2017 Fiat 500 Abarth Ares by Pogea Racing

This is the souped up Fiat 500 that we’ve all been waiting for

The Fiat 500 Abarth is a cute little ride, isn’t it? It certainly looks the part of one, but being cute and cuddly isn’t the only thing appealing about the 500. It’s also understatedly customizable, which is why we’ve seen so many special edition iterations of the car, not to mention tuning programs from some of the best tuners in the business. Pogea Racing counts itself in the latter group, and it has a real doozy of a kit for the 500 that gives the subcompact hatchback an output of 405 horsepower and 328 pound-feet of torque. Seems fitting then that Pogea Racing has dubbed this creation as “Ares,” after the Greek god of war. This Fiat 500 Abarth is ready to rumble with the best of them.

The program has more than just a fancy name and ridiculous power at its disposal. It also has an extensive menu of carbon fiber parts for the exterior, a well-dressed interior that brings some life to the hatchback’s cabin, and suspension upgrades to help the car’s 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder handle all that extra power.

The bad news is that this isn’t a program that Pogea Racing is producing in big quantities. On the contrary, the tuner only plans to build five such 500 Ares models and the cost of building one doesn’t come cheap. The upgrades to the engine alone cost more than the car itself so you can imagine what the whole thing will fetch for, donor car and all.

Then again, a 405-horsepower Fiat 500 Abarth doesn’t come cheap, nor should it.

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2017 Honda Civic Hatchback – Driven

It skips the races and arrives at practicality

The Honda Civic has long been a go-to car for practicality and honest transportation. Sure, there have been several hyped models with plenty of horsepower and fun, but the vast majority of Civics are built to handle the daily grind. Say what you will, but there’s merit in that endeavor. Well, Honda knew its customers needed something outstandingly practical, but mixed with some flare and excitement – sort of a witch’s brew of pragmatic and provocative. Enter the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback.

The Hatchback joins the Civic lineup for 2017, two years after the tenth generation debuted for 2015. It shares the spotlight with the popular Civic Sedan and fun-loving Civic Coupe. The trio now gives customers a choice in body style, while still delivering that Civic personality. All three ride on the same platform and share powertrain options.

Since the Civic Hatchback is new, Honda sent an example to test for a week for evaluations. Our tester was the EX-L Navi trim and came equipped with Honda Sensing. Otherwise, the car had no options, giving a full taste of the Civic Hatch’s second-most expensive trim. Even still, the as-tested price only rang up $27,175. That’s not bad for a vehicle with crossover-like interior room, leather seats, tons of in-dash tech, all the latest active safety features, and a turbocharged engine that averages 42 mpg on the highway. Color us impressed.

So how did the 2017 Civic Hatchback do? Keep reading to find out.

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The new Honda Civic Type R made its debut at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, and aside from the usual aggressive looks and high-performance drivetrain, it came with great news for U.S. enthusiasts: it’s finally coming to North America! Come April 2017, and the Japanese hot-hatch made its U.S. debut at the 2017 New York Auto Show.

The North American showcase doesn’t bring anything new spec-wise, but the car displayed at the Javits Center sports the company’s iconic Championship White color. A trademark hue for high-performance Hondas, Championship White, has been used in the past on the first-generation Civic Type R, NSX Type R, and even the Acura Integra Type R. And, needless to say, the new high-performance hatchback looks gorgeous in it.

As a brief reminder, the Type R uses a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The four-banger mates to a six-speed manual with automatic rev-matching. Race-inspired goodies include adjustable suspension with a Dual-Axis front setup, aluminum lower arms, an adaptive steering system, Brembo brakes, and Continental performance tires.

Standard features will also include a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, navigation, sports seats, a leather steering wheel, and a 540-watt premium audio system. Pricing information is not yet available, but the Type R will likely cost around $35,000 before options. For reference, the base Civic model starts from $19,700, while the range-topping Sport Touring trim retails from $28,000. The Civic Si is expected to retail in the mid-$20,000 range.

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Volkswagen Updates the Golf Line, But Don’t Expect Too Much

One might argue that it’s all about the details...

The seventh-generation Golf is entering its sixth year of production for 2018, but instead of updating the model extensively or bringing about a new generation, VW decided to provide some minor updates across the whole line. This includes LED taillights and daytime running lights as standard equipment on the outside to go with new trim panels and material options on the inside. Those looking to upgrade their headlights can now opt for full-LED units as opposed to the Bi-Xenon option of yesteryear. But, when it comes to the 2018 model year, it’s really about technology. Entry level models across the line will see an upgrade that replaces the outdated five-inch infotainment screens with 6.5-inch units. SE and SEL trim levels will now get eight-inch touchscreen units, while the Golf R gets Volkswagen’s digital cockpit as standard equipment.

Golf S models will now get automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and a new chrome grille, while SEL models now include 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels and an auto-dimming mirror. Do I have any GTI fans out there? If so, you’ll be happy to know that the base Golf GTI gets a power update for 2018 that brings it up to par with the Sport and higher trim levels. Instead of getting 210 ponies and 258 pound-feet (on premium fuel, of course) the base model will now deliver the same 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet available at 4,700 rpm and 1,500 rpm, respectively. All three trim levels of the GTI still get the option of a six-speed DSG or six-speed manual. (Save yourself the heartache and just get the manual, okay?)

The Golf GTI S model gets a new stop-start feature when equipped with an automatic transmission and a new design for those 18-inch rollers. SE trim gets the performance brakes from the Golf R to go with the limited-slip VAQ differential. The GTI Autobahn trim gets new DCC suspension control. You’ll find all of the aforementioned updates, include the LED headlights DRLS, will show up in the Golf R.

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David Brown Revives the Classic Mini Cooper with Modern Tech

The 60-year-old design gets a modern, premium touch

Introduced in 1959, the original Mini Cooper revolutionized the city car market and became so popular that it remained in production until 2000. The nameplate was purchased by BMW and relaunched in a more modern form in 2001, but most enthusiasts agree that things haven’t been the same. Nearly two decades have passed since the original Mini was discontinued and David Brown Automotive is bringing it back to life.

Called Mini Remastered, the new old Cooper is more than just a reproduction replica. While carefully crafted to resemble the original car from 1959, the small hatchback has been remastered to "meet the demands of modern day life." The exterior may not give away the modern production process of the car (unless you look closely), but the interior has been redesigned to include all sorts of high-tech features, including a premium infotainment system.

The original engine has also undergone a complete transformation. Not only more powerful, it also runs smoother than Mini’s original unit, while returning improved performance and fuel economy. David Brown Automotive says that over 1,000 man hours go into creating each Mini Remastered. Let’s find out why.

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2017 Toyota Yaris

Mid-cycle facelift adds sporty cues, loads of tech, and new engines

The 2017 Geneva Auto Show had plenty of supercar action, but the Toyota booth had quite the nice surprise for performance enthusiasts, in the shape of the new Yaris GRMN. Based on the WRC-spec rally car, the GRMN is the Polo GTi and Fiesta ST competitor we’ve been asking about for years, but it wasn’t the only Yaris show in Switzerland. Alongside the performance version, Toyota also displayed the regular Yaris, which just received a mid-cycle update.

Now sporting a revised front fascia with more angular lines and a sportier bumper and larger taillights around back, the Yaris has taken a more aggressive stance against the competition. The fresh design is backed by a revised interior with new technology and an enhanced safety package, while the drivetrain department has news to share too. On top of the new GRMN model with the supercharged 1.8-liter engine and a mild update to the hybrid version, the Yaris also ditched the 1.3-liter unit in favor of a brand-new, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Powerful yet more efficient, the new unit also makes the Yaris quicker, which is a big plus with so many nippy options on the market right now.

All told, the Yaris gained quite the comprehensive update and it’s now one of the most modern and advanced propositions in this crowded niche. Find out how it compares with the competition in the my review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Toyota Yaris.

2018 Renault Megane R.S.

Renault is working on a high-performance version of the Megane Hatchback and you need to be excited about it

Renault has been pretty successful lately, with 2016 marking the debut of the fourth-generation Megane, which can now be had as a five-door hatchback, four-door sedan, and as an estate. Things are about to get a little juicier in the Megane stable, however, as we’ve just received some pictures of what we believe to be the Megane R.S. prototype putting in some work on public roads. Right now, the car is wearing all the gear of the Megane GT, but there are a couple of clues that give this model away as a prototype – like those center-mounted exhaust outlets poking out of the rear bumper, for instance.

The exhaust outlets aren’t all we have to go by, but we’ll get more into that later. For now, we have some very interesting possibilities to consider. First, let’s start off by saying that the Megane R.S. will only be available as a five-door hatchback since Renault has no plans for a coupe variant of the Megane, so there’s that. Secondly, we think Renault might have the Focus RS in its sights, and if so, the Megane R.S. will likely inherit an all-wheel-drive system to make it a true competitor. Furthermore, Renault also has a unique opportunity to put the Focus RS in its place if it can manage to muster up more than 300 horsepower.

Of course, the model you see in the pictures here is just a prototype that was cobbled together out of a Megane GT, so let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. For now, let’s take a look at these new pictures, talk a little about what we’ll see in the future, and make some predictions based on what we see and already know. Join me, just a little farther down the page.

Update 3/30/2017: Renault Sport just hit one million Facebook followers, so it saw fit to release a special video to celebrate. At the end, however, there was a little surprise. Check out the special section in our review below to see what it’s all about.

Continue reading to learn more about the Renault Megane R.S.

2017 Toyota Corolla iM – Driven

Scion passes the iM baton to Toyota with its dying breath

Ah Scion, Toyota’s youth-market sub brand. Now in 2017, we can only reminisce about bygone days when new Scion hatchbacks, coupes, and toasters sat in showrooms waiting for eager high-school teens to arrive with daddy’s money or senior citizens to stroll in looking for something more economical than their worn-out Mercury Grand Marquis. Those days are gone though, thanks to Toyota shuttering Scion and consolidating a few of its models into the Toyota fleet. One such example is the Scion iM.

The iM was all-new for the U.S. market in 2015, launched beside the Mazda-derived Scion iA sedan. The iM was basically a Toyota Corolla Hatchback, though you’d never hear a Scion salesman pointing that to potential buyers. The car featured the same, 1.8-liter four-cylinder as the Corolla, as well as the six-speed manual or optional Continuously Variable Transmission. But, sadly, the iM and iA couldn’t save the Scion brand. Toyota ended the brand’s 13-year run in August of 2016. Fast-forward to today, and Toyota has rebadged the iA, iM, and FR-S as the Yaris iA, Corolla iM, and the 86, respectively.

I recently got to sample the Corolla iM for a week – living with it during the daily grind. My tester came equipped with the six-speed manual transmission and zero options. It’s rare to have press fleet cars come so equipped. But rather than being a buzzkill from the usual whiz-bang gadgetry and overly complicated nature of many modern cars, the iM’s basic nature proved a welcomed reprieve and rather enjoyable. Heck, my tester didn’t even have floor mats. (I’ve heard Toyota is stingy with their floor mats.)

Of course, the most noticeable feature of this iM is its color – that big, bright, green color. Oh boy. Toyota Toyota calls it “Spring Green Metallic.” I call it ugly. Yet the color helped add a particular flare to car it wouldn’t have otherwise had. It also attracted everyone’s attention. I lovingly named my tester Snot Rocket.

Continue reading for the full driven review.

Buyer’s Guide: Mazda 3 vs Honda Civic Hatchback

Both hatchbacks are worth of praise.

SUVs have the world by storm, getting a second wind after the high-priced fuel crisis of years past, and ultimately forcing automakers to rethink their whole strategy. But, SUVS aren’t the only popular models on the market, as hatchbacks are still a big-ticket item as well. There are so many to choose from – models like the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, and even the Mini Cooper have found their way into the hearts of many, but there are two other players in this game that are worth your consideration, and those are the Honda Civic Hatchback and the Mazda3. Both offer aggressive styling, decent power output, and the ability to haul a decent amount of cargo or a few friends with ease.

The Honda Civic has been around for a long time, being introduced back in 1972. It was originally offered in a number of configurations, including three- and five-door hatchback form. The Civic itself has survived well over the years with the tenth-gen model being introduced for 2016. The Mazda3, on the other hand, is relatively a baby in comparison, being introduced just back in 2003. It saw its third generational shift for the 2014 model year and went through a minor revision for the 2017 model year. With Mazda’s latest design language and range of SkyActiv engines, the Mazda 3 is always ready to do battle with the other great hatchbacks in the world, but today we’re going to compare it directly to the Civic Hatchback and help you decide which one you should buy when it comes time to pull the trigger on your next big purchase.

With that said, let’s dive on in and take a good look at each one. Both come to the party with a lot to offer, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. Join me down the page, and we’ll get started.

Honda Releases Industrial Strength Civic Type R Teaser: Video

Smoke, lasers, and a techno-epic soundtrack set the stage for the CTR’s arrival

Hey! You there! Auto enthusiast! Are you excited for the impending invasion of the first Type R’d Honda to ever get shipped stateside? Do you dream of wings and red badges and 20-inch wheels and triple exhaust pipes? Do you spend your days fantasizing about 300 turbocharged ponies rampaging at the dip of your right foot? Well, you’re in luck, because all that goodness will soon become a reality with the arrival of the new Civic Type R. Word has it the first units will arrive sometime this spring, so to tide you over, Honda is offering up this 1-minute teaser video.

The vid is set in an industrial park and showcases the FWD maniac amid a host of hype-building effects – reverse smoke billows, red lasers... that sort of thing. It’s a fun little clip that does a good job in highlighting the CTR’s extreme exterior styling, as well as some of the goodies equipped in the cabin. But make sure to stick around for the end, where we get about eight seconds of burbling, popping exhaust noise as the CTR speeds away at full throttle, cracking through the manual six-speed shifter in the process.

Unfortunately, the whole thing isn’t much more than a shameless teaser to stoke the flames of desire amongst fans, and no new info can be gleaned from watching it. But hey – if you’re CTR lover, ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Continue reading for the full story.

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