Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mitsubishi Mirage Sedan Headed to North America

Mitsubishi Mirage G4 front

Autoblog is reporting that Motor Trend is reporting that the sedan version of Mitsubishi's pint-sized Mirage will indeed be coming to North America, although the link to the Motor Trend on Autoblog  appears to be borked at the moment.

As you can see by last month's subcompact sales, the Mirage is selling quite well and is allegedly beating the Japanese automaker's projections. So if a Mirage hatch is good, why not add to the lineup?

The car is already sold in other markets as the Mirage G4, as evidenced on the Mitsubishi Motors Philippines site. I assume it'll retain the 74 horsepower 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine and choice of five-speed manual or CVT.

We should hope the version shown here makes it to North America, as it arguably looks better than the hatchback. Hey, those side skirts and front fascia make quite a difference; the alloy wheels don't hurt, either. Overall, the lines aren't as cartoonish and the shape isn't as awkward—unusual for a subcompact sedan. It will also likely be bargain-basement priced.

Our Mitsubishi Mirage review proved this tiny car was Spartan and felt as if it was developed for emerging markets. It's not that it didn't have its plusses, such as a decent ride and good fuel economy, but it felt like a car much older than it was. However, the proof is in the pudding, and when the pudding is auto sales, the Mirage is quite tasty for a Mitsubishi. Tasty Mirage pudding ... soon to be with a trunk.

Source: Autoblog

Mitsubishi Mirage G4 rear

Monday, November 24, 2014

Road Race Motorsports at the USTCC

Road Race Motorsports took its Fiat 500 Abarth Tallini Competizione to Miller Motorsports Park for last month's United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC). They also got some cool in-car footage while doing so.

I love the Fiat 500 Abarth, but RRM's Tallini Competizione is truly badass. Those flares. That sound. That spoiler. Molto bello! Someday I will have an Abarth. And you know RRM has a bunch of parts for them to make them sound better, look cooler, and go faster!

Road Race Motorsports Fiat at USTCC

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How the E-Brake Changed My Life

There are certain defining moments when you are a teenager: getting your driver's license, going to prom, making a varsity sports team. For me it was the first time yanking up on the e-brake in a front-wheel drive car and have the ass-end come around—drift king-style. As a 16 year old in Minnesota, I'll never forget this moment.

It was just after school on a snowy winter afternoon. I had driven my 1992 Mitsubishi Expo LRV down to my friend Paul's house to meet several friends. Paul lived at the base of a sweeping downhill corner on a street in Woodbury, Minnesota; a suburb of St. Paul. There was a good 2–4 inches of unplowed snow on the roads and it was still snowing. I pulled up to the curb to park my tall wagon, when a friend came running over to the car and said, "Don't park on the street. Park in the driveway." I asked why, but he said, "Just do it."

I pulled into the driveway and got out. As I shut the door to the car, I heard the sound of an engine at higher RPM. I look up the hill to my right to witness my friend Jake in his "custom painted" diesel-powered late 1970s Volkswagen Rabbit at full-on boogie sliding sideways down the sweeping corner holding a perfect line. The car, aka the "Phat Rabbit," was belching black soot and making a noise that I remember to be something akin to a diesel-powered food processor. He slid to a stop, pulled a U-turn, and stopped in front of the driveway. We were all wearing shit-eating grins. I'm sure the neighbors were enthralled with our antics. However, what I had witnessed was awesome. I also now knew why they didn't want me parking on the street.

The car that changed it all: The "Phat Rabbit" circa spring 1996 in Minnesota.
But how'd he slide that sucker like that? Knowing the Rabbit was front-wheel drive, I had no idea how he got the ass-end to kick out so far, so easily, and with such control. I had to know how to do this. I ran over to the car and said, "Holy shit, Jake. How the hell do you do that?" He simply replied, "You pull up the e-brake."

That's it? That's all? Simply grab the e-brake? So simple, yet with such awesome results.

Much to the neighbors' dismay, Jake took the Rabbit back to the top of the hill for another slide. I watched with pure joy.

After a couple more times down the hill, Jake pulled up to the curb, got out, and said, "I'm done; the e-brake cable broke." It wasn't too surprising. After spending decades in road-salt-strewn Minnesota, it's incredible the brake cable lasted this long (let alone other parts of the car).

Needless to say, seeing that Rabbit sliding sideways that day changed my life forever. Hooning a front-drive car was now orders of magnitude more fun. I had the benefit of front-wheel drive for snowy traction when I needed it, and now, the ability to be a rally car driver when I wanted to.

Suffice to say, the Expo LRV, with its short wheelbase, was great for sliding around. I managed to never hit anything (or anyone, thank God), and empty unplowed parking lots became an endless source of vehicular entertainment. No longer was my winter hooning limited to doing donuts in reverse. The all-mighty e-brake slide was here and I've never been the same since.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

October 2014 Subcompact Sales

Subcompact SalesDespite gas prices being down in the U.S., small cars sales in October 2014 subcompact sales were actually not too bad. The big winner (although, artificially, since the car was release in small number at this time last year) is the Mitsubishi Mirage. In reality, the biggest winner was the Honda Fit, which was up 83.4% vs. October, 2013. (Then again, the Mirage outsold the Toyota Yaris by more than 2:1 and has sold more units than the Yaris year-to-date.) The MINI Cooper S Hardtop had a decent month, despite many saying the brand is in a sales slump, which if you look at YTD sales of the MINI models, does look to be accurate.

Speaking of a sales slump, the biggest loser was actually a MINI—The Clubman, to be exact—which was down 98.4% vs. October 2013. Year-to-date sales are down 41%, too. This is likely due to a lack of availability, since only 15  (yes, 15) were sold. The MINI Coupe and Roaster were also at the bottom, although they are very niche vehicles.

Of note, Chevy Spark sales are over 33,000 now, which still proves people will buy a practical A-segment vehicle. Also of note, the colossal sales figures by the Nissan Versa and Kia Soul, both of which are over 121,000 with two months of sales to go. And while these are two of the larger cars on the board, their sales is impressive nonetheless. By the way, I love the word "nonetheless." It's like three words in one. Anyway, here's the chart.

PS: Sorry for posting this rather late and also sorry for not posting September's results. I actually got an e-mail from a reader asking if I was going to post them. I guess you do like the sales reports!

Make/Model% Oct. '14 vs. Oct. '13Units Oct. '14% YTD '14 vs. '13Units YTD
Mitsubishi Mirage189.213742777.014240
Honda Fit83.468513.846469
MINI Cooper /S Hardtop63.62747-28.915799
Nissan Juke46.917687.534021
Hyundai Accent34.248395.251244
Buick Encore32.74780-0.750648
Kia Soul29.71068527.7126264
Nissan Versa28.61109721.2121369
Fiat 50018.02806-6.029422
Smart ForTwo14.058516.38665
Toyota Prius c5.23192-3.934756
Chevrolet Spark0.023548.533291
Toyota Yaris-10.2696-44.911035
Kia Rio-11.82534-11.631912
Ford Fiesta-16.33629-9.656032
MINI Cooper /S Convertible-19.8227-21.43102
Chevrolet Sonic-23.252638.883210
Mazda MX-5 Miata-23.6288-19.84143
Hyundai Veloster-24.01652-3.324617
Nissan Cube-28.3213-27.63416
Fiat 500L-29.091994.09804
Scion xD-34.1472-12.26737
Honda CR-Z-36.9205-18.63150
Mitsubishi i-MiEV-39.317-83.5166
MINI Paceman-42.1183-15.11682
Scion iQ-51.6119-48.21871
MINI Roadster-52.469-50.41271
MINI Coupe-73.624-62.7871
MINI Cooper /S Clubman-98.415-41.12604

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Forgotten Small Cars

Toyota Tercel 4WD in the snow
Today I ran into this high-resolution image of the Toyota Tercel Wagon. These bulletproof 4WD wagons will seemingly run forever, so long as you keep their 1980s-made bodies away from salt. Sometimes I forget these ever looked new. Add some fancy lighting and skis (yes, those are Yamaha skis), and it can really bring you back!

This Tercel picture made me think of a host of other cars that I hadn't seen on the road in years, but contrary to popular belief, were actually in pristine condition rolling off the showroom floor at one point. See if you remember some of these cars. I haven't seen any of them in person in quite some time. Are there some you remember but haven't seen an a while? Post them up in the comments.

Pontiac Le Mans
Green Pontiac Le Mans hatchback
When was the last time you saw one of these in the flesh? I remember a guy in my dorm was borrowing one of these Pontiac Le Mans for a while in the mid 1990s. Poor guy.

Mitsubishi Cordia
Mitsubishi Cordia
Before the Mitsubishi Starion there was the Cordia. For some reason, I always look for these on craigslist, not that I'd do anything other than say, "Wow, I can't believe there's one for sale" if I found one.

Mazda GLC
Two Mazda GLC hatchbacks
Truthfully, I know where I can find one of these here in Portland, but its not in great shape. Other than that, it must've been 25+ years since I saw one in person.

Dodge Colt
Dodge COlt
It's been nearly forever since I saw an old Colt like this. My parents had a 1979 or 1980 version. It was red, and I remember how the front passenger seat folded forward.

Dodge Omni
Dodge Omnis
Here's another one that seems to have left the earth. We had a dark blue one in the early 1980s; it was a four-speed. My friend Dan had one as a winter beater back in Minnesota. You could still buy one into the early 1990s, too. Bonus points for the shelf-paper woodgrain.

Nissan Pulsar NX
Nissan Pulsar NX Sportbak
Remember the Nissan Pulsar NX? You could remove the trunk and slap on this "sportbak" canopy turning the coupe into a wagony shooting brakeish thing.

Hyundai Scoupe
Hyundai Scoupe
Before Hyundai became a world-class automaker, the Scoupe was the company's sporting option, which I believe combined the "S" from sport and the word coupe. Genius! It was one of the last cars on the U.S. market to not offer dual airbags. You could, however, get a turbo model.

Ford Aspire
Ford Aspire
Before Ford had great hatchbacks, such as the Focus and Fiesta, they had the Aspire, which was made by Kia. When was the last time you saw one of these cruising the boulevard?

Chevrolet Spectrum
You may remember the Suzuki-built Chevy Sprint (and Sprint Turbo), but they also offered the Isuzu-built Spectrum (and Spectrum Turbo). You can still find Sprints every now and then, but the Spectrums are quite rare—especially the turbo models.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review: 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

We like the compact Subaru XV Crosstrek for a host of reasons. First, it's a great size; not too small but not too big, either. Secondly, you can get it with AWD and a manual transmission. Finally, it's ultra practical and quite attractive ... in a lifted hatchback kind of way. In fact, we were going to buy one until we decided to splurge and get our turbocharged WRX instead. That being said, the Crosstrek would be on our short list if we needed to replace the WRX, say if it got hit by a falling tree. (I'm currently writing this during the biggest wind storm Portland has experienced in nearly a decade!)

For 2014 Subaru added a variation to the XV Crosstrek: A hybrid—the company's first. Our tester, which came in an appropriate shade of Plasma Green Pearl, could be the poster child for cars in Oregon and Washington. I mean really, a green Subaru Hybrid? Does it get any more Pacific Northwest than that? So does its green color live up to its "green" hybrid moniker?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Small Cars of the 2014 SEMA Show

Jeep Renegade Riptide in the Mopar booth at the 2014 SEMA Show
The Jeep Renegade "Riptide" was located in the Mopar booth and featured roof racks, surfboards, black wheels and more. 
As usual, the SEMA Show is packed with a host of crazy vehicles big and small. On this site we're more concerned about the small stuff, of course, so here are some of the small car highlights from the 2014 SEMA Show.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Widebody DUB Edition Toyota Yaris to Bow at SEMA Show

DUB Edition Toyota Yaris

Somewhat amazingly, Toyota almost always seems to have a Yaris at the SEMA Show, and this year is no different (I even have a couple of Yaris t-shirts from their booth). Toyota has turned to DUB magazine to trick out the refreshed 2015 Yaris. And in true DUB fashion, they've gone all out— whether you like the look or not.

Most obviously, the car rides on enormous (for a Yaris) 20" Dropstars wheels and massive 245/30/20 Nitto Invo tires. No ordinary Yaris could possibly accommodate such rolling stock, so the liftback has been given the widebody treatment. The car wears a custom matte pearl white and gloss black paintjob, which I dig; I'm a sucker for both matte and pearl white, by the way. Also of note, I love the center-exit exhaust. This is something I'd love for my Yaris.

There's no real specs on the suspension other than the press release says "custom." The car does have StopTech brake calipers and a TRD big brake kit, however.

DUB Edition Toyota Yaris interior

Inside the Yaris are a pair of Sparco racing seats, carbon fiber accents, a black ultra-suede headliner, red accents, and a custom pearl white rollbar. And no DUB-Edition vehicle would be complete without a killer sound system. This Toyota has three amps, two 10" subwoofers, new speakers, an iPad, and custom fiberglass and leather enclosures.

I know this is over the top. However, you must remember that this is a DUB-created SEMA vehicle, so anything else would be unexpected. I'll try to snap some photos of this baby ballermobile at the show next week. Stay tuned.
DUB Edition Toyota Yaris rear

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: 2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line

2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line Reflex Metallic

The VW Beetle’s familiar shape has been around for decades. It is an iconic car that is instantly recognized, no matter if it’s the old-school Herbie the Love Bug runabout or the aggressively-styled larger version of today. I drove VW’s latest Bug, the 2014 Beetle R-Line Turbo. And what exactly is an R-Line? It's VW's Beetle Turbo with a new name.

2.0-liter VW TSI engine
This isn't the Beetle with the smallish, low-powered, engine, or a not-so-loaded bug. This is the Reflex Metallic Beetle equipped with a 2.0-liter TSI engine making a healthy 207 ft/lbs of torque and 210 horsepower. Those are fully grown stallion horses, not just your everyday youngin’ ponies we are talking about. Along with this sporty turbocharged direct-injection engine, this bug has a host of performance and safety features such as a sport suspension, dual-clutch transmission, all those necessary three-letter safety acronyms (ABS, EBD, ASR, ESC, and so on), as well as eye-catching 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in performance all-season tires.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nissan Rolls Versa Note Down a Hill

"What would you do with a Nissan Versa Note?"

Ask that question on social media, and you're bound to have some smartass respond with "Push it off a cliff." Well, frankly, that's sort of what Nissan has just done.

Nissan Europe has taken a Versa Note, put it into a Zorb (e.g. giant inflatable bubble that gets pushed down a hill, usually with a human inside), and, well, pushed it down a hill. Why? To showcase its safety, I suppose. I've never been zorbing (is that even a verb?), but it looks pretty fun if not slightly vomit inducing. I think I'll leave the Zorbing to the Versa Note.