Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving
Happy Thanksgiving from Subcompact Culture! We have a lot to be thankful for. First of all, thanks for reading. It's great to know there are people out there who also share our passion for small vehicles of all sorts. People who drive small because they want to, not necessarily because they have to. And even if you are someone who drives a small car because they have to, perhaps you've come to discover some of the virtues of driving a small car: Fuel economy, ease of  parking, agility, small footprint, and well, fun.

Whether you're in the U.S.A. or not, we hope that no matter where you are or what you're doing that you'll pause and give thanks to whatever it is you're thankful for. We personally have a lot of things to be thankful for this season, and you're all one of them. So eat, drink, be merry, do whatever it is you do. Enjoy the day, and we'll continue to work on fresh new content. And remember:

Think big. Drive Small.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Subcompact Showcase: The Only 2ZR-FE-Powered Yaris in the U.S.

Toyota 2ZR-FE Engine Swap

In North America, the Toyota Yaris comes with the venerable 1NZ-FE engine which makes around 106 horsepower, and as we've learned, it's not a bad little engine. However, a few lucky parts of the world got the Yaris T-Sport, which came with the 1.8-liter 2ZR-FE engine making about 30 more horsepower and 20 ft/lbs more torque. This is the engine found in the Scion xD, and the Toyota Corolla and Matrix.

It's likely North America didn't get the more powerful Yaris T-Sport since we got the Scion xD. But, a few enterprising gearheads in California decided to swap in the 2ZR-FE into a Yaris, which seems like a natural thing to do, right? They created the U.S.'s only 2ZR-FE-powered Yaris, and it was apparently much easier than anticipated.

Is the Mongrel the Craziest Car on eBay?

Mongrel Reconnecense Vehicle

If you're like me, you like to see cars and trucks that are not your run-of-the mill rides. I love finding the crazy stuff on craigslist, Autotrader, and eBay. In fact, one of the best places I've found the most out-there rides is eBay's "Other Makes" in their Cars & Trucks section. From Bricklins to Zaps, if it doesn't fit into a mainstream category, you'll likely find it for sale here. There's modern, there's vintage, there are race cars and industrial vehicles. Looking for a LADA? Maybe a Moskvitch? Yep, they're both here.

But what took the cake in this category this week is the Mongrel. According to the description, this is a one-of-a-kind "military recon concept car." It's an electric hybrid which uses a 1.9-liter Volkswagen TDI engine as a generator in case the batteries get low. It's four-wheel drive, has four 100 kW permanent-magnet electric motors, and coilover magneto-rheological controlled shocks with programmable controller. Oh and yes, the seller has bullet-proof body panels in case you were wondering. And is it me, or does that cab look like it came off of a 1997–2004 Dodge Dakota?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mitsubishi Debuts 2017 Mirage at LA Auto Show

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT front

Mitsubishi has debuted its refreshed 2017 Mirage subcompact at the 2015 LA Auto Show. And yes you read that right, this is a 2017 model; the company is foregoing the MY2016 and skipping right to '17.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Scion Survival: History, Sales, and the Future of the Brand

2008 Scion xB
Since publishing my recent review of the Scion iA, I have noticed some discussions about the future of the Scion brand as a whole. I've read comments like, "Scion should've just brought over the new Toyota bB in 2008 and things would be better," and "I can't believe Toyota is having Mazda build the iA," and finally, "Scion should just cash it in."

It's really the last comment that I generally think about since the other two have already happened. I often hear people compare Scion to low-volume brands like Mitsubishi, whose sales have been in a proverbial slump until just recently, or to Suzuki, which did decide to pack up and leave the North American market in 2013. So should Scion really just cash it in, or is there still life left in the brand? Let's look at some history and numbers. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What's Up With the Slow Honda Fit Sales?

Slipping Honda Fit Sales
If you pay attention to our monthly subcompact sales posts, you may have noticed that the Honda Fit seems to have taken a nosedive off the sales cliff the last couple of months. Sales were down more than 80% in October and September, and down more than 50% in August when compared to last year's sales at this time. So what's the deal? People opting for other subcompacts? Is the bottom falling out?

Rather than simply speculating, we went right to the source: Honda. We asked the company's Automotive Public Relations person, Chris Martin, what was going on, and he said this:

The same new factory that was building the Fit for the last two years in Celaya, Mexico earlier this year began producing the all-new HR-V as well. As we worked to build up HR-V inventory for the U.S., Fit production suffered a bit. To add complication, the HR-V then went on sale in Canada and Europe shortly after the U.S. on sale, and those markets are also supplied from Celaya. Typically at introduction, we try to build up a significant amount of inventory in each market to help get the model off the ground. In this case, that meant reducing Fit production for an extended period of time. Since HR-V has been a run away hit, we are now taking steps to build additional Fit units in Japan, and the first of those units from Japan are beginning to arrive now. It may take a few months for things to settle back into a "normal" pattern, but we expect both Fit and HR-V to continue to grow sales over the next year.

So there you have it. It's been a supply issue, and Honda is tapping its Japanese factories to remedy it. For what it's worth, I've heard from a few Subcompact Culture readers that when the Fit first came out, dealers had scads of them on lots. However, now you're hard-pressed to find one on any of the lots, and now you know why. The good news is that if you want a Fit, the cars should become more readily available soon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review: 2016 Scion iA

Scion iA front 3/4 shot

The Scion iA not really Scion. Well, it is, but it’s not a Toyota, which is Scion’s parent company. The iA is built in Mexico by Mazda, and is called the Mazda2 Sedan in most parts of the world. That is, unless you live in Canada, where it is called the Toyota Yaris Sedan. Don’t be confused. This is a Mazda wearing a Scion badge. Well, unless you’re in Canada.

Scion iA front fasica

But really, this Scion/Toyota/Mazda mashup (“Sciotoyzda”?) is 100% Mazda. OK, make that 99% Mazda. See that snout, which resembles a gaping fish mouth? That is all Scion. This prominent feature is really the only major difference between an iA and a Mazda2 sedan. Frankly, it’s a non-offensive looking vehicle, sans the aquatic front fascia and 16-inch alloy wheels that look like they were designed by Lego. It’s neither haute nor hideous. Daring, it isn’t. Then again, when was the last time you saw a daring subcompact sedan?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Adding More 12 Volt Sockets

12 volt sockets with USB for carOur 1995 Suzuki Sidekick came from an era in which the only thing you plugged into the vehicle's 12-volt plug was either the cigarette lighter or perhaps a radar detector. And since we often use our Sidekick for camping and travel both on and off the pavement, we're bringing along a lot of 12-volt-powered or 12-volt-rechargeable items, such as mobile phones, GPS, CB radio, battery chargers, and such. But unfortunately, our trusty 20 year old trucklet only has one 12-volt plug.

Yes, I have a 12-volt splitter—the kind that plugs into the lighter. But since the wiring to the truck's existing 12-volt socket is such thin gauge wire, if I run the GPS and try to charge a phone, it'll blow the fuse, which, by the way, is also responsible for the radio. No bueno. So now what?

12 volt sockets for carWhen I got my ARB off-road fridge for the truck, I also got the wiring kit, which runs a dedicated 12-volt plug into the vehicle. That plug is wired directly to the battery, in my case, an Optima Yellow Top, and the wiring has its own fuse. And guess what? I can do the same thing to add another 12-volt socket—even with USB ports—so we can have more places to charge devices. I see a project in my future.

Browsing eBay I found a number of options including the 12-volt dual USB and cigarette lighter power adaptor seen here. I think this would probably work really well for the Sidekick. It flush mounts, so I could have it come out of the center console on the side. I'd have to get wiring and a fuse to get it directly to the battery, but that's no biggie.

We've been talking about adding something like this for quite a while, and this might make a good little project. Plus, I like the fact it also has USB charging capability.

Have you ever installed something like this? What was your experience, and do you have advice or pointers? Post up in the comments.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

October 2015 Subcompact Car Sales

September 2015 Subcompact Car Sales

Adios, October! The 10th month of the year was a good one to Mazda, which saw sales of its popular Miata skyrocket 276.7% compared to October 2014, with total sales up 72.7% thanks to its redesigned sports car. MINI's Cooper Convertible had a big bump in sales up 95.2%, although the 443 models sold don't exactly account to big numbers. Honda's CR-Z hybrid, which is neither that sporty or efficient, had a 54.1% bump in sales, but is still in the red in terms of overall sales for 2015.

The biggest loser of the month goes to MINI's oddball Paceman, which is down 87.4% moving just 23 units. More strangely, Honda's Fit is down a whopping 80.1%, moving just 1,363 units for some reason. What's up with that? Overall sales are down slightly at 2.1%. Fiat also did not have a great month with both its 500 and 500L models selling at a -58% and -54% drops vs. last year with overall sales in the red, too.

Of the newer cars, the Jeep Renegade continues to be a sales success, as is the Chevy Trax. Scion's iA sold a modest 1,977 units, and we also added Mazda's CX-3 to the chart.

For what it's worth, we've removed the MINI Roadster, Coupe, and Clubman, as those models are now obsolete.

Make/Model % Oct. '15 vs Oct. '14Units Oct. '15% YTD Oct. '15 vs Oct. '14Units YTD
Mazda MX-5 Miata276.7108572.77153
MINI Cooper /S Convertible95.2443-6.92889
Honda CR-Z54.1316-20.02521
Buick Encore38.8663335.755918
Hyundai Veloster29.52140-19.619795
Nissan Versa24.9138551.9123687
Smart ForTwo23.2721-29.06153
Kia Soul14.612248-1.1124929
Hyundai Accent5.451024.853727
Nissan Juke2.01804-31.623266
Toyota Prius c1.93373-5.433022
Ford Fiesta-0.336182.657486
Mitsubishi Mirage-12.9119734.619168
BMW i3-15.0986108.38879
Chevrolet Spark-15.02002-10.429841
Toyota Yaris-25.451945.516054
Chevrolet Sonic-37.43294-35.353829
Kia Rio-38.01571-31.621847
MINI Countryman-40.11219-30.713278
MINI Cooper /S Hardtop 2 Dr-49.813789.917362
Fiat 500-54.01286-23.022615
Fiat 500L-68.0293-25.07327
Honda Fit-80.11363-2.145509
MINI Paceman-87.423-20.31340
Jeep Renegade-7,795-44626
Chevrolet Trax-8172-51226
Honda HR-V-4502-33727
MINI Cooper /S Hardtop 4 Dr-1018-12617
Fiat 500X-2178-5634
Scion iA-1977-4012
Mazda CX-3-1382-3420

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Nissan Pao on eBay

1980 Nissan Pao for Sale on eBay

The Nissan Pao is one of those cool Japanese retro subcompacts from the lat 1980s/early 1990s, and now that they're more than 25 years old, they can be legally imported in to the U.S. I've always thought they were awesome. I've found a few of them for sale within the last year including this Nissan Pao I found on eBay.

Currently listed at a buy-it- now price of $6,999, this 1990 model shown above is located in Ontario, California and was brought in legally. In case you were wondering, the Pao is powered by a 1.0-liter 987cc four-cylinder engine, and this one happens to have the rare manual transmission. It has 80,250 miles on it and has aftermarket wheels. So cool! So much want! Be sure to check it out, complete with video at the link below.

eBay: 1990 Nissan Pao