Friday, April 1, 2011


Being as my NCAA basketball tournament predictions have been as accurate as a weatherman trying to predict where the next tornado is going to hit in Kansas, I thought I’d catch up on some car stuff today.
Here are some “mini reviews” on vehicles I have driven recently  (meaning within the past year) but are not going to have a full review on. I don’t have a system for deciding which cars I give a full review to and which ones fall in the mini category. It just happens.
Scion tC
The Sction tC was the third entry in the Scion (pronounced sigh-on) lineup (pronounced line-up) and the first one that looked like a regular car. It followed the xA (no longer in production) and the boxy but wildly popular (among the younger generation) xB.
The tC was followed by the xD, and soon the iQ (Scion‘s answer to the Smart ForTwo) will follow.
The tC essentially is a coupe version of parent company Toyota’s big sedan seller, the Corolla. Toyota doesn’t make a coupe Corolla (or a coupe Camry, for that matter), so if a coupe is what you’re looking for you should sidle on over to the Scion showroom.
The tC is a fairly roomy couple with good trunk space. It looks nice and sporty, but performance from the 2.4-liter four cylinder engine is so-so. Fuel mileage is 23 mpg city, 31 highway. That’s not hybrid territory but isn’t bad.
The most surprising thing about the tC is its price. It starts at just over $18,000. Frankly, I had driven it for a few days before taking a closer look at the Munroney and was shocked to see the $20,169 price tag for my test vehicle (the extra cost was for the six-speed automatic transmission over the manual).
Just judging from the somewhat spartan interior, I had put the tag more in the $15K-$17K range at tops. But that’s what you’re paying for the xB and xD these days. I think that’s a bit much as well.
Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
The Lancer is Mitsubishi’s entry in the economy sedan segment, a little more performance-oriented vehicle than normally found in the class.
The Lancer Sportback takes the Lancer up a notch with a four-door hatchback version offering a bit more in the way of fun-to-drive quotient.
And the Lancer Ralliart is at the top of the Lancer Sportback chart when it comes to performance with its 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine pumping out 237 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque.
That’s a lot of punch for a vehicle weighing in at under 3.600 pounds, and the result is a 0-to-60 mph time in the very low six-second bracket. The engine is mated with an automated, dual-clutch manual transmission with paddle shifters.
Of course, you’re going to pay for that performance in two ways.
One is up front. The 2011 Ralliart trim version starts at just over $28,000 including destination and delivery charges (and just who doesn’t include them?). That’s $11,000 and change more than the base Sportback and about $8,000 more than the GTS trim in between.
The other is in mileage. The Ralliart is rated at 17 mpg city, 25 highway compared to the base Sportback’s figures of 24/32 (with a manual transmission).

It’s a lot of fun to drive, though.
Mazda long has been recognized for putting performance in surprising packages, like the Mazdaspeed3, another entrant in the sport hatchback segment.
It’s equipped with a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine that pumps out 263 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, and with that much power going to the front wheels there’s a tendency for a good amount of torque steer to come into play.
You want to pay attention and keep a good grip on the wheel if you’re making a quick entry into traffic and making a turn from a standing stop.
The Mazdaspeed3 and Mitsubishi Ralliart would be a good match in a drag race, not that I am suggesting such a thing. Like the Ralliart, the Speed3 has 0-to-60 times in the low six-second bracket. Fuel economy is rated at 18/25.

The only transmission offered is a six-speed manual, which some reviewers have seen as a drawback. I guess I’m still old-fashioned, but I like the old-time manual even over automatics with sequential manual shift capability.

The interior accoutrements reinforce the emphasis on the performance aspects of the Speed3 (check out the pedals) but living to its hatchback heritage, it has nice stowage capability, up to nearly 43 cubic feet with the second row of seats lowered. There’s even 17 cubic feet behind them when they are raised.
The Mazdaspeed3 starts at $23,700 for 2011, which is largely unchanged from the redesigned 2010 model.
If you would like to read more car reviews, and not just written by me, check out our media association website at
It has a selection of videos as well as other automotive news.

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