Fun at Mazda. I always like prowling Mazda's Auto Show exhibit. I don't think this company, part of the Ford family, can design an ugly car; all of them are at least sanitary, and some of them, particularly the 3 hatchback and the previous generation Miata, are some of the prettiest cars out there. One of the featured cars on display was a new Miata (not as nice looking as the old one, but still quite nice), painted a very handsome shade of dark blue over a tan leather interior. It was up on a riser, rather than standing on the floor, and I thought I knew why. Rather than being a roadster, like any other Miata I've ever seen, this one was a hardtop coupe. Sort of cool, I figured, and a logical new companion model, sacrificing some of the fun of the open car for the improved dynamics, lighter weight, and creature comforts of a fixed roof car.
I turned away and started looking at a CX-9, a very swoopy and cool looking minivan style item.
Well, I may not be the most rational person on the continent, but I think I know a closed coupe from a roadster when I see one. There was something funny going on here, and my suspicions were soon confirmed. Some bright guys and gals over in the home islands have figured out how to fit a retractable hard top onto a Miata. The salesman was glad to demonstrate it for me-- three roof pieces, plus a glass backlight, that fold and unfold in a complicated dance, forming a sealed hardtop with almost invisible seams that could pass as design elements, then disappear into the rear of the car where they are covered by a tight body panel. The whole thing takes about 15 seconds and it's cool as hell to watch.
There are plenty of retractable hard tops out there, Mercedes has several, GM has one on the new G6 convertible and VW on the Eos, and so on. But to fit one on something so tiny as a Miata, and have it work so quickly in such an elegant way, with a single touch of a button, well, that's very nifty. You have to be stopped, though-- no taking it up and down in traffic, but I suppose one can't have everything.
A car I was expecting to see. I was expecting to see the new Jeep Patriot, and I was expecting to like it.
I did see it, and I did like it, but not as much as I would have if I hadn't just discovered something that does more or less the same thing in a tidier way. However, the Patriot is still very cool: if you like that kind of thing it's definitely the kind of thing you like. The thing being the old slabsided Jeep Cherokee. There's a lot of them still out there, and they have some very passionate fans. This little Patriot is pretty much a 7/8 or 5/6 copy of the traditional Cherokee and it's just as cute as all get out.
However, underneath it's still a Caliber, with that very odd relationship between the windshield, the dash, and the driver's position, and still a Chrysler, with a rather tacky interior which sacrifices refinement and ergonomics for 5 pounds of dubious "style" in a one pound bag. There are some other weirdnesses, too, like a CVT being the only automatic offered, and 4wd being an expensive option. If what you want is a Jeep, with the Jeep look and feel, this is the car for you, provided you drive a stick,(or like CVTs) and can put up with the windshield position. I'd probably test drive it if I was in the market.
But if I wanted a small, economical awd car with a great deal of charm, I'd also drive something else.
A car I was expecting to see, but not expecting to like: I'd seen this car advertised, and even seen one parked at the mall, but I don't remember being much impressed by it: the Suzuki SX4
But sitting in it made all the difference. Actually, Mr. Shark sat in it first, and hopped right out again, telling me to get in instead. Not his style, he said, but a great car for me. And I had to agree. It's one of those cars that fits me perfectly; all the controls are right where they should be, no muss, no fuss, and it has great sightlines. Check out the pix in the link-- those little extra windows at the front and rear don't just look cool, they really cut back on the blind spots and the car has HUGE truck size side mirrors. Full time awd, traction control, electronic stability, every kind of airbag, all standard-- with matching equipment it's $2K cheaper than the Patriot, and it has a good warranty that is fully transferable, which is good news for those of us who must buy used. It's got a regular automatic, too. Not much back seat leg room, but nobody's likely to ride back there much except the dogs, and they stay on the seat. Lots of cargo room, and the seats fold back.
It lacks the faux-tough pretend SUV styling and just looks like the handsome and slightly funky awd hatchback that it is. I did a little research later and found out why:
It's a damn Fiat, a Sedici ("Sixteen"), and it's got a Giugiaro body. That explains a lot, doesn't it? I always did like Italian cars. That this one is also a Suzuki is only to its credit; our previous Zook, Buzz, was a super little car that we had for 12 years and drove and drove and drove.
I may buy one of these someday-- or now, if I come into a pile of money somehow. I can't decide whether I want a red one or an orange one. It looks nice in white, too.
The new Lancer looks like an angry goldfish. I think they should call it that. "Mitsubishi Angry Goldfish" sounds cooler than "Mitsubishi Lancer". Or, if you want to be all Japanesy, "Enraged Koi".
Two of Mr. Shark's rechargable camera batteries are still rolling around inside a cranberry red Chrysler 300C; they escaped from his bag under sudden decelleration during one of the Chrysler Test Drives. I need to replace them, as it was my idea to take the ride. I also took a different drive in a new Sebring; riding in cars indoors is always fun, but I do not think I am going to buy a Chrysler. They are gimmicky and rather silly. I do not need a heated and cooled cupholder. I need a rational dash design and a minimum of creepy crawly plastic chrome.
Mr. Shark fits well in a Nissan Versa, but poorly in a Honda Fit. He still remains a Hyundai loyalist; if he had to buy a new car right now, it might very well be an Accent, like the one we sat in-- the only car at the show that still has manual locks and roll up windows, to my delight. What a nice, sane,and very cheap, little car. Mr. Shark commends Hyundai all around for displaying a wide range of vehicles with stick shifts, which were conspicuously absent from the other exhibits.
Next time: The whole Taurus issue, and wagony things