Thursday, September 4, 2014

August 2014 Subcompact Car Sales

Subcompact Car SalesAugust is being talked about as good month for car sales overall, however, you might not know that looking at this chart. The Kia Soul sold 50% better than this time last year, and is up more than  25% overall—nothing to scoff at. The MINI Countryman and Nissan Versa were also up 47.9% and 46.4%, respectively. And the Mazda2 continues to pull of increased sales. We didn't have any mega gains, however. It should be noted the Kia Soul did cross the 100,000 car threshold, which is a marked achievement.

There's a good amount of red this month, and two really big losers. First of all, the Fiat 500L: It sold 33 units this month. I figured there must've been a mistake, because that means sales are down a crushing 97%. However, upon further research, the car faced a recall due to the knee airbags. I expect sales to rebound next month. Conversely, its year-to-date sales are the best on the chart, up 204%. The other big loser is the Toyota Yaris, down 83%. This is likely due to dealers having a reduced inventory while they make room for the newly refreshed 2015 Yaris.

Of note: The Mitsubishi Mirage is now outselling the Mazda2 among several other small cars. At what point do we qualify the car as a sales success? While we ponder that, take a look at the big chart below.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Official 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Pictures

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata front

The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is one of the most highly anticipated releases among sports car fans in a while. Well, here it is. And frankly, I think I love it.

This Miata is more svelte looking, more sleek, and more racy than ever before. No word on the official powerplant, but we do know it'll feature the SKYACTIV technology, that will eventually find its way into all Mazda products.

It has more of an edge than any MX-5 before it. I can't wait to learn more about it. The official press release and more images can be found after the break.

Subcompact Supercar: Road Race Motorsports Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione

Road Race Motorsports Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione

Is this the most wicked Fiat 500 yet? It certainly may be. Built by Road Race Motorsports, the 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione makes 247 horsepower, 250 ft/lbs. of torque, and will do 0-60 in under six seconds—and still displaces 1.4 liters.

Road Race Motorsports turbo Abarth engine

Other goodies include a carbon fiber body kit, limited slip differential, improved brakes, tuned suspension, carbon-kevlar clutch, and host of other upgrades, such as stiffer bushings, upgraded sway bar, Bilstein shocks, and 16x9 wheels with 225/40/16 Toyo Proxes tires. Curb weight is down 120 lbs from stock, too.

Of course, in stock form the Abarth is a kick in the pants. This? This would be flat-out ridiculous in a totally awesome way. This amazing creation, which bears the last name of the company's owner, Rob Tallini, is limited to 50 units, with prices going all the way up to $100,000 for a fully built, customized model. This is one bad-ass subcompact supercar.

You can read the full press release about the car below after the jump.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: Cascadia Vehicle Tents Mt. Bailey Roof Top Tent

Our Suzuki with a CVT Mt. Bailey Roof Top Tent

What a better time to post up a tent review than right before Labor day. Needless to say, our days of camping on the ground are going to be brought to a minimum now that we have a Cascadia Vehicle Tents (CVT) roof top tent.

As you may know we recently purchased a micro Dinoot trailer to pull behind our Suzuki Sidekick, “the Teal Terror.” Part of the reason for the purchase was so we could mount a roof top tent (RTT for short) onto the unit. Roof top tents are great for traveling, since they’re mounted to the rack on a vehicle or a small trailer. They’re quick and easy to setup and take down, good in foul weather, and let you camp off of the ground where you don’t have to worry as much about water, mud, or bumpy, uncomfortable ground.

As with most of our camping gear, we did quite a bit of research before buying a RTT. Since the tent would be going on our little trailer, size and weight were our two first priorities. Of course durability, quality, and price were important, and we wanted to buy from a company that was a known entity, and not a fly-by-night tent importer (nearly all tents are made overseas). All of these traits led us to Bend, Oregon-based Cascadia Vehicle Tents, also known as CVT. And while the company may not be as well-known as other tent names on the market, it is developing a strong following among campers, adventurers, and overlanders. The company’s new Mt. Bailey tent, which weighs 96 lbs. and is 48”x48”x11” when closed for transport, was just the right size for our Dinoot trailer, and could even be mounted to our Subaru or Suzuki’s roof racks. And since CVT is based in Oregon, we were able to drive down and pickup our tent, which saved us shipping.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Chevrolet Niva is Badass and I Want One

Chevrolet Niva Front

A Lada Niva is a very primitive, albeit rugged Russian tiny SUV. However, Chevrolet has been partnering with Lada to build its own version of the Niva for more than 15 years. The vehicle above is the new Chevrolet Niva Concept, and it represents what could be the next generation Niva.

Features of this badass little subconcept trucklet include BFGoodrigh Mud-Terrain tires, a roof basket, bumper-mounted winch, snorkel, and a host of auxiliary lighting—just the kind of stuff that helps take a regular Niva into awesome adventurer territory. There's likely a bit of lift going on here, too, and I love the proper rear-mounted spare tire.

There isn't much info available about the Niva Concept. Apparently the vehicle is powered by a 1.8-liter engine and mated to a manual transmission; perhaps it's the engine out of the Sonic? Other things I've read are that it comes with all-wheel drive with a locking center differential, and it appears to have proper recovery points front and rear, too.

Chevrolet Niva Concept
There's likely no way in hell North America will ever see such a beasty. I'm betting Chevrolet will peddle its Trax against vehicles such as the Nissan Juke and upcoming Jeep Renegade instead, despite the Renegade's alleged off-road ability. Regardless, I love this lifted, beefed-up subcompact. And if it's got the Niva name on it, it's likely a tough little rig. I'd totally rock one.

Chevrolet Niva Concept rear

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mule Expedition Outfitter's Micro Overland and 4x4 Meet

1987 Mitsubishi Delica at the Mule Expedition Outfitter's micro meet.
We maintain the fact that you don't have to have a giant 4WD vehicle to get out and explore, and we're not the only ones that have that theory. So does the team at Mule Expedition Outfitters in Issaquah, Washington. If the name sounds familiar, it could be because we wrote about their awesome 1979 Suzuki LJ81 not too long ago.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: 2014 Fiat 500L Trekking

Fiat 500L Trekking at a vineyard
The Fiat 500L Trekking looks at home in front of grapevines and vineyard buildings. 
This wasn’t our first time behind the wheel of Fiat’s larger 500L. The first time we drove the larger Fiat 500L "Gigantica," it was the “Easy” model with a six-speed manual wearing a fairly wretched shade of robin’s-egg blue/gray and featuring a neoprene upholstery that may have been made from recycled wet suits. And despite the fact it wasn’t the prettiest girl at the dance, I couldn’t help but like a lot of aspects about it.

This time around, we’re dealing with the Fiat 500L Trekking model. The Trekking trim level butches up the package by adding some body cladding, a slightly different front fascia, and different 17” wheels. From an aesthetic perspective, I think the 500L Trekking looks better than the Easy, as the body cladding adds some rugged looking characteristics. I also believe the slightly ungainly 500L looks best in dark colors so our dark green 500L has that going for it. So while it still might be somewhat homely, at least it’s wearing the right kind of clothes for its body type.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

July 2014 Subcompact Sales

Subcompact Car SalesJuly has come and gone (in fact, half of August is over—sorry for the late sales report). Anyhow, the Mazda2, despite it being long in the tooth and headed for a redesign, is sellin' like hotcakes. It was up 159.4% moving 2,075 units. Nissan's Versa continues to generate sales, and is up 73.5% moving a whopping 15,630 units in July alone. At that pace it may just catch up with overall Kia Soul sales. Finally, the Smart ForTwo sold 57.1% more vehicles this July than last, racking up a 12.8% increase in overall 2014 sales.

This month's big loser is no surprise at all. Mitsubishi's i-MiEV electric sold a pathetic 17 units last month, which was down 63% compared to last July. With sales that low, I'm considering pulling it from the chart next month. If you don't count the iMiEV, the slowest seller was MINI's Coupe, which was down 62.2% moving just 84 units. Toyota's Yaris was also down big time, but that may be due to the fact a new Yaris is supposed to come out for MY2015.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Teal Terror's New Traveling Companion: A Dinoot Trailer

The Teal Terror with a Dinoot Trailer

If you read my blog regularly, you may remember that through a potential act of karma, I recently got a small utility trailer. While its price was certainly right (free), it did need new lights and wiring, new decking, new wheel bearings, and a new coat of paint. And you know what? It would've been great for what it was intended to be—a utility trailer.

While I'm certainly not looking a gift horse in the proverbial mouth, I've long dreamed of having a trailer we could take camping or traveling with us; something like a Dinoot Trailer. Dinoot is the brainchild of Scott Chaney, owner of Compact Camping Concepts in Salem, Oregon. The modular Dinoot trailers feature welded frames and fiberglass sides along with a host of options. The little one pictured here is a custom "micro" version," which has been narrowed 13" compared to a standard-sized J-Model.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Scion to Drop its iQ

Scion iQ

Back in in 2011, I predicted Scion's iQ microcar would put the hurt on the Smart ForTwo. I thought the tiny Japanese-made errand runner would wipe the floor with the European Smart ForTwo. I mean, how could it not? It was better in nearly every way than the ForTwo. It drove better, it was more comfortable, was arguably more practical, and had Toyota's reputation for quality behind it. Yet I sit here typing to tell you that 2014 is the last year for the iQ in North America. Guess who's "smart" now?

Sales never took off for the iQ and it never bested the Smart ForTwo's numbers as you can see in the chart below.

Scion iQ
2012: 8879
2013: 4046
2014: 1401

    Smart ForTwo
    2012: 10009
    2013: 9264
    2014: 5319

We still like the iQ better than the ForTwo, and are sort of sad to see it go. I think more marketing and a lower price could've probably helped sales. Frankly, it's a bit crazy to me that a car as bad as the current ForTwo has sold as well as it has when the iQ is clearly the better vehicle.

Now that the iQ has been giving packing orders, when Smart unveils its new—and likely very much improved—ForTwo and ForFour, it will go veritably unchallenged in the North American microcar market, since the next smallest vehicles are the Chevrolet Spark and Fiat 500, both of which are significantly bigger.

The iQ was only available for three model years, which is a pretty short time. Could the iQ become a collector car? I suppose, but I wouldn't hold my breath. But it was a neat experiment to see if any car could truly compete in the micro segment against the ForTwo and come out victorious. It was a lopsided battle where two cars entered and one car left. It just wasn't the one I expected.