Tag: small cars

By on August 15, 2019

2018 Ford Europe Fiesta range - Image: Ford

If the global economy were weather, yesterday brought dark clouds, an unsettling calm, and that weird ozone smell that heralds a violent storm. The bond market is waving its hands and flashing a warning sign. Spooked traders waded through a sea of red as Wall Street and other foreign exchanges began resembling the elevator scene in The Shining.

It’s quite possible all those warnings issued by major automakers of a looming recession weren’t made out of an abundance of caution, but something a little more concrete. No wonder the likes of Ford and General Motors find themselves in the midst of “downturn planning.”

As you read yesterday, one possible consequence of another economic meltdown is a return of smaller, more affordable vehicles — products both Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler spent the last few years dropping from their lineups. While the entirety of these small vehicles wouldn’t return in such a scenario, some might. Which cars deserve a green light? (Read More…)

By on August 12, 2019

While public interest in crossovers has encouraged Nissan to rejigger its global offerings, the automaker has refused to abandon small sedans. It’s something we’ve seen across the board with Japanese automakers. As the crossover craze hit full swing, both Toyota and Honda said that abandoning entry-level automobiles might mean leaving first-time buyers behind. Despite crossovers bringing in more customers and money, small sedans and hatchbacks have a tendency to reel in new, young customers. Japanese brands sees the prospect of gaining life-long patrons as an advantage, especially as other automakers (*ahem, the Detroit Three*) shift away from such vehicles.

Nissan’s situation is more complicated. It can’t ignore its bottom line after last months’s dismal financial report, and rumors abound that it will soon begin to pair down its lineup. However, that will not involve culling its small-car offerings.  (Read More…)

By on July 29, 2019

Padding out its crossover lineup and going downmarket, like every other premium automaker, Audi presented us with a new model this week — the A1 Citycarver. Based upon the A1 Sportback, the Citycarver is lifted two-inches to provide additional clearance for potholes, urban debris, and the occasional instance of curb hopping. The ride hight also helps the brand’s A1 line take advantage of the severe case of crossover crazies that has swept through the global market.

Good on Audi for downplaying the adventure/lifestyle marketing and calling the Citycarver what it is — a small urban runabout with the ability to leave town. Bonus points for allowing it to maintain its foundation’s above-average looks.  (Read More…)

By on July 27, 2019

Two months and change after Ford Motor Company ceased production of North America’s smallest Blue Oval vehicle, Europeans are waking up to news that their tiniest offering has a date with death.

The Ka+, a name this writer can’t read without imagining a Bostonian pronouncing the word “car,” will disappear from the marketplace thanks to —what else? — fuel economy regulations that disproportionately impact small vehicles. (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2019

Earlier this year, Mazda showed off its all-new 3 sedan in Los Angeles. The new compact’s intent is to impress a revised, upscale image on the brand. While the 3 delivered in quality, overall refinement, and driving enjoyment, it managed only middling marks with regard to power.

Now, Mazda has upped its game with a more stylish hatchback variant and the additional capability of an all-wheel drive system. But do style and substance mesh in the more expensive hatchback? We went back to California to find out.

(Read More…)

By on March 22, 2019

Recently, we featured a grandiose convertible Hudson once owned by actor and car enthusiast Steve McQueen. Today’s Rare Ride came originally from Nash, the other company which combined with Hudson to form American Motors.

Let’s get Metropolitan.
(Read More…)

By on March 8, 2019

Today Rare Rides takes a look at another one of Nissan’s special Pike cars from the turn of the Nineties. This tiny van is definitely the oddball of the Pike family. It’s an S-Cargo, from 1989.

(Read More…)

By on January 28, 2019

Corey lewis

We travelled to the small and traffic-free city of Los Angeles last week to check out the newly revamped 2019 Mazda 3, the first product launched under the automaker’s equally new premium philosophy. The next-gen compact apparently heralds the introduction of other higher-end models.

So, is this all-important foundational compact car any good? Let’s find out.

(Read More…)

By on May 24, 2018

Volvo, back from near death and feeling pretty pleased with itself, wants to capitalize on the modular platform found beneath the XC40 compact crossover. With 80,000 orders for the new-for-2018 ‘ute under its belt, the Chinese-owned Swede plans to spawn more models and reassert itself in the small car space.

On Thursday, the company said it would throttle up production of the XC40 at its Belgian assembly plant, which will soon boast quite a bit of usable space. The S60 sedan’s headed to South Carolina later this year. Meanwhile, the V60 wagon sibling will move most of its production to a Swedish plant.

What does this mean for the United States? Perhaps more than you’d expect. (Read More…)

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…)

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