Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mule Expedition Outfitter's Micro Overland and 4x4 Meet

1987 Mitsubishi Delica at the Mule Expedition Outfitter's micro meet.
We maintain the fact that you don't have to have a giant 4WD vehicle to get out and explore, and we're not the only ones that have that theory. So does the team at Mule Expedition Outfitters in Issaquah, Washington. If the name sounds familiar, it could be because we wrote about their awesome 1979 Suzuki LJ81 not too long ago.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: 2014 Fiat 500L Trekking

Fiat 500L Trekking at a vineyard
The Fiat 500L Trekking looks at home in front of grapevines and vineyard buildings. 
This wasn’t our first time behind the wheel of Fiat’s larger 500L. The first time we drove the larger Fiat 500L "Gigantica," it was the “Easy” model with a six-speed manual wearing a fairly wretched shade of robin’s-egg blue/gray and featuring a neoprene upholstery that may have been made from recycled wet suits. And despite the fact it wasn’t the prettiest girl at the dance, I couldn’t help but like a lot of aspects about it.

This time around, we’re dealing with the Fiat 500L Trekking model. The Trekking trim level butches up the package by adding some body cladding, a slightly different front fascia, and different 17” wheels. From an aesthetic perspective, I think the 500L Trekking looks better than the Easy, as the body cladding adds some rugged looking characteristics. I also believe the slightly ungainly 500L looks best in dark colors so our dark green 500L has that going for it. So while it still might be somewhat homely, at least it’s wearing the right kind of clothes for its body type.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

July 2014 Subcompact Sales

Subcompact Car SalesJuly has come and gone (in fact, half of August is over—sorry for the late sales report). Anyhow, the Mazda2, despite it being long in the tooth and headed for a redesign, is sellin' like hotcakes. It was up 159.4% moving 2,075 units. Nissan's Versa continues to generate sales, and is up 73.5% moving a whopping 15,630 units in July alone. At that pace it may just catch up with overall Kia Soul sales. Finally, the Smart ForTwo sold 57.1% more vehicles this July than last, racking up a 12.8% increase in overall 2014 sales.

This month's big loser is no surprise at all. Mitsubishi's i-MiEV electric sold a pathetic 17 units last month, which was down 63% compared to last July. With sales that low, I'm considering pulling it from the chart next month. If you don't count the iMiEV, the slowest seller was MINI's Coupe, which was down 62.2% moving just 84 units. Toyota's Yaris was also down big time, but that may be due to the fact a new Yaris is supposed to come out for MY2015.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Teal Terror's New Traveling Companion: A Dinoot Trailer

The Teal Terror with a Dinoot Trailer

If you read my blog regularly, you may remember that through a potential act of karma, I recently got a small utility trailer. While its price was certainly right (free), it did need new lights and wiring, new decking, new wheel bearings, and a new coat of paint. And you know what? It would've been great for what it was intended to be—a utility trailer.

While I'm certainly not looking a gift horse in the proverbial mouth, I've long dreamed of having a trailer we could take camping or traveling with us; something like a Dinoot Trailer. Dinoot is the brainchild of Scott Chaney, owner of Compact Camping Concepts in Salem, Oregon. The modular Dinoot trailers feature welded frames and fiberglass sides along with a host of options. The little one pictured here is a custom "micro" version," which has been narrowed 13" compared to a standard-sized J-Model.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Scion to Drop its iQ

Scion iQ

Back in in 2011, I predicted Scion's iQ microcar would put the hurt on the Smart ForTwo. I thought the tiny Japanese-made errand runner would wipe the floor with the European Smart ForTwo. I mean, how could it not? It was better in nearly every way than the ForTwo. It drove better, it was more comfortable, was arguably more practical, and had Toyota's reputation for quality behind it. Yet I sit here typing to tell you that 2014 is the last year for the iQ in North America. Guess who's "smart" now?

Sales never took off for the iQ and it never bested the Smart ForTwo's numbers as you can see in the chart below.

Scion iQ
2012: 8879
2013: 4046
2014: 1401

    Smart ForTwo
    2012: 10009
    2013: 9264
    2014: 5319

We still like the iQ better than the ForTwo, and are sort of sad to see it go. I think more marketing and a lower price could've probably helped sales. Frankly, it's a bit crazy to me that a car as bad as the current ForTwo has sold as well as it has when the iQ is clearly the better vehicle.

Now that the iQ has been giving packing orders, when Smart unveils its new—and likely very much improved—ForTwo and ForFour, it will go veritably unchallenged in the North American microcar market, since the next smallest vehicles are the Chevrolet Spark and Fiat 500, both of which are significantly bigger.

The iQ was only available for three model years, which is a pretty short time. Could the iQ become a collector car? I suppose, but I wouldn't hold my breath. But it was a neat experiment to see if any car could truly compete in the micro segment against the ForTwo and come out victorious. It was a lopsided battle where two cars entered and one car left. It just wasn't the one I expected.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta ST

2014 Ford Fiesta ST front 3/4

No one can argue that go-karts are fun to drive. They're tiny, they turn on a dime, but typically aren't very fast. I often refer to my Yaris as a go-kart. Small, nimble, but fairly pokey. But perhaps you’re familiar with high-performance of shifter karts. These multi-speed go-karts are much higher performance than the beat-up single-speed lawnmower-powered karts at your local go-kart place. They’re tuned, high-performance screamers that are capable of speeds in excess of 100 MPH.

Like my Yaris, I would say regular Ford Fiestas are definitely go-kart like. They’re small, they handle well, they’re fun to drive, but aren’t exactly rocketships. However, the turbocharged Ford Fiesta ST—that’s the shifter kart of the Fiesta lineup. And much like a shifter kart, it’s a pint-sized screamer.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Trip Report: The Subcompact Culture 10th Wedding Anniversary Canadian Road Adventure Extravaganza

Our '13 Subaru WRX in Glacier National Park en route to Canada. 
Words by Andy Lilienthal. Photos by Mercedes and Andy Lilienthal

A couple of years ago, my mother and uncle did an amazing road trip from Minnesota, up through Canada, and over to Portland, Oregon and back. They told us tales of Montana's gorgeous Going to the Sun Road through Glacier National Park, the amazing waters and surroundings of Lake Louise in Alberta Canada, and the incredibly breathtaking Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Japser. Mercedes and I decided that we would take part of this trip for our 10th wedding anniversary, and it was a fantastic adventure full of amazing scenery, fantastic food, a bit of disappointment, and memories that we'll never forget.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Scion Live App

The folks over at Scion have come out with an app that allows you to keep up with the automaker's promotions, giveaways, and special announcements for the NW Scion community. Users can use the app any time they see Scion at an event. Pretty neat gizmo for those of us interested in what Scion is doing in the PNW.

Download for iPhone:

Download for Android:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Official 2015 Toyota Yaris Info

2015 Toyota Yaris driving

Official info on the 2015 Toyota Yaris has come out. The car is not a major redesign, but rather a refresh, which makes sense, since the next all-new Yaris is supposed to have Mazda DNA. Stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, the '15 Yaris, which will be French made, which will be available in three- and five-door variants, will have quite the striking front fascia. The grille-everywhere grille design now fits into the latest corporate styling identity, too. Other things of note are the projector headlamps and LED running lights.

2015 Toyota Yaris interior

Other new things include a revised interior featuring what Toyota calls "premium" seats (which I do think look good), a new sporty dashboard, and softer materials throughout. Toyota has also revised the suspension tuning, added more rigidity to the body, and added more sound insulation. The car will retain the 106 horsepower 1.5-liter 1NZ-FE engine that's been found in North American vehicles since the 2000 Echo. It will also retain a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic.

Gray 2015 Toyota Yaris

My Thoughts
As a Yaris owner, I have come to appreciate the car's simplicity and reliability. While the 1NZ-FE and accompanying transmissions made be semi-ancient, they work well and are time-tested. EPA ratings for the '15 Yaris are 30 city, 33 combined, and 37 highway with the manual; 30/32/36 with the automatic. We are regularly able to hit 38 MPG with our 2007 Yaris. Frankly, I don't care if the car has two speeds or 20 speeds, so long as the performance and fuel economy are up to par. And the Yaris does stack up to other B-segments in terms of fuel economy. While it is down on power compared to the latest Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, and Kia Rio, for example, it also has historically been a featherweight, which helps both fuel economy and performance alike.

2015 blue Toyota Yaris

As far as the design, I can't say I'm a huge fan of the giant grille look, although it does look better on the darker paint jobs—likely because the grille blends in more. It looks as if the car has opened its mouth in the windtunnel and stayed that way, however. Maybe it looks better in person, so I'll reserve final judgment until I see one in the flesh.

I can say this: The current Yaris SE with its quicker steering ratio, 16" wheels/tires, and chunky steering wheel is actually quite entertaining to drive. No, it's not a Fiesta ST, Fiat 500 Abarth, or MINI Cooper S, but it is quite entertaining, and I'm guessing that'll continue for 2015. I do think the 2012-2014 Yaris SE is the most attractive of the bunch thus far, however.

Here's a rundown of the models and availability.
Model#GradeTransmissionBody Style2014 MSRP2015 MSRPMSRP change ($)MSRP Change (%)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2016 Mazda2 (Demio) Revealed

White 2016 Mazda2

Photos of the 2016 Mazda Demio, aka the Mazda2 in North America, have surfaced. Frankly, it looks a lot like a small Mazda3, which isn't a bad thing.

2016 Mazda2 rear

The rear still resembles the current 2, but the front has assimilated with the current Mazda corporate look. Like I said, not a bad thing.

2016 Mazda2 interior

The interior looks simple, clean, and functional. Very minimalist. I really dig it. Again, mini Mazda3 anyone?

Mazda will employ its SKYACTIV technology, which basically means they keep the weight down and the engine efficient. North American specs haven't been released, but it's being reported by Car and Driver that the wheelbase will be 3.1 inches longer for a 101.2 inches. Overall length should stretch out to 159.8 inches—up more than a half foot. Again, North American engine details haven't been revealed, but expect a 1.3, 1.5, and 1.5-liter turbo-diesel mill for the global market; I expect the US to get the 1.5. Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are also to be expected. Also expect it for sale early next year.

Of course, the other part of this puzzle is that Mazda is supposed to be making Toyota's next-gen Yaris (or whatever they'll call it). So will will the styling, engine, and interior be the same? Stay tuned for more.

Blue 2016 Mazda Demio