Tag Archives: hatchback

2019 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda CX-3 sticking with a good thing …2019 Mazda CX-3

Not much seems to have changed with Mazda’s stylish small crossover, the CX-3, since I last tested it a couple years ago.

I mean it gained two horsepower (big whoop), but really nothing much needed to change. I’d still like more horsepower, but at least there’s a Sport mode toggle on the console to boost power when you need it. Continue reading 2019 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

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2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWDMazda CX-3 flickable fun, but practical too

Small hatchbacks have always been fun to drive and practical too. So why shouldn’t a small crossover with a hatch be much the same?

Well, more and more tiny crossovers are being made and mostly they are pretty entertaining to drive. This week’s bright metallic blue (dynamic blue mica) Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD fits that bill.

Steering is light and lively with quick handling and downright perky acceleration when you toggle the Sport mode on the console. That pumps up the revs so the 146-horse 2.0-liter I4 has maximum torque, which also is 146. The Mazda zips away from stoplights with relative enthusiasm, but you’ll need to toggle back to the normal setting or it holds the engine’s revs way too long and eventually will suck down gas mileage.Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

But hey, toggling the Sport mode is almost as much fun as shifting a manual transmission – almost.

Add to that the practicality of all-wheel-drive to help steady the little crossover in winter slop, plus excellent fuel economy and you’ve got an attractive and cute ute, er crossover to take the place of any small sedan or hatchback.

The CX-3 is Mazda’s smallest crossover, just down a notch in size and wheelbase, from the CX-5. Both handle well. Continue reading 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

2016 Fiat 500 Easy

Fiat 500 Easy: low price, low power, lower expectationsfiat1

Several years have passed since I last drove a Fiat 500, the mini-car Fiat re-launched its brand with in the U.S. market for 2012.

The 500 hasn’t grown any, nor changed much, which depending on your point of view may be good, or a bit sad. The 500’s cuteness level remains high. It still looks like a slightly more modern version of the original rear-engine 1957 model it’s designed to resemble. Continue reading 2016 Fiat 500 Easy

2016 Scion iA

 

Scion iA a snazzy low-cost small sedan

Scion iA, Mazda2, hatchbacks, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Chevy Sonic, entry-level sedansRarely has so little felt like so much.

Scion delivers possibly the highest value car for the entry-level market and does it with a good looking small sedan that is value priced and yet looks and feels much more like a mid-priced compact sedan.

The new iA, and we could quibble about the name, is a delight. Based on the Mazda2 platform, the iA delivers much more than the Mazda, which is a small hatchback. While I love hatchbacks for their usefulness, this sedan simply feels like it can take on and beat the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent and Chevy Sonic, to name a few competitors. Continue reading 2016 Scion iA

2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI S 4-Door

New VW Golf looks old, feels newgolf2

There’s a saying about everything old being new again, and the reworked 2015 Volkswagen Golf is a sterling example.

The Golf and Rabbit hatchbacks have been sold by VW since 1974, this latest iteration being the seventh generation. Toyota’s Corolla is one of the few competitors to be around longer, it launching in 1966.

Still, the essence, the useful four-door hatchback that’s fun to drive remains the same for Golf. And while its lines have been tweaked a bit and the car stretched by 2.1 inches, you’ll have no trouble picking out of a crowd. Golf looks like a Golf, for better or worse.

That’s a matter of taste, but from a performance standpoint, the Golf is easily one of the more fun compacts on the road. Handling and ride are as good as, or better, than most of its competitors, and it has a lot of worthy competitors, such as the Mazda3, which also is a delight.

Golf is just flat out fun to drive. Its steering is light and easy, helped by the car’s modest 2,963 lbs., about 79 lbs. lighter than the previous Golf. The car also is responsive so you can toss this hatch into a corner at speed and feel good about it.

There is precious little body roll and Golf’s front-drive layout helps it track well through a corner, while the electrically assisted steering is speed variable, so firms as you hit the highway. Naturally we’re not racing these, but you feel sporty in the Golf and more importantly on Wisconsin’s deteriorating roads, the car handles and rides well over bumps. This is what surprised me most. Continue reading 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI S 4-Door

2014 Fiat 500L Lounge

Fiat goes long with 500L (get it?) to connect with more buyers

The 500L fairly dwarfs Fiat's standard 500 model.
The 500L fairly dwarfs Fiat’s standard 500 model.

Credit Fiat for quickly deducing that its cute, but diminutive, 500 runabout simply won’t do for many U.S. families. The Italian automaker that owns Chrysler needed something that would cast a wider net when trying to land more customers on our shores.

Voila! The 500L!

This is a small crossover or wagon much along the lines of MINI’s Clubman. That’s to say it’s boxy and big enough to hold four adults and some groceries under the hatch. It remains cute, like the MINI is cute, but no one will mistake it for the much smaller Fiat 500 that its name implies it descends from.

But this is a different beast in that at 167.1 inches the 500L is nearly two feet longer, plus a little wider and taller, than the tiny 500. The 500L rides on a much larger 102.8-inch wheelbase, a little shorter than a Subaru Forester, for example, and nearly a foot longer than Fiat’s 500. The L is no featherweight either, at 3,203 lbs. it’s about 900 lbs. heavier than its smaller sibling.

I parked the 500L next to a standard MINI in a fast food parking lot and was amazed at how much larger the Fiat looked.

What all this size means is that the 500L rides well, but remains a good handler, like its smaller model, the 500. The suspension does a surprisingly good job of soaking up our roads’ numerous imperfections. Some larger crossovers and small utes don’t feel this well controlled. As with the 500 model, this one’s ride quality surprises. Continue reading 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

Pokey Mitsubishi Mirage offers bare bones performance

Last year when I drove the 109-horsepower Nissan Versa Note I thought I’d driven the slowest accelerating car made in the past 10 years, but that was before I’d driven the new Mitsubishi Mirage. This makes the pokey Versa Note feel frisky.mitsu

Mirage is a pleasant looking little hatchback designed top to bottom for the entry-level buyer who needs new wheels, but can’t afford much. It’s a small market segment, but let’s face it, there is a need for inexpensive entry-level economy cars. We’re not all rich, or even middle class, these days.

I’m happy that such low cost economy models exist. But I really expect a new car to have enough power to get out of its own way, or at least that of the aging winter beater car that’s tailgating me.

For the record Mirage has a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine that creates … wait for it … 74 horsepower. In short it’s slow to pull away from stoplights and requires quite a long run down an entry ramp to make it up to highway speeds. Under heavy acceleration the drivetrain groans considerably. Mentally, I was groaning too. Continue reading 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES