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Rotten Rental Car Review: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T


Sometimes the best option is to rent a car when you travel. I knew that for this trip I wouldn’t have time to properly review a car, so I didn’t even bother trying to ask for a press mobile. I wouldn’t have been able to do it the justice of a proper review. Yes, rental is the best option for this trip, this time. This was a two day turnaround trip to go see my mother for a surprise birthday visit. My step-father and I had made the plans and I’d be flying in for the weekend to surprise her. Flying out of Reno on Friday morning, landing in O’hare a few hours later, and flying back on Sunday in time for work on Monday. It’s an exhausting trip, but it was worth it to see the surprise on my mother’s face when I greeted her to her celebration.

While I was taxiing the runway, my wife was making arrangements with Enterprise for me to have a “Jetta or similar” waiting for me when I arrived at the rental counter. When I arrived, I presented my reservation number and they walked me out to the lot to select a car. They said “All we have in the midsize class right now is a Kia Soul and a VW Bug”. I’m sorry, but are either of those actually considered midsize? I look over a few spots and see a Jetta, so I point it out to the nice young lady helping me and say “What about that one?” She swiftly replies that this Jetta is a “Premium midsize”. Um… If my reservation says Jetta or similar, shouldn’t I get a Jetta if there’s one available? She wanted to upcharge me another 10 bucks a day for the privilege of driving the car I’d had on my reservation. I don’t understand rental companies or their stupid rules. She acquiesced and I got my Jetta at the reserved rate. Here we go, Chicago to Southwest Michigan and back in two days. Join me, will you?

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2002 Corvette Z06 – Plentiful Power Priced Right

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Usually when you meet your heroes you end up highly disappointed. I’ve driven all sorts of Corvettes ranging from a 1969 427 Stingray to a C4 ZR-1 and a C6 ZO6 at Bondurant. Sure I’ve driven C5’s before and yes the automatic is as terrible as everybody says that it is, but the Z06 was a bit of a Corvette unicorn for me. Years ago I got to see brand new C5 ZO6’s on the dealer showroom but I never did get a chance to sample the flavor of the C5 Z06… until now.

Friend of Hooniverse Rick Radcliffe went out and bought one. And his very clean driver example finally had me behind the wheel of a car that I’d lusted after for quite some time. The C5 Z06 has one of the highest levels of performance capability you can find on the affordable used market at the moment. If you want cheap speed with high levels of handling in a lightweight package, you really can’t do wrong with a Z06.

Does this level of performance bargain awesomeness have the best bang for the buck on the used market? Watch the video to find out.

[Many thanks to Rick Radcliffe for supplying his Corvette and allowing me to perform the ceremonial transformation of six year old Bridgestones… into smoke]

Miserable Review: 2014 Seat Leon 1.6 Diesel.


This is the first time I’ve ever embarked upon a car review while I’ve been in an absolutely foul mood. Usually you’re plied with goodies and refreshments and then handed the keys by a beaming member of a manufacturer press relations team. They then send you out on either a well chosen set of lightly trafficked roads, a private circuit or maybe a proving ground, and usually you’ve allocatedyourself enough time to build some kind of meaningful relationship with the review subject.

This review, however, started out with me being two and a half hours away from an appointment, in a city separated from me by 120 miles of near-stationary traffic.

So it all starts rather badly, and that’s not just the writing.

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Used Car Reviews – 2001 Peugeot 206 GTi

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As an owner of a Peugeot 205, the 206 has always interested me ever since I got my little Pug. I’ve only ever driven a 206 Roland Garros – a posh special edition – and that was when the car was new a decade ago, so I haven’t had a clear comparison to how they stack up next to each other. As this black example of a cheap 206 GTi popped up for sale, I wanted to go over and have a look. Could it capture some of the 205 feel, or would it be an unjust comparison to begin with?

The initial problem with the 206 is that it isn’t a 205. Thing is, no other car than a 205 is a 205. The first two numbers and the “GTi” add-on mean the 206 GTi travels on dangerous ground. Peugeot couldn’t really replace the 205, so they brought in the 106 as a smaller, somewhat overlapping replacement and kept making the 205 as long as it was in any way viable. The 106 grew old and uncompetitive, so another replacement had to be ushered in, and about that time Peugeot’s design language and general demeanour had grown up to favour the more ballooned and stretched look, just like the 307 that followed the ’90s 306. That is an another can of worms that eventually led to the all-face, no-trousers 407, but it’s fairly obvious they couldn’t keep making the 205-306-405 set forever. You know they tried.

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Used Car Reviews: 1998 Skoda Felicia Combi


We need a wagon. It seems. Despite it being just the two of us, there apparently needs to be a vehicle in the household that can hold a full length mirror, or a ladder, or anything that’s long enough not to fit in the 205. As we moved house this month, the 205 accommodated a ridiculous amount of stuff and thiiiingggsss but there are length limits to its cargo capacity. “You have the Saab, don’t you?” I hear you ask. That’s correct, but it remains tucked under a protective cover in a garage on the outskirts of town, as I don’t want to rust it out during this Salton Sea Season. And it being a thirsty car for weekend trips at heart, it’s not going to endure the daily traffic light beating the 518i and 205 have been subjected to.

Enter a bewildering array of used cars currently on sale in this town, whittling away the ones with a mileage too high to my taste. Initially I checked out a 650 euro Citroën Xantia wagon with 265k, but as it was dirty as a doormat and had Citroën Xantia Rear Quarter Mudtrap Acne™ coming through, peppering the flank even much worse than the Activa, I didn’t even bother to take any pictures despite taking it for a short drive. The white Tempra remains on sale, too, priced at double its worth.

And as I had taken some shots of a Skoda Felicia some time earlier, I was reasonably eager to see this one-owner example for sale nearby. I hadn’t driven one of these, so it was an omission I needed to rectify.

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Used Car Review: 2007 Ford Escape XLT


Through circumstances too unimportant to go into, I’ve come to have a family member’s 2007 Ford Escape at my disposal for several weeks. So, I’ve recently been giving the Town Cow a rest and — for the most part — enjoying my time behind the wheel of Ford’s mini-ute.

The Escape is not a model most car enthusiasts would get excited about, and I initially was not expecting much. To this particular Escape’s advantage, it is a fully-optioned XLT, with the 3.0L V6, all-wheel drive, sunroof and leather seats. The extra options do help it feel slightly upscale, although it’s still not what you’d call luxurious.

This was the final model year prior to the Escape’s 2008 refresh, and outside this one contrasts its Orange Crush Pearl paint with the first generation’s rubbery-looking gray body cladding. It is starting to look dated, but it is not unattractive.

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Used Car Reviews – 1995 Fiat Tempra STW: Solution, Temporary Wagon?


It seems I’m dealing with themes of loss and alienation recently. No, it’s nothing of a too-personal matter, or something to do with the well-being of anyone human: no, we’re on a perfectly machine-related level here. My last posts dabbled with the logistics of selling my daily driver and coping with it: as of last night, I’m rendered laptopless. Laptop-less, not lap-topless. This here thing I’m using is my GF’s MBP, and I have to remain SFW.

The current understanding is that for some reason my HD is out of touch, floating inside the aluminum Apple shell and completely unreachable. I took my ailing MBP to the reseller where I got it, and it’s up to the warranty to bring it back to me none the worse for wear. Of course, some of my photo work is at stake since despite taking back-up measures with all my previous Apple products, this one had to survive on its own devices for slacktivistic reasons. But as 99% of my photos are already posted here, with a good bulk safely clouded over at Dropbox, I’m not super-bummed. Life happens, time to charge the camera and shoot more.

But this is only one of the current events closely related to change in my life. We’re also moving apartment in the near future, which means I could very well use a vehicle that would be capable of moving long, unwieldy objects like sofas and disassembled bookcases. Even if I already got my 205 back and it’s in rude fighting health, folding the rear seat won’t give me cavernous loadspace, no matter how box-shaped the car in fact is. Enter the wagon consideration, a first in my life. Enter the Fiat Tempura.

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Used Car Reviews – Forest Green 1986 Honda Accord on a forest stage


Way back when fuel was a mere one euro per litre – it’s at 1,6 right now – and I was a poor student, I used to daily drive a 1988 Nissan Bluebird. Pretty much the same thing as the Stanza sold in the States, it was a floaty, bargey, somewhat tired and rusty old thing, but one that was reasonably reliable and not thirsty for oil. One of the core competitors for the Bluebird was the 1986-released third generation Honda Accord, which blew everybody out of the water and made things difficult for every other Japanese carmaker, let alone the Americans. It deservedly became a big seller in its day, undoubtedly causing the Bluebird to be axed as it stood and replaced by a far more dynamic car, the Primera (G20 in American English)

Up until now, I hadn’t really driven one of these Accords with intent. I did move a friend’s super-rusty and super-tired, 50% Bondo Accord from one town to another around ten years ago, but it was so vague at that point I didn’t give it much thought. So, as another friend is now in that magical phase of Looking For a Reasonably-Priced Older Used Car (at this point, a heavenly light shines from above, an angel chorus can be heard and birds descend on his shoulders), I went to see this low-km example for sale in my town.

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Weekend Edition – 1996 Volkswagen Golf finds a new owner


In a couple recent posts, I’ve described the process of kicking tires with an AMC Rebel-owning friend. He desperately needed new wheels for the winter, as the matte black, deranged and generally weird AMC isn’t anyone’s idea for a commuter car. We tried out a number of Peugeots, but they didn’t seem to stand up for the job.

Finally, Mikko went for a 1996 Volkswagen Golf. Armed with my trusty camera, I went to take the car for an inspecting spin.

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Wagon Wednesday – 1996 BMW E36 328i Touring Executive


What we have here is a wagon to cherish. Belonging to a Dutch friend of mine, Michiel, it’s a 1996 BMW 328i wagon in black with Executive-spec leather and a manual gearshift. To his knowledge, there aren’t too many of its kind roaring the roads in his country, and it’s a good guess you would be hard pressed to find a doppelgänger in the States, too.

Having bought it rather affordably some time ago, Michiel is adamantly fixing it up to make it continuously just a little bit better. I was thrown the keys and told to go sample it myself on the twisty roads surrounding Altenahr, to see just how good it is.

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