By on October 12, 2017

2015 Volkswagen Scirocco - Image: Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Scirocco has reached the end of the line as the death bed for the third-generation model receives its patient after a prolonged but largely unsuccessful decade.

Closely related to the Mk5 Volkswagen Golf — not the Mk6 or Mk7 that were introduced during its tenure — the Scirocco always faced headwinds in the form of Volkswagen’s own more practical Golf GTI.

Although earlier iterations of the Volkswagen Scirocco and its Corrado successor were marketed in America, the latest Scirocco never made it across the Atlantic.

“That’s a piece of the lineup that I would dearly love to see here,” then Volkswagen of America CEO Jonathan Browning said four years into the Scirroco’s tenure. The concerns, of course, were related to the fact that the Scirocco would cannibalize the GTI, and vice versa.

And for that very reason — the fact that the Scirocco couldn’t succeed alongside the Golf — the Scirocco’s European experiment is ending before a rumored fourth-gen model could ever dream of making it in America. (Read More…)

By on October 11, 2017

218 Honda Civic Type R base illustration - Image: Honda, Illustration: The Truth About CarsAmerican Honda launched the 2017 Honda Civic Type R in a single, fully equipped variant. Although you don’t see it in emblem form on the back of the car, the 2017 Honda Civic Type R is sold exclusively in Touring trim. The model code, evidenced by NHTSA certification papers filed by American Honda and located by TTAC’s own Bozi Tatarevic, is FK8G7.

But Bozi found an extra Civic Type R in American Honda’s NHTSA filings for 2018. It’s still a Type R, it still uses the K20C1 engine that sends 306 horsepower to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. But this is the FK8G3 Civic Type R, sans Touring.

There’s reason to believe it’ll be distinctly more affordable. (Read More…)

By on September 27, 2017

2018 Hyundai i30 N - Image: HyundaiUnfortunately, the new Hyundai i30 N is, by all accounts, a terrific hot hatchback.

The i30, you’ll recall, is essentially the Hyundai Elantra GT that’s beginning to arrive in U.S. showrooms, a pleasantly tasty car in Sport trim.

But Hyundai’s new performance N sub-brand, headed up by former BMW dynamics sage Albert Biermann, is not yet America-bound. And while European critics broadly praise the i30 N — not just as “a pretty stunning first effort from Hyundai’s N division” but “up there with the best” competitors — and celebrate the availability of yet another viable performance car, the car will not make it across the pond. (Read More…)

By on September 19, 2017

2018 Ford Fiesta ST three-door - Image: FordOver the last seven years, America, you didn’t buy many Ford Fiestas. Fewer than 430,000, in fact. For perspective, in the much smaller United Kingdom market, Ford sold over 500,000 Fiestas in just the last four years.

But the Fiesta’s lack of popularity — and its dramatic loss of popularity in America — is not a unique-to-Ford situation. U.S. sales of subcompact cars plunged by more than a fifth, year-over-year, during the first eight months of 2017. That tumble comes after U.S. sales of subcompact cars declined in 2015 and 2016, as well.

Nevertheless, it comes as no surprise that Ford, after exploring America’s affordable avenues for one generation of Fiesta, isn’t bringing the seventh-generation version to America. And now we have confirmation that there is absolutely no hope the next-gen Ford Fiesta ST will come stateside, either. (Read More…)

By on August 31, 2017

Kia Wagon Concept

Kia Motors plans to reveal a sporty wagon concept at Germany’s International Motor Show in September. Calling the model an “extended hot hatch,” the automaker is following the popular trend of whetting the automotive press’ appetite with a shooting brake bodystyle that will probably never reach production.

Designed in Kia’s European design studio in Frankfurt, less than a mile from where it will be unveiled, the wagon is said to be representative of what the next-generation of Europe’s Kia Cee’d might look like. If there is any truth to that, we’d like to see it imported into North America. However, as this is just a concept car, we know the odds of its real-world counterpart not changing into an amorphous collection of painted steel panels are slim.  (Read More…)

By on August 31, 2017

2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe - Image: Honda

As I write this, one of my favorite race tracks is entirely underwater. Many years ago, I wrote for a Houston-based automotive website and we used MSR Houston as a testing facility. It was also the track where I nervously watched my little brother start his first wheel-to-wheel race back in 2013. Now the start/finish flag station looks out over a mirror-finished hurricane lake stretching to the horizon.

Every time something like this happens in the United States it tends to get people talking about climate change and what can be done to slow or halt the process. Predictably, the privately-owned automobile comes in for a fair share — maybe more than a fair share — of criticism as a result. I couldn’t tell you if the internal combustion engine actually makes a difference to the climate, and I suspect the facts are less clear than they are made out to be, but it doesn’t matter. Enough people believe in anthropogenic global warming (AGW) for public policy to be affected as a result. Nobody in Salem was really a witch but that little fact didn’t save anybody from being burned at the stake. The same is true when it comes to climate change and the automobile.

Sports cars and performance cars are a favorite target of the save-the-earth crowd, of course, but I think I can make the argument that increased availability of fast cars in general — and “hot hatches” in particular — can actually make a positive impact on carbon-dioxide emissions. Are you skeptical? Read on, my friend.

(Read More…)

By on July 17, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Sport - Image: HondaLaunched in mid-June 2017, the 2017 Honda Civic Type R is the first Honda-brand Type R product ever sold in the United States. And after generations of Honda enthusiasts tolerated relatively unimpressive horsepower totals from high-revving four-cylinder engines, Honda didn’t mess around with the latest, turbocharged Civic Type R.

306 horsepower at 6,500 rpm.  295 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm.

Yet before the Civic Type R was even on sale in the United States, we learned that the 10th-generation 2018 Honda Accord would kill the V6 and replace it with, you guessed it, the Civic Type R’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Incidentally, only a few days after that, we learned that the optional V6 in the Accord’s long-time rival, the new-for-2018 Toyota Camry, would generate 301 horsepower.

Win for Honda? Not so much, as Honda last week revealed a 2018 Accord 2.0T with 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque.

Huh? What? Why? (Read More…)

By on July 17, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Image: Volkswagen

As Volkswagen progresses toward electrification and bolsters is court-mandated greener image, concerns arose that enthusiasts might be left to fend for themselves.

Those fears appear to have been entirely unnecessary. With Ford upping the ante with its hot-hatch Focus variants and newcomers like Hyundai’s attractive i30 N planning to enter the market with a minimum of 246 horsepower, VW knew it had to bring more to the table with its Golf. News from Germany indicates Volkswagen’s world-famous hatchback will lose some weight for its eighth generation and gain beefed-up powertrains. (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2017

hyundai i30 n

After four years of development, Hyundai is ushering a new entry into the hot hatchback category with its i30 N. Based on the newest incarnation of the family friendly i30, known throughout North America as the Elantra GT, the N badge separates it as a serious performance model. Hyundai appears to be taking direct aim at the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen GTI, both through the N’s performance and styling — which seems to be a handsome amalgamation of the pair.

Available in two trims, the base model i30 N provides 246 horsepower while the performance package quipped version bumps that number up to 271 hp. Both use a turbocharged 2.0-liter and six-speed manual transmission and, according to Hyundai, can manage 0-60 times in the low six-second range. Power is sent to the front tires and only to the front tires, with an electronic limited slip differential to keep things manageable in the corners.

It’s a legitimate hot hatch and Hyundai’s first if you discount the Veloster — which you definitely may.   (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2017

2017 Honda Civic Type R - Image: HondaWe had not yet seen the 2017 Honda Civic Type R.

We did not yet know at what lofty level the 2017 Honda Civic Type R would be priced.

We didn’t know precisely when we’d have an opportunity to purchase a 2017 Honda Civic Type R. We didn’t know how powerful it would be, whether there’d be a CVT option, if the Civic Si would be powerful enough to decrease Type R demand, or how many aero-aiding elements the Civic Type R would be wearing when it came off the boat from the UK.

But we were told Honda thought it could sell 2,000 Civic Type Rs per month. Which is impossible. (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2017

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT (Image: Steph Willems)

Years back, a neighbor of mine worked as an electrician’s apprentice while we both occupied different corners of a sketchy four-plex. Good guy. When an emergency arose, especially if the emergency was a sudden lack of tape, this was your man.

Anyway, with barely enough cash to buy beer on weekends, let alone a half-decent used pickup, the tools of his trade journeyed to the job site in a roomy, economical, and seemingly indestructible four-door liftback. It was, of course, a first-generation Hyundai Elantra GT, only with the contents of a small hardware store filling the area aft of the front seat.

A useful, if tepid, vehicle then, but one far more worthy of the GT moniker now.

The Korean automaker launched the Elantra GT in 2001, and has no intention of dropping the useful compact hatchback from the marketplace anytime soon, even though its U.S. executives required a dose of friendly Canadian persuasion to keep it alive south of the 49th parallel (according to Hyundai Canada brass). The pressure paid off, leaving Americans with yet another option in the “hotter hatch” segment.

No longer is the GT a one-engine affair, nor is it likely to continue as an afterthought in the minds of consumers. For 2018, Hyundai chose to spread the widest possible net with its newly enlarged hatch, hoping to lure would-be buyers away from better-known rivals while offering a sportier alternative to small crossovers. (Read More…)

By on June 9, 2017

2017 Ford Focus RS - Image: Ford2018 will be the final year for the current iteration of the Ford Focus RS.

Shed a tear.

Now shed another tear for the old base price, because the old base Focus RS is done, CarsDirect says. For 2018, Ford is equipping every U.S.-bound edition of the Focus RS with a limited slip differential, the RS2 package, and 19-inch wheels.

As a result, the $36,995 2017 Ford Focus RS gives way to a $41,995 2018 Ford Focus RS.

Paging the Civic Type R. Civic Type R to the showroom. (Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo white front, Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

With the Civic Type R expected to appear on lots any day now, and no end in sight to the continued popularity of the Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf R, consumers can be forgiven for not thinking about the Hyundai Veloster.

The long-in-the-tooth model remains a valuable oddball for the automaker, but it isn’t without its flaws — namely, a super-harsh ride. Still, it’s a quirky model that adds flair in an increasingly conformist marketplace. Hyundai even saw fit to endow the Veloster with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder in a bid to perk up its little hatch.

Despite falling sales, Hyundai isn’t giving up on the model, and a new report claims the Korean automaker could give the next-generation Veloster a heaping dose of competitiveness in the hot hatch segment. (Read More…)

By on June 1, 2017

2017 Civic Type R (European Version), Image: Honda

Earlier this month, Honda announced pricing for its hotter Civic Si sedan and coupe, both of which carry an after-delivery price of $24,775. However, at 205 horsepower, the 2017 Civic Si’s powertrain could leave some front-drive sporty car lovers wanting more.

Not to fear, the Civic Type R will arrive on dealer lots imminently. Offered on North American shores for the first time, the Type R adds an extra 101 hp to the Si’s power output, all thanks to a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Torque tops out at 295 lb-ft, and a hatch is the only bodystyle available.

According to new photos of a fresh-from-England batch of Type Rs, the cost of that extra power amounts to about $100 per horse. (Read More…)

By on May 16, 2017

Volkswagen Golf R vs Ford Focus RS

You know what I miss? Besides the second season of Miami Vice, the Atari 800, and a country where grown men didn’t agree to appear in simpering photography sessions commemorating their emasculating engagements to former late-night legends of the Sig Ep house at Ohio State? I miss the days when automakers didn’t field an entry into every single possible automotive segment. I miss that halcyon period where Mercedes-Benz made sedans and Porsche made sports cars and never the twain needed to meet except in the destination garages of their superbly tasteful owners. Back when everybody stuck to their individual knitting, the products were better (for their time, of course) and the brand identities made more sense. I’m reminded of something that my musical idol and harshest critic, Victor Wooten, once said: “Instead of learning other instruments … I take the time that I would spend learning those instruments … and I put that time into learning my instrument, you dig?”

As my future third-wife Este once sang, however, those days are gone. In $THE_CURRENT_YEAR, nearly every manufacturer competes in nearly every segment. Which brings me to this week’s question, submitted by an extremely verbose fellow who needs to choose a German hatchback.

(Read More…)

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