We at AutoPacific have just completed a week’s worth of driving the Thailand-built Mitsubishi Mirage. Now we know what drivers in a third world country experience when they drive locally assembled cars. And we don’t like it much.
AutoPacific Take on Subaru Legacy Win – Subaru Legacy
owners’ satisfaction ratings with their new vehicle contribute to its win of the Motorist’s Choice Award® for the Mid-Size/Large Wagon category. With standard all wheel drive, the Legacy Wagon gets high marks for a feeling of safety while driving and good traction in all weather conditions. Also contributing to the safety perception are strong owner ratings for braking and handling. However, driving dynamics are not the only contributors to the Legacy Wagon’s win. Product and brand reputation and durability, quality and reliability were important factors in its class-leading performance.
IntelliChoice Analysis –
The Legacy is a true flagship for the Subaru line-up. And the Subaru line-up is purchased and driven by some of the most loyal and passionate enthusiasts in the mid-size market. There must be a reason? Well, one look at the Legacy’s place in the Inaugural Motorist’s Choice award roster provides the explanation. It provides the rare combination of reliability, spirited and responsive driving, and excellent value. With a 5 year Cost of Ownership of just $31,000, the Legacy is assured of a great legacy.
Zest Minicar On Sale March 1
The Japanese market has seen variations on the tiny fuel-sipping car theme for many years. In the USA, we may refer to them as minicars. In Japan this class is called “kei cars”. We at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific can fondly remember the Honda City that came with a diminutive motor scooter in the cargo area circa the mid-1980s. Never made it to the States except as Honda test cars or gray market one-offs. The scooter was its claim to fame, but in American traffic a car the size of a Japanese kei car is just a bit frightening. But Japanese car companies need to compete with these types of cars in their home market where where are substantial tax benefits.
Honda introduced its new Zest kei car on March 1 in Japan. In Japan, the Zest kei car class is comprised of cars that meet certain exterior and engine size requirements. Among the requirements are a cap for overall length set at a 3395mm and a power output cap of 64HP. These small cars, while they fall in and out of fashion globally, are in part the result of government restrictions and manipulations in the Japanese economy. High taxes and government rules make kei cars attractive to many Japanese consumers, a situation that does not exist in the States. While on paper, these small cars sound like a terrific solution for U.S. buyers looking for ultra-economic transportation, they are too small to sell in sufficient numbers in the States to be profitable.
The Zest measures less than 134 inches long, though there is a terrific amount of space inside. While in Japan the segment with cars this size is significant, the Zest is a full sixteen inches shorter than the three-door Toyota Yaris hatcback. Other cars that U.S. buyers consider small have an overall length even further from the Zest, and are pictured below. Mazda’s MX-5 convertible is almost 156 inches long, Scion’s xB is 155 inches long, Toyota’s Yaris sedan is nearly 170 inches long, and Honda’s Fit is more than 157 inches long. These examples seem to be about as small as the North American buyer is willing to go, despite any inherent logic that a small city car may have in terms of inexpensive operation and a usable size for city driving. The fact is that we do not need cars as small as the Zest in the USA, and so far, it doesn’t seem that Americans want them, either. So, admire from afar kei-car enthusiasts! You’ll have to wait til your next trip to Tokyo to see the Zest in person.
A Year After the Concept, Production Nitro Introduced in Chicago
Dodge heads into the 2007MY competing in two new segments with two all-new entries. Along with the just-launched Caliber that we recently drove and reviewed, the Nitro arrives later in the year. Nitro is a traditional, four-door, five-passenger SUV with styling aimed at guys more than women. While the Chrysler Group’s Jeep Liberty, with which the Dodge Nitro shares production space, appeals more to women, the Nitro’s more aggressive attitude is expected to pull in more men. Its official introduction is this week at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, the same venue that hosted the concept car a year ago.
Among the difficulties with joining a full segment will be getting through the clutter. At least on paper, the Nitro is a strong entry. But the small and mid-size SUV segments include as many as twenty-five entries, depending on definitions, and that means a lot of competition for attention. With its optional 255HP V6, Nitro is near the top in terms of horsepower, and its relationship to Jeep’s Liberty should give it decent off-road capability. Dodge has also given it the ability to tow as much as 5000 pounds, properly equipped. The Nitro also looks to further support Dodge’s performance slant, with an on-road performance-tuned suspension optional for some models.