If thought of a front-driven ultimate driving machine seems like either the best thing ever or a nightmare, then BMW Sales and Marketing board member Ian Robertson has some good/bad news for you: 11 BMWs and MINIs will soon arrive in the showroom, all underpinned by the UKL1 FWD/AWD chassis.
Though MINI’s lineup hasn’t (literally) lived up to its name since its reboot by parent BMW, product boss Pat McKenna would like to see the Rocketman — a MINI that truly is mini — appear in showrooms all over the world.
For that scenario to play out, though, the Rocketman needs a flight partner.
TrueDelta has updated the stats from its Car Reliability Survey to cover through the end of September, 2012.
Elsewhere you’ll read that, for the 2013 Mazda CX-5, “first year reliability has been well above average.” We can’t tell you how the CX-5 performed during its first year, since the first few cars only arrived at dealers late last February (less than two months before that other survey was conducted). We can tell you that, in the seven months after the first Mazdas were delivered, few of them required repairs. Same conclusion, just an average of 3.5 months of data per car instead of a couple of weeks.
We came within a response or two of having a full result for the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ sports cars. Through the end of September they were looking better than average. But enough owners have recently reported problems with tail light condensation and a chirping fuel pump (the latter probably experienced in our press fleet pre-production car) that their score will worsen with future updates. If no further problems creep up they’ll have middling-to-poor scores for a few quarters, after which they could regain a better-than-average stat.
The long rumored move to build MINI vehicles at Mitsubishi’s Dutch plant has finally come to pass. Starting in the second half of 2014, MINI vehicles will be built at the former home of the Mitsubishi Charisma and Volvo S40.
BMW will enter marketing history by bringing McDonalds to the automotive industry. Just like McD took one food platform as the basis of a panoply of products (Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Double Cheseburger, McDouble, Daily Double) BMW’s MINI perfects the art and science of mass customization. The latest iteration: The long awaited Mini Paceman, debuting for North America at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
TTAC’s fascination with all things Chinese mandates that we get our hands on the first Chinese car to be sold on North American shores, lest we betray our mandate. That first example happened to come from Honda – and the Made In China Fit you see here might be the one vehicle most true to the company’s roots.
In September, click-hungry Kelley Blue Book celebrated its “10 coolest cars under $12,000” (With click-triggering gallery!) Two months later, rampant inflation sets in. Now, it’s the “10 coolest cars under $25,000.” Necessarily, the September choices were a bit low rent. Let’s see what you get when you double your budget. All 10 of them. With pictures. And then, we’ll take revenge on Kelley and crown our own super cool car.
TTAC Commentator Horseflesh writes:
Hey Sajeev and Steve,
Winter is coming. Like any true Seattle suburbanite, I dread the debut of the white stuff. We’re so scared of snow up here that the local insurance company even aired commercials teasing us about it.
So you want your next car to be a cheap drop top that seats four? If you live in America, your options are strangely limited. By my count, only five convertibles are available on our shores that seat four and cost under $30,000. If you cross the “convertible hatchbacks” (Cooper and 500c) off the list you’re left with three options. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Ford Mustang and the former king of the convertible sales chart: the Chrysler
Sebring 200. Does this re-skinned front driver have what it takes to win back the “best-selling convertible in America” crown?
Edit: Now with updated graph
So, what the heck does a manufacturer mean when they offer a ‘Sport Suspension’ and is it something you actually want? While I haven’t examined every version available, themes have carried through various makes/models, so what follows are safe generalizations. I even throw in a dyno chart!
Nowadays, the only way to make cars profitably is to take advantage of economies of scale; and nobody is better at maximizing the “one sausage, many lengths” method of automobile production than Mini. Forget talk of “brand values” and “heritage” – we’re in a different era now.
A few months back, Bertel decreed that TTAC would have no more duplicate reviews. If we wanted to test a car that had already been reviewed, we’d better have a dramatically different take on it. I had a FIAT 500 Abarth for the week. Jack and Alex had already covered it on track and off. I thought someone had a comparison with the MINI Cooper S on the way. What else could I possibly compare the Abarth to that would make sense? It’s not like there are any other high-performance Italian hatchbacks offered in North America…
Our newest segment, “Suspension Truth”, comes to us courtesy of Shaikh J Ahmad. An engineer by training, Shaikh is the owner of Fat Cat Motorsports, and a self-styled “Suspension Wizard”. Shaikh creates custom suspension components for a variety of cars, including the Mazda Miata and RX-8, the Nissan 350Z, Mini Cooper and Honda S2000. Back when I had my 1997 Miata, I ordered a set of coilovers from Shaikh, based on his reputation for creating suspension setups with a previously unheard of balance between ride and handling. The Fat Cat coilovers are one of the few products I’ve ever bought that were able to live up to the hype. Over the next few weeks, Shaikh will delve into the science of suspensions, and provide his own analysis of a number of production cars.
What’s your least memorable train ride? Simple question, right? If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume all of them. Unless a screenwriter threw you into an adventure film without your consent, it’s what we’d expect. This brings to mind a popular driving metaphor – ‘handles like it’s on rails.’ That’s our ideal in suspension tuning, to be glued to the ground and also as comfortable as possible. Easy when you’ve controlled every degree of freedom as with a train track and groomed earth beneath.
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.
Before 2011, if you were looking for a hot hatch but wanted something MINIer than a Cooper, your options were limited to the less than smart Smart BRABUS. With fuel costs on the rise and fuel economy targets looming, MINI and Fiat are hoping to tempt “sporty” shoppers into something smaller and more practical. This week we have the MINI answer to the question: why doesn’t MINI make a heavier John Cooper Works (JCW) without back seats? We kid, we kid. But in all seriousness, why would you buy the MINI Coupé instead of the four-seater JCW Cooper, JCW Roadster or even the sexy Italian we tested last week?
“Drives like a go-kart”. Is there a more time-worn, hackneyed cliche in automotive journalism? Although this phrase is meant to heap praise on a lightweight, nimble vehicle that offers superlative handling, I can’t think of a more damning insult to saddle a modern road car with than to liken it to a proper kart.
I currently drive a 2005 MINI Cooper S convertible. I’ve been swapping winter/summer tires for the past few years but I was thinking that this year I might get a beater car for the harsher weather months. The combination of FWD and wear and tear on the fabric roof are my main reasons for these considerations.
I live in NJ, so most of my driving is on the highway but as part of my job as a systems admin in a datacenter, I’m occasionally called into work at times when even the highways haven’t been plowed.
Do you think it’s possible to find a cheap (around $1000), preferably AWD car that would work well for winters in the northeast? Craigslist searches so far have turned up a handful of Subarus, Volvos, and Audis Quattro.
Abarth was founded in 1952 as a “one-stop-shop” for Fiat performance gear. What does that have to do with the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth? Nothing. Seriously. In 1971 Abarth was purchased by Fiat, by the 1990s the “brand” had deteriorated to a trim level on questionable hatchbacks and by 2000 it was “dead trim walking.” In 2007 Fiat decided they needed a performance brand once again and resurrected Abarth with the inexplicably named “Fiat Grande Punto Abarth” and (more importantly) a complete line of clothing and accessories. Despite the apparent soft start for the brand in the Euro-zone, Fiat tells us they held nothing back for the launch of Abarth in North America. Our own tame racing driver Jack took the Abarth for a spin on the track back in March but this time we’re pitting Italy’s hot hatch against a bigger challenge: the daily commute.
Even though the Vauxhall Adam is named after its German twin’s founder, the British arm of General Motors felt it necessary to steal the ailing brand’s thunder, and release photos of their new city car – as if stealing production of the Astra wasn’t enough.
Remember DC Designs? It is the same company which made the 3-door Evoque-alike. DC Designs has also developed its own supercar, India’s first and only home-made supercar. Known as the Avanti, the vehicle looks fabulous at the front, just about average at the sides and terrible at the rear. The interiors feature bucket seats, the quality seems to be below average.
“If you want a Veloster Turbo, you can buy one right now – it’s called the Genesis Coupe.”
That’s what Hyundai CEO John Krafcik told us at the launch of the Veloster last year, when asked about the possibility of a performance version of Hyundai’s distinctive-looking hatchback. Less than a year later, we have a boosted Veloster and a Genesis Coupe that’s better than ever.
History repeats itself. I repeat, History repeats…well, you see my point. Which was probably one of the reasons why my creations in Car Design College were universally panned as being “too retro”, among other things. It was a similar fate given to Lenny Kravitz, except he was very talented in his form of artistic expression. And while you can’t “sell” most design studios on the power of history, I present to you the latest Nash/AMC Rambler.
I mean Nissan Leaf. You’ll have to forgive me for seeing the similarity between the two, in spirit, historical context and on the Vellum.
A little acceleration. A lot of plastic, and a Lilliputian’s worth of smallness.
The Fiat 500C Cabrio that had been parked on my driveway seemed like a small car’s dream gone by. There were a few chrome accents. A soft top that retracted like an old power curtain contrivance from a 1960’s James Bond movie. Power? The spec sheet showed only 101 horsepower and a mild level of torque. To be brutally blunt, I was ready to be subjected to a Corolla’s worth of acceleration with enough wind buffeting to make the experience not even worth the effort.
Then I turned the key…
In the summer of 1989, I was ten going on eleven. The fastest car I had yet ridden in was probably my dad’s 535i, clocked by the CHiP at well over the tonne, a ticket which the patriarch of the family talked himself out of with a “Not bad, right?”
It was hard to say if I really cared about cars yet: obviously they were important to my dad, and I’d already learned to drive our Series III Land Rover at walking pace on the banks of the Fraser River, but there were new Pirate sets coming from Lego, and G.I. Joe had just released a barely-disguised SR-71 Blackbird for the Cobra forces. Sean Connery had joined Harrison Ford in a quest for the Holy Grail. A friend had just gotten the new, side-scrolling Zelda Game.
The world was full of simple distractions for a young man: Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, E.T. and Ewoks, Yop bottles filled with vinegar and baking soda, Thundercats and Space Quest III.
Then, one day, in the basement of a Ladysmith home, I climbed behind the wheel of a 16-bit Porsche 959 and the whole world changed. I was exposed to the founding tenet of automotive enthusiasm.
What? The supercar? Don’t be daft, I’m talking about arguing.
Being asked “what car should I buy?” occurs on a weekly basis for me, but I’d rather field that question every day than listen to the recieved wisdom of a magazine racer just once more in my life. The most recent inquiry came from my Uncle Maurice, a kind and generous man who provided my brother and me with a near bottomless supply of Swiss Army knives when we were children.
Does BMW Have a Fire Safety Problem With All of Its Brands' Turbos? 2,916 More Non-Chevy-Volts Recalled For Fire Hazard
It hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as the handful of early production Tata Nanos that caught fire, or the Ferrari 458 recall, also for fire safety issues, or the newly expanded investigation into Jeep Wranglers burning, and certainly not nearly the attention given the near non-event with that one crash tested Chevy Volt, but BMW appears to have a corporate wide fire problem with turbocharged models that has now resulted in recalls of BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce vehicles.
We have at least two dandies on staff who make Beau Brummel look like Christian Audiger, what with their Zegna blazers and tailored shirts and handmade shoes and watches that aren’t also calculators. In the ordinary course of things, I leave it in their capable, well-manicured hands to wax eloquent on the concept of style.
As far as I’m concerned, clothes are just something which keep me from
(b) being arrested.
However, even with such a clear disclaimer to my limited scope where fashion is concerned, I feel it necessary to point out at least one simple rule: if you walk around all day wearing a baseball hat turned around backwards, you’ll look like an idiot. Or Fred Durst.
Wait, that’s redundant.
Recently, while praising the growly note produced by the VW GLI, I made an off-handed remark concerning the multitude of axle-backs I’ve bolted onto my WRX over the years. Unlike most of the hyperbole that is my métier, such statement was actually based in reality.
I really did swap out back-boxes like Jack cycles through guitars, desiring both an uncorking of the rumble produced by a flat-four with unequal-length headers, yet without the yobbish blatting of some angled oil-barrel. A straight STi swap? Nope, all the metallic unpleasantness of chomping tinfoil. The Borla Hush? Stealthy in looks only, but drones like Ben Stein playing the didgeridoo.
If you’re interested, I ended up with a 2.5” single-tip Maddad Whisper, a fine, US-made piece of engineering which I paid through the nose for. Worth every penny though: just enough bass at idle to flip my on-switch, crest 4K in the rev department and suddenly Nicky Grist is calling out the pace notes.
And here’s the thing, of all the facets of the motorcar that are constantly being refined and improved and modernized, it’s the sound I’ll miss the most.
When do wholesale prices equal retail prices?
Think about it for a second. When do the prices of a consumer good become so expensive that there is virtually no markup?
Here are a few scenarios that I can come up with… given what I’ve seen at the auto auctions these days.
1) Extreme shortage of product and too many wholesale buyers.
2) Most everyone buying the product is financing it to sub-prime customers who only care about ‘the monthly payment’.
3) You have enough seasonal dealers, overseas buyers, and funny money that the laws of economics no longer apply.
Now having said that, I ended up buying five vehicles at one sale recently. My purchases were…
A decade ago, MINI launched in the United States, at a time when gas was cheap and small cars were decidedly not in vogue. The original Cooper has given birth to the Clubman, Countryman, Coupe and Roadster, in a brilliant display of making many lengths of sausage from one pile of meat.
It’s a strange, strange world out there. Image trumps reality, corporate positioning trumps national identity, the fake conquers the real. Want proof? Consider the Fiat 500 Abarth. The now-iconic television ad features some hapless beta male enduring a strangely erotic tongue-lashing at the hands of a beautiful Italian woman who then mysteriously turns into a chunky little Italian car. Makes perfect sense. Except the Italian girl (Catrinel Menghia) is Romanian, and Italian car which was supposedly tuned by an Austrian racer turns out to be a Mexican car with an American hot-rod engine tuned by Detroit racers. This makes slightly less sense.
Luckily the Abarth itself doesn’t require much in the way of context in order to be enjoyed. If you’d like some, feel free to check out our previous reviews of the naturally-aspirated 500. Finished? Fantastic. We’ve reviewed the little Fiat from an economy-car perspective in the past, but now it’s time to exchange the pocket protectors for my Impact! Carbon Air Draft. Buckle up: it’s racetrack time.
This article appeared in S:S:L in April of 2009, so adjust comments regarding the “current” Honda and Acura lineup appropriately, thanks! — JB
I remember the event as if it were yesterday, although in fact it was twenty-six years ago. My relentless, Rommel-esque campaign to get my mother into a 1983 Honda Civic 1500S had very nearly reached a successful conclusion. For months I had worked tirelessly to steer Mom towards a Honda dealership for our new “family car”, always with the ostensible and sensible goal of purchasing the $6,995 1500GL wagon. Once we were inside the doors of the dealership — doors I had personally darkened many a time before then, since it was only a four-mile walk each way from my house — it would be a simple matter of bait-and-switching her away from the wagon and into a bright red 1500S hatchback. I’d walked to the showroom the day before and verified the presence of one, priced at a compelling $6,495.
As fate would have it, however, the red 1500S had sold, leaving just a black one available. (The 1983 Civic 1500S, the only Civic of that generation to carry the “S” tag, was available in just two colors: black and red.) No matter: we’d take it. In just a few nearly tearful moments, I convinced her that the 141-inch long, two-door hatchback was an ideal car for a single mother and two growing boys. The sales manager, displaying the utterly despicable greed that is still a hallmark of Honda dealers today, allowed us to buy the car at sticker. Providing, that is, we would pay an additional $349 for a two-speaker cassette player and $99 for a useless tape stripe.
That Civic was a truly great car. Economical, quick enough, sporty-looking, bulletproof, fun. It certainly would have lasted my mother a decade or more, had she not been struck just two years after the purchase by a drunk driver in a Cadillac deVille. The impact put parts of the back seat into the front seats. Hondas were not terribly crash-safe in those days.
Still, the ’83 Civic was the best Civic in history up to that point. The ’84 “breadvan” Civic was better. Much better. The Civic that followed was even better, and so on, until we reached the point of the 1999 Civic Si coupe, widely acclaimed as nearly everyone’s favorite Civic. And then a funny thing happened.
Fiat is hoping that their new 500 Abarth will inject some new energy into their lineup, just like couples stuck in a flagging marriage hope that immersing themselves into “ the lifestyle” will add some spice and excitement to a union long past its expiration date. The 500 Abarth will likely have some demographic overlap with guests at Hedonism II, since it will likely be enjoyed by pudgy, swarthy men with outsized egos and overly made up female professionals.
100 percent less snark, 100 percent more cheesy innuendo after the jump.
I never was a New Beetle kind of guy. But then I am a guy. Unless a cute car handles like a Miata, I’m not interested. For 2012 Volkswagen has redesigned the New Beetle, dropping the “New” and the bud vase (every review must mention this) in the process of attempting to broaden the car’s appeal. And?
When American cops drive around with expensive iron, they claim they impounded it from a drug dealer fair and square, and all is good. For some odd reasons, China hasn’t come to the level of vehicular expropriation yet. Their police gets its car the old fashioned way: They buy it. Imagine the consternation of the people in the port city of Tianjin, when they spotted a new Mini Cooper in police livery. That car is imported, and a basic version starts at around $45,000.
Two door cars used to be everywhere. From loaded up Cutlasses and Accords. To entry level Escorts, Neons and Civics. Nearly every popular car of 20 years ago offered a hatchback or coupe variant for those seeking a touch of sport in their daily driver.
Then something happened. America gradually got older… and bigger. Four door cars went from the plain-jane three square look of the 1980’s, to designs that evoked the priciest of exotics. Advances in steel fabrication and body stamping were just the beginning of what soon became a new era where four door cars completely dominated their two door sisters.
“Why deal with the inconvenience of a two door?” said a buying public knee-deep in aging baby boomers. Why indeed when you could have everything from a Camry to an SUV if you wanted the pretense of a sporty and powerful ride. Hatchbacks soon gave way to oversized coupes, which gave way to the reality that so-called ‘sporty’ designs were now available in every segment of the car market.To survive for another generation, a two door compact like the Scion tC has to offer a lot more than just a ‘sporty’ driving experience.
I like to tout myself as the youngest full-time auto writer in the industry, but sometimes it backfires – like when an Acura exec came up to me on my first press trip (at 19 years old) and warmly told a few assembled journalists and PR types that he hadn’t seen me since I was this big.
On the other hand, my youth gave me particular insight into two products that launched within the last month, and are aimed squarely at my demographic – the Hyundai Veloster and the Chevrolet Sonic. Both cars launched at the 2011 North American International Auto Show, though their reception couldn’t have been more different.
My wife is currently in the market for a new car. Our current garage consists of her 2008 Ford Explorer XLT Ironman Edition V8 that gets a dismal 16 MPG in mixed driving, and my beloved 2010 G37S 6MT that I love in every way, and gets a decent 22 MPG in mixed driving when I’m not laying into the throttle. The Explorer is paid for, and while I mentioned selling it to buy whatever she wants, she’s having none of it, as we do tow with it every now and then and she has an attachment to Explorers. This is her second Ex, RIP 2002 Explorer @ 210k miles. Currently we’re looking at a few cars. She needs room, so a hatch is preferred.
Mini Cooper S Countryman
Any suggestions? Price isn’t an issue and we plan to keep it for a while. Many Thanks. Bryant S
P.S. No, we don’t want a Panther :)
On Wednesday, your humble author had the opportunity to drive several of the newest Volkswagens on an identical 14-mile loop around rural Virginia. By adding a few unauthorized extensions to this loop, I was able to walk away from the day with a reasonable understanding of a few different VW models. Naturally, the four most interesting cars were the turbocharged compacts:
- 2012 Beetle Turbo
- 2012 Jetta GLI (tested in both DSG and manual form)
- 2012 Golf GTI
- Golf R (tested in Euro-market six-speed form)
None of these cars can be said to compete directly against each other, but I’ve decided to create an impromptu comparison test between the four. The ranking is solely my opinion and is not the result of collaboration, voting, free long-term
bribes testers or an utterly inexcusable blurring of the already thin line between editorial and paid content Special Advertising Section placement.
The podium positions will be revealed on Monday through Wednesday, but there’s a loser in every group, and today we are meeting that loser: the charming but ultimately outclassed 2012 Beetle Turbo.
Due to the state of the economy and the price of gasoline in America, it’s no small wonder small car sales are on fire. For those that wish to hide the fact that they have downsized for sensible reasons like lower operating costs, there is a segment of the market just for you: small retro cars. While everyone has tried their hand at this game from Chrysler’s PT cruiser, Chevy’s HHR and the continual resurrection of the VW Beetle, nobody seems to have hit the nail as squarely on the head as BMW with their Mini franchise and their 40,000 in yearly sales. What’s the new Italian owner of an American car company and dealer network to do? Sell a “minier” Mini-fighter of course.
It will come as no surprise to regular TTAC readers when I say that Scion has had some sales issues lately. But instead of euthanizing the brand as some on TTAC have suggested, Toyota has decided to take a different route. Thankfully, rather than creating more me-too models based off of US-market Toyotas, the plan includes some JDM/Euro models and the much anticipated “Toyobaru “sports car. The first object of foreign desire landing stateside to start off Scion’s resurrection is the Toyota iQ micro-car. The iQ should be in showrooms across the country soon, but does Scion have the IQ to make a smarter Smart?
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.
Hey Sajeev and Steve,
So my girlfriend is in the process of getting a new car. We’re graduating college in May and she was lucky enough to have her Mom offer to buy her a car as a graduation present. Thats pretty much perfect timing because her 1996 Jeep Cherokee Country is on its last legs. She loves her Jeep but it has almost 300,000 miles on it and it hasn’t been the most reliable thing in the world over the past year
Originally, this whole process was supposed to be pretty easy. Her Mom offered to buy her a car worth up to $8000, and loving Jeeps she pretty much had her heart set on a TJ Wrangler, which (correct me if I’m wrong) would probably be pushing her budget.
By all accounts, the original Mitsubishi A6M Reisen, also known as “Zeke” or “Zero”, was a pretty decent little warplane. For a year or so, it had the edge on the porky old Brewster Buffalos and Grumman Wildcats operating, which is to say retreating, in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. The Wildcat was replaced by the Hellcat, and by the time the fabulous P-47 Thunderbolt arrived it was game over for the Zero. The “Jug” was virtually indestructible, while the Zero offered virtually no protection to either its pilot or its fuel tanks. It was apparently quite profitable for Thunderbolt pilots to fly head-on at the Zeros and just shoot at them until the Mitsubishi fell out of the sky, its return fire completely ineffective. (P-47 info edited — JB)
Still, the Zero was a decent little plane.
Every Mitsubishi built since then, of every type, shape, variety, and description, has been a complete piece of crap.
Sajeev and Steve,
Everyday for the past 6 months I’ve been reading TTAC, usually on my phone between actual “work” at work. I find it very informative and enjoy it immensely. In the next 2-6 months I will be looking to “upgrade” my current car (Corolla S) to something a bit more sporty and fun to drive (which compared to a corolla leaves a lot of options out there) but, as usual, I am having difficulty deciding what to consider. The possibility of buying a outright fun car and keeping the Corolla is a possibility. I should also mention that I travel quite a bit (400 miles/week) with 75% highway use.
Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Nobody told the Germans, who seem to be growing weary of China’s ceaseless automotive design flattery. “The Copy-Shop is open again” grumbles AutoBild, of the Emgrand EC6-RV, which marks the second obvious Chinese MINI clone here’s the first) in the last several years. At least Emgrand’s parent company Geely isn’t ripping off its joint venture partner… but then, didn’t Geely buy Volvo so it wouldn’t have to rip off Western brands? Old habits must die hard…
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