In this edition of Ask Nathan:
- Towing with a hatchback?
- Manual or automatic transmission for the Jeep Wrangler?
- Is the Acura ILX a good entry professional car for me?
Today’s first question comes from a fan who is thinking about towing with a hatchback as opposed to buying a pickup truck.
Q: Hey guys,
I love your videos, and have watched many of them now that I’m considering buying a new truck.
However, after some soul searching I’m certain that I only actually need the utility of a truck maybe once every couple of months.
Occasionally I need to haul something back from Home Depot or carry some furniture around. Like a lot of people who might otherwise get a truck, I don’t go off-road, and I don’t haul in bad weather.
So, in my case, it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to spend extra tens of thousands of dollars on a truck when an inexpensive hatchback will function much better at what I need most – hauling one or two people, and a dog or some luggage through city traffic in a safe and fuel efficient manner.
So, my question is – can an inexpensive hatchback (say a Versa Note) tow a small 4×8 utility trailer, loaded with something like a washing machine or a small stack of sheetrock for short distances over relatively flat terrain, at low speeds, in good weather?
I’m serious! Because if it can, I don’t need a truck at all. I know the manufacturers will say “no” and it would get weird looks, but the Versa Note has a 109 HP engine which is a five times more powerful than the old Model T Truck which hauled loads all over America (and over crappy muddy roads, not our smooth modern paved streets) for over thirty years. If the dinky little Model T could to do it without it being a dumb idea, why can’t a massively more more powerful modern entry-level hatchback?
I think it can be done safely, but would love to see what you guys think (or maybe try it first, if you are interested in an unsolicited show idea) before I go and do something that might be stupid. I can see *maybe* having to upgrade the brakes, but that should be a fairly cheap mod, I would think.
The way I see it, if I can hook up an inexpensive hatchback with a trailer and haul a small load with it, it would save me tens of thousands of dollars over getting a new truck, and a lot of gas money over getting a used truck.
Is this brilliant idea or muy estupido? I’d love to hear what you car guys think, since I definitely am not a car guy, in case that wasn’t painfully obvious.
A: Interesting question, and there are a few options out there, if you’re willing to think outside the box. First of all, many automakers say that they do not recommend towing with their smallest vehicles. Even if these vehicles can tow a tiny trailer, a tow hitch on one of these cars can (potentially) void a warranty and/or damage your vehicle.
With that being said, there are some hatchbacks that tow brilliantly. Subaru’s entire line of cars tow quite well. The XV Crosstrek tows up to 1,500 lbs.
The Nissan Juke can tow a maximum of 915 lbs.
I have a groovy selection that’s surprisingly out of left field. Why not look at a base model Mazda CX-5? The base model with front-wheel drive can tow up to 2,000 lbs!
Hope that helps!
You’ll find some hatchbacks tow 500 – 1,000 lbs and some small crossovers up to 1,500 lbs.
This next question comes from a couple who are debating between a Jeep Wrangler with an automatic vs manual transmission.
Q: Hey folks,
My wife and I are new watchers to both the TFLTruck and TFLCar channels. We had a question for you.
We are considering the purchase of a Jeep Wrangler which would be our first time with a vehicle like this. We have watched all of your videos featuring the vehicle. Our favorites have been the Motor Mountain Mondays and your adventures with the new Rubicon. Our question is simply this: Which is better – an automatic or a manual transmission in a Wrangler Unlimited? If it’s a matter of preference, could you share your opinions on your preferences?
Thanks and keep up the good work.
Bob and Mary Pirnie
A: Ah, the old argument for and against manual transmissions. Simple for me, I always pick the manual transmission, especially if I intend to go off road or do performance driving with any regularity.
Yes, I am a fool for choosing my own gears; however, you may not be.
The Jeep Wrangler’s 5-speed automatic is a good, solid unit. We have abused it with way more towing, off road abuse and long distance than most drivers. Despite over 30,000 hard miles in six months, it remains smooth and reliable. Sure, you’ll get (slightly) better gas mileage and a better feeling of control with the manual, the automatic is great for commuting and fighting city traffic.
Yes, I would get the manual – but everyone is different and you must ask yourself, “what will it be like in two years?”
Please keep me in the loop when you choose!
The last question comes from a viewer who wants an opinion about the Acura ILX as a entry-level, professional car.
Q: Nathan, I am about to finish business school and I want to buy a car that makes me look professional without overdoing it. I have a friend who bought an older E Class and he looks like an idiot. Imagine, a 24 year-old driving an old man’s Mercedes. I don’t want to look like that, and I like the image of Acura.
I’m looking for something in the mid $30,000 range. You seemed to like the Acura ILX, what do you think?
Regards, M. Mercer
A: The Acura ILX is a good bet. It’s the right car for entry-level luxury and it’s pretty fun to drive. I was very impressed with the Acura ILX’s powertrain and excellent 8-speed automatic transmission too. The back seat space is good enough for an average-sized adult, but (if you’re tall) it may be tight for taller folk behind you.
It competes with vehicles like the Volvo S60, Buick Verano and the Audi A3. Out of those cars, the Acura ILX is the most well rounded of the group.
Best of luck on your future endeavors!
Nathan and The Fast Lane Car team are here to answer your (reasonable) questions. Interesting and/or entertaining emails will be posted to this column. If it’s relevant in the automotive universe, there’s a chance we may know something about it. The author’s email address and name will be omitted – leaving your initials or nickname, your preference.
From day one, The Fast Lane Car has made it our policy to answer as many questions and comments as we can. We get thousands of emails and comments and feel that, as part of a tight-knit automotive community, having an open dialogue with you keeps things fresh and exciting.
Got a question for Nathan? Drop him a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism – Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.|