With his last Ace of Base segment, Matthew Guy got everyone talking about the base Volkswagen GTI S. It went so far as to cause certain members of the TTAC staff to build GTIs over at the Volkswagen website. I didn’t do that, because I was busy ruminating on the difficult choices a Buy/Drive/Burn entry on hot hatches might offer. It’s difficult to write said entry the way I want, because the STI isn’t available as a hatchback anymore. So we’ve got hot compacts today.
hatches grr, compacts, from different manufacturers. One gets purchased, one you borrow, and one burns to the ground. Last time, it became apparent that some of you don’t know the rules, so here are the rules and you should read them before you scroll further. Let’s get speedy.
There’s more to living in Canada than just higher taxes, polar bear incursions, and brutally cold weather. For some reason, denizens of the Great White North are allowed to enjoy more choice at the bottom of the Mercedes-Benz model range.
For example, Americans can be forgiven if they weren’t aware of the B-Class Electric Drive, a low-volume EV hatchback that bit the dust late last year. MB sold just 744 of them in the U.S. in 2017. Meanwhile, Canadians can still walk into their local dealer and sign on for a 2018 B250, the conventional variant powered by the CLA-Class’ turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder.
The EV model never made its way north of the border, while the conventional model never made its way south of the 49th Parallel.
On Friday, the automaker pulled the wraps almost all of the way off its new A-Class — a more refined front-drive entry-level model making its first foray into the North American market. Designed to lure buyers who wouldn’t otherwise have considered the brand, the A-Class will spawn a five-door and sedan variant in Europe, while American buyers can expect only the four-door. And Canada? Well, the country that really hates choice in wireless carriers and dairy products somehow gets the five-door, too.
In 1991, customers had a couple of hatchback options from the Blue Oval in the United States, in either the compact or subcompact segments. At the bottom of the barrel (in all ways) was the Mazda-designed Festiva, and positioned above it was the Mazda-based Escort.
Across the pond, Europeans received a Ford which was actually a Ford — the Fiesta.
Let’s take a trip back to the 1980s — the time when one could drive past numerous Chevrolet and Geo (or Pontiac in Canada) dealers to visit their friendly Isuzu franchise. General Motors has a 34-percent stake in Isuzu, and that means some of the vehicles at the Chevrolet, Geo, and Isuzu lots are up to some badge-swapping trickery. Born as the Isuzu Gemini, the hatchback was renamed and rubber-stamped across brands, swapping badges and fascias with ease.
But one version was strictly badged as Isuzu, and only available for two years toward the end of the model’s run. It’s called the RS, and it’s Really Sporty fun on the cheap.
Subcompacts, if they ever were in favor, have quickly fallen out of favor in the United States. In 2017, sales in the first three-quarters of the year plunged by more than a fifth, year-over-year. The Honda Fit, modestly updated for the 2018 model year, is on track in 2017 to fall to a five-year low of around 50,000 sales, a far cry from the nearly 80,000 American Honda sold a decade ago.
The Honda Fit, not now in third-gen form nor in any prior iteration, has never sold on the strength of style. There have always been less expensive subcompacts, faster subcompacts, and better-equipped subcompacts, as well.
There have not, however, at least not during the Fit’s tenure, been any subcompacts that offer the flexibility of the Honda Fit. But does the fact that the 2018 Honda Fit is likely the only current subcompact that could operate as my family’s lone vehicle make up for the fact that the Fit lags behind rivals in key areas?
One of the biggest problems with buying a new car is that it’ll start looking dated in a few year’s time. Audi doesn’t have this problem. By keeping a relatively consistent design language for over a decade, you really have to squint to pin down which models are new and which ones aren’t. That effect is lessened when you actually climb inside one, though.
Such is the story with the new A7 Sportback. First glances leave you mumbling to yourself, “That certainly is an Audi.” But it’s the finer details that point to it being something wholly unique and modern.
This leaves us in a gray area, wondering whether Audi’s styling decisions are incredibly lazy or absolute genius. The company doesn’t wow you with flamboyant newness or dramatic bodywork but the fact remains that it continues to deliver exceptionally handsome cars that are inoffensive enough to remain relevant several years on.
At 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, October 19, 2017, the second-generation Audi A7 will be unveiled. Based on the silhouette Audi has already revealed, and based on Audi’s historic design habits, the second-generation A7 will appear remarkably similar to the first-generation Audi A7.
At some point in November, Audi USA will sell its 50,000th A7, making the hatchbacked A6 a low-volume car even by the standards of America’s third-ranked German luxury brand. Yet as a style and status symbol, the A7 remains a model of great importance to the overall Audi lineup.
Not long ago, I wrote glowingly about the new Honda Civic Type R. Part of my praise was based on the fact that the Type R is bargain-priced compared to its competition.
Yeah, I liked the Type R. A lot. Even took a little crap in the comments for it (fair enough). But again, a big reason for my praise was the price. If the Type R was stickered the same as its three main competitors – the Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STI, and Volkswagen Golf R – would it still be “all that?”
On its own merits, sure. It’s very, very good. Great, even. But a strong argument can be made that all things being equal, the Golf R is even better. And I’m about to make it.
Back in late June, Hyundai’s Canadian division bundled myself and a group of fellow journalists into a Quebec hotel, then proceeded to explain how crossovers are eating the compact car’s lunch.
The 2018 Elantra GT, the company’s representatives said, almost didn’t happen because of the unstoppable popularity of high-riding, cavernous utility vehicles. Hyundai’s U.S. crew apparently needed convincing that the next-generation GT was even worth the trouble. Essentially just an overseas-market i30 with a name change, the new GT’s North American salvation came from the fact few buyers opted for an Elantra-badged hatchback in recent years. Far more buyers take home a Ford Focus or Mazda 3 with five doors.
And so, having been assured that a much-improved GT — a hatchback with more cargo room, more available power, greater handling and sporting prowess, and cohesive, flirting-with-premium looks — would boost overall Elantra sales, we’ve come to this. An Elantra GT, now with more GT.
In GT Sport trim, the vastly reshaped, fourth-generation compact hatch dons the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder from the Elantra Sport, calls dibs on its athletic cousin’s sporty transmissions, and goes to town delivering value-packed driving excitement for the commuter who likes taking the long (and twisty) way home. This tester, however, is no Elantra GT Sport. Nope. It’s the plain ol’ Elantra GT — the Elantra GT you’ll see far more often than the throaty, scrappy Sport, probably while its owner performs the mundane cargo-hauling duties Hyundai so desperately wants its buyers to attempt.
Even in base form, Hyundai hopes the Elantra GT’s sporting abilities and generous cargo volume whispers a siren song would-be subcompact crossover buyers simply can’t ignore. Is it a convincing come-on?
Hyundai, as we told you last month, has a pretty competent little hatchback on offer for 2018: the newly restyled, revamped, and (Hyundai hopes) reinvigorated Elantra GT. Sporting a mature European-designed body made possible by the overseas i30, the 2018 Elantra GT spices up its roomy hatch bonafides with available power — you’ll find 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque from the Elantra Sport-sourced 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder in the GT Sport.
Its base powerplant isn’t necessarily a slouch, either. (You’ll be able to read a TTAC review of the GT next week.) A direct-injection 2.0-liter generating 162 hp and 150 lb-ft puts the entry-level Elantra sedan’s powerplant to shame, and the cargo room — well, Hyundai’s all about that GT cargo volume. Why else would it call the model “a viable alternative to small CUVs for buyers desiring more fun-to-drive characteristics and greater utility” in the preamble to its price list?
The 2018 price floor for Hyundai’s front-wheel-drive CUV fighter isn’t much higher than last year’s, and those optional ponies won’t exactly break the bank. You can improve a Korean car 12 ways to Sunday, but you still can’t charge more than the Japanese or Germans.
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.
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.
Humpback. Tailback. Silverback.
Paperback. Greenback. Kickback.
Payback. Setback. Buyback.
Notchback. Liftback. Hatchback.
Elmar-Marius Licharz, the director of mid and large car model lines at Volkswagen, makes it very clear that the 2018 Volkswagen Arteon, a successor to the Volkswagen CC, is not a hatchback.
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- Sgeffe Any PR position seems to require a Marketing degree (which I hope is a Bachelor of Science degree, but I digress! ;-) )And as I've opined before, all a Marketing degree really consists of is a degree in shoveling bovine excrement!
- Dwford Ford. They have over committed to EVs with the cancellation of all sedans as well as the recent cancellations of most of their gas crossovers. Too soon. GM has a whole new lineup of gas crossovers coming, while also introducing new EVs: the correct strategy.
- The Oracle The Chinese team needs a new name other than something you’d find on Amazon for a cheap product.
- FreedMike Smart idea. EVs are a far easier sell to someone who can charge them at home.
- Dwford This is just going to become part of selling EVs. Automakers need to make it as simple as possible to buy an EV. And the process of hiring an electrician etc is a barrier many people will not want to deal with.