Friday, August 21, 2015

Be Back Soon, But Keep Up With Us On Social Media

Yes, we're still around! We've been ultra busy prepping for what should be an amazing trip, and recovering from what was an amazing trip to Monterey Car Week.  We will be back soon with more content!  In the meantime, keep up with is on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Be back soon--stay tuned.

- Andy

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S

2015 VW GTI S

The Golf GTI has always been synonymous with great driving dynamics, a reasonably low cost of entry, and loads of fun. Volkswagen Golfs with those three letters have always been rewarding to drive; it's been a winning formula for VW since 1976. It's also not a formula that gets messed with much. And frankly, VW knows how to execute the FWD performance hatchback.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Upgrades, Repairs, and Rebuilds for the Suzuki Sidekick

Installing new shock absorbers on the Suzuki Sidekick

There's been a lot going on with the Teal Terror (aka project Suzuki Sidekick) lately, which is part of the reason I haven't been posting as much I as have previously. There have been some upgrades, some repairs, and even some rebuilds. Why? In preparation for an epic adventure. More on that in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

July 2015 Subcompact Car Sales

July 2015 Subcompact Car Sales
As prices of gas continue to fall, so do sales of smaller vehicles. While most automakers are doing quite well, their small car inventory is likely being looked over for larger, thirstier vehicles, which is evidenced by July 2015's numbers tell the tale.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata—the track day darling, drop-top superstar, and all-around super-fun car—managed to sell a few more units this past month, giving it a whopping 183.2% gain over last year at this time; overall sales are up 22.9% because of it. Perhaps people are snatching up the current model before the all-new versions come out.

The if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it Toyota Yaris is up 104.5%, giving it eight straight months in a row of positive sales. I wonder why? For what it's worth, I see a lot of 2015 Yaris hatchbacks around Portland.

The ever-strong-selling Buick Encore subcompact CUV is the last of the list with impressive gains; and, for what it's worth, the Nissan Juke is up 0.9%. Every other car is down compared to this time last year. And in case you were wondering, the average price of gas at this time is $2.64/gal. Last year at this same time it was $3.50/gal. So there you have it.

The big loser this month is Fiat's functional yet unfortunately styled Fiat 500L. The always-slow-to-sell MINI Coupe is down 70%; the soon-to-be-redesigned Smart ForTwo is down 67.4%, likely because of those aforementioned low fuel prices, and because buyers are finally getting a clue how terrible the transmission is.

Of the vehicles that haven't yet been on sale for as much time as it takes the earth to go around the sun (that's one year for you math-challenged readers), the Jeep Renegade, which just rolled out, sold 6,320 units, outselling the Chevrolet Trax. The Fiat 500X is just now hitting dealerships, and didn't sell 1,000 this month. I expect that to change.

So what this month's sales lacked in volume, I made up for in snark and hyphenated adjectives here in this article. You're welcome.

Make/Model % Jul. '15 vs Jul. '14Units Jul. '15% YTD Jul. '15 vs Jul. '14Units YTD
Mazda MX-5 Miata183.2113022.93062
Toyota Yaris104.5140352.914091
Buick Encore68.1682664.837375
Nissan Juke0.92347-39.516994
Mitsubishi Mirage-2.5155352.715054
Toyota Prius c-4.93571-6.422438
Kia Soul-5.013975-8.681961
MINI Cooper Hardtop 2 Dr-5.8247922.712706
Hyundai Veloster-7.82062-22.913261
Chevrolet Spark-11.53287-12.822696
Hyundai Accent-12.13755-5.940252
Honda Fit-15.3511548.439966
Fiat 500-17.01959-16.017349
Chevrolet Sonic-20.75102-25.942078
Honda CR-Z-24.2270-33.71562
MINI Cooper /S Convertible-25.1272-5.81979
Ford Fiesta-27.25491-3.940980
MINI Paceman-36.295-13.3933
Nissan Versa-36.39949-8.076904
Kia Rio-41.32227-28.217062
MINI Countryman-44.91203-269481
MINI Roadster-48.078-14.1751
Smart ForTwo-67.4441-32.24065
MINI Coupe-70.225-52.5283
Fiat 500L-78.0314-22.06390
Jeep Renegade-6320-20751
Chevrolet Trax-6111-30926
MINI Cooper Hardtop 4 Dr-1036-9297
Fiat 500X-962-970
BMW i3-935-5391

Monday, August 3, 2015

Nostalgic Subcompact: Nissan S-Cargo

Nissan S-Cargo

Yes, there really was a Nissan called the S-Cargo. Yes, it looked like a snail. Yes, it is awesome in its own way.

Introduced in 1989, the S-Cargo was a small delivery vehicle with a 1.5-liter engine making 72 hp and mated to a three-speed automatic transmission. The retro styling combined with the snail-like looks made the S-Cargo ( think "escargot," e.g. cooked snails) a fun little van.

The S-Cargo was made for commercial delivery duty and was produced at the Pike factory in Japan alongside other retro Nissans, such as the Be-1, Pao, and Figaro. All were right-hand drive and intended for the Japanese home market.

Nissan only produced the S-Cargo until 1992, and now that these vehicles are over 25 years old (at least the early models), they can be legally imported in the United States.

In the video below, you can see this one from all angles. Bonus points for the porthole window and replica Corvette Saw Blade wheels.

I think what I like most about the S-Cargo is the amount of personality and creativity that was jammed into this little runabout. From the snail detail on the mudflatps, to the "eye stalk" headlamps, this is just a fun little vehicle. FYI, there are some Canadian versions for sale for around $5,000–$6,000 USD.

I have not seen one in person, but I'd jump at the chance.

Nissan S-Cargo

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Top 5 Coolest Subcompact Vehicles You Can Now Import Into the U.S. (And One Larger One)

You may be well aware of the United States' "25 year import rule" for cars/trucks. A car that was not actually imported into the U.S. for sale has to be at least 25 years old before it can be legally imported. That means that we can now bring in cars made in 1990 and older. Here are five of the coolest non-U.S.-market vehicles you can buy now:

1990 Suzuki Alto Works
1990 Suzuki Alto Works
For $7,500, you can own this turbocharged kei car. It's got 54,000 miles on it, cold A/C, and an automatic transmission. Located in Iowa of all places.
Source: Omaha Craigslist

1989 Nissan S-Cargo
1989 Nissan S-Cargo
These little things have always piqued my interest. This kei-sized delivery van is located in Vancouver, Canada and has 84,000 kilometers on the clock. It's powered by a three-cylinder engine mated to an automatic transmission (unfortunately). This little delivery car can be had for $6,000 CAD.
Source: Vancouver Craigslist 

1989 Nissan Pao
1989 Nissn Pao
The retro Nissan Pao has a turbocharged 1.0-liter engine mated to, yes, an automatic trans. This one has 52,000 miles on it and is going for $11,900. Other goodies include retractable roof, aftermarket steering wheels (more than one?), and a front strut tower bar. This puppy is located in Japan.
Source: RightDriveUSA

1985 Honda City Turbo II
1985 Honda City Turbo II
The Honda City Turbo II was the company's hot-hatch version of its more pedestrian City. Affedctionaly nicknamed the "bull dog," some City models even came with a stowable moped. No lie. This one does not, but it only has 65,000 kilometers on it. It doesn't get much more classic 1980s Japanese kei car than this. This one is for sale for $9,500 and is located in Richmond, VA. 
Source: Japanese Classics

1967 Mazda R360

1967 Mazda R360
How cool is this little thing? Believe it or not, this was Mazda's first four-wheeled passenger vehicle. It's got a four-stroke V-engine, two-tone pain, and awesome vintage style. Price? This little guy is $20,917—big bucks for a small car. Plus, it's still in Japan.

Source: Trade Car View
BONUS: 1985 VAZ Lada 2105 (A Bit Bigger)
OK, this one isn't a subcompact, but it's crazy. Also known as the Lada Riva, the 2105 was built in places including Russia, Ukraine, Egypt,, West Germany, and Kazakhstan. This 1985 model is located in the Seattle area and allegedly has a 650 hp turbocharged V6. Yeah, you read that right. The seller is asking a cool $27,000 for this thing. I'd love to see more pictures of this. 
Source: Seattle Craigslist

Monday, July 20, 2015

Buick Introduces A More Powerful Encore For 2016

2016 Buick Encore Sport Touring - Front

Buick's subcompact Encore CUV has been a strong seller for the GM brand (30,549 units moved as of June 2015, up 29%). However, if there's been one sticking point, it's been the power. The current Encore makes just 138 hp and 148 lb/ft of torque from the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mill, yet has to haul around as much as 3,358 lbs.

GM announced today that there will be a new Encore Sport Touring model for 2016, which will make 153 hp and 177 lb/ft of torque from an all-new direct-injected 1.4-liter engine, which will also feature start/stop technology. And despite the fact the new engine's displacement is the same as the older one, nothing else is.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Is There a Small Car Downturn?

Fiat 500c
Small car sales, such as the Fiat 500, are down sharply compared to 2014.
 The U.S. economy is coming back. Gas prices are averaging $2.76 a gallon. We just signed a nuclear deal with Iran, and people are speculating gas prices could drop to $2.00 a gallon after Labor Day. I'm not going to be a Debbie Downer here—this is all good stuff. However, will it have an effect on small car sales in the U.S. and Canada? It may already be doing so.

We already know that with the recent lower fuel prices, people have been buying more large cars, trucks, and SUVs and foregoing the smaller more fuel-efficient vehicles. In fact, according to the June 2015 Subcompact Sales we recently reported, of the 26 small vehicles that have been on sale for more than a year on our chart, 17 of them are down in sales—that's 65% of the subcompact market.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

2015 Portland Vintage Racing Festival Mega Gallery

Red Mini Cooper race car at 2015 Portland Vintage Racing Festival
1960 Austin Mini Cooper
Words by Andy Lilienthal. Photos by Mercedes and Andy Lilienthal

One of my favorite events here in Portland is the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRAPortland Vintage Racing Festival. I love the variety of cars, the racing, and the memories associated with it. This was the first year in a while that I've been to the event since my father passed away; this was our annual event at Portland International Raceway. It was great to be there. This year I brought Mercedes and we had a blast checking out both old and new cars alike.

Friday, July 10, 2015

June 2015 Subcompact Car Sales

May 2015 Subcompact Car Sales
June's sales are history, and the biggest overall gain was had by the Toyota Yaris, which moved more than 112% more models than this time last year. The BMW i3 jumped towards the top after being on sale a full year, hence the crazy YTD percentage, and the MINI Paceman had an outlying miniature spike in sales that boosted it's percentage.

The biggest loser this month was the dowdy yet, extremely practical Fiat 500L, which was down 54% vs. this time last year. Ovreall sales of the "big" Fiat are down 11%. The biggest fall from glory is currently going to the still-funky Nissan Juke, which is down 43% in year-to-date sales at this point. In overall units sold, the also-still-funky Kia Soul continues to hold off not-funky Nissan's Versa for the title of most-popular small car on the list. Funky, eh?

Make/Model % Jun. '15 vs Jun. '14Units Jun. '15% YTD Jun. '15 vs Jun. '14Units YTD
Toyota Yaris112.6281048.712688
BMW i354.0551542.14456
MINI Paceman36.3248-9.6838
Buick Encore33.4552629.130549
Ford Fiesta23.679711.235489
Honda Fit21.2466963.335634
Mitsubishi Mirage15.0166963.313501
Hyundai Accent14.465415.035976
MINI Roadster14.3144-1.9414
Smart ForTwo13.897312.810453
Mazda MX-5 Miata6.8440-0.32654
MINI Cooper /S Convertible6.8393-1.71707
MINI Countryman4.32041-22.18278
Chevrolet Spark4.03857-13.019409
Nissan Juke0.32567-43.114647
Kia Soul-3.911844-9.467986
Nissan Versa-12.310190-1.466955
Chevrolet Sonic-18.87894-26.636976
Hyundai Veloster-19.12065-25.111201
Toyota Prius c-19.62756-6.718921
Kia Rio-25.72420-25.714835
Fiat 500-31.02283-15.015390
MINI Coupe-34.651-49.6258
Honda CR-Z-35.2204-35.41292
MINI Cooper /S Hardtop 2 Dr-38.2142532.510227
Fiat 500L-54.0530-11.06076
Chevrolet Trax-5971-24815
Jeep Renegade-4858-14431
MINI Cooper /S Hardtop 4 Dr-1886-8261
Fiat 500X-324-332