the loudest voices on the Internet buy the fewest cars, which would also explain why the current Ford Focus has been such a roaring success despite the heretical nature of its US-only design and execution.

(Read More…)

By on April 20, 2010

Patent drawings of what appears to be a compact/subcompact MPV bearing the Chevy Volt’s grille have surfaced at GMInsidenews, setting off much speculation as to what it all means. And boy is there room to speculate. Initial impressions are of a Chevy Orlando/Buick Granite with a Volt-alike grille, but upon closer inspection the line drawings appear to show a smaller vehicle. After all, Orlando is supposed to offer a seven passenger option, and it’s hard to imagine sitting aft of those rear doors. And yet the Volt drivetrain was built around GM’s Delta II platform, which underpins both the Orlando and Granite (in concept); why would GM downsize its expensive EREV to the Aveo’s Gamma II platform before building out Delta II variants?

(Read More…)

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