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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

Eight rides to remember

Of all the cars we've driven over the past year, probably none impressed us as much as the redesigned Hyundai Sonata, which quickly became a hot seller in the competitive midsized sedan market. We liked its fluidic design, interior features and price point. Here are some of the cars that stood out for us in 2010.

Daily Drivers' car of the year: Hyundai Sonata. Hyundai awakened the midsized sedan market with this elegantly redesigned Sonata. The ride is solid, with plenty of pickup even for a 4-cylinder. Inside, you can get some luxury features, including heated front and rear seats, rear vents and leather seats. With an entry price of $19,195, that's a lot of car for the money. A 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder came out this fall, and a gas-electric hybrid is due out in early 2011.

Most useful subcompact: Honda Fit. You can certainly fit a lot in this hatchback. The car is solid with good handling and good mpg: up to 28 city/35 highway. The interior includes fold-up rear seats that are great for backpack-toting kids.

Exceeded our expectations: Suzuki Kizashi. Suzuki took a big leap into the competitive midsized sedan class with a taste of luxury. The Kizashi offers higher-end features (leather seats, push-button start, heated seats, Bluetooth connectivity) with prices that are within reach (starting at $18,999).

Most promising future: Chevrolet Volt. We drove what seems to be every auto magazine's Car of the Year during its tour stop at Walt Disney World. Our quick impression: We liked the electric hatchback's acceleration and handling. Plus, the car looks better than in photos, and there probably won't be any middle ground on its contemporary-white console. We also like that it's not wedded to a charging infrastructure that has yet to be built. Downsides: It seats only four, and the rear headroom is snug. Then there's the price: $41,000 (and who knows how long the $7,500 federal tax credit will be around?). Still, this is an important step in auto technology.

Best midlife-crisis car for someone with a family: Infiniti FX50. This full-sized SUV is a performance car in disguise. The 360-horsepower engine jettisons you down the highway with 0 to 60 in just over 5 seconds. The five-seater is loaded with gadgets including lane departure warning, collision warning, cameras with overhead view and one of the best navigation systems we tried.

Best bang for your buck: Ford Mustang V-6. The new 3.7-liter engine packed plenty of power with 305 horsepower and a smooth-shifting 6-speed manual. Even better, it gets 31 mpg on the highway. Best of both worlds? Absolutely. Who needs a V-8?

Best dream car we didn't get to drive: McLaren MP4-12C. We got to sit — just sit — in the supercar during its local unveiling at the Tampa Museum of Art. We were impressed by its weight-saving technology and construction. Then there are its dihedral doors with pressure-sensitive, no-latch handles and a space-age interior. We felt like we were going 200 mph standing still.

Best sports coupe: Cadillac CTS-V. It's not you're grandfather's Caddy. The sleek, futuristic coupe — powered by a version of the supercharged V-8 from the Corvette ZR-1 — is equal parts luxury touring car and rocket ship (0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds).

Eight rides to remember 12/22/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 2:21pm]
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