Posts Tagged ‘small cars’

Japanese Car Auction Find – 1998 Mazda Miata (NB)

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, June 4th, 2015

1998 Mazda Miata

Earlier this week, we looked at a compilation of first-drive reviews for the all-new fourth-generation 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Critical opinions ranged from “It’s better in every way,” to, “the car’s only competitor is the death of fun.”

Today, we thought it would be fun to look back at one of the older Miata models from decades past – a 1998 Mazda Miata NB.

This would’ve been the first model year in the second-generation of Mazda’s iconic roadster. We love the fact that the auction find here is in the classic forest green… This is the color most closely associated with the second-generation Miata, production code NB. Although the new Miata is designed as in homage to the original first-generation model, in our opinion its looks are closest to that of these second-gen models… If nothing else because the new Miata lacks the first-gen’s hallmark retractable headlights.

1998 Mazda Miata rear

Mazda made a surprising number of updates for the second-generation Miata, even if the most noticeable is the change in headlights due to safety regulations. For example, the Miata NB featured superior aerodynamics with a drag coefficient of 0.36. This didn’t actually result in much of a performance increase though since the new Miata gained about 150 lbs and kept the same 1.8L turbocharged engine that Mazda added as an option to the Miata in ‘94.

However, that doesn’t mean that the mechanics weren’t without improvements…

For example, this would’ve been the first car to use Mazda’s original Variable Intake Control System. The engine was also slightly tuned up to output 140 horsepower instead of 131. The engine also featured a higher compression ratio, and several of the parts were changed out for superior alternatives. Mazda also fitted the NB Miata with new wheels, better tires and bigger brakes, including the addition of anti-lock brakes.

1998 Mazda Miata interior

Even though it was relatively small, all of these mechanical upgrades DID have a real-world, on-the-road impact for this generation’s performance… The new NB raced from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 7.8 seconds, more than a half-second faster than the NA. It also has a fully unlocked top speed of 130 mph, unlike the first-gen Eunos models in Japan and Europe which were artificially capped at 112 mph.

All in all, this 1998 Mazda Miata roadster is a car brimming with history. If you’d like to learn more about it, you can get a full translation of the auction sheet below:

1998 Mazda Miata auction sheet

“Interior C, first registered January 1998, VS version, FAT, AC, power steering, power windows, ABS, airbag, leather, stone chips in front window, interior grime, power windows not working, canvas top torn, wheels scratches, engine oil leak, worn and dented underneath vehicle, scratches and dents and wrinkles, spare wheel missing, marks as per map”


What?! Here’s Why the 2016 Mazda2 Won’t Be Sold in the US

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

2016 Mazda2

Get this – the new Mazda2 subcompact that’s gotten so much attention this past year will NOT be sold in the US in 2016. Even though Mazda is manufacturing the new Mazda2 just south of the border in their brand-new factory in Salamanca, Mexico, top US executives apparently “decided it wasn’t a priority,” at least according to an interview between Robert Davis, Senior VP of US Operations, and Automotive News.

Here’s why: it turns out that a Mazda doesn’t have the production capacity in their new plant to make enough Mazda2 hatchbacks for every single market. So, last year when the global office was allocating units of their new subcompact, executives from the US politely bowed out of the conversation. Davis says, “We could have had it, but we would have had a number that didn’t make much sense with 600 dealers and with the marketing it takes to launch a new car.”

In other words, Mazda US would’ve had to either A) only send Mazda2s to a select few of their dealerships, which doesn’t make sense, or B) go through the trouble of marketing a new car on a national level only to have a small number of models available per dealership, which also doesn’t make sense. Plus, Mazda only sold 13.5k units of the 2014 Mazda2 last year, which may be a 14% increase year-over-year, but not enough to make it worth the trouble, especially when Americans are trending towards crossovers.

“I wanted to allocate resources to those products that make us and our dealers considerably more profit than a Mazda2 does,” Davis said. “It’ll always be there if we need it.” Apparently, Davis doesn’t see the US branch of the brand needing a fuel-sipping subcompact anytime soon when the crossover segment is exploding and gas prices remain low.

2016 Scion iA sedan

Fortunately, the awesome new Mazda2 will still make it into the US, but not under the Mazda name. Remember the partnership between Mazda and Toyota? Well, Toyota will adopt the subcompact into their lineup as the new Scion iA sedan for the 2016 model year, which is built on the same platform and manufactured at the same Salamanca plant as the Mazda2.

Japanese Car Auction Find – 2014 Mazda Demio (aka. Mazda2)

2014 Mazda Demio

Although you won’t be able to buy the 2016 Mazda2 through any US dealerships, if past trends are any indication, the new car will do just fine in Japan. Anytime you have an extremely popular car, it always finds its way into auction houses, so come back this time next year and you’ll probably be able to get a near-new Mazda2 of your very own.

2014 Mazda Demio rear

In the meantime, this 2014MY is in excellent shape with an overall auction rating of 5, and a near immaculate exterior. This would’ve been the last year that the old pre-SkyActiv Mazda2 was available, but it was still a perfectly good car. Edmunds said the 2014MY was a good buy for its surprisingly sporty handling and simple-to-operate controls, plus an affordable price-tag (made even more so by being up for auction).

Want more details? Get a full translation of the auction sheet below:

2014 Mazda Demio auction sheet

“Interior B, exterior condition A, first registered October 2014, 13S model, FAT, AAC, first time in auction, MazdaSpeed front under skirt and rear roof spoiler and side skirts, rear view reversing camera, original navigation system, ABS, airbag, original alloy wheels, power steering, power windows, minor interior grime, scratches under bumpers, marks as per map”


This is Sparky – The Nissan Leaf Pickup You’ll Never Drive

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, September 20th, 2014

What do you get when you cross a Nissan Leaf with a pickup truck?

Sparky Nissan Leaf Pickup

Nissan has a unique way of approaching corporate team-building exercises. Where most companies might build a bike, Nissan’s engineers build a car. That car is Sparky the all-electric ute (utility coupe), a green car that’s used as a parts hauler at Nissan’s Reliability Group in Stanfield, Arizona. Although this cool little car probably won’t ever become commercially available, it’s too cool not to cover.

Nissan Sparky with Reliability Group engineers

In case it’s not obvious from the front-end, this eco-friendly cargo hauler started life as a conventional Nissan Leaf. It’s the brainchild of Rolland Schellenberg and Arnold Moulinet, two head durability and reliability engineers at the expansive Stanfield premises. It started when Moulinet had to kill two birds with one stone – he needed a team-building project and a small truck to haul parts around the Reliability Group’s sprawling campus. He instantly thought of a Leaf pickup, and after a bit of research with Mr. Schellenberg, he knew it could be done.

To build Sparky, the engineers took the body of a Nissan Leaf and fused it with the cab of a Titan and the bed of a Frontier. The project took several months, not made any shorter by the fact that neither engineer held back on the bells and whistles. In the video at the bottom of this post, you’ll see how they added a power rear-window to the back of the cab and woody-style beams along the truck’s bed.

Sparky Nissan Leaf Pickup rear view

On top of that, Sparky is fully wired with head- and taillights, and has a surprisingly stylish finish with a voluptuous rear-end and distinct rear spoiler.

Apparently, Schellenberg and the rest of Nissan’s humble engineers actually wanted to keep their creation a secret, but visitors to the Stanfield center had other ideas. “We tried to keep it a secret and be exciting for everybody. But we have visitors and they come and they see that track and they go straight to ‘What is it?’”

For those of you food like to create your own version of Sparky the Leaf-based ute, all you have to do is spend years in the field of rough-road vehicle testing. Moulinet explained that his “main job here is working on rough-road vehicles … I’m pretty good at taking cars completely apart the bare frame and putting them back together again to resume testing.”

To hear the full story of how Sparky came to be, watch the video below:


Is This The First Teaser Of The Infiniti QX30 Crossover?

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Yesterday Infiniti released the first teaser heralding an all new addition to the lineup coming at the 2014 Paris Auto Show in October. Although we only have this single image to go on, the timing of the unveiling and a few pre-existing rumors help paint a picture of what you can expect at the unveiling.

First, though, let’s get a good look at that teaser photo:

Infiniti QX30 Crossover Teaser Maybe

As you can see, all we have to go on is a darkened front grille with an unprecedented linear design, instead of the typical mesh grille we’ve come to expect from new Infiniti models. The lines around the grill are swoopy and well-defined, which leads us to believe that the car in question features an aggressive front-end, perhaps one that belongs on a smaller car.

With that in mind, let’s think about upcoming small cars in Infiniti’s lineup… The first one that comes to mind is last year’s Infiniti Q30 Concept (below), which the premium Japanese automaker has confirmed will begin production at the beginning of 2015. So, the Paris Motor Show car could be that production model.

2014 Infiniti Q30 Concept

But, Inifiti also hinted at a slightly larger crossover-version of the Inifiti Q30, which will reportedly begin production at the same time next year in Europe. The new compact crossover would be called the Infiniti QX30, and would be available in the US and Europe just like the new Q30.

Ultimately, it’s too soon to say exactly what this new Infiniti model will end up being. Depending on who you’re talking to, you might hear that it’ll be a large flagship SUV called the Infiniti Q80. Others will tell you that it’ll be the range-topping Porsche-rivalling coupe Infiniti has promised will come at some point. Or, it could be just about anything else… Infiniti recently committed to expanding their lineup by 60% over the next five years, which leaves us with a lot of possibilities.

Whatever it is, though, one thing is for sure: this is going to be a very important car for Nissan’s premium marque. The only statement that they made with the teaser is that, “Soon, Infiniti will share a vision – its soul – on a scale not seen before by the company.” Take that however you like, but it sure sounds important. We’ll keep you updated as it gets closer to the 2014 Paris Auto Show in a couple months.


US-Spec 2015 Toyota Yaris Revealed w/ Pricing & Pics

Posted by Stephen On Monday, July 28th, 2014

A couple months ago, Toyota unveiled the Euro-spec version of their facelifted 2015 Toyota Yaris (Vitz) hatchback. It was a great looking little car and we were excited for our European readers. However, we didn’t know whether the European model would make its way into the US, mostly because Toyota made a point of NOT naming it a global model.

Today we can finally put our worry to rest, as Toyota has finally confirmed that the Euro-spec Toyota Yaris will indeed make it into the US, albeit with some slight powertrain adjustments and different trim options.

In case you missed it the first time around, this is the new Toyota Yaris, now officially Euro-fied:

US 2015 Toyota Yaris

If you’re familiar with the 2014 Toyota Yaris, you’ll immediately notice what’s different – at least from the outside – about this new model. The front fascia has been completely and dramatically overhauled, complete with an X-shaped design, an enormous black mesh grille, a prominent front air intake all pulled together by a subtle chrome trim that flows between the LED headlights. The backend has seen some minor re-sculpting too, with restyled taillights to match the front.

What you probably won’t notice are the slight aerodynamic tweaks in the 2015MY Toyota Yaris. The body has been smoothed over for a lower drag coefficient, the suspension has been retuned and the body has been stiffened for all-around better handling.

2015 Toyota Yaris interior

Inside, the US-spec 2015 Toyota Yaris gets a much lusher interior with higher quality materials than those in the current model year. Even in these limited-view images you can see the classiness of this new interior. As you imagine yourself behind the wheel, remember that driver and passengers alike will enjoy a much quieter ride, too, as Toyota’s added new sound deadening material to stifle road noise. Plus, you’ll also find a reworked dashboard to make the drive more convenient and fun.

The only thing we’d change about the US-spec Toyota Yaris would be the engine availability. While European drivers will be able to choose between three different engines, the only option in the US will be a 1.5L four-cylinder with 106hp.

With all the new specs out of the way, let’s talk pricing.

The 2015 Toyota Yaris will start at $14,845 when it goes on sale sometime in the next couple months. For that price you’ll get the basic Toyota Yaris L trim, which comes with Entune infotainment through a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, plus AC, power windows, 60/40 fold-down rear seats and new sport-tuned Electric Power Steering for quick response.

The 2015 Toyota Yaris LE trim steps up the luxury with cruise control, keyless entry w/ engine immobilizer, restyled silver interior accents, steering wheel audio controls and, best of all, new 15-inch alloy wheels.

Finally, the sporty Toyota Yaris SE trim comes with all of the above plus new leather trim around the dash and custom fabric upholstery with glossy black accents. You’ll also enjoy projector headlamps, LED daytime running lights, a rear spoiler with an improved sport-tuned suspension (including large four-wheel disc brakes), and exclusive 16-inch gloss black alloys to match the SE’s interior style. Even with the highest trim with an automatic transmission, though, you still won’t pass $17,620.


Japanese Car Auction Find – 2008 Toyota Prius S 10th Anniversary

Posted by Stephen On Friday, July 18th, 2014

This week’s Japanese car auction find is a stunning 2008 Toyota Prius S 10th Anniversary Edition. With the first details now emerging of the next generation of Toyota’s flagship hybrid hatchback, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at how far we’ve come.

2008 Toyota Prius

As a 2008MY, this Prius falls right at the end of the car’s second generation, which spanned from the car’s US-launch in 2003 to the introduction of the third generation in 2009. In other words, this is the hatchback that America fell in love with during the half-decade leading up to the auto industry’s global recession. This is the model range that moved the Prius from an on-the-side enthusiast offering to a front-and-center flagship vehicle for the world’s largest Japanese automaker.

2008 Toyota Prius rear view

As we mentioned at the beginning, this particular Toyota Prius is an S 10th Anniversary special edition model. As you can imagine, Toyota went all out for their anniversary model and packed lots of juicy tech. goodies into a clean and eco-friendly package. It helped that Prius sales were starting to slip at the time, which incentivized Toyota to go the extra mile on this model.

You’ll find the following features in this 2008 Toyota Prius S 10th Anniversary model:

  • 1.5L hybrid powertrain with 107hp and 46mpg combined EPA rating
  • Auto-leveling HID headlights
  • Hard drive-based on-board navigation system
  • intelligent parking assist
  • SKS (Smart Key System) with original key
  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Automatic air conditioning
  • Power steering & windows
  • Toyota’s improved S-VSC (Vehicle Stability Control)
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel with unique beige interior
  • Cruise control
  • Hands-free phone connection

As a fun trivia fact, Toyota actually released two 10th anniversary models. Today’s Japanese car auction find is one of the original 2008MY S 10th Anniversary models, but the UK released their own limited edition “Prius 10” in 2010.

2008 Toyota Prius interior

Briefly looking over the auction sheet and at the pictures included in this post, you can quickly see that this is a really good find. The overall quality of the car has been rated as 4.5, which means the car is in very good condition. The auction sheet shows a total of three minor blemishes across the entire paint job, which explains its high rating. The interior also received a top-notch A grade, which tells us that it’s above-average considering the age and mileage.

If you’d like to delve even deeper into this 2008 Toyota Prius’ auction sheet, continue reading below. And remember, you can always follow along or research any of the other hundreds of Prii up for auction when you sign up for our free two-week trial access period.

2008 Toyota Prius auction sheet

Here’s the translation:

“Interior A, first registered Feb 2010, AT, AAC, original AWs, power steering, power windows, original TV, original navigation system, airbag, rear view reversing camera, push button starter, 2 x smart keys, seats have covers fitted, mig, rust underneath, DAA emissions code, scratches and dents, marks as per map.”


Toyota Europe Reveals Facelifted Yaris Subcompact

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Toyota has just released first official photos of their new 2014 Toyota Yaris, facelifted especially for the European market. It was just about a month ago that Toyota Europe teased the new Yaris with a futuristic digital rendering, and we’re happy to say that the production version (pictured below) looks even better than the preview.

2014 Toyota Yaris Facelift

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: as of right now, this makeover is exclusively for the European market. A slightly more refined version will make it into the JDM Vitz, but this is a European car. You can’t blame Toyota for focusing on that market; the European compact segment is a nut they’ve wanted to crack for years now. The Yaris has done a good job so far, but this makeover looks to take it to the next level.

As you can see, a lot of this makeover has to do with the front clip and Toyota’s new “Keen Look & Under Priority” design concept. That means that this Yaris looks a lot like the new Aygo city car; it has the same cross-shaped bumper design with a visual separation between the hood and grille. You’ll also notice new door moldings and you can choose between four different 15- and 16-inch alloys. Meanwhile in the back, the new Yaris features a redesigned bumper complete with a diffuser, a sculpted license plate garnish, and new LED taillight clusters.

2014 Toyota Yaris Interior

Like any true makeover, the Toyota Yaris also gets a much more refined interior to go with its cleaner and more modern exterior. Toyota says that the inside of the new Yaris features “some important modifications aimed at improving driving pleasure and onboard comfort.” Later on in the press release, they revealed that most of the interior changes are in the materials used. But the makeover also includes more color options, more and better technology, and a more comfortable drive.

Speaking of driveability, Toyota has done some major tinkering with the suspension to make the new 2014 Yaris feel stronger on the road. They’ve also improved the soundproofing throughout the body to make those superior driving dynamics translate into even more interior comfort and fun.

The only thing that hasn’t changed in the newly facelifted Yaris is the powertrain. Toyota will continue to offer the same two petrol engines (1.0L & 1.33L) along with a 1.4L D-4D diesel or hybrid. However, the smallest of the three engines, the 1.0L petrol, has seen some major improvements to lower CO2 emissions down to 99g/km.

The Yaris as Part of Toyota’s Global Vision

In addition to the news of Toyota Europe’s facelifted Yaris, Toyota also announced that this new vehicle marks the start of a new vision for how Toyota develops new vehicles on an international scale. The strategy has been in the works since 2011 when Toyota president Akio Toyoda announced his Global Vision initiative which aims to meet global needs through regionalization.

Sound like a bunch of corporate talk?

Well, it is. But the basic point is that under Toyota’s Global Vision strategy, different regions will take on unique responsibilities for researching and developing new cars. For example, Toyota Europe will now take the leading role in planning compact cars. Why? Because those cars are the most relevant to their demographic. We can expect to see this trend of regionalized development continue as Toyota continues to grow in both size and market share.

Finally, you might say. After all, Japanese brands have struggled for years in Europe for being, basically, dull. With EU designers and engineers finally being given more control over their local product, expect to see more style and improved dynamics rather than Japanese corporate blah.


Used Japanese Cars Officially Offer the Best Bang for Your Buck

Posted by Stephen On Friday, March 21st, 2014

Used Japanese Cars

Every year, Consumer Reports puts together a very helpful report of the best and worst used cars at a variety of price ranges. Last year, we saw a fair number of Japanese cars make their way into the top list, but this year the showing is even more impressive. Out of 28 total cars listed, 22 of them are Japanese-made. Of the six remaining, three of them are Korean-made and three of them are American-made.

Conversely, 15 of the 21 vehicles on Consumer Reports’ worst used cars list for 2014 are American-made, with the remaining being European-made. Not a single Japanese car made it onto the ‘Worst’ list.

Remember, these are their words, not ours. There’s no bias here whatsoever; we’re just reporting what they said. So, if there were any doubt in anyone’s mind that Japan makes the best cars – the cars with the most longevity and value – this should effectively change your mind. At least for this year.

Of course, it’s probably no surprise that among the Best Used Cars list, most of them were Toyota’s. 11 of the 21 were Toyota/Lexus, six were Honda/Acura, and the rest were split between Mitsubishi, Mazda, Infiniti and Subaru.

Although you will have to check out the full report for yourself if you’d like to see a detailed breakdown in each category, we’ve provided a bird’s eye view of the best cars below:

Best Used Cars & SUVs <$10k

Small Cars: ‘04-07 Toyota Prius
Sedans: ‘07-08 Hyundai Sonata
SUVs: ‘04 Toyota Highlander V6

Best Used Cars & SUVs $10k – $15k

Small Cars: ‘11-13 Honda Fit
Sedans: ‘09-12 Mazda3
SUVs: ’04-06 Acura MDX

Best Used Cars & SUVs $15k – $20k

Small Cars: ‘12-13 Hyundai Elantra
Sedans: ‘11-12 Toyota Camry
SUVs: ’06-07 Lexus RX

Best Used Cars & SUVs $20k – $25k

Sedans: ‘11 Toyota Avalon
SUVs: ’08-09 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

As you can see, quite a few Toyotas top the charts there. From the older, now-cheap Toyota Prius to the 2011 Toyota Avalon, Toyota has consistently maintained itself as a top contender for both new and used car reliability.

Just to give you a bit more background, Consumer Reports compiled this list based on tests that they’ve done on each of these vehicles over the years. They stated that every car had “above-average reliability for the model years shown,” even when the car was several years old. The other key metric that Consumer Reports required for a car to be listed on their best list was electronic stability control, a feature that they feel is required in order to safely recommend a car to family or friends.

As for the worst list, every car on it demonstrated exactly the opposite – worse than average reliability – except that instead of being unreliable for just one or two model years, that lack of reliability was consistently present every year from 2004 through 2013.

All in all, the dominance of Japanese cars isn’t all that surprising to us. It’s why you really can’t go wrong when you buy Japanese, and now it’s not just us saying that, it’s the most respected consumer reviewers in the industry.

(Of course, a great place to source Japanese used cars is the used car auctions in Japan. Integrity Exports can help you do this.)