Tag: small cars

By on September 12, 2017

Honda Urban EV Concept unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show - Image: Honda UK“This is not some vision of the distant future,” Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo says of the Honda Urban EV Concept that debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show. “A production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019.”

Be a skeptic if you like. Honda’s recent history is full of pie-in-the-sky small car concepts that never came to production fruition: Remix, Step Bus, IMAS, Puyo, P-Nut, Gear. But there are also Honda concepts that ended up in the real world. The Model X Concept became the Element, the CR-Z Concept became the CR-Z, the SUT Concept arrived as the Ridgeline.

Honda has every intention to introduce the delightfully retro-modern Urban EV, albeit most assuredly without suicide doors, gigantic wheels, a front bench, or the unusually minimalistic interior. Yet if Honda can maintain the silhouette, a blend of early Civic and Mk1 Golf GTI, we’ll begin to wonder whether Honda’s lost decade – in which mistakes were made and costs were cut — is about to produce evidence of a reinvigorated Honda. (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

Scion xB, Image: Toyota

If you’ve read enough of my writing, then you know that I am a fervent believer in what I call the power of the story. Human beings rarely interact directly with reality; instead, we use stories to interpret what we are seeing in a way that makes sense. It’s why we no longer fear thunder and why people will cheerfully take food prepared for them by strangers.

Few aspects of our existence are as relentlessly story-driven as our interactions with the automobile. Without the power of story, we would see automobiles as nothing but machines for accomplishing a particular task, be it a commute, a vacation, or an SCCA race — and we would judge them solely on their ability to accomplish that task. Trust me, if we all did that it would be absolutely ruinous for the automaker profit margins out there. Imagine picking a car the way you’d pick a dishwasher or, um, a power supply. You would quickly forget about intangibles and focus on fitness for purpose.

Over the past couple of decades, I’ve tried to shed my personal addiction to the automotive narrative and learn how to “understand the thing for itself,” as Marcus Aurelius wrote. This can lead to some surprising conclusions… and it looks like I’m not the only one who has acquired at least a little bit of this skill. Normally we wouldn’t do two Ask Jack columns in one week, but the fellow in this case says he’s going to make a choice this weekend, so let’s pull the trigger pronto and get right to the question.

(Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

1995 Plymouth Neon, Image: Wikimedia Commons

If you’re a believer in the idea of authentically American small cars, then you’ve had a rough couple of years. The last compact or subcompact to be engineered ground-up by an American corporation was probably the ’95 Dodge/Plymouth Neon, although some kind of argument might be possible for the Chevrolet Cobalt. In 2017, the Big Three have been reduced to selling locally assembled versions of a German car, a Korean car, and an Italian car. We’re basically where Brazil was in 1990.

Things are going to get worse. GM might discontinue some small cars altogether. Ford is going to build the Focus in China. FCA probably has no plans to bring a Dart successor here. This is the end, beautiful friend. Do you care?

(Read More…)

By on July 17, 2017

2018 Honda Fit EX

The current-generation Honda’s Fit is considerably less adorable than previous incarnations, but still a vehicle that’s easy to recommend to those with a specific price point and varied needs — especially if they also do all their driving in the city. However, it wasn’t perfect and rationalizing its purchase became difficult as upmarket models offered more car for less money.

For 2018, Honda has updated the subcompact Fit with driver-assist features, new looks, and some mild performance accoutrements for a not-unreasonable amount of cash. It doesn’t necessarily make it a better buy than the Civic you’ve been considering, but it should be enough to make the Fit deserving of a second look.  (Read More…)

By on June 7, 2017

2018 Toyota C-HR profile, Image: © Timothy Cain

Forget, if only for the next few minutes, the way it looks. You may hate it, you may love it. But don’t let your interpretation of the 2018 Toyota C-HR’s exterior angles cloud your judgement.

While you’re at it, set aside class designations, as well. Whether you, like me, consider the 2018 Toyota C-HR to be unqualified for “crossover” status because it’s missing all-wheel-drive availability, the C-HR is still positioned as a rival for front-wheel-drive HR-Vs, Renegades, Encores, and CX-3s, among others.

The Toyota C-HR was initially intended to form part of the Scion lineup in North America, but with that brand’s demise, Toyota wisely moved the C-HR into its own lineup. Slotted below the Toyota RAV4 with dimensions that all but mirror the old Toyota Matrix, the 2018 Toyota C-HR is a $23,495-25,435 hatchback that’s garnered more attention during its stay with me than any vehicle I’ve ever tested.

To my surprise, almost all of that attention was positive. But is the Toyota C-HR worthy of such attention? (Read More…)

By on May 26, 2017

2016 Nissan Micra - Image: Nissan CanadaNissan Canada has once again confirmed to TTAC that the next-generation Nissan Micra, already on sale in some global markets, is not destined for Canada.

The existing Nissan Micra arrived in Canada in 2014, some four years after Nissan first introduced the fourth-generation Micra elsewhere. Micra production in Mexico has slowed somewhat in the early part of 2017, along with a slowdown of Versa production, as Nissan begins building the Juke-replacing Kicks at its Aguascalientes plant.

But when we asked Nissan Canada’s director of corporate communications, Didier Marsaud, whether the fourth-generation, Aguascalientes-sourced Micra will continue to be available to Nissan’s Canadian dealers, the response was definitive.

“Absolutely.” (Read More…)

By on May 24, 2017

[Kletr/Bigstock.com]

It’s always fun to see how the other half lives. In Europe, thanks in part to narrow roads that wind between ancient monuments and fuel prices several orders of magnitude greater than our own, small cars are king. When Citroën left our market in 1974, its only offering was the great-when-it-worked SM coupe.

These days, Citroën hawks a large range of cars on the other side of the pond. Compared to small base cars on our shores, does the C1 exhibit radical ideas or a dose of common sense? Whatever it is, there’s scads of it scattered all over the thing.

(Read More…)

By on May 10, 2017

2017 Toyota Yaris

Last week, my Ace of Base selection was met with loud derision from certain corners of the web. My intent was to prove how it’s possible for one to get into a comfortable, well-equipped, diesel-powered Canyon pickup without springing for an SLT or Denali trim. Nevertheless, my efforts were met with a chorus of WHY DON’T YOU JUST DO AN ACE OF BASE ON A ROLLS-ROYCE RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE.

Well then, without further delay…

(Read More…)

By on February 14, 2017

smart fortwo electric

It would appear that the Smart money is literally on electric cars. Daimler says it plans to stop selling combustion-engined Smart models in North America entirely. If you live in the United States or Canada and want a goofy gas-powered mini car, you’d better buy one now.

Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler has issued a letter to dealers explaining that the sale of Smart cars with gasoline engines will stop when the 2017 model year ends this fall. (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 October 24, 2016

ford logo

Public disdain for small cars means Ford is going to take U.S. production behind the barn and shoot it.

That, Toyota practices good corporate citizenry, Honda worries it can’t build enough CR-Vs, and BMW Films returns with a new action-drenched short starring Clive Owen and the new 5 Series… after the break! (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2016

Volvo Concept 40.1 profile

Two concepts just revealed by Volvo shows where the brand’s 40 Series vehicles are headed.

The imaginatively-named Concept 40.1 and 40.2 were the centerpieces at today’s launch of Volvo’s global small car strategy. The growth-primed automaker plans to hit the premium small car market with a series of vehicles built around its Compact Modular Architecture.

Is there a Swede in your future?

(Read More…)

By on May 9, 2016

Chevrolet Small Cars

The official launch of the first-generation Chevrolet Spark played out like a detective in a comedy film who has to go undercover in a high school, all the while clumsily pretending to be hip.  It was an awkward pander to the Millennial first-time car buyer, set to too-carefully chosen music.

With refreshed and updated small car models on their way (or already here), General Motors wants young people to rediscover their often overlooked bottom-rung vehicles, so it left the marketing to experts. (Read More…)

By on December 17, 2015

toyotaofdecatur

I call Scions “the acronyms from hell” because even I have trouble keeping up with all of them.

iQ, iA, iM, tC, xB, xD. Did I forget one? The xA and…wait! I forgot the FR-S, but that’s only because I rarely see those go through the auction block. Everything else, save the two new iA and iM models, seems to make a perennial pilgrimage to the wholesale heaven of unwanted used cars for one unfortunate reason.

Scion, historically, can’t help but hit ’em where the customers ain’t.

(Read More…)

By on May 25, 2015

 

2016 Mazda 2

“It’ll always be there if we need it.” – Robert Davis, Senior VP Of Mazda U.S. Operations, on Mazda2.

Although the car’s been certified for sale in the United States, Mazda won’t be bringing the new 2 to American consumers. That doesn’t mean the possibility isn’t there for the future, according to Automotive News, nor does it mean the 2 won’t appear in the United States in another form.

Despite significant improvements, the fourth-generation 2 – formerly known as the Demio and a successor to the first 2 sold in the U.S. – would likely have fared little better than its predecessor. (Read More…)

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