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U.S. buyers love Japanese brands, and don’t let anyone tell you different. Sure, a lot of people would rather ride off into the sunset behind the wheel of a red white and blue muscle car or pickup truck, but if we look at the numbers, Toyota and Honda are absolutely crushing it when it comes to more conventional segments.

So if you’re in the market for either a compact or mid-size sedan or a compact crossover, know that most people in your situation chose something with a Japanese badge.

I know what you’re thinking. Why these three segments? Why not large sedans or mid-size SUVs, where the Dodge Charger and Ford Explorer reign supreme? Well, because we’re looking at nameplates that tend to move well over 200,000 units per year, or at least hover around that mark. It’s certainly one way to define dominance.

Read Also: The Fastest-Selling New Cars In The U.S. Are Almost All SUVs

Let’s start small, meaning compact car sales throughout the first three quarters of 2020. Sitting high above the rest of the field (it’s not even close) are the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla. Sales for both models are down, but then again, this year has been very challenging and in 2019, both nameplates burst past the 200,000 units per year mark and kept going.

2021 Honda Civic (from $21,050)

The Civic is actually the world’s second best-selling model for this segment, but in both 2019 and 2020, it managed to surpass the Corolla, which is world’s no.1, in the U.S. according to Carsalesbase. Throughout the first three quarters of this year, Honda sold 200,941 Civics (255,484 in 2019).

You can get the Civic as a sedan, hatchback or a coupe, offering you a little more variety than the Corolla. It’s also styled more aggressively than the Toyota, although the latest generation of the Corolla is definitely more stylish than its predecessors.

2021 Toyota Corolla (from $19,925)

While the Corolla is only available as a sedan or a hatchback, it does offer you the choice of hybridization. The 2021 Corolla Hybrid starts from $23,500, which is pretty decent value for money.

In terms of sales, 166,213 units of the Corolla have left showrooms throughout the first three quarters of 2020, down from 233,968 units over the same period last year.

Things are also looking very well indeed for the Corolla, because overall, it’s still the best-selling car in its class across the world, surpassing even the VW Golf on a global level. Would you rather own one over the Civic? Right now, it seems that more Americans would rather go for the Honda instead.

The next segment is that of mid-size sedans, and a lot of them are still going strong in the U.S. despite how well crossovers have been doing over these past few years.

2021 Toyota Camry (from $24,970)

Available with either a 2.5-liter four-pot or a 3.5-liter V6, as well as a hybrid, the Camry is king of the hill when it comes to mid-size sedans. Toyota sold 204,945 units through the first three quarters of the year, down from 258,456 in 2019.

This means that more people bought a Camry in 2020 than a Civic, and while it’s not exactly fair to compare segments, you’ve got to hand it to Toyota for how successful the latest generation Camry has proven to be; so far so, they even brought it to Europe as a replacement for the discontinued Avensis.

2021 Honda Accord (from $24,770)

The Accord is the second best-selling car in its class after the Camry, with 145,291 units sold in the first three quarters, down from 204,463 in 2019.

You can have it as a Hybrid or with a choice of two turbocharged gasoline units (1.5T / 2.0T). The 2.0-liter model is available with a proper 10-speed automatic gearbox, instead of a CVT like the 1.5-liter variants.

Overall, while its styling might be a little controversial compared to the sporty-looking Camry, the Accord remains a hugely practical, well-equipped and well-built car.

Compact SUVs are another segment dominated by the two Japanese brands, despite how competitive it is, with strong entries like the Chevrolet Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Wrangler and Subaru Forester.

2021 Toyota RAV4 (from $26,050)

Available with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline unit as well as a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid (Prime), the RAV4 is a true powerhouse. Toyota sold 302,574 units in the first nine months this year. That’s serious volume and nearly twice the numbers of the Tacoma pickup or the full-size GMC Sierra.

Despite the pandemic, RAV4 sales in the U.S. were down just 7 percent compared to 2019, and when you consider the fact that more than one in every four vehicles sold here is a compact crossover, it shows just how much of a success story the RAV4 really is.

2021 Honda CR-V (from $25,350)

You can have the CR-V with either a 1.5-liter turbo-four or as a hybrid, with Honda selling 237,334 units through the first three quarters of 2020, down from 280,739 units last year.

Earlier this year, Honda put together a series of videos arguing that the CR-V is a better buy than rivals such as the RAV4, Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester. Compared to the Toyota, Honda points to the CR-V as having more room inside for both passengers and cargo, but in reality the difference is negligible.

All things considered, looking at these three segments, which compact sedan, midsize sedan and compact crossover would you spend your money on? A Honda or a Toyota? Also, if you already own one of the six models we just talked about, you’re more than welcome to share (and rate) your experience with it.


It’s not very often that I would recommend the dual-clutch or automatic version of a performance car over a six-speed manual. However, in the case of the 2020 Renault Megane R.S. Trophy, I would absolutely recommend the EDC (Efficient Dual Clutch) over the stick shift.

Roughly seven months ago, when much of the world was locked down during the first wave of the coronavirus, I had the pleasure of driving the Megane R.S. Trophy with a manual for a week. Despite a few quirks, it was a pleasure to drive. The EDC variant is even better.

A powertrain sent from the heavens.

Like the manual, the EDC-equipped model features a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 296 hp (221 kW) and 310 lb-ft (420 Nm) of torque. This is one of the finer engines powering any modern hot hatch but more on that later. Drive is sent exclusively to the front wheels.

Going into my week with the EDC model, I was a little apprehensive, particularly since I had driven the VW Golf GTI TCR with its DSG just a couple of weeks beforehand (review coming soon) and was left wondering if Renault’s dual-clutch could compete. It doesn’t just compete with the VW’s – it is actually better.

A six-speed unit, the transmission is silky smooth at low speeds and free of any of the hesitation of others similar transmissions on the market. Sure, the paddle shifters are mounted oddly high on the steering column but all is forgiven the moment you start driving the Megane RS Trophy in anger.

The hot hatch also comes equipped from the factory with an exceptional exhaust system that produces a lovely burble at idle, even when you’re driving in the ‘Neutral’ mode. Change things into Race or Perso modes and the aural experience is enhanced threefold as the exhaust opens up. Pin the throttle and things only get better.

The drive

The six-speed manual offered for the car is good but not great, especially when compared to the exceptional stick shift of the Honda Civic Type R. The most immediate difference you’ll notice with the EDC is that on upshifts, it prompts a lovely crack from the exhaust. What’s even more thrilling is the fact that the gearbox even gives you a small kick in the chest when changing up through the gears. Sure, it’s not quite like the kick you get from a Lamborghini Aventador in Corsa mode, but that’s not a fair comparison and, anyway, it does add some lovely drama to the experience. Downshifts are also a pleasure where, once again, the exhaust fires to life, producing the type of whipcrack sound that not even a Hyundai i30 N can match.

Read Also: Driven – 2020 Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy Is Raw, Uncompromising, And Addictive

With the EDC, the Megane RS Trophy feels rapid in a straight line. Renault claims it will hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.7 seconds, matching the Civic Type R. Our test car come fitted with the available R.S. Monitor that provides all kinds of telemetry data, so we decided to put it to the test. With launch control enabled and a healthy dose of wheelspin, I was able to match Renault’s official time.

With launch control switched off, I recorded a time of 5.12 seconds to 100 km/h (62 mph), a figure I found a little hard to believe. Is the onboard telemetry system a little optimistic? Possibly. It’s worth noting our 5.12-second run was recorded on a stretch of private road with a temperature of 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 degrees Farenheit) outside, resulting in a very sticky piece of pavement which eliminated most slip from the tires.

As with any good RenaultSport product, the R.S. Trophy also thrives in the corners. The limited-slip differential puts the power to the ground well and immediately inspires confidence in the driver. Grip from the Bridgestone S001 tires seems endless. However, if you’re a little too eager on the throttle through a corner, not even the LSD can prevent the car’s grunt from spinning up the front wheels and pushing you wide.

The ‘controversial’ stuff

One area of debate about the car relates to its four-wheel steering system, or as Renault calls it, ‘4Control.’ You can adjust how this system behaves in the Perso menu through the Dynamic Drive System. In its most active mode, ‘Neutral,’ the rear wheels turn up to 2.7 degrees at speeds of under 60 km/h (37 mph) while in ‘Race’ mode, they turn at speeds below 100 km/h (62 mph). Regardless of which setting you choose, the car darts into the corner with so little effort and with such small movements of the steering wheel that it initially feels unnerving. However, once you get used to using such minute steering inputs, it adds a unique character to the car. We can’t help but thinking, though, that some people will not like it.

Another aspect of the car that has ruffled a few feathers is the suspension, namely due to the fact that it is not adjustable like so many other class-leading hot hatches. To try and rectify this, RenaultSport has fitted hydraulic bump stops, but even still, the car rides firm.

During my week with the car, I covered roughly 1,400 km (870 miles) with a mix of twisting coastal roads, long stretches of highways, and technical mountain passes. On bumpy roads, the suspension can grow tiresome but for the most part, I had no complaints. Admittedly, I own a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R so am probably more tolerant of harsh-riding vehicles than most. Objectively, though, the non-adjustable suspension system puts the Megane R.S. Trophy at a disadvantage to its rivals.

The cabin of the Renault matches up well against the competition. There are some lovely dashings of Alcantara, as well as various carbon fiber accents. The configurable accent lighting is also a nice touch, as is the 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster. The seats are firm but hold you in position well. Unfortunately, the seats didn’t adjust quite as low as I would have liked. A nine-speaker Bose audio system with a subwoofer and digital amplifier is another nice touch.

In terms of fuel efficiency, Renault claims the Megane R.S. Trophy consumes just 8 l/100 km (29.4 mpg) over the combined cycle. We recorded 10.2 l/100 km (23.9 mpg) which, considering how we were driving the car, is impressive, although our roadtrip did include long highway stints that brought that figure down.

Our test car was priced at AU$56,990, including the AU$1,000 Liquid Yellow paint but excluding on-road costs.

The Megane R.S. Trophy EDC is a special car. Not only is it better than the manual but it is one of the finest hot hatches on sale. Sure, it is a little uncompromising but that only adds to its charm. In 5-7 years, I think I might just have to start searching the classifieds for one…

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A quick look through Lancia’s current lineup reveals that it only makes a rebadged Fiat called the Ypsilon. Italian exterior designer Sebastiano Ciarcia thinks that’s a shame, so he’s reimagined a Delta for modern times.

“As a proud Italian car enthusiast, I’ve always been truly disappointed regarding what the brand Lancia has become today,” Ciarcia writes. “For me the Delta has always been an icon, something like an Holy Grail that you can’t replace; however at the same time I couldn’t accept the reality and I really wanted to create a good successor for it.”

Read Also: Maserati’s Project Rekall Brings 1990s Shamal to 2020

And he’s done just that, taking inspiration not just from the Delta, but from its motorsport derivatives as well, to design this modern interpretation. Indeed, he wrote on Instagram that the project begun after he had started watching a lot of old rallying on YouTube.

Specifically, he names the Group B’s legendary Delta S4 as a strong inspiration. That car’s super-and-turbocharged engine could get the Delta to 60 faster than an F1 car.

Ciarcia writes, though, that he still wanted the car to be grounded in modern design.

“The final design wants to be a modern reinterpretation of the car without being too nostalgic or retro,” he says. “Instead an evolution of the previous design that emphasizes all the main feature lines and DNA to bring the original character back in the vehicle.”

The results are impressive. The nods to the Delta S4 are clear, especially at the back where there are louvers in the rear glass. And although the wheel arches are reminiscent of the box flares of the ‘80s, they only hint at them, rather than slavishly trying to recreate them.

In Ciarcia mind, the DELTA would run thanks to an AWD hybrid powertrain. The engine, apparently located in the middle of the car, would be on display thanks to rear glass.

As fans of the good old Lancia ourselves, we would like to see Stellantis bring the Delta to the modern age. Sadly, with Lancia all but dead, there’s absolutely no indication that this is ever going to happen.

Note: These renderings are the work of Sebastiano Ciarcia and are in no way related to or endorsed by Lancia

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