Kia’s Baby SUV, is Dodge Dead and Will Autonomous Driving ruin everything? [Ask Nathan]


In this week’s Ask Nathan:

  • News about Kia’s baby SUV (like the Ford EcoSport and Honda HR-V)?
  • Is Dodge going away?
  • Will making cars autonomous ruin driving in the USA?

This first question comes from a viewer who is wondering if there will be a Kia baby SUV.

Trail'ster Concept
Trail’ster Concept

Q: What’s up Nathan my man! You guys do so much, it’s like you are like a mini Top Gear or something!

Here’s my question.

I am looking for a small SUV like the Honda HR-V or, maybe the new Ford EcoSport. I own a 2012 Kia Sportage and it’s been totally reliable. I like it but I like the idea of a smaller SUV more and my Sportage is not that small.

I asked my dealer about a smaller SUV and he tried to sell me a Kia Soul. I actually like the size and packaging, but I need all-wheel drive. I live in the Pacific Northwest and I have to deal with wet and icy conditions all the time.

Will there be a Kia baby SUV in the future?

Please let me know what you have heard.

Tell Roman and Andre and Tom and Mr Kent that they have a big fan out west!




A: Howdy, thanks for the email!

There are a ton of rumors about the Kia baby SUV. Photos have been taken of test mules and Kia even played with the idea of building an all-wheel drive Kia Soul. While all signs point to a (near) future small SUV from Kia, there has been no official announcement from the automaker.

It’s a pretty good bet that it will be about the size of the Kia Rio/Kia Soul and have a small displacement 4-cylinder engine. Kia is pretty competitive, so I expect them to have either best in class interior space or best in class power. This is me guessing – my opinions are merely based on my gut instinct.

Small SUVs like the Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Nissan Juke, Chevrolet Trax and the upcoming Ford EcoSport represent one of the hottest segments out there. Soon, every major automaker will have a small/baby SUV in the segment. Heck, I’m off to drive the Toyota CH-R soon and it’s just one of a few new models that is slated for this year or next.

I suspect we will hear about the Kia baby SUV soon. The TFLcar team will be at the 2017 NAIAS, 2017 Chicago Auto Show and the 2017 New York Auto show too. It’s a pretty good bet that we’ll catch a glimpse of something at one of these shows.

Thanks for the email!


This next question comes from a viewer that’s worried about Dodge’s continued existence.

2017 dodge challenger gt awd snow drifting
2017 Dodge Challenger GT AWD

Q: I know that Jeep is doing real good and the Chrysler Pacifica is saving Chrysler.

Fiat is doing bad and Dodge looks like they are doing real bad. Do you think Dodge will be removed from the FCA family?


A: Hi Jose.

Nope, I think Dodge is doing alright. Remember: the Challenger is selling well, the Hellcats are popular and the Dodge Durango is selling briskly (68,474 in 2016). In the USA, Dodge sold 506,453 units in 2016, that’s nearly doubling 2014 numbers.

Yes, the Dart is a disappointment and will vanish soon. Still, in the United States, the ancient Dodge Journey sold a whopping 106,759 units in 2016! Go figure!

The brand to watch is Fiat. Believe it or not, the wee-little Fiat 500 sold 15,437 units in the United States. That’s their strongest seller with the Fiat 500L sales adding up to one-fifth it’s little brother’s numbers. Fortunately, the Fiat 500X sold 11,712 units in the U.S.A. That’s a noticeable increase over last year.

My opinion: they need to kill the 500L – it was a mistake. They need more product offered and they NEED a huge warranty like Hyundai/Kia’s 10-year/100,000 mile plan.

So, while Dodge is doing pretty good, Fiat needs a boost.

Thanks for the question!


Ford Robotic Test Drivers
Ford’s autonomous robotic test driver.

The last question comes from a viewer who is worried about losing his right to drive his car.

Q: Quick question for you. So do you think the government will make all of us drive in autonomous cars soon?

My dad’s car already has radar cruise control and lane keep assist. Its like you said in an Acura video. That’s almost autonomous driving right there. I don’t want my car to be driverless. I want and I love to drive!

What do you think?


autonomous Ford Fusion

A: Greetings Josh

When it comes to autonomous vehicles, I’m fairly optimistic about maintaining the joy of driving too. All of these safety nannies are irritating to some, but I see a way we can have our cake and eat it too. It all comes down to two things: fun vs. appliance.

There is a growing segment of our population that would rather not drive. I hate to say it, but it’s true. These people would rather let a machine drive them places. This is the reality and this is where many dollars in research are going. Still, there is a flip-side. Automakers know that many people love the act of driving from one place to another, otherwise they wouldn’t build hot hatches, sports cars and other “fun” vehicles.

Could you imagine a pickup truck (currently, the largest new vehicle market in the United States) that took the driving away from its owner? Nope, me neither. As long as there are off-road, hard-driving, technology-adverse, racing, adventurous and fun drivers out there – you can look at autonomous driving aids the same way we currently look at radar-based cruise control.

I am not opposed to a system that can be switched on and used at the driver’s discretion. I would love to flip a switch and have my car drive me home during rush-hour, allowing me a smooth ride to take a siesta. At the same time, as long as I like driving vehicles with manual transmissions, that can never happen.

As for our government forcing us to drive autonomous cars? I think more and more safety devices will be required (just like airbags, ABS and crumple-zones were), but I don’t think they will – or can – wrestle the control completely away from dedicated drivers.

Man, I hope not.



The next “Ask Nathan” video will be coming right from the floor of the 2017 NAIAS in Detroit – stay tuned!

Here’s last week’s video episode of “Ask Nathan!”

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