12.31.2016

Pocket Rocket: The 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth
The 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth.
Four years on, the Fiat 500's fifteen minutes of fame and fashionability has long been up.  But if you still like the look, want one but haven't bought one, the one to buy is the Fiat 500 Abarth.

Abarth is an Italian racing company founded in 1949 by the late Karl Abarth, who started hot-rodding Fiats in 1952.  Fiat bought the company outright in 1971.

12.27.2016

Saved: The 2017 Toyota Yaris iA

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Toyota Yaris iA
The 2017 Toyota Yaris iA.
Toyota's decision to shutter its Scion division at the end of the 2016 model year resulted in a couple of cars too good to die being shuffled across the corporate hall into the Toyota lineup.  One is the Scion FR-S, which our Publisher and Executive Editor has raved about since its introduction, and which is now the Toyota 86.

The other is the Scion iA sedan, which is now the Toyota Yaris iA.

12.23.2016

California Screamin': The 2016 Ford Mustang GT California Special Convertible

Front 3/4 view of the 2016 Ford Mustang GT California Special Convertible
The 2016 Ford Mustang GT California Special Convertible.
Mustang fans know the story of the California Special...the 1968 Mustang that was a limited-edition (4,118 cars) run of Mustang Coupes with '65 T-bird taillights, a decklid spoiler, fake side scoops, badging and tape stripes.  Although they were badged "GT/CS", not all were Mustang GTs...and some had the Ford Falcon 200 cubic inch six-cylinder engine under the hood. That engine made 115 horsepower.

The good news is that we're seeing one of Ford's periodic revivals of the California Special for the 2016 Mustang (it's been back in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014).  The extra good news is that this year, if you get a California Special, you get a Mustang GT Premium Convertible.


12.20.2016

Hybrid Unassailability: The 2017 Lexus ES 300h

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Lexus ES 300h
The 2017 Lexus ES 300h.
Less than a month ago, I wrote that the 2017 Lexus ES350 was "the unassailable choice"...one of a handful of cars that there is no plausible downside to buying.  The hybrid version of the ES350, the ES 300h---yes, there is a space between "ES" and "300h", where there is none in the "ES350"---is the same car with the added benefits of lower emissions and higher fuel economy estimates, without the financial penalty that often comes with hybrid ownership.

12.17.2016

Soul With Speed: The 2017 Kia Soul ! (Exclaim)

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Kia Soul ! (Exclaim)
The 2017 Kia Soul ! (Exclaim).
The Kia Soul has proven itself to be the best of the funky little urban "is it a car or a crossover?" boxes that came along at the beginning of the decade.  In fact, save the Nissan Juke, which moves a fraction of the number of copies the strong-selling Soul does, the others (Scion xB, Nissan Cube) are dead and gone.

The Soul simply offered a stronger blend of utility, price and features.  And now, performance enters the mix.

12.13.2016

Leaving Excellence Alone: The 2017 Lexus GX460

Front 3/4 of 2017 Lexus GX460
The 2017 Lexus GX460.
Yes, the old phrase is "leaving well enough alone".  But where "well enough" doesn't describe the Lexus GX460, "excellence" does.

12.10.2016

Polishing A Gem: The 2017 Mazda 3 5-Door Grand Touring

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Mazda 3 5-Door Grand Touring
The 2017 Mazda 3 5-Door Grand Touring.
The 2017 Mazda 3 5-Door Grand Touring may look like the 2016 Mazda 3 S we drove this summer (on our honeymoon, no less), but there have been some significant changes made, and all for the good.

12.06.2016

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep: The 2017 Toyota Prius Four Touring

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Toyota Prius Four Touring
The 2017 Toyota Prius Four Touring.
It is the best Prius ever.  And it may ultimately be considered a failure.

A paradox which I shall explain.

12.03.2016

Virtue Ignored: The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid.
I may have said this before (as TireKicker closes in on 1,000 posts, it's hard to be sure), but some cars seem to show up in the press fleet at about the same time every year.  And, sure enough...51 weeks ago, I was in the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid.

12.02.2016

Golden: The 2017 Toyota Corolla 50th Anniversary Special Edition

Front 3/4 view of the 2017 Toyota Corolla 50th Anniversary Special Edition
The 2017 Toyota Corolla 50th Anniversary Special Edition.
There are not many 2017 cars whose names and essential missions have remained unchanged for 50 years.  Mustang, maybe.  Camaro and Impala had years between 1967 and now where they were out of production.  But the Toyota Corolla has been with us continuously for that half-century, providing reliable, fairly high-content compact sedans all along.

12.01.2016

Reports Of Its Death Are Greatly Exaggerated, Or At Least Premature: The 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC
The 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC.
I'm tempted to call this my third annual fond farewell to the Mitsubishi Lancer.  The car...and for a while, its maker...were on life support for the better part of a decade, and the smart money was that the 2014 Lancer would be the last.

And then came the 2015, and the 2016 and now the 2017.