2019 Ford F-150- Let Freedom Ring

Ladies and gentlemen, the truck before you is the most popular vehicle in all of America. This is the Big Kahuna. The automotive heavyweight. The Big Cheese. The Big Enchilada. The Top Dog. It’s what every new car strives to be; popular and a huge moneymaker. And this is not just a fluke. Year and year, two things are certain; we’ve completed another circle around the Sun and the Ford F-150 was, yet again, number one in U.S. sales. The F-Series has been the best selling truck since 1977, and best selling vehicle, of any kind, since 1986. Last year alone, over 909,000 F-150’s found their way from the bustling Dearborn and Kansas City factories into driveways. Those numbers are more than double of the best selling passenger car, the Toyota Camry, and more than the entire Hyundai brand. Yeap, the F-150 couldn’t be more American if it played the Star Spangled Banner and had bold eagles released from its rugged bed. It was time to get acquainted with this American all-star to learn how it gets its mojo.

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2018 Nissan Versa- The McDaddy of Small Cars

Someone at Nissan must’ve been paying attention to Ray Kroc’s business playbook for McDonald’s; sell ’em in big volume, sell’ em cheap, and- oh, yeah- sell ’em in big portions. For the better part of this decade, the Nissan Versa has tenaciously defended its title as America’s most affordable car. Against a dwindling legion of subcompacts, such as the Chevrolet Spark and Mitsubishi Mirage, the Versa has stubbornly undercut the price of admission by several hundred dollars year-after-year. Compared to the competition, the Versa has always boasted more interior room, a larger engine, and, for American tastes, a more formal sedan instead of a chintzy, poverty-spec hatchback. The tactic worked, and the Versa is handily the best selling subcompact in the country. Since the debut of this second generation in 2012, Nissan has moved over 660,000 Versas. Impressive for a category that is often the butt-of-late night jokes. So I was thrilled to inherit the keys to a Versa sedan and see what makes the country’s cheapest car, about a third of the cost of the average new car, tick.

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2019 Dodge Grand Caravan- Long Live, the Minivan King

Throughout the pages of automotive history, there’s a handful of icons that forever changed the driving landscape and society. The Ford Model T, for example, was the first vehicle that made car ownership obtainable for the masses; not just the elite. The Pontiac GTO spawned the muscle car craze over 50 years ago that continues to this day. The Toyota Prius became the first hybrid that was a household name and enlightened the public that hybrids were practical and not just science experiments. But what about the lowly minivan? We take them for granted today as the go-to, soul-sucking choice for parents who have given up on life. But at one time they were nothing short of revolutionary. The Dodge Caravan, when introduced in 1984, was a breakthrough in packaging and kickstarted the minivan craze. Now that the market and Caravan have matured over the years, let’s see how the Granddaddy of minivans stacks up.

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2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen- The Diesels of Our Lives

What we have here are the makings of a television soap opera. Or for the Mexican-built Jetta Sportwagen, a “telenovela”. The little humble, red wagon that you see in the picture above was the subject of lust, desire, betrayal, and scandal. There were a few plot twists that emerged during the Sportwagen’s tenure in the VW lineup until it was discontinued in 2014. Those bombshells lead to obtaining the keys for this five-year-old grocery-getter from a rental lot in 2019. That’s right, this is not an old review that was stashed away in the Disney Vault. It’s a fresh writeup about a model that has not been manufactured for half a decade. But it has an interesting story that forever influenced the automotive landscape and should be shared. This blog rarely dips its toes into politics and chemistry, and as much as I’d love to just dwell on the Jetta’s qualities, it’s unavoidable in this juicy tale.

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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe- The Zia Sun Still Shines

It was only befitting that our test car in the proud state of New Mexico was the all-new 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. Refer to your geography books, or what you learned in sixth grade, and you’ll recall that Santa Fe is the capital of the self-proclaimed “Land of Enchantment”. Aside from sharing the same namesake, the city and the vehicle each have historical significance. Founded in 1610 by Spanish colonists, Santa Fe retains its title as the oldest U.S. state capital after it became the seat of government for the new colony of Nuevo Mexico. Debuting for 2001, the Santa Fe marked a major shift for Hyundai when it became the brand’s first, and currently longest-serving, SUV. But that’s where the similarities end. One is made of abode. The other is primarily steel. The city has 65,000 inhabitants. The car can only hold a maximum of five. But wait! Isn’t the Santa Fe capable of holding seven?! While that was recently true, it’s also marks a change in the Santa Fe’s evolution as it enters its fourth generation, and like the city, reflects back on its humble roots.

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2019 Hyundai Elantra- Bizarre Triangle Love

There’s a death chant for the sedan across America. More and more car buyers are discovering the attributes and conceived rugged image of crossover SUV’s and migrating from the traditional sedan in droves. Case in point, Ford has pledged that they will discontinue all of their cars (bar the Mustang) to…ahem….focus solely on trucks and CUV’s by 2020. Rumours circulate that GM may follow suit. But don’t tell Hyundai and their buyers. Of the seven vehicle lineup that they offered in 2018, including three SUV’s, the Elantra was easily the best selling model for the brand and 7th best selling car in the country. Over 200,000 found homes last year, outpacing the next runner-up, the Tucson compact crossover, by more than 65,000 units. Of all the Hyundais sold in the U.S., one in four was an Elantra. For every Velostar that left the dealer, they were able to move 20 Elantras. You get the idea; the Elantra sells! Against all odds and the writing on the wall, the second-smallest Hyundai is tenaciously bucking the trend. But what makes buyers keep coming back for this compact sedan? Let’s find out.

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2018 Jeep Renegade- Please Like Me

Ahhhh…… the Renegade. There’s already a collective, uncontainable tribal chant from diehard Jeep devotees with this car, and this review. “That isn’t a real Jeep!” is the universal outcry.

“It’s a Fiat! It’s not a real Jeep!”

“It’s not American! It’s not a real Jeep!”

“It can’t off-road! It’s not a real Jeep!”

Okay, okay! Let’s get all of this out in the open before discussing the Renegade any further. No, it is not a Wrangler. It never was intended to be and never will. The Wrangler will always hold the title as the most iconic and capable Jeep out there. But, with Wrangler prices skyrocketing north of $40k and becoming unobtainable for the masses, this little critter starts below $20k and is intended for budget minded buyers and soft-roaders who can’t afford the “real Jeep”. The two products do not overlap or compete, and the Renegade is not replacing the Wrangler anytime soon (unlike the situation 30 years ago when Ford planned on replacing the beloved Mustang with the Probe). Sure, it’s built in Italy on a platform shared with the Fiat 500X. Yet Jeep has beefed up the suspension, raised the ground clearance, and added the same 4WD systems that are shared with other noteworthy Jeep models, namely the Cherokee. Sure it’s the first Jeep product ever built outside of North America, but this is becoming a globalised world. Now that all of our panties aren’t in bunch, let’s move on…..

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