Friday, July 20, 2018

Join the Subcompact Culture Facebook Group


Hey, subcompact car enthusiast—yeah, you. Want to participate in regular discussions about small cars? Want to geek out on compacts, subcompacts, micro, and mini cars? Join the Subcompact Culture Facebook group. There you'll find hundreds of other rabid enthusiasts who also foam at the mouth when they talk about small cars. From Abarths to VWs; MINIs to Mazdas; kei cars to small 4x4s—you'll want to be part of this Facebook group. Rabies shot not included.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Quick Drive: 2018 Honda Fit Sport

2018 Honda Fit Sport Front

Ever since its debut in 2007, Honda's Fit has always been fun to drive and super practical. It showcases many of the attributes Honda has become known for—reliability, precision, versatility, engineering know-how, smart packaging—in hatchback form. For me, the last Fit I reviewed back in 2015 wasn't as fun as earlier iterations; I sort of wrote it off. Then I drove one with a six-speed manual ...


Yes, the Fit is still as practical as ever with its multi-folding Magic Seats, it still gets decent gas mileage, and still will likely have rock-solid reliability and high build quality. But the Fit Sport I drove recently came equipped with a six-speed manual instead of the CVT. Frankly, that CVT saps the fun out of this little runabout. But with the 6MT, the Fit goes from being a good little subcompact to an entertaining driver's car.

Much like nearly every single Honda I've driven with a manual transmission, this shifter is fantastic and completely transforms the car's driving experience. I found myself scouting for fun roads; looking for tight off-ramps. The manual transmission makes this cars orders of magnitude more fun. Paired with the free-revving 130 hp 1.5-liter engine, the Fit Sport with that 6MT is a hoot.

Truly, this car made me feel like a 20-something kid again (I'm double that figure nowadays), like when I had a quick-shifting 1998 Honda Civic. It revs quickly, corners sharply, and has great steering. You know that old adage about how driving a "slow car fast" is lots of fun? That's the Fit Sport.

When dressed up in Sport trim, buyers get front, side, and rear underbody spoilers; blacked-out 16" alloy wheels; a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system; fog lights; and a host of other goodies. I'm still not a fan of the Fit's touchscreen, however. Regardless, this car is a fantastic mix of great driving dynamics, small size, and expertly engineered versatility and practicality. 

In case you weren't familiar, all Fits come with a 1.5-liter 16-valve DOHC i-VTEC engine with direct injection making 130 hp and 114 lb/ft of torque with the manual transmission, and 128 hp and 113 lb/ft of torque with the CVT. The suspension is composed of MacPhearson strut front suspension and a torsion-beam rear. Side note: I love the rear bumper's diffuser.

While I'll take the manual transmission option every time its offered in a car, the Fit Sport is one of those instances where the transmission totally changes the driving experience. While CVT-equipped Fits are still very good cars, Fits with the manual are very good, very entertaining cars. I would totally rock one of these. Our tester stickered at $18,390, which included the $890 destination/handling charge.

FYI, I am a fan of the Toyota Yaris SE, too. However, the Fit has more than 20 more horsepower, it's more practical (thanks to those aforementioned Magic Seats), and I can actually buy one with a manual. (The Yaris SE, at least in the Pacific Northwest cannot be ordered with a manual. Plus, the Yaris' manual is a 5MT.) Did I mention the Fit Sport comes in orange? 

While the subcompact hatchback market has cooled down over the years, Honda's Fit Sport is still a great choice for people who want practicality but aren't willing to sacrifice fun. Really, go drive one. It's great. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Review: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport - front
Photo by Mercedes Lilienthal
I generally feel I’m aware of the latest automotive offerings as they hit the market, or even before they come out--whether they’re not small cars. However, while at the Portland International Auto Show this winter, my friend, Tuan, pointed out the latest iteration of the Hyundai Elantra GT. We drove the previous version of Hyundai’s GT hatchback back in 2013, and despite the GT moniker, we found it less than sporty.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ford Will Abandon Most Cars. What's This Say About The Current Small Car Climate?


We've already talked about how Ford is saying Adios to the Fiesta. However, a couple of days ago, we learned FoMoCo is also letting the Focus and Fusion die on the vine in favor of other market segments. What's all this mean? Is this a sign of things to come in North America?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Are Automakers Abandoning the B-Segment?

2018 Chevrolet Sonic Sedan
2018 Chevrolet Sonic
For the last few months, gas prices have been fairly low, certainly under $3 a gallon in most places. And when fuel prices are down and the economy is up, people often forego the small cars and opt for trucks, SUVs, and big sedans. We get it: You’ve got money in your pocket and are willing to spend.
But keep in mind, it wasn’t that long ago that fuel prices were over $4 a gallon, the economy was climbing out of the ooze, and people were buying small cars. They were better on fuel, cheaper to purchase, and less expensive to operate. But American car buyers have short memories and auto manufacturers would much rather reap the big profits of big cars and trucks. I get it -- it’s a business. I also understand that large cars and trucks are a status symbol. No one looks at you like a baller in a Mitsubishi Mirage. Ask me how I know. Ask me if I care.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Review: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid

Hyundai, a Korean manufacturer known for its comfortable and solidly built cruisers, has now entered the plug-in hybrid game. The all-new Ioniq four-door plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is their answer to the similarly operated Chevy Volt. This model is in addition to the 2017 regular hybrid and pure electric versions. It’s the first time an auto manufacturer released a single model available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and pure electric runabout. We’ve had a chance to drive this vehicle for a week, so we’ll share our good, our great, and our could-be-improved opinions.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Plans for The Rage (aka our 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage)


We've now had our 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage about six months, and frankly we dig it. It's simple, economical, the prefect size, and different. But we have plans to turn the Mirage into a ragin' subcompact. It won't stay stock.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Review: 2018 Toyota CH-R XLE

2018 Toyota CH-R front

Some cars answer a question that nobody asked. The CH-R might be one of those vehicles. This makes me wonder, what would the question be? Maybe it's, where are all the funky-styled front-drive crossovers? Or perhaps, do you really need good rear visibility? We know it has to involve bringing teal back, however.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Manual Mania: Why I'm a Stick Shift Die-Hard

The car I learned to drive on - a 1979 VW Rabbit diesel
This is the car I learned to drive stick shift on: a diesel-powered 1979 VW Rabbit.
 “Why do you drive a stick-shift (aka: manual-transmission) car? Isn’t it a pain in the butt?” Yes, it's 2018, and some people still do enjoy driving a car with a manual transmission.

People may ponder if it’s the control factor, the fun factor, fuel savings or just simplicity. Perhaps, it's owning the ultimate millennial theft deterrent? To us, it’s all of the above. My humble opinion? Stick shifts are where they’re at.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Subcompact Surprise: 2019 Hyundai Veloster

2019 Hyundai Veloster N NAIAS
Photo courtesy of Exploring Elements
Well looky here: Hyundai has debuted the all-new 2019 Veloster at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. OK, that's not really that much of a surprise. However, the promise of a 275 hp Veloster is. Let's see what Hyundai has in store for the little hatchback.