Tag Archives: Zoomie Car of the Year

2015 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye

Dodge Dart SXT sharp looker, affordabledart1

I’ve always liked the lightly regarded Dodge Dart because it’s a sporty looking entry-level car with a low price tag. It’s affordable and doesn’t look like a cheap econobox.

I gave it my Zoomie Car of the Year award in 2013.

So I was a bit surprised I wasn’t as impressed with the tested SXT Rallye as I’d anticipated. But the Dart is on it fourth model year and while still a high-value car and a sharp looker, much of the competition has caught up and I’m afraid that has raised my expectations.

I have to give the Fiat-Chrysler folks credit because the Dart still offers you more choices than most entry-level sedans. There are five trim levels and three engine choices. With engines it’s usually one and done at this price point.

dart2But Dodge offers a 1.4-liter turbocharged I4 in the Aero high gas mileage model. That engine generates 160 horsepower and 184 ft.-lbs. of torque to make it fun and frugal, as it’s rated 28 mpg city and 41 mpg highway. The tested SXT model features the 2.4-liter MultiAir I4 that creates 184 horses and a 174 torque rating. The base SE model features a 2.0-liter I4 that still manages 160 horses, but just 148 ft.-lbs. of torque. Continue reading 2015 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye

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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Redesigned Mazda Miata still the perfect sport carmiata1

My generation may have been having fun, fun, fun till our daddy’s took our T-birds away, but since 1989 the fun, fun, fun has mostly been provided by Mazda’s Miata.

Lyrically it’s not the same at all, but the feeling continues to be the same and the nearly all new and slightly smaller 2016 MX-5 Miata continues the tune.

I’ve run out of superlatives for the car that was my first Zoomie Car of the Year Award winner back in 1990, just after the original hit the streets. Miata reinvented the fun, affordable two-seater. Back in the 1950s and ‘60s there were MGs, Sprites, Austin-Healeys and Triumphs. Today, as in 1989, there is only the Miata in the small roadster category, at least starting at less than $30 grand.

Mazda continues to keep the car simple and slips it back closer to its roots by downsizing it in every way, except driving excitement.

The Miata is a work of art, just like the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa.
The Miata is a work of art, just like the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa.

The new car rides on 1-inch less wheelbase, is 6 inches shorter in length, loses 0.5 cubic feet of trunk space and drops about 250 lbs. Even the engine’s horsepower is down a smidge to 155 horses.

The result is a superbly balanced sports car that remains light, peppy and easy to throw around curving country roads, or winding city streets.

I felt no discernable reduction in power from the 2.0-liter I4 because the new 6-speed manual is so well suited to it. Shifts are short and direct and the clutch light. I took this on an afternoon spin around the Holy Hill area over winding side roads and with the top down. What a joy, smelling the apples, barley and livestock as the car flitted through the early autumn sun. Continue reading 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club