By on July 15, 2019

2019 Nissan Kicks front quarter

I’m not a well-traveled man. While I’ll happily drive for fifteen hours or more from my Ohio home, I rarely fly anywhere — and now that I have kids, the expense involved in winging it keeps my wallet firmly in my pocket as I gird for some windshield time. Accordingly, other than a couple of very brief hour-long jaunts to Niagara Falls and Windsor, I’ve never traveled out of the US.

But this publication — and, ultimately, my paycheck — comes from Canada. Thus, I’ve been casually dreaming of a road trip to the Great White North, exploring where many have been before — and doing it like a local. I’d stuff myself with poutine, Timbits, and donair, all while driving the unofficial car of Quebec — the dirt-cheap Nissan Micra.

I’ve yet to apply for a passport. But I have Tim Hortons here in Ohio, and I can drive something close to the Micra – the 2019 Nissan Kicks. Sure, it’s a crossover rather than a microcar, but the essence remains. Cheap, efficient, cheerful, and not-at-all sporty make for an appealing package to this dad on a budget — especially as one of the kids will be driving in a couple of years.

(Read More…)

By on July 6, 2018

2018 Toyota C-HR front quarter

Imagine if automotive history were flipped a bit, and that crossovers were the default compact family vehicle for decades, rather than sedans. We’d be reliving the “longer, lower, wider” craze of the late ‘50s in the modern era, but with revolutionary things called “hatchbacks.”

Really, that’s all a subcompact crossover is — a hatchback with a bit of ground clearance, and sometimes a higher roof. It’s a repackaging of an older concept to market to new customers.

Toyota was the trailblazer in the car-based SUV business with the original RAV4, subsequently building up a solid lineup of crossovers large and small. Now, with the polarizing styling and compact dimensions of the 2018 Toyota C-HR, Big T takes aim at the entry level. Will the funky styling bring buyers, or will they shield their eyes?

(Read More…)

By on June 20, 2017

2018 Kia Stonic, Image: Kia

After Hyundai dropped the curtain on its B-segment Kona crossover last week, corporate cousin Kia wasn’t far behind, pulling the wraps off its own new subcompact crossover earlier today.

The Stonic, which will go on sale in Europe in the third quarter of this year, rides atop the same platform as the Kona, but arguably wears it better. Sporting a more cohesive design, a sharp, contemporary face, and headlights in all the right places, the Stonic aims to gra Kia a slice of the growing subcompact utility vehicle market. In Europe, the segment is expected to grow to more than 10 percent of all new sales in just a few years.

That’s money Kia wants to take home to Korea. It’s not just overtaxed European buyers on Kia’s hit list, either; automakers are hurriedly adding missing CUVs to their North American lineups to boost sales and market share. (Read More…)

By on November 15, 2016

Image: Ford Motor Company

Ford’s a little late to the subcompact crossover party, so it’s making a lot of noise to make up for it. The company hosted a highly publicized live Snapchat unveiling for the EcoSport last night, complete with DJ Khaled chanting the vehicle’s name while gesturing at it and dancing around.

From a global perspective, it’s technically not a new car. However, it will be new for North America, and serves to fill an important gap in the company’s lineup. With subcompact crossover sales increasing 30 percent this year, Ford needed to throw something into this crowded segment.

(Read More…)

By on November 10, 2016

Ford-EcoSport

Ford’s smallest utility vehicle is bound for North America, giving hope to Blue Oval fans who find an Escape too unwieldy.

The EcoSport, offered in overseas markets since 2004, will soon be pressed into service to round out the bottom of the Ford’s domestic utility lineup. (Read More…)

By on October 20, 2016

2017 Fiat 500X TrekkingIt just keeps getting uglier.

In ten consecutive months, U.S. sales at the Fiat brand have declined on a year-over-year basis. The run of declines began six months after Fiat launched an all-new model, the 500X, in America’s burgeoning subcompact crossover segment. The downward trend continued in the third quarter of 2016, through the launch of the Mazda-based 124 Spider. The losses accrued in Fiat’s U.S. showrooms were certainly worsened by 21 consecutive months of decreased volume reported by the aging Fiat 500.

But it’s the 500X that ought to shoulder much of the blame. Wasn’t the answer to the brand’s lack of mainstream appeal surely to be found in a segment that doubled in size in 2015?

Perhaps not.
(Read More…)

By on September 26, 2016

IMG_3128

I’ve told epic tales before. Specifically, I’ve told you a story or two about the times I’ve spent at EPIC Hotel in Miami. In your author’s humble opinion, it’s the best hotel in America. The combination of the brilliant customer service, the enormous suites overlooking Biscayne Bay, the rooftop pool, the jazz club, and the best Japanese steakhouse anywhere makes EPIC, well, epic, even before all the kids were saying it.

I stayed at EPIC this past week while working in Miami, and there was only one thing about my week that didn’t fit the description: my rental car — a 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.

In a place where everything about the experience is finely crafted and authentically brilliant, the Trailhawk is that awkward kid who’s trying too hard to fit in.

(Read More…)

By on September 14, 2016

2017 Mazda CX-3 Sport

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base trim that is — all things considered — the primo choice for that particular model. Here’s an example.

Yes, yes, yes. I know. Another bloody crossover. But before you scroll down to re-read one of Jack’s breathless exploits or Sajeev’s rants on automotive style, permit me the following: what would happen if Mazda spent all its R&D budget shoehorning a rotary engine into the upcoming MX-5 RF?

(Read More…)

By on April 11, 2016

2016 Fiat 500X exterior front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Dear Fiat (FIAT?),

I didn’t want to love your little 500X crossover. I frankly find the very notion of it ridiculous. In fact, the only reason why I selected it as my rental car last week was because the keys were strangely missing from the cabin of the Ford Edge SEL that I really wanted to borrow. If I hadn’t picked your bug-eyed cute monster, I would have had my choice of three different colors of four-cylinder Altimas. Not cool, Emerald Aisle. Not cool.

So, as fate had it, I picked the 500X. And like all the best romance stories, our inauspicious beginning led to a quirky, odd pairing that neither one of us wanted to end. Well, at least I didn’t. You probably didn’t give a fuck.

But this is our story.

(Read More…)

By on November 6, 2015

2015JeepRenegade_(4_of_9)

There are myriad ways to improve SUVs and Jeep won’t do any of them to the Wrangler.

Instead, the Wrangler remains hopelessly impractical, wonderfully unapologetic and, to own, like living with a Libertarian: there are no compromises and everything is wonderful when you play by their rules.

Thankfully for the rest of us, who welcome a little compromise, there are other Jeeps. A crowd of SUVs — and soon to be pickup — will sport the seven-slot grille for mountains of money to keep FCA running well into the black at the moment. When it’s convenient, those cars are compared to the Wrangler to tout their capabilities. When it’s not, well, let’s remember the Compass.

Like Robert Hunter said (kind of): The problem with the 2015 Jeep Renegade is the problem with me.

(Read More…)

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