“Sexy Beast” 2020 Mazda 3

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When it made its world debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November.  The word in the room was “Damm”.

While American auto makers are exiting the car market the rest of the world is foraging ahead.  With Hyundai/Kia, Toyota and now Mazda either refreshing or introducing all new models for 2019.

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Mazda, one of the smaller players in the Auto world, has taken a page out of the Hyundai\Kia playbook, by offering  value at a competitive price.

The new Mazda 3 comes in two flavors a Sedan or a Hatchback

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In its last generation, I preferred the hatchback.  In this generation, I prefer the lines of the sedan.

If you took away the Mazda logo, this car could pass for an Audi and while its looks good outside, the interior looks very expensive, again Audi and BMW

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There isn’t anything its segment that can touch it.

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Its available in automatic or six speed manual.  As in the previous generation.  The standard engine in the “3” is a 2.0 Skyactive engine producing 155 hp and 150 pound feet of torque.  The optional engine is the 2.5 Skyactive engines producing 185 hp and 180 pound feet of torque.   New for 2019 is an all wheel drive  model.  It would be nice in Mazda dropped a turbo into the “3” bringing back the days of the hot hatch Mazdaspeed.  One can dream.     To keep this car competitive they have dropped the independent suspension for a less expensive rear torsion beam set up.  Mazda is using more sound deadening in the car making it quieter

This sexy SEXY beast starts about just under $22 grand and the top version with sunroof and a Bose systems tops out about 30K .

Mazda is known for its handling. Later this spring, were gonna see not only how well it handles. We will see in the little “3′ will accommodate this Big City man.

The all new 2020 Toyota Corolla design isn’t earth shattering and  2018 and the Honda Civic is still bat shit ugly, But side by side, which would you drive?

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Mazda sales numbers are minisule compared to all the other players. Both Honda and Toyota out sale Mazda nearly 15 to one.  The big question, will the new Mazda 3 bring new and first time car buyers to the brand?






Honda: Ugly at no additional charge?

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I like Honda”s, the company builds very competent vehicles that do most things well.    While Mazda’s are more fun to drive, Honda are more livable and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any Honda.

The Honda Accord has been around for more than four decades.  No car, Mercedes Benz, BMW,has appeared on Car and Drivers Magazine’s “10 Best” more than the Honda Accord. It has won many award all over the world.

The Accord was the first Japanese car manufactured in America.  For nearly ten years the Honda Accord has been the second best selling car in the United States, only behind the Toyota Camry.   While more people are buying SUV’s than passengers cars.  The Accord remains very important to Honda.

For 2018, The Accord and Toyota Camry are all new.  Japanese cars are typically conservatively styled. No extreme curves or creases.   This year, the gloves are off, as the two vehicles attempt to slow the slide of market share.

2018 Honda Accord

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2018 Toyota Camry

2018 Toyota Camry: America's Favorite Sedan Is All-New

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The news has been good for Toyota. The Camry sales are up nearly 13% for the year.    Sales for the Honda Accord, the car that won the prestigious North American Car of the Year and The Canadian Car of the Year, is down nearly 15%

Could it be the wrapper?  

I think the stylist at Honda have lost their way.  First at Acura its luxury brand.  It seemed the stylist focused all their attention on the front of the car with its complex lighting and slabs of chrome.

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2018 Acura RLX

Honda revealed the new corporate grill in the 2016 Honda Civic.

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A thick and heavy piece of chrome with an “H” in the center.   The saving grace for the Civic is it’s unique rear lighting.  Charles Fleming of the Los Angeles Times said the Civic was bland.  While there was love for the performance of the top spec Civic Type “R”. few had positive words for its styling.   Saying the car was overdone with “too much of everything”

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Car and Driver said: The Type R’s flaws are plain to see for anyone over the age of 19. The designers appear to have drawn inspiration from fly swatters, anime hairstyles, and suspicious growths. And the interior team must have used their year’s allotment of red Sharpies coloring the seats and the lower half of the steering wheel, because they all but stopped at the B-pillar, dressing the rear only with perfunctory red stitching and belts. On the upside, think of all the money you’ll save when you can’t find a more garish fiberglass body kit for your Honda.

Which brings us back to the Accord.   Last summer Kelly Pleskot of Motor Trend asked its readers was the New Accord Refreshing or Revolting ? Christian Wardlaw of the New York  thought the Accord  looked sensational, especially in comparison to what will be its primary competitor, the new 2018 Toyota Camry. Dan Wise of  the  St Louis Post Dispatch  Said the styling is polarizing.     Car and Driver saysIt’s certainly the most elegant-looking Accord since the sleek, pop -up headlight model ,from the late 1980s, and its body thankfully avoids much of the surface excitement that plagues the latest Civic. The front-end styling has proved polarizing among our ranks, but from any other angle, it’s undeniably a handsome piece.


Apply at the Honda Design Center in Cailfornia


Its likely the face of the Accord, will be refreshed for next year.   However the sales year isn’t over and waiting in the wings is the 2019 Nissan Altima (the 3rd best selling midsize car) which should arrive at dealership early summer.

There are cracks over at Honda.   Sales have slowed for the (10th generation) Civic now in its third year. It is slightly ahead of the Toyota Corolla(11th generation) now in its fifth year.

Sales are also down for the Honda’s best selling vechicle CR-V (5th generation) in its second year is down nearly 19% for the year while sales are up for the Nissan Rouge (2nd generation) 20% in its fifth year in production  The Toyota Rav4 is the best selling SUV in the US.  The fourth generation is now its its sixth year.  The fifth generation is due to hit the showrooms this summer.

The heat is ON!

.Mazda is quieting their vechicles to make them more competative.  Hyundai and Kia having raided Audi and BMW engineeers and designers, are preparing for their third act Genesis.

At the end of the day, what we drive is an extention of who we are and who wants to be bland?










Hooked on Stereotypes

“Look at him”…. “Its just like the book says, they really love their fried chicken”

( Dave Chappelle)

Was having a discussion with a colleague at work.  I resently test drove a fully loaded Cadillac CTS and was very impressed. The old floaty Cadillac of yore are gone.  The cars have come a long way of late and is one of the better cars I’ve driven this year.

I told him if I tripped over a bag of money, I might consider that car.   He paused for a minute and said you cant buy that car.   You’d be another black man in a Cadillac.

Its like me in a Honda.  Another Asian in a Civic, I would never buy a Honda.

Ludacris Right?

I thought about it and wondered if I could buy a Caddy.  Oh would I’d be concerned that I would be somewhere and someone  would say. Its just like the book says…………


BIG MAN RIDES: 2013 Dodge Dart review( Its real nice but……..)

After sticking Americans with the gawd awful Excel, Hyundai returned to the American Market with a monster warranty.  A warranty that said hey, trust us!   10 years 100,000 miles.  The  warranty is a success . Last year Hyundai-Kia squeezed past Nissan to become the fifth best selling manufacturer in America.    Hyundai 10 year warranty is expensive to the manufacturer, I expect the company will scale it back in two years.

The 2013 Dodge Dart is the first born child of Chrysler and Fiat.  If you’re a car nut, you know the Dart is base on Alfa Romeo Giulietta

It’s been stretched and pulled for the American market .  The child uses engines from Fiat and Chrysler, the transmissions are all Fiat and the  interior is all Chrysler.   The Result is a very good-looking car, the camera doesn’t do it justice….

It’s a snarling car very Charger Esq, and like the Charger the rear end is like no other…

The Dart comes in many,many flavors, I drove the Rallye with the optional 1.4 liter turbo (160 horsepower and 184 pound feet of torque with the six speed manual.

The Standard  engine is a  2.0 four with 160 horsepower and 148 pound feet of torque.

Note: My daughter drove the Dart with the base engine and the automatic and thought it was a slug.


Looking at my pictures, it looks tight.

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 There was actually a fair amount of room for this big guy, nothing went ouch.    The width was good and so was the leg room.  Initially, the seats were a bit hard but after a few hours I found them supporting.   The room in the rear is not bad, however the seats  are low..

  The steering  was excellent, dead on center (take note Toyota).  I had fun driving the car on twisty Hwy 20 in Lake county     The shifting of the six speed stick was smooth un-Chrysler like, not up to the levels of the Honda or Volkswagen but fun.   I liked the growl of the turbo.  Off the line, it was okay  however  the mid range power was good.

Chrysler’s along with Hyundai has the best entertainment navigation systems in the business.  Their intuitive and easy to use.    No car needs 20 to 30 buttons (Ford and Honda) or system that requires you take your eyes off the road to look down (BMW,Audi, Mercedes)  I could go on.

The car is very quiet (small cars have come a long way) until you hit some rough road.   The Dart is a heavy car, it’s anywhere from two to five hundred pounds heavier than the competition and you can feel it.

The car has a ton of air bags.  It can be equipped with rear view cameras, blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert.

Gas mileage for this led foot averaged 27 which is what the EPA says the average should be (that’s a first) highway mileage is 32 with  the stick and 39 with the automatic.

Some of the things I didn’t like about the car was its premium fuel recommendations for the turbo.  While the dash and surrounding areas are soft touch, its black. That’ s so 2005.   Some of the plastic pieces look cheap and the trunk could be better finished.

Being a big man, people often ask me why do I like small cars.   The answer is a simple one for me, fun.   There are a few larger cars out there that are fun to drive, but most are built to soothe and coddle the passengers

The Dodge Dart falls in the upper middle for small cars…   It’s not a Volkswagen Golf, Mazda 3, or Ford Focus( manual ) but it is more entertaining to drive than the GM and Hyundai compacts, and the once great Honda Civic and aged Toyota Corolla .

My main problem with the Dodge Dart is history.     Fiat and Chrysler doesn’t have the best track record  for building quality cars.  This is the car!   The car Washington said Chrysler needed and couldn’t build on its own.   Like many buyer quality is an issue.  I believe this is the most important segment of the market.  Unlike anything is Chrysler’s line up, the Dodge Dart is the first car someone is likely to own.  If the experience is positive, they’re like to purchase another Chrysler product.

However if it is a poor experience they may never purchase a Chrysler or an American car again.      With so much resting on this first child (The Dart) I would have offered this car with a  better warranty.    The current warranty is your basic 3 years 36,000 miles   Like Hyundai ,I would feel better if  the new Chrysler offered a warranty that would say to consumers  trust  us.


BIG MAN RIDES: 2012 Toyota Corolla (the big mans says ouch!)

To answer the obvious question…

If your a big man, why would you drive or rent a small car?   Well one, I like small cars, two I’m cheap.

The Toyota Corolla in its present form has been around since 2006 and looks it.   The compact and sub-compact segment is  one of the hottest with nearly a dozen new models introduced in the last couple of years, but don’t cry for the Corolla, its is the best selling car in the world, there are more Corolla’s on the road than Volkswagens Beetles.

The Corolla ,in my opinion is the most important car in  Toyota‘s line.  The car is bulletproof, there are faster cars, cars that handle better but  few are as consistently reliable as the Corolla.    The natural progression is to trade up to the Camry or one of Toyota’s SUV‘s or Trucks.

My Corolla was the mid level LE.  While the control looked dated they were functional and you didn’t need to look for a manual to turn on the radio.    The fit and finish in my Corolla was un-Toyota like with gaps along the dash.  Like the controls, the transmission was dated an old skol 4-speed.

 Big Man vs the Corolla

Six feet four inches tall and over 300 pounds meets America’s Sweetcar.   The initial meeting wasn’t pretty.  My rear end and my head had issues with the Toyota.   After a couple minutes  backing  in was the best way to enter the car.  Inside width wasn’t a problem for the big man, however there wasn’t enough leg room, after adjusting the seat the space was tolerable.

Everything about the car was old skol.   The 132 horsepower 1.8 liter for cylinder was more that adequate for Seattle’s short on ramps.   The old skol four speed transmission was  very good without any abrupt downshifts.  Ford should dump their clunky 6 speed automatic in the Focus and drop this honey in.    The ride was quiet and a bit  on the soft side.  The electric power steering was ok, handing was sound..    In the rain, I found the disc/drum brakes grabby. The 12.i cubic inch truck was well finished.

Radio controls are straight forward with good size buttons…   Sound was fair, missing was Bluetooth.   Six airbags surround the car.  Corolla has a four star crash rating.    Mileage figure for the Corolla 27 city and 34 highway.

The 2012 Toyota Corolla is a very dated car. An all new model will be dealers showrooms by later summer early fall.  If your a big and tall man, the Corolla may not be the car for you.   I pulled over several times due to leg cramps. However, if your a normal size man or women with a couple of young children, you can’t go wrong with this car.  Its soild resale value and its reputation for dependability alone, should make it on to your list of consideration.

Corolla’s start about 16,ooo, the tested car was 17,565.  With an all new model due out soon, discounts are available.

2012 Toyota Corolla best Corolla ever?

Despite its age, the Corolla is till a very competitive car. While most cars have six speed transmissions, the Corolla’s does a good job and in my two day drive, I averaged 27 mpg which is outstanding.

To stay competitive in the car wars, The Japanese and German automakers has recently discontented (cheapened) their new models. The 2011 Honda Civic was one of Consumer Reports highest rated small cars  the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta was also well-regarded.  Both cars were redesigned for 2012 and both cars are now some of the lowest rated small cars tested by the magazine.


Honda needs to fix focus on building desirable, sporty cars

It’s impossible to overstate the chill that ran through Honda when the new Civic flunked Consumer Reports’ compact car comparison test last week.

The Civic is Honda, in much the same way that the F-150 pickup is Ford. It’s the cornerstone of Honda’s reputation and the best-selling car in the company’s history.

I’d say that Honda gets pneumonia when the Civic catches a cold, except that this is the first time the Civic has even sneezed in its 39-year run as the company’s icon-in-chief. It was an unquestioned bastion of dependability, efficiency and value.

So Honda had a problem when Consumer Reports’ headline proclaimed, “The Honda Civic rolls backward while the Ford Focus pulls ahead.”

Consumer Reports’ respected director of automotive testing David Champion squeezed a little lemon juice into that paper cut: “While other models like the Hyundai Elantra have gotten better after being redesigned, the Civic has dropped so much that now it ranks near the bottom of its category.”

This isn’t the first sign of trouble at Honda. It’s been years since the company launched a real hit. The strongest vehicles in its U.S. lineup are arguably the Odyssey minivan and Pilot SUV. That sounds more like a description of Chrysler in the bad old days than the inventive little company that became Japan’s best automaker.

The technical leadership and innovation that once distinguished every Honda have been in short supply. Competitors from Ford, GM and Hyundai to Volkswagen have surged ahead in drivetrain technology. That should have been a wakeup call to one of the world’s great engine makers, but Honda didn’t seem to notice as leadership slipped from its hands.

Honda defined affordable, efficient performance for a generation. Its reliable, efficient, responsive and sporty cars became the smart choice for practical buyers and cost-conscious enthusiasts.

It needs to refocus and buckle down to regain that status.

Instead, Honda went into denial.

“We fundamentally disagree with their suggestion that Civic doesn’t rank among their recommended small cars,” Honda sales boss John Mendel wrote in a memo to dealers.

Two quick points:

• Consumer Reports didn’t “suggest” the new 2012 Civic is inadequate; they flat-out said it, declaring the new car worse than its competitors, and in fact, worse, than the previous-generation Civic.

• Only CR gets to decide which cars earn its coveted “recommended” status. Honda is free to dislike the result. It does not get to re-order the results of CR’s tests. The bottom line: Honda recommends the Civic; Consumer Reports doesn’t.

Honda also complained that CR tested only one Civic model — the LX, the best-selling Civic. The memo says “customers can literally find a Civic that meets a variety of needs and interests.”

As endorsements go, that ranks with, “Of all the people I’ve ever met, you’re one of them.”

You may think I’m nitpicking Honda’s choice of words, but words matter, especially when they tell you how a company responds to a problem.

Ford was the last automaker on the receiving end of this kind of ire from CR when the magazine slammed the Explorer SUV earlier this year.

“We take all feedback — including Consumer Reports’ — seriously and will use it as we continuously improve all of our vehicles,” Ford said at the time. Since then, the company has made several software updates to improve the system. More are in the works.

Honda should take notes.

Mark Phelan/Detroit Free Press