Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Fond Farewell to my 1997 Honda Civic CX

Scott's 1997 Honda Civic CX

About a week ago I did something I thought I might never do: I sold my Honda Civic. I really thought I might drive this car into the ground. You may remember this car from a posting Andy made some time ago showing the odometer at 200,000 miles. I thought I would at least get to 250, but it wasn't in the cards.

Flash back to a rainy October day in 1996 in New York. My air-cooled VW bug has just dropped a valve into the engine. I get on the phone to my buddy Ed, he has a spare motor for $50, I had gotten a transmission from him that summer for $25. I call my usual parts place and start checking on all the little parts I'll need. And then something happens and I just say, "Y'know what Billy, skip it." and I hang up. In that moment I had decided to buy a new car because I didn't want to spend a whole weekend in a rainy driveway shivering and fixing my car. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chevrolet to sell Trax in U.S.

2015 Chevrolet Trax

We recently told you Chevrolet was going to debut an important addition to its small car lineup at the New York Auto Show. Well, here it is. Ladies and Gents, the Chevrolet Trax.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: 2015 Subaru WRX STI Launch Edition

2015 Subaru WRX STI Launch Edition

When Subaru refreshed its Impreza for 2013, the thought on every Subaru enthusiasts mind was “What will the WRX be like?” We all knew it’d eventually have to transition from the previous body style, but what were the details? When the redesigned WRX debuted, we found out it would only come in sedan form and it’d have a new 2.0-liter turbocharged boxer four-cylinder engine. The new WRX is rather bland looking, but by all accounts, it drives exceptionally—great news for enthusiasts. So then the next reasonable car-enthusiast question was, “What will the STI be like?” Will it be more aggressive looking? How much more power will it make? Will it still have the staple giant wing and available gold wheels? Answers to this would be Yes, 305, and yes.

18" BBS wheels
It’s easy to recognize the 2015 STI vs. the standard 2015 WRX. For starters, there’s the huge-ass spoiler and the available 18” BBS wheels for starter. Those wheels are gold on the Launch Edition STI, which is limited to 1,000 units. Even if you don’t opt for the Launch Edition, all STI models get more aggressive, flared fenders, quad-tipped exhaust system, LED headlamps, and a few other unique exterior styling cues. The look really does take the car from mild to wild, and the gold wheels look great, especially when paired with that classic WR Blue Pearl hue. While I don’t think it’s correct to call the car handsome, per se, I do think the appearance is attractive, so long as you’re into the look. It’s very Japanese, very boy-racer, quite rally-car-esque, and most certainly in-your-face. I haven’t driven a car that elicited this much attention in a long time (not since the Scion FR-S). I literally had other people in WRXs pull up alongside me on the Interstate and hoot, holler, and ogle at the car as they drove past. After work one day, I arrived at the car to find the owner of a 2008 STI taking pictures of this car. However, not everyone likes it. I also had a WRX owner go past me and give me the proverbial “thumbs down.”

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Behold: The Refreshed 2015 Nissan Versa

Nissan is mildly refreshing its hot-selling Versa sedan here in the States. While it isn't earth shattering, there are some aesthetic differences. Of note, new headlamps and a new grille, fog light finishing trim, and a more dynamic rear fascia. There are different wheels, too.

I will say the changes do make the vehicle looks a bit nicer, although I still think the Versa isn't prettiest girl at the dance.

There are some modest changes inside the Versa, too. Enhancements for the 2015 model year include a new center stack shape, which is similar to that found on the Versa Note, a revised meter display with white LED display (previously orange illumination color) and a new, more substantial, steering wheel with standard audio and Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System controls. Versa Sedan S and S Plus grades feature a wide AM/FM/CD audio system with standard auxiliary-in and Radio Data System (RDS), standard assist grips, a passenger-side vanity mirror and new seat fabric.

Versa Sedan SV adds an outside temperature display, USB/iPod® controls, upgraded fabric headliner, map light with key-linked illuminated entry and silver finishers on the center instrument panel cluster. SL models include Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Ignition and an AM/FM/CD/USB-iPod audio system with 5.0-inch display and NissanConnectSM with Mobile Apps.

No changes in the power department, however, as the car still comes with the 1.6-liter HR16DE four cylinder making 106 horsepower and 107 ft./lbs. of torque. Transmission options will be a five-speed manual, four-speed automatic, or CVT. Fuel economy is 31 city, 40 highway, and 35 combined with the CVT.

Nissan sells a boatload of these smallish sedans here in the U.S., and I'm sure these changes will likely help continue to keep sales strong.

SOURCE: Nissan

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thoughts on Project Cars and Never-Ending Repairs and Upgrades

Project cars are a wonderful thing. They provide you with a chance to tinker on a vehicle in an effort to build a rig the way you want it. Of course, they also provide an endless source of things to do both from a repair and upgrade perspective. And often times one project can lead to many more.

Case in point: Last weekend I intended on installing my new front skidplate on the Teal Terror, aka, project 1995 Suzuki Sidekick. The plate installs using only four bolts, and should have went on in no time flat. However, just as I was about to go out to the driveway and begin working, I remembered that my beefy skidplate would cover my oil pan and filter and the trucklet was due for an oil change. Well, looks like an oil change is now on the docket, and of course, I didn't have the oil I needed at home. 

Off to Bi-Mart I went in search of oil. Bi-Mart is like a K Mart, but a lot better and far less depressing. Well, while im there, I might as well pick up a few other things I need: thread lock, oil for the WRX, cold medicine, cleaning products, toothpaste, and a few other things.

An hour later, I'm home. Let's get this oil change done. Oops: my oil change drain pan is still full from the last change. Got to drain that. Alright, onto the actual oil change! 20 min later, we're changed out and ready to get working on that skidplate.

The four 12mm bolts simply screw into existing holes on the frame. I've learned to test out those unused holes before going at a project, especially on the Suzuki because 1) it's 19 years old and 2) it sees off road duty. Those holes can get rusty, the threads can get screwed up, and so on. Sure enough, the holes were filled with mud and the threads were rusty and a bit chewed up. Out comes the 8mm 1.25 tap. I went and cleaned up all four holes. By the way, a tap and die set is a worthwhile investment if you've got an older project car. I use this way more than I ever expected.

I attached the rear two bolts, but now there's a problem with the front. I had bent my frame last year on an off-road trail. And despite having it professionally straightened, it was a couple millimeters off. In order for me to get it to flare out a couple millimeters, I used a floor jack to get the skidplate in place. Then, I banged on it with a rubber mallet to position it. Et viola! Success. Accomplishment. I am all that is man! 

Now onto some maintenance. I decided to redo the bolts on my WARN 4WD hubs, which have been backing out. I used some red thread lock and my newly purchased hex sockets to torque them down. How did I live without these sockets before? No more measly little allen wrenches!

With that done, I needed to start the search for the illusive reverse light switch. Why? Because my backup lights aren't working. This switch is annoyingly located in top of the transmission, is difficult to reach, and is now coated in 19 years worth of crud. While I did locate it and was able to unplug it, I decided not to pull it in the interest of time. It will need to be tackled soon.

While on my under-truck expedition in search of the reverse switch, I discovered I had a broken exhaust hanger. That would answer one question: What's that damn rattling from under the car? Well, it's more like only one of the rattles, but I'll take what I can get. A trip to the Internet yielded none of these nonstandard rubber hangers for sale. On Monday I called our former Suzuki dealer and was able to order one. I was told it was one of six in the country. Lucky me.

Later that day, encouraged by my discovery of the broken hanger, attempted the futile task of trying to reduce some of the squeaks and rattles inside the truck. Although I wedged some rubber bits into nooks and crannies here and there, I'm not sure any of my pseudo handy work paid off as the truck still rattles as if only half the bolts in the car were ever installed. I did successfully make my finicky rear tailgate close properly, however. It did require countless little adjustments, some lubricant, and animal sacrifice, though. Hey, you need to celebrate the little victories.

As evidenced, the work on a project car is never done. But the Teal Terror serves as a nice bit of garage therapy from time to time, and has been worth every penny, every drop of blood, sweat, and tears I've put into it. Now I just need to get those darn rock sliders installed that I've had for months!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Driven: The All-New 2015 Honda Fit

Silver 2015 Honda Fit

Honda manufactures automobiles that are smartly designed, thoughtfully executed and built, and are solid as a rock. Between my husband Andy and me, we have owned seven of them. Honda has been in our families for a long time. I first learned about Honda when I was a child, as my father had a Honda lawn mower that ran for eternity, partly due to its quality but also due to him taking care of it like it was his baby, even waxing it each year. So, it is only natural we were excited to take part in the redesigned 2015 Honda Fit launch in San Diego, CA.

The 2015 Fit is the third generation of Honda’s five-door B-segment subcompact. Introduced in the U.S. in 2007, Honda brought the Fit over from Japan to compete in the newly exploding North American subcompact market. Well known for its versatility, fuel economy, driving dynamics, and small exterior but living-large interior, the Fit would become a front-runner in its class.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Chevrolet to Reveal 'Important New Addition' to Small-Vehicle Lineup

Chevrolet LogoChevrolet announced yesterday that it'll be showcasing an "important new addition" to its lineup at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, held April 18–27. This announcement was combined with the news it'll be debuting a new Cruze and Corvette variant.

Generally, we usually have at least some ideas about what the secret vehicle is going to be. Take, for instance, the Cruze. There have been pics of a revamped Cruze floating around for a couple of weeks. Some spy shots, some speculation, etc. Ditto that with the Corvette, as some people are hoping for a shooting brake version. But with this vague small car announcement, there has been very little in the way guesses. Honestly, that's kind of fun.

So what could GM have up its sleeves? Here are my guesses:

Opel Adam 
Opel Adam

Although GM has a popular A-segment car with its SPARK, it doesn't have a vehicle to compete directly with the Fiat 500 or MINI Cooper. The Opel Adam could be just the answer. There has been speculation about it coming to the U.S. before and being sold as the Buick Adam. Maybe it'd be the Chevy.

Sonic SS
Import Tuner Chevrolet Sonic RS

Chevrolet's Sonic is a fun little hatchback, especially with the 1.4-liter turbo engine. However, there isn't a "hot" version of it other than the RS, which is mainly an appearance/handling package. A Sonic SS or Z-Spec or whatever, would go toe-to-toe with Ford's pocket-rocket Fiesta ST and Fiat's scrappy 500 Abarth. Make it 180 hp, give it a limited-slip, and there you have it.

Revised or Performance Spark?
Custom Chevrolet Spark

This one is admittedly a long shot, but perhaps Chevy will hint at either a revised Spark or even a performance-oriented iteration. It's unlikely, however, since the Spark only recently debuted in the U.S. as a 2013 model and because any performance small Chevy is likely to be in the Sonic lineup.

130R Production
Chevrolet 130R

This is the Chevrolet 130R concept from late 2012. It's a small, rear-drive sports car. With the return of affordable rear-drive vehicles, such as the Scion FR-S, Subaru BR-Z, and Kia Stinger (still a concept), maybe GM is going to pop up and say the 130R is headed for dealer lots. I think it'd be awesome.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Behold: A Slammed Geo Sedan

Slammed Geo Metro Sedan

Honestly, I don't know squat about this car. I can tell it's a slammed Geo Metro sedan on what looks to be 17" (possibly 16') Konig Feather wheels, it was spied in Tacoma, WA, and it's got a #83 on the window. Regardless, I love it.

I get giddy every time I see something like this that's out of the ordinary; something that wouldn't usually get slammed. And for what it is, it looks pretty darn good!

Thanks to Greg for sending the photo via our Facebook page. Got a cool pic to share? Have a story idea? Want to write for Subcompact Culture? Either contact us here or via our Facebook or Twitter pages!

March 2014 Subcompact Sales

Subcompact Car SalesNot too bad of a month for subcompacts in March; it certainly looks better than last month. The big winner in March, and certainly going out like a lion, is the Mazda2, which has a gigantic 138.1% increase over this time last year. That big sales boost also brought it's year-to-date sales back into the green. In fact, March accounts for nearly 72% of all Mazda2 models sold in 2014. The Nissan Juke also had a good month, up 77.3% from this time last year, and more importantly, up 71.1% overall this year. The hot-selling Buick Encore also is up in the 75% range this month and also has a whopping 116% overall sales increase compare to 2013. Who says Americans don't want a baby Buick?

The bottom three slow-sellers all belong to MINI. This may be because there is a new MINI Cooper hitting showrooms soon, and stock might be low. Regardless, the MINI Hardtop and slow-selling Coupe and Roadster all were down more than 50% compared to March '13.

Nissan's Versa, although down for the month and year, is still outselling the Kia Soul, although not by much. The MINI Coupe continues to be the lowest-volume subcompact on the list having moved only 262 units this year.

A few other bits of interest: The Mitsubishi Mirage continues to sell pretty well, and outsold a lot of other vehicles on the list including the Fiat 500L. Another A-segment car, the Chevrolet Spark, with it's winning combo of price, size, and equipment, continues to sell well. Finally, the Toyota Prius c is outselling the Yaris by more than 2:1.

As a side note, you can now look at the last three months of subcompact sales by clicking on the tabs at the bottom of the chart. Happy browsing!

Friday, March 28, 2014

2015 Honda Fit Launch

2015 Honda Fit

We're in San Diego for the 2015 Honda Fit launch. We can't really talk about it much yet, but we can show you pics. Be sure to check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for pics from the launch event. More on the '15 Fit in several days. Stay tuned.