Building your own Jeep Trailcat, Honda HR-V vs Forester and Rockin’ in a Mazda5 [Ask Nathan]

In this edition of Ask Nathan:

  • How do I build my own Jeep Trailcat?
  • Honda HR-V vs Subaru Forester?
  • Driving to gigs in a Mazda5 Stick!

This first question comes from a viewer who wants to build his own Jeep Wrangler Trailcat!


Hi there,

I am an individual from Minneapolis MN. I was very impressed by viewing your video clip with Roman Mica for a 707 HP green Jeep Safari (Trailcat).

I would like to upgrade my jeep to the one you showed in the video. Please let me know if I can buy the kit and get it installed in my vehicle from you, or if you have dealers in Minneapolis area that I contact with.

Your reply is appreciated.

John Z

A: Hi John

Keep in mind: the eggheads at Jeep had to significantly modify a Jeep Wrangler to make it work. With that being said, there is a company located in Boulder, CO that specializes in upgrading Jeep Wranglers with beefier engines, transmissions, axles and suspension.

Pollard Off-Road (Jeep) has worked with us before and their work is top-notch.

There are other companies out there that can do these types of modifications, but Pollard Jeep is the only one TFLcar has truly worked with.

Best of luck!


2016 Honda HR-V

This next question is from a fan who is cross-shopping a Subaru Forester vs a Honda HR-V.

Dear Nathan,

I very much enjoy your reviews and I find your perspective on cars match up to my own often and I really value your opinion. I was hoping you could provide me with some advice concerning a new, or new to me, car purchase.

I currently drive a 2002 Toyota Solara SE with a manual transmission and 6 cylinder engine. I love the car for how it drives, rides, and its exceptional reliability. In 14 years it’s only needed to go into the shop (other than for routine maintenance) for one oxygen sensor.

The only thing I don’t like about my current car is 1) cargo space, and 2) ground clearance. I don’t see myself doing any hardcore off-roading, but I do enjoy hiking and being able to get down a logging road without worry would be nice, thought 99% of my driving is on normal roads. I live in the Sacramento area, so snow isn’t an issue, and I don’t think I “need” AWD. There may also be a very large dog in my future (32″ or so to the shoulder, 36″ tall overall) as well, so being able to carry a dog comfortably is also high on my list of must haves and my Solara is far too small.

I really would like to stick with a manual transmission, which really limits my options. I’d also like a very reliable car like my Solara, just with cargo space and better ground clearance. My search has narrowed to 2 main contenders….

1) 2016 new or used Honda HR-V (LX MT or EX MT)
2) 2017 Subaru Forester (Premium with MT)

Because all of these cars are in different categories I find it hard to compare them to each-other. The Honda HR-V seems like the best fit, but I can’t stand some of the choices they made for the car (door panel material, center console design, eco-coaching green ring you can’t turn off, infotainment, cup holder design, etc.) to go along with it’s lackluster performance and overall “cheapness”.

The Forester seems to be more than I would need since I don’t really need AWD, and it isn’t as good for a dog (huge gap between front and back seats when seats are laid flat, not as tall as the HR-V in the cargo area), and I find the seats more uncomfortable than the HR-Vs, though they both aren’t great, and reliability (see oil consumption) might be an issue. The Forester would also be at the top of my budget (assuming I could get it at $25,000) whereas the HR-V would be more budget friendly.

What advice do you have for cross-shopping cars in two different categories? Should I compromise on price and get the Forester, or on capability/interior design and get the HR-V? Is there another new or used car option I’m missing for under $25,000, for under $20,000 for something used? Can I not see the forest for the trees and should I not dwell on the little details?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated and I thank you very much for your time and I apologize for the long email.

Rocklin, CA

P.S. Giving up my Solara is going to be really hard, that’s why this decision is so hard for me. Other info about me that might help, I’m single (no kids), 33, about your size, and work from home (no commute) and this would be my only car.

2016 Subaru Forester

A: Howdy Eric!

First of all, Andre, our submersible producer, is a huge fan of the Toyota Solara and feels your pain.

There’s a huge difference between both vehicles:

The Subaru Forester has standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and is a larger vehicle. It’s AWD system, solid performance and good ground clearance help it achieve a lofty off-road status among the Subaru-loyal. It’s a bit more expensive and the manual transmission is not available with the turbocharged engine. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available, but it slows things down quite a bit.

I once owned a Subaru Forester and it is a safe, sane, reliable choice. In some ways, I feel the same way for my long lost Forester that you feel for your Toyota Solara. It was like a member of the family.

The Honda HR-V is only available in front-wheel drive (FWD) if you want the manual transmission. Otherwise, you have to get the CVT transmission. While AWD is great, the front-drive Honda HR-V is a fun car to drive and it has an excellent trade-off between its ride-height and being low enough to toss around a corner.

The Forester has 170 horsepower vs the Honda’s 141 hp, but the Subaru weighs between 3,300 and 3,700 lbs whereas the Honda HR-V FWD you’re looking at comes in around 2,900 lbs. Power-to-weight is pretty close, but the Honda HR-V is much more driver-friendly while the Subaru Forester is better for long commutes and towing.

I’m a Coloradoan, so the Subaru is the logical choice. Still, as a former Californian, the Honda HR-V FWD with the 6-speed manual, would be my “fun” choice. Either way, they are both great utilitarian vehicles.

Hope that helps!


The last post is from a fan who’s hitting the concert scene using a Mazda 5 (manual) as the band’s (“Floating Action”) gig-machine!

2013 Mazda5

Q: Yo!

Sup guys – I’m a long-time, big-time fan – this is Seth Kauffman from Black Mountain, NC; I produce records, session musician, play in bands, etc. — also snowboard and mountain bike, etc. Anyway; love you guys’ angle on all things cars.

I’m leaving today, starting a ‘quick’ two-week cross-country tour with my band Floating Action – (Texas, Arizona, SoCal, haul ass back to NC) – we’re doing this tour as a duo, me on Fender Bass VI, singing, and some weird homemade foot drums I made out of wood & old guitar pickups (never actually tried this setup live yet), and a guitarist playing thru a home stereo amplifier into this weird metal loudspeaker he brought back from Africa.


We’re fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine, of touring in a STICKSHIFT vehicle! My ’07 Mazda5.

I know Nathan has/had a 5, so I thought he’d appreciate it.

Although I might sell it when we get back – craving an 07-08 VW Passat wagon 3.6 VR6 4motion. I miss power and tightness haha!

I play in Jim James’ (My Morning Jacket) band now also, and work with Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) in the studio a lot, playing on various records; Ray Lamontagne, Lana Del Rey.

Just wanted to check in and say hi – and keep up the good work!



A: Hi Seth, thanks for that great email!

I miss my Mazda5. It was a manual just like yours, the only car that had three rows AND a manual transmission option. It was a solid ride with mighty good economy. Sure, they aren’t exactly fast, they can be fun on a twisty road and driving with a stick makes it a lot of fun. I especially liked how utilitarian they are. I hauled everything from bricks, medieval weapons, lawn equipment, a Vespa and snot-nosed kiddos all over.

I still suggest the Mazda5 to folks who want something other than a larger minivan who are on a budget.

Your Volkswagen Passat Wagon is a good bet too. The only negative is that maintenance costs are steeper than the Mazda5’s costs.

Thank you so much for thinking of us while you’re on the road. I listened to a few of your tracks and you guys are awesome!

Here are some tour dates for A Floating Action:

Jun 11 – Austin, Texas – @ Mohawk, w/ Rogue Wave.

Jun 12 – San Antonio, Texas – @ Paper Tiger, w/ Rogue Wave.

Jun 15 – Tucson, Arizona – @ Rialto Theatre, w/ Rogue Wave.

Jun 16 – Phoenix, Arizona – w/ Rogue Wave.

Jun 17 – Los Angeles, California – Teragram Ballroom, w/ Rogue Wave.

Jun 18 – Solana Beach, California – Belly Up Tavern, w/ Rogue Wave.

Rock on!


Speaking of Mazda…

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