Friday, September 14, 2018

What it's Like to Buy and Own a Kei Truck

Suzuki Carry kei truck

Do you own a kei truck? Probably not. But you want to own a kei truck.

These little pickups are gaining popularity and are even road-legal in places, such as Washington state. Not only are they fun, but they can be great little work horses, too. The one pictured above is a Suzuki Carry belonging to our good friend, Tuan. He calls it ... are you ready for this? ... Carry Potter. 

Tuan wrote a great article all about the buying and owning experience on our sister site, Crankshaft Culture. It's a really fun and insightful read for anyone thinking of buying one of these.

You can also follow Crankshaft Culture on Instagram @crankshaftculture.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Shocking: There Are No Replacement Shocks For the Latest Mirage

I recently installed a set of Eibach Pro Kit springs on our 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback (they're actually for the Euro market Space Star, which is the same as the Mirage). They only lower the car about 1", but I'm not looking to slam the thing to the ground, so they're ideal. Plus, these springs were going to be used with the stock shocks for now. Normally, I'd replace the shocks when lowering car, but the Mirage only has 5,000 miles on it, and the drop is minimal.

However, my curiosity was piqued as to what shocks were available for the Mirage. It turns out there aren't any—literally. None. Nada. Nothing. Well, nothing other than the factory Tokicos via the Mitsubishi dealer, which must be made out of solid platinum for the price they'd want.

There's a thread on MirageForum.com about replacement shocks. It's five pages long. It confirmed that there are no shocks available in North America from Monroe, Gabriel, KYB, Tokico, Koni, or any other shock maker for that matter. I find that amazing since Mitsubishi has sold more than 100,000 Mirages in North America since its debut as a 2014 model year vehicle. What gives?

OK, what about other global markets? There have been over 750,000 Mirages or Space Stars sold globally. Surely, there has to be something out there.

The Mirage is manufactured in Thailand. Using Google translate, I attempted to browse Google for shock absorbers in Thai, and would have my findings translated using Google. Nothing—or should I say ไม่มีอะไร. Next I attempted another country where the Mirage is popular, Indonesia. Tidak ada. OK, what about the UK? No, sir. Germany? Nichts. New Zealand and Australia? Sorry, mate. Finally, I attempted a search in Japan. The only thing I found were some KYB SR Specials shocks, but they're for the Mirages powered by the 1.0-liter engine. I have no idea if they'd work for the 1.2 liter; for all I know the shock mount might be different (unlikely), but the 1.2-liter Mirages likely weigh more.

Globally, Mitsubishi has sold more than 750,000 Mirages. How there cannot be any replacement shocks outside of buying the original equipment units is, well, shocking. Sure, there are a number of high-performance coilovers from Tein, Godspeed, and BC Racing (among others), but if you're not looking for a harsh-riding coilover setup, you're going to be spending a lot of dough at your local dealer. FYI, the MSRP for a pair of rear shocks for the Mirage is a whopping $287. A pair of fronts is a staggering $665! You're looking at a mind-blowing $952 for new shocks all around—and that wouldn't even include labor if you're not doing it yourself. You can save quite a bit by going through a place, such as Mitsubishi Parts Warehouse ($464.64), but for comparison's sake, a set of KYB replacement shocks (direct replacement OE-grade) are $167.99 shipped for the Yaris.

Here's hoping that some company—any company—is going to offer up a replacement shock for this car.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

People are Racing the Mitsubishi Mirage in Indonesia and Thailand

Mitsubishi Mirage Race Car

Yes, that's a Mitsubishi Mirage race car. Yes, it still has its 1.2-liter engine. In fact, it's part of a 1200cc class of race cars in Indonesia. It turns out, people do race these little things.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Mitsubishi Mirage Side Sill Extensions Installed


The first time I saw a sixth-generation Mitsubishi Mirage with the optional side sill extensions (aka side skirts) installed, I knew I had to have them on mine. They add a nice bit of upscale sportiness to the Mirage. Bet you never thought you'd hear those words associated with a Mirage ...

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.