U.S. Bound Ram 1000, Spark vs Versa vs Mirage and Cat Car? [Ask Nathan]

[Photo: Ram Colombia]

There’s a ton of rumors about the return of the Dodge / Ram Dakota. Could it be just a rebadged Fiat Toro? They already did it in South America with the Ram 1000.

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 full name will be omitted – leaving your first name, initials or nickname, your preference. 

The Trunk Monkey may know more than I do on this one.

In this week’s Ask Nathan:

  • Will the Ram 1000 come to the United States? 
  • Nissan Versa vs. Mitubishi Mirage vs. Chevy Spark
  • Cat car?

Q: Via Twitter (NathanAdlen@Twitter) Hi buddy-o!

I live in Columbia and we have a Ram 1000. It’s a Fiat. Will you get one in the USA?

– Jasu

A: If you look at the various photos taken around the world of (what we think are) Ram Dakotas – or whatever they will be named – they all have similar characteristics. They all appear to have a front-wheel drive bias setup and similar dimensions to the Fiat Toro / Ram 1000.

For those of you who don’t know, the Fiat Toro is 99% of the Ram 1000. It is a popular model in other markets. They are either front or all-wheel drive and are based on the same platform as the Jeep Cherokee. They share many components as well.

Recently, the Fiat Toro was mildly refreshed, but the main components remain the same. Small displacement gas and Diesel engines are available along with six-speed manual transmissions and nine-speed automatics.

We still see barely disguised Fiat Toros running around Michigan and testing in Chelsea, MI. While FCA has been vague about their commitment about a firm release date for the midsize Ram truck, they never denied its impending release.

This is the smaller Fiat Strada… known as the Ram 700 in some markets.
(Photo Fiat)

We’ve covered the (possible) future Ram Dakota several times. You can read about it here as well. Many of us feel that FCA is cautiously looking at midsize trucks sales numbers, the upcoming Hyundai pickup truck and how their Jeep Gladiator sales are progressing before pulling the trigger.

If FCA can pull off an inexpensive and youthful-feeling truck-let of some sort, they may own the segment. Imagine, having a car-based midsize, inexpensive truck at the bottom and the pricy Jeep Gladiator at the top of the segment? Could be interesting!


– N

2020 Nissan Versa
2020 Nissan Versa [Photo: Nissan]

The next question/statement comes from a fan who wants to cross shop the least expensive “fun” cars out there.

Q: I want the most fun car I can get for (around) $10,000 new. 

It must be fun with a manual transmission.

2016 Chevrolet Spark front
The 2016 Chevrolet Spark debuted at the New York International Auto Show.
(Photo: Chevrolet)

A: Sorry, there are no new vehicles for sale in the United States for $10,000.

Still, there are a few that are kind-a, sort-a close.

2019 Chevrolet Spark

If you configure and buy the base model 2019 Chevrolet Spark, it can be the least expensive vehicle in the United States. In total base form, the online price is under $13,000.

Have a look (take right from the Chevrolet website):

  • Standard Vehicle Price $13,220
  • Selected Colors: $0
  • Selected Options: $0
  • Total Vehicle and Options: $13,220
  • Destination Freight Charge: $875
  • Total Vehicle Price: $14,095
  • Total Cash Allowance[s]: -$2,000
  • Net Price: $12,095

I like the little Chevrolet Spark. It’s a good little runabout that gives you pretty good handling. Even the very base model has some cool tech too. For that net price, it would definitely be on my radar.

2020 Nissan Versa

Tommy liked the 2020 Nissan Versa, but it’s no longer as inexpensive as it once was. Base price is now $15,625. Shame. Still, it’s got a ton of goodies for the dough and you get a pretty powerful vehicle for the class.

The Mitsubishi Mirage is kind of the way to go for the best mileage, warranty and one of the least expensive cars to purchase in America. While it’s base MSRP (with destination) is a hair under $15,000 – several consumers reported good deals in the $13,000 range.

I have sampled the Mirage in the past, but only as a beaten-to-near-death rental. It’s basic transportation, true; but it gets phenomenal gas mileage. Oddly, Mitsubishi simply refuses to allow me access to this vehicle.

Stay tuned!


2018 Mitsubishi Mirage & Mirage G4
(Photo: Mitsubishi)

The last question comes from a fan who loves cats.

I highly recommend you keep your pets in the back. Several specialty kennels are out there, one is right for your pet(s). (Photo: Honda)

Q: (Via Twitter@Nathanadlen) Big fan and crazy cat lady!

My fur babies hate to ride anywhere but my lap. Is it that bad to do?

Cars for paws

Nissan X-Trail pet concept
(Photo: Nissan)

A: Hi cat lady!

I have to tell you a true story:

One time, when I first began to cover auto events for another company, I went to a soapbox race in Morrison, CO. While shooting photos of the guests leaving – I saw a terrible sight.

A young woman driving a big SUV had a tiny dog perched on her lap. It had its front paws on the window sill. His name was “Cookie.”

She was rear ended by a large pickup truck moving at only 10-15 mph.

Cookie was launched out of her SUV, tore off her side-view mirror and his neck broke as a result of being connected to his leash. I’m assuming that smashing through the side view mirror mounting was enough to kill the little guy in the first place.

I know his name because his owner screamed it as she held his lifeless body.

… I’m sorry to be so graphic, but I love pets and this could have been completely avoided.

Please keep your small pet in a kennel away from airbags and open windows. It’s possible that a purpose-built kennel from the automaker is available for your vehicle. Small trips with your pet to fun places is a great way to get them used to kennel travel.

If not, they become projectiles.

– N

I had a great time in this Kia – which is ideal for a big kennel in the back!

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: asknathan@tflcar.com.