By on May 6, 2019

2019 Kia Forte front quarter

I’ll grant that I’ve established a pretty cool second job for myself with this gig writing about cars. What gearhead wouldn’t love to get paid to talk (well, write) about their favorite subject — and often, drive some of the coolest new cars around? It sure beats flipping burgers to put extra cash in the wallet.

The not-so-secret side of this? It’s generally not the coolest cars that generate the most clicks. Most readers tend to care about cars they’ll legitimately consider buying, rather than a $100k sportscar. Thus, reviews of basic commuter cars, while not nearly as fun to drive, are much more important.

My job was made easy for me with the 2019 Kia Forte. It doesn’t overwhelm with outlandish styling. It doesn’t get the juices flowing with incredible performance. It simply makes the daily commute effortless and economical. What else can you ask from a car?

(Read More…)

By on March 6, 2019

Today is the last day of Chevrolet Cruze production in America. Much to the chagrin of hard-working Lordstown Assembly employees and one Associate Editor, a compact Chevy sedan will no longer roll off production lines in Ohio. The Cruze continues to be built south of the border for other markets.

We’re sending it off the only way we know how. It’s time to pour one out for the last-ever base model Cruze.

(Read More…)

By on February 28, 2019

Yes, yes. It’s a Corolla. I’ve cursed them in traffic, you’ve done the same, and more than a few of them are purchased by a segment of the driving public who view the car as an appliance.

The little sedan from Toyota didn’t become a success for no reason; they’re scattered around this country like litter after a ticker-tape parade, after all. Can the new-for-2020 base model pull the pursestrings of this flinty-eyed author? Or is the frugal shopper better off spending $450 and upgrading to the LE trim?

(Read More…)

By on August 22, 2018

2018 Hyundai Elantra SE

Surprises are rare in the car world, given that most companies leak like a screen door on a submarine (or endlessly tease a new model *ahem, Challenger, ahem*), but it occasionally does happen. Last night in Park City, Utah, Hyundai took the wraps off a mid-cycle refresh for its Elantra, an event that was unexpected by all hands.

The 2019 model’s styling will surely be commented upon by a news author here on the site later today. Until then, it is worth revisiting the current model in an effort to understand how it continues to hoover up sales to the tune of about 200,000 cars annually. (Read More…)

By on July 18, 2018

Annual sales of this upright little Kia regularly crest 100,000 units, despite casting roughly the same shadow since its introduction 10 model years ago — though it did grow slightly in wheelbase and width during its 2014 restyle.

Its early marketing efforts, featuring life-sized animated hamsters that frequently haunt my dreams, were actually inducted into the Madison Avenue Walk of Fame. The people who decide such things deemed the hamsters such a hit they now reside along the Aflac Duck and Tony the Tiger as advertising superstars. Hmm.

With robust sales, the Soul is doing anything but spinning on a stationary hamster wheel, particularly in base trim.

(Read More…)

By on May 18, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI MV Confederation - Image: © Timothy Cain

I was lost. Rather, I was about to be lost.

As I drove an eye-catching white silver metallic 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI onto the MV Confederation in Caribou, Nova Scotia, it dawned on me. I had never driven across Prince Edward Island by myself. But I was about to, if I could find my way.

Mrs. Cain and the kids had already made it to Prince Edward Island, having departed earlier in the week to begin our house hunt after our Nova Scotian home sold in 24 hours. Sunshine and a quick car made me realize that the MV Confederation’s perfectly timed departure would allow for some sorely needed blood pressure reduction, sitting on the deck of a ferry for an hour in the middle of a Friday afternoon.

But I left my iPhone charge cord at home on the dining room table. My phone’s battery was below 5 percent with pictures yet to be snapped. I couldn’t use my phone for directions. I didn’t trust the island signage to be sufficient — we’re not big on signs around these parts. And then a light came on: the ferry’s tourist bureau would have maps. Maps! Maps, my dear Watson. Maps. I studied that arcane sheet for, well, it had to be minutes. In the belly of the ship, with everybody else back in their cars, I spent a few more minutes folding that sucker up with every ounce of dexterity my parents’ genetics afforded me.

Not until I arrived at my Summerside destination did it dawn on me. The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI has a navigation system.

Maybe that’s why it costs $29,815. (Read More…)

By on January 18, 2017

2017 Toyota Corolla XSE – Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

So you say you want to understand Toyota. You want to look the company in the eye and get a sense of its soul. Without spending hours studying kaizen and poring over 2000GT imagery and learning the significance of the number 86, you want to know why Toyota is different from, say, Porsche.

Allow the 2017 Toyota Corolla to be your tutor. In LE Eco guise, the fuel-sipping Corolla’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder produces 140 horsepower. In “sporty” SE and XSE trims, the 1.8-liter produces eight fewer horsepower.

No kidding.

With nothing more substantive than rear disc brakes, bigger wheels, and wider low-profile tires, the 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE and its less luxurious SE sibling hardly bring performance to the Corolla lineup. The loss of eight horsepower — and the gain of two pound-feet of torque – compared to the more efficient LE Eco aren’t performance-altering characteristics, either.

Think then of this Corolla XSE as just a Corolla, as merely a Corolla, as only a Corolla, as perhaps the most prudent transportation-oriented purchase a North American car buyer can make this year.

Or as the most joyless way to spend $24,130 on a new car. (Read More…)

By on June 17, 2016

2016 Ford Focus EV Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Jeff Voth/The Truth About Cars

The debate about the relative merits of electric vehicles is certain to be ongoing for years to come. For some, it represents the new frontier in automotive engineering and design. Electric powered vehicles for the masses; no more oil taken from the ground and clean air for all. It’s an interesting concept, but I am not fully convinced at this time in history to throw all my gasoline-powered chips in that pile and call.

Companies such as Tesla have made significant waves in the industry and I do think they’ll continue to experience success going forward. In my opinion, Elon Musk is a true automotive pioneer in the same vein as Karl Benz and Henry Ford. I don’t dispute the idea of EV’s for all; I just see a balance between gasoline, diesel, electric and possibly hydrogen-powered vehicles as a better alternative; at least for now.

It appears Ford is hedging its bets on this combination as well. I recently had the chance to test drive the 2016 Ford Focus EV for a week. In short, I was very impressed for the most part. It was comfortable, quick to accelerate, looks un-EV-like and turned a surprising number of heads, which to me is always a good thing.

But is it a car I would buy? On that question, I am keeping my cards to close to my chest.

(Read More…)

By on April 27, 2016

2016 Chevrolet Cruze rear 3/4

Based on internal platform codes, sources are telling us Cadillac is working on a Delta-based Mercedes CLA rival.

General Motors has spent significant time and effort refining the Delta platform – as noted in our Cruze review, this platform is well worthy of premiums above the Cruze’s $17, 495 MSRP.

Based on what sources are sending our way, it looks like General Motors is planning exactly that, a premium vehicle based on the new D2XX platform. (Read More…)

By on April 25, 2016

2016 Buick Cascada Front 3/4 Top Down, Image: © 2016 Jeff Jablansky/The Truth About Cars

After years of covering the automotive industry, I’m still amused by the enormous gulf between auto enthusiasts and “real people.” (I’m talking to you, B&B!) We get excited when Honda decides to offer a manual transmission in the V6 Accord, despite the tens of buyers who will come running for it, or General Motors’ confidence to sell the Chevrolet SS here at all. “Real people” like it when there’s a less expensive way to get into a BMW M product, as well as the ability to go into a showroom and walk out the same day with the same nameplate they know and trust.

A great example of this chasm/schism is the Buick Cascada. Here’s how we imagine the reaction of each affinity group:

Auto enthusiasts/press: “Buick’s decided to rebadge an aging Opel and try to pass it off in the United States as The New Thing in the segment abandoned by the Volkswagen Eos and Chrysler 200 convertible?”

Real people: “There’s a convertible Buick now?”

(Read More…)

By on April 12, 2016

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited, Image: © 2016 Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

Sometimes, circumstance hands you a perfect metaphor.

While driving Hyundai’s redesigned and all-around updated 2017 Elantra, a brand-spankin’-new Honda Civic bolted out from a side street, led me for a short while, then put the hammer down before it took off into the distance.

Up ’till that moment, the electric blue Elantra tester (in option-heavy Limited form) had proven itself a comfortable, roomy, good-handling compact by soaking up the worst potholes, frost heaves and patches that early spring could throw at it. But here, all of a sudden, was its main competitor — the award-winning Civic, the car to beat in the compact class — and I could almost feel the worry emerge from the Korean plastic and steel that encased me.

No car exists in a vacuum (thank you, capitalism!), so the Elantra’s mandate can’t simply be to improve on its own past — it must present a compelling argument against the Civic. Is it up to the task?

(Read More…)

By on February 1, 2016

2016 Nissan Sentra-006

Traditional car shoppers are moving away from small sedans and toward compact crossovers. That’s the conventional wisdom used to explain the slowing sales we see in some models. But could there be another reason? Could it simply be a lack of focus and attention to the compact segment?

There is one model that’s seen a meteoric rise in sales since 2013: the Sentra. Nissan’s complete overhaul three years ago and aggressive pricing doubled Sentra sales since then, moving it from a “top 15” player in sales to number five in 2015.

In an effort to maintain the trajectory, Nissan opted for a major refresh after just three years on sale. (Sounds like the Honda plan with the Civic, doesn’t it?) Perhaps the key to compact success is a combination of frequent updates and more gadgets for shoppers to choose from. That sums up the 2016 Sentra perfectly.

(Read More…)

By on January 20, 2016

20160111_211232

Once more into the breach, dear friends / Or close up the segment with our heavily-rebated dead.

This is the third time I’ve encountered this generation of Ford Focus SE, having enjoyed the car on its press preview and suffered through an overheated PowerShift sedan in Florida traffic a year later. Now I return once again to this vaguely-Germanic ground, this time for a 448-mile odyssey through the Michigan winter.

Since we last met, the Focus SE has been given a thorough and comprehensive revamp, from the new global front end to what looks like an all-new interior. The price has also been favorably adjusted. Is it enough to put the aging Euro-compact back on your personal radar screen?

(Read More…)

By on October 15, 2015

2014-Chevrolet-CruzeRS-010-medium

There was a time when the word ‘cockroach’ was the best way to describe any old Chevy compact.

(Read More…)

By on September 9, 2015

All-New Elantra_1

Hyundai’s compact model, the Elantra, will arrive with the brand’s newly adopted trapezoidal grille, new engines and a number of enhancements to improve perceived quality.

The automaker, who looked at the Dodge Dart and said, “Yeah, that looks good but needs more grille,” revealed the sixth-generation Elantra on Wednesday in South Korea.

(Read More…)

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