Hot hatches

Who doesn’t want to rip around empty streets in a high power sports car? Maybe the streets are slightly wet, but everything else is mysteriously dry…just like the movies. Maybe you have a beautiful woman in distress sitting shotgun. Perhaps you are being chased by Johnny Law or a group of thugs…the sounds, the power, the burnouts, the chase music…WAKE UP!

That was a great daydream. Unfortunately, it is Saturday afternoon and you are stuck in the city running errands. The beautiful woman in distress is your better half and she is late for a hair appointment. The people chasing you are your kids needing to be picked up from soccer. No empty roads in sight, just curb-to-curb traffic. Suddenly, a high power sports car doesn’t make sense. You need compact size to swing in and out of parking spots and good fuel economy so that you’re not burning a hole through your pocket while sitting in inevitable traffic.

You need a fun compact car. The high horsepower, high cost, high paint polish are not needed. The beautiful women in distress….. That is your call. What you really need is a solid everyday car. Something compact, economical, cheap on insurance and driveable year ‘round. Just because you need all of those things does not mean you can’t have something FUN TO DRIVE as well! You are in luck: allow me to introduce you to some great candidates.

The Mini is a classic nameplate that BMW bought and did a fantastic job of reproducing; Compact, spritely, well-appointed and maneuverable. This is the British gentleman’s answer to your required pocket rocket. Available in 2-door, wagon, 4-door and convertible formats, the Mini has you covered. Your best bet is the 2-door coupe with manual transmission in “S” guise with either a turbo or supercharger (depending what model year you purchase). The John Cooper Works (pictured) is the factory race car, it is ready for track days or commutes out of the box.

The Fiat 500 follows the same principle as the Mini: fun, small and cute. It tugs at your heart strings, bringing back thoughts of the original Fiat 500. Available as a 2-door, 4-door or convertible, it comes in many unique trims, the best is the ABARTH. This is the performance division of Fiat and the car is especially fun. Great steering and decent performance, but the exhaust note is what will attract your attention! If you haven’t one of these cars sing, you need to stop whatever you’re doing and treat your ears. Best part of the Fiat? The manual shifter comes out of the dash, just like classic British/Italian sports cars!

Here’s another: the Ford Fiesta ST. Ford has really stepped their game up as of late. The new Fiesta ST is a perfect example. This 5-door hatchback comes with a manual transmission, 197-hp turbo 4-banger, and Recaro sports seats. If 197 horsepower doesn’t sound like much to you, consider that this car tips the scales at 2,700 pounds…now you get the picture.

Again, in the great automotive debate between “want” and “need”, It is easy to have a little bit of both. Yes you can have your economy, ability to zip in and out of traffic and daily driveability. But you can also have your power, your turbo/supercharger, aggressive handling and great exhaust sound.

All of these cars are small enough to be used in congested cities with ease, offer great fuel economy, yet they will rip around corners and put a smile on your face when instructed to do so. Maybe the damsel in distress will understand that you need something fun AND practical, maybe not. But does it really matter when you’re behind the wheel of your hot hatch?

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Ford Verses Chevy who wins?

Let’s talk about rivalries. Sports teams have them, siblings have them, gangs have them and companies have them. Aside from the Montreal Canadians being a terrible team  – go, Leafs, go – nothing is better than a good old rival between two car companies over competing products.

A rivalry pushes both manufactures to bring out a more fuel efficient, safer, faster, quieter, cheaper and pretty well everything else that ends in “er” in a bid to dominate the competition. What does this mean for you, Mr. and Mrs. Customer? Well, you can stuff all those “er’s” in your back pocket and smile. We are going to focus on two companies who are constantly at each other’s throats: Chevy and Ford.

I saw two cars parked next to each other today that epitomize this rivalry, and it inspired this article. I was going to write about the ultimate gifts for the car lover on your holiday list, but I refuse to accept the holiday season before December first. I also refuse to spend any amount of time in a place that plays Christmas jingles, serves eggnog or has ugly Christmas sweaters… I will save that rant for another time.

Camaro vs. Mustang:

The American dream in vehicle form, presented in the form of a vehicle.  Cheap V8-power, rear-wheel drive, 2-door coupe and convertible. These cars can lay down some serious rubber and belch a fantastic sound with some minor exhaust work.

The winner:  While the Camaro went on a hiatus in 2002 and came back with a vengeance several years ago, the Mustang wins because it invented the “personal sports car” market and has never gone out of production.

Chevy Silverado vs. Ford F-150:

We like our pickup trucks BIG, powerful and comfortable, with lots of towing and payload capacity. Nothing says I’m a manly-man quite like a shiny grille at eye level, big meaty tires and a side profile bigger than most barn doors.

The winner: Ford F-150 has been the best-selling pickup truck in America since TV’s were black and white….seriously.

Chevy Blazer vs. Ford Bronco:

Who makes the better full-size, 2-door convertible 4X4? This market segment is distinctly American. Yes, I would like a massive truck and, no I do not need a pickup box, but could you cut the roof off for me? After we finished with them as daily drivers, snow plowers would buy them for their bulletproof drivetrains and tight turning circles.

The winner: Ford Bronco because in 1992, O.J. Simpson drove on down the highway while we all watched, stunned.

Cadillac vs. Lincoln:

This is Classic American Luxury at its finest. From interiors that looked like they came out of a porno shoot (both Cadillac and Lincoln were guilty of this from 1969-1992)to trunks that could swallow a medium-sized sow (a guy in my dad’s hometown actually hauled a pig in the trunk of his Lincoln).

Winner: Cadillac by a Texas mile. Lincoln is a shadow of its former self. All of their products are merely Ford vehicles with ritzy interiors and updated exteriors. The Cadillac Escalade continues to dominate the luxury SUV market and the CTS-V is one of the best performing sedans on the market.

All said, two great American car companies both competing for the same thing: to be in your driveway. See, stop fighting your sibling for extra dessert or the t.v. remote. The rivalries between auto manufactures are way better, and nobody gets a time out!