Category Archives: Cheap Fun Cars

Fun enthusiast-aimed cars that can be had for under $30 grand

2016 Mazda ND Miata Club Review: Joy On Four Wheels

Mazda ND Miata Club 1

The original Mazda Miata brought driving enjoyment to the masses. Like the great British and Italian roadsters before it, the Miata offered the full wind-in-your-hair experience, but it did so without all of the reliability problems suffered by the european cars. It was a simple, affordable, enjoyable machine. They basically materialized fun, and gave it four wheels.

Some have criticized the Miata for being soft as a sports car, though, even saying that it isn’t really a sports car at all. For the original NA Miata in stock form, I have to I agree. It’s a lot of fun, and is surely a great roadster, but a stock NA Miata lacks the handling composure that really defines a true sports car.

As the Miata has grown and evolved over the years, Mazda has worked to make it more of a sports car, while keeping it a great roadster as well. When I took the new ND Miata out for a spin, it became clear that Mazda has finally found the right balance for the total Miata experience.

In some regards Mazda has taken the Miata back to its roots. In other ways it has benefitted from many modern technological improvements. All in all, I am confident in saying that it is the best Miata they’ve ever made. Here’s why…

Continue reading 2016 Mazda ND Miata Club Review: Joy On Four Wheels

2015 Subaru WRX CVT Automatic Reviewed (9.5/10)

2015 Subaru WRX Review by Mind Over Motor

This is the new Subaru WRX, and it is the one without a clutch pedal. As if that doesn’t seem bad enough, it doesn’t have a dual clutch gearbox or even a traditional automatic, no, this WRX has a continuously variable transmission (CVT), like the one you might find in a Toyota Prius or a Nissan Versa. And, you know what, it’s pretty damn good.

You might think I’ve lost my mind here, but let me set things straight with a little context. I am not going to say that the CVT WRX is better than the manual WRX, because it surely isn’t for hardcore driving enthusiasts. So let’s get that out of the way right from the start. Subaru still makes a manual WRX for their existing customers, and now it finally comes as a 6-speed (Hooray!). That, however is a fairly boring story to write — the manual WRX is a lot of fun, and the Pope is still Catholic.

I wanted to drive the CVT automatic because the 2015 WRX is the first WRX to be offered without a clutch pedal since 2008, and most of us know the 2008 WRX was a total embarassment. In fact, throughout the entire history of the Subaru WRX, there hasn’t been a decent automatic version… ever. So I had a fundamental question that needed to be answered: Is the new CVT automatic WRX any good at all?

Continue reading 2015 Subaru WRX CVT Automatic Reviewed (9.5/10)

2014 FIAT 500L Trekking Review (Grade: C+)

Fiat 500L Front Left

Fiat has been doing a pretty good job of marketing whatever new product they have.  They have come a long way from the cringe-inducing “Jenny From the Block” ads that were running a few years ago, to running ads with P.Diddy and a little kid to advertise their newest creation.  The 500 was a hit for them worldwide and in America, they’re certainly selling pretty well.  In fact, there’s been a new kid on the block for them in the past year or so now, the 500L, a four-door model designed with the small family in mind.  Fiat needs all the sales it can get right about now, as the 500L is in a tough marketplace and has not been getting a good amount of positive press.  I decided to take myself to the local Fiat showroom a few miles away and see what the fuss was all about. Continue reading 2014 FIAT 500L Trekking Review (Grade: C+)

2014 Ford Fiesta ST Reviewed (9.5/10)

Molten Orange Ford Fiesta ST Front View

There is a reason why cereal companies put toys in their cereal boxes. They know that kids don’t care what they eat, but they also know that little Jimmy won’t be leaving Wegman’s quietly until he gets his Iron Man action figure, and if his mom knows what’s good for her, she will pony up the cash for the cereal while her basic human dignity is still intact.

Of course, the kid will rip open the cereal box and dig out the action figure right away, but in the days after, he or she will be exposed to the cereal itself, the real product, and that will leave an impression that lasts long after Iron Man gets chewed up by the dog, and left in scattered bits around the yard. 

The same fundamental factor is of paramount importance in the world of hot hatchbacks. Let’s call it “tangible excitement,” something you can point to and say, “Wow that’s really cool! I want one of those!” 

Look at this Ford Fiesta ST and you will see what I mean. The basic Fiesta is a very good, but very boring economy car. Ford couldn’t just put a better engine and suspension in it and expect the ST version to sell. No, they knew it was important to put on a show. Give it an aggressive body kit, bright-colored paint with sweet Recaro racing seats, and put it out in front of the dealership for all to see. People will be pulling U-turns to come find out what it is, and if they can afford one.

Continue reading 2014 Ford Fiesta ST Reviewed (9.5/10)

2004 Volkswagen Mk4 Golf R32 Used Car Review

2004 Volkswagen Mk4 Golf R32 reviewed by Mind Over Motor
2004 Volkswagen Mk4 Golf R32 reviewed by Mind Over Motor

What is it?

This is the original R-rated Volkswagen. After four generations of GTIs, VW decided that something more was needed to compete with the more serious performance cars of the world. Interestingly, the R32 was the first production car to feature a dual-clutch gearbox, although the US only received R32s equipped with manual transmissions. In total just 5000 mk4 Golf R32s were imported to US shores, making them one of the rarest cars in their range.

How’s the R32’s driving experience?

In short: fantastic, and a lot better that I had thought it would be. I’ve driven both of this car’s successors, the Mk5 R32 and the Mk6 Golf R, and I have to say that the Mk4 R32 has a certain something that its replacements do not.

Continue reading 2004 Volkswagen Mk4 Golf R32 Used Car Review

Nick’s 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Review

2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

It has been nearly three years since I began working on Mind Over Motor, and for some reason I have not gotten around to reviewing the car I know the best in the world, my 2004 Subaru WRX STi.

For most, it would’ve been the very first car to review, but I wanted to focus more on finding ways to get other cars and setting our foundation around that. Having said that, I do think it is high time that I do a proper article on my beloved Subaru, and what better way to begin 2014?

Incidentally, this article will also debut a new style of car review for me, on Mind Over Motor. It is one with a question and answer structure that will hopefully be more conversational in feel. Let me know what you think of the new style, and any suggested improvements you may have in the comments.

So with that, lets start talking Subaru.

Continue reading Nick’s 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Review

Road Review: 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera (9.5/10)

1999 Porsche 911 Carrera 996
Photo by Dan Valanzola

The essence of the Porsche 911 hasn’t changed all that much over the years, and when something does change it usually stirs up controversy. The car you see here is my Dad’s 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera (996 generation), and it marks one of the most drastic inflection points in the 911’s history: the switch from air-cooling to water-cooling. Here in 2013, early 996s haven’t had the most love from collectors, and their value has fallen far more than most 911s. That said this is still a Porsche, and Porsche doesn’t make bad cars. I have driven many Porsches, ranging from a Cayenne V6 to the mighty 997 Turbo S. All of them have been extremely entertaining within their own context, and my dad’s car is far from an exception.

Continue reading Road Review: 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera (9.5/10)

Test Driven: 2013 Honda Civic Si Coupe (7/10)

2013 Honda Civic Si Coupe

The Honda Civic has gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years, being the stereotype platform for “ricers”. In fact I actually just saw The Fast and The Furious, the film that single handedly started the ricer craze, shortly before writing this article. In popular culture Honda Civics are always modified in ridiculous ways, looking like something you’d find in a kid’s cereal box. However, those who really know about Honda’s history know that Honda has made some really fantastic cars over the years. There were of course the NSX and S2000, which were both rear wheel drive. But there have also been cars like the Integra Type R, which is one of the best handling cars of all time despite it being front wheel drive. The fact is that Honda really does have the proven knowhow to make a fantastic car. They have had a lot of racing experience over the years, and history has proven that when they make something good, it is usually really good. So with this in mind, I decided to try out the current Honda Civic Si to see how it fits in with Honda’s past lineage of affordable performance cars.

Continue reading Test Driven: 2013 Honda Civic Si Coupe (7/10)

Test Driven: 2012 VW Beetle Turbo vs 2012 VW GTI

I first saw the new VW Beetle up close at the New York International Autoshow this past year. I was very excited to see that the new version had become more of a sporting machine and less of a decorated flowerpot. On the surface the Beetle is on the same chassis as the Golf, and the one I was interested in, the Beetle Turbo, basically has the same mechanics as the famed GTI. This made me wonder how similar they really were to each other because I know VW would not want to steal sales from themselves. I decided to go try them both out back to back and compare.   Continue reading Test Driven: 2012 VW Beetle Turbo vs 2012 VW GTI

Test Driven: Volkswagen GTI DSG

GTI (Front)

Hot hatchbacks represent one of the market’s easiest ways to get into a brand-new sporty car without paying an exorbitant price.  Although the segment has expanded drastically over the years, Volkswagen is still the company that seems to win every single comparison test.  The GTI is the yardstick by which the others are measured, and I decided that I should go and find out why. Continue reading Test Driven: Volkswagen GTI DSG