By on April 16, 2019

Today’s Rare Ride wears a lot of different badges. The most important ones are Fiat, Ritmo, and Abarth. Come and check out the sportiest version of the final evolution of Fiat’s replacement for the long-lived 128.

(Read More…)

By on February 4, 2019

2013 Mazdaspeed 3 - Image: Mazda Canada

These days it seems as though every automaker, no matter how small, has a performance division on hand to offer up the occasional heart-pounding model variant to be coveted by enthusiasts. However, it only seems that way. Many brands have to go without.

Despite once branding itself as the everyday performance brand, Mazda hasn’t delivered a new Mazdaspeed vehicle since 2010. This left us wondering if the brand’s performance division would ever return. We even asked the company to weigh in on the situation back in 2017, with Mazda suggesting that all of its models are performance oriented (before saying it couldn’t comment on future products or any associated speculation). Subsequent inquiries were met with nearly interchangeable explanations.

Similarly dissatisfied, the folks at Road & Track adjusted their line of questioning in the hopes of prying more information out of Mazda. Rather than asking what’s happening with Mazdaspeed, they asked what it would take to see it produce another automobile. Unfortunately, the answers aren’t particularly encouraging.  (Read More…)

By on February 4, 2019

2018 Volkswagen GTI front quarter

Volkswagen has big plans for mild hybrid powertrains and fully electric vehicles, but the perpetually popular Golf GTI’s successor won’t be a point of contention for motoring purists. That’s because VW has reportedly pulled a screeching U-turn on that model’s electrification.

According to Autocar, the eighth-generation Golf’s hot (but not hottest) hatch variant won’t go the hybrid route. Instead, company engineers have concerned themselves with incremental improvements over the current model. No electro-mobility here; just fun hatch.  (Read More…)

By on December 12, 2018

Imagine you’re an American auto executive in the 1980s, looking on in desperation as all the youthful and wealthy customers head almost solely to BMW showrooms for their sports-oriented sedans and coupes.

Now imagine you work at Ford, and you’ve decided to do something about it. By the way, you’re Bob Lutz right now.

It’s Merkur time.

(Read More…)

By on November 2, 2018

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

The hot hatch segment is about to lose two stalwarts in the Ford Focus ST and Fiesta ST. Who, oh who, now will compete with the class-leading Volkswagen Golf GTI and Honda Civic Type-R?

Will it be Subaru, bringing back a hatch version of the WRX? Chevy with an actual hopped-up Cruze hatchback? Perhaps Toyota with a performance version of the new Corolla hatch?

No. As you no doubt know by now, the newest player in the hot-hatch game is Hyundai, with the N version of its Veloster three-door entering the fray. Positioned above the sport-trimmed R-Spec Veloster and the top-trim Veloster Turbo (which blends luxury with sport), the N is meant to be an affordable track-ready toy that’s ready to go from the moment it leaves the showroom while still being usable a daily driver.

A peach in the streets and a freak off the streets, as it were.

(Read More…)

By on September 4, 2018

Kia is readying the unveiling of its Proceed for European buyers later this month, taking great strides to ensure it matches the concept version. While the Ceed five-door already exists, the Proceed is a full-blown wagon. However, it’ll probably spend the majority of its time referred to as an “estate car” or “shooting brake,” since it’s not supposed to make it out of Europe. That’s slightly tragic, considering the model seems bent on showcasing Kia’s new emphasis on extra-handsome designs.

Kia revealed the Proceed Concept last year at the Frankfurt Motor Show to much praise from the media. The brand claimed it would foreshadow the future of the Ceed lineup’s styling, which bodes well, as the car looks like a Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo and Nissan GT-R put up their bastard offspring for adoption in South Korea.  (Read More…)

By on August 17, 2018

An enterprising GM executive, a British tuning company, and a compact hatchback came together in 1975 to make a very special, limited-production Chevrolet.

It’s the Cosworth Vega, naturally.

(Read More…)

By on August 10, 2018

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

We’re a long way from any kind of confirmation, but Toyota’s upcoming Corolla Hatch could become something you’d want to toss around — assuming top brass listen to the brand’s chief engineer.

With the Corolla iM hatch giving way later this summer to a vastly improved five-door that ditches the Scion-era “iM” designation, the automaker has an opportunity on its hands. If Yasushi Ueda has his way, Toyota’s head engineer would turn the model into a hybrid. God, what boredom, you say — I remember borrowing that Prius C from Vrtucar. And cousin Wendy has that Prius she keeps rubbing in our face, like that makes her saviour of the world or something –

Stop! This one wouldn’t be a narcolepsy inducer. Such a vehicle would put down two types of power through all four wheels, giving Toyota a shot of that youthful image it so desperately craves. (Read More…)

By on July 12, 2018

While European customers can look forward to many more years of new Ford Fiestas, the same can’t be said of American buyers. Ford’s smallest domestic passenger car ceases production next summer, but there’s still time to have fun before our future gives way to sport crossovers.

For 2019, the scrappy Fiesta ST hot hatch continues unaltered, while customers gain a new Fiesta trim offering plenty of flash and probably no extra dash. (Read More…)

By on June 19, 2018

Yesterday, we discussed the merits of Suzuki’s Jimny and how North America could benefit from adding the brand back into its automotive market by any means necessary. I am going to do the same thing today with a model that has never traversed the purple mountain majesties or amber waves of grain — let alone graced the True North strong and free.

The Audi A1 enters its second generation for the 2019 model year, and it should be here. With Ford’s Fiesta about to take a dirt nap, the suggestion may sound counterintuitive, but bear with me.

The supermini and city car segments have dwindled over the last few years, especially the models that were fun to drive. After the Fiesta leaves us, we’ll be left with the Fiat 500 and its improved base engine, the fun-loving Abarth variant, Mini’s Cooper, and a bunch of economy vehicles that don’t prioritize fun on any trim level.  (Read More…)

By on June 18, 2018

1996 BMW 318ti in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe most affordable BMW in the United States, during the middle years of the E36 platform, was the 318ti. A four-cylinder hatchback, it sold for about two-thirds the price of a six-cylinder 328 sedan or coupe.

In 1996, buyers could get a version with a huge canvas-covered sunroof, known as the California Edition, and that’s what I have found in a Denver-area self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on May 16, 2018

Today is the start of a series of related Question of the Day posts. Each Wednesday QOTD for the next few weeks will be dedicated to selecting vehicles for a different section of an ideal Special Crapwagon Garage you’ll be compiling.

Up for Part I in the series are hatchback and liftback vehicles. Start your brains.

(Read More…)

By on May 10, 2018

Volkswagen’s Golf GTI isn’t a vehicle you hear people complain about very often. Bridging the gap between fun and functionality near perfectly, the hatchback delivers on every promise it makes. Still, detractors exist, and they’ll fixate on the GTI’s somewhat vague clutch pedal and lack of horsepower.

Both of these gripes are preferential problems. The car’s light clutch pedal can be a blessing in extremely heavy traffic and also totally optional, since the automatic is still highly enjoyable and shifts with greater speed. Horsepower is similarly subjective, since a lot of the car’s charm comes down to how it delivers power. The 2.0-liter turbo isn’t a heavy hitter but if feels like the right tool for the job most of the time.

However, there remains a subset of the enthusiast population that will look at the base GTI’s spec sheet and claim 210 hp isn’t nearly enough. VW has already introduced a solution to that by offering one of the better performance packages we’re aware of. Unfortunately, competition threatens to unseat the hot hatch king from his throne. The 275-hp Hyundai Veloster N is fast approaching North America and its entire existence revolves around taking sales away from the plucky little German. Volkswagen can’t have that , so it recently introduced the new GTI TCR Concept to level the playing field.  (Read More…)

By on May 7, 2018

It’s a smokin’ deal compared to the first Honda Civic Type R to land on American shores. That vehicle, which carried a VIN ending in “1” without any numbers in front of it, went on the auction block at Bring-a-Trailer last June. A lucky(?) buyer took the Civic hatch home for $200,000.

Certain dealers marked up their own early examples, but greater availability and the passage of time soon had a predictable impact on the hot hatch’s window sticker. The Civic Type R remains an aspiration car with a mid-30k price tag.

Now it’s Honda’s turn to jack the Type R’s price, but it’s not likely to rattle anyone in the market for a compact four-door with a bad attitude. (Read More…)

By on March 5, 2018

2017 Ford Focus RS - Image: Ford

The Dutch seem to think so.

After bowing out of the North American market following a limited-edition run of 2018 models, Ford Focus RS production is expected to wrap up in April. The final versions see a special tune, adding an extra 20 horsepower to the the grippy hatch’s already healthy 350 hp rating. Officially, there’s been no word on a replacement.

Unofficially, how does 400 hp sound? (Read More…)

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