Here's a question we're often asked: "What family sedan is your favorite?" For both of us, the answer comes quickly: the Mazda6. We think it's the best-looking midsize car on the market, is engaging to drive and has a well-appointed interior. For 2016, it gets a refresh and is even better.
Appearance: The 6, all muscular front fenders and creases that accentuate its flowing lines, invites adjectives such as sleek and sinuous — even sexy. That might seem like hyperbole, but in an era of indistinguishable cars, the 6 stands out. For '16, the exterior changes are few but well done: Our Grand Touring tester gets a slightly restyled grille and new LED headlights. In the rear, LED taillights now echo the front lights' menacing look. Our tester rolled on twin-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels....
Never have we driven a car that came loaded with so much baggage. Meet the Mitsubishi Mirage, the poster child — some say — for motoring misery. One notable review said a lifetime supply of hiking boots would be a better way to spend your transportation dollars. So what did we think of this subcompact?
Appearance: The four-door hatchback has a slightly bulbous shape common in subcompacts. The tiny 14-inch wheels are placed at the absolute corners of the car to help with interior room — not much overhang here. The car wears a sort of a frown, as if it's expecting the worst to be said about it again. (Most of the grille opening is under the bumper.) Still, this budget car does have a few adornments: Our ES tester had integrated turn indicators on the mirrors and a hatch-top spoiler with built-in brake lights. In addition to four basic colors (black, white, gray and silver), you can get your Mirage in Infrared (like our tester), Sapphire Blue, Kiwi Green and Plasma Purple, which is more like a fuchsia. There aren't many carmakers that have a bright pink color. If you are going to own this car, you might as well own it....
We've driven Subaru's Impreza hatchbacks but had never had the opportunity to drive the sedan model. So we were surprised to find that after a refresh for 2015 that includes both styling and interior tweaks, the Impreza holds its own with the leaders of the small sedan segment.
Appearance: The front end now includes a larger air intake and a revised grille: Chrome crossbars extend out from the Subaru logo. That line carries into the LED lights in the new headlights and further extends into the L-shaped chrome trim on the fog lights for a more sophisticated appearance. Our tester's 17-inch 15-spoke aluminum alloy wheels stood out. Overall, the Impreza seems more adult (yet handsome) in a category that tends to lean toward either sporty or bland....
The Honda CR-V has long been one of the top choices among compact crossovers, and the 2015 model brings much-needed R&R: refreshening and refinement. Most importantly, the SUV regains its Top Safety Pick honors from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
Appearance: The CR-V still carries the same gently rounded profile, but it gets some contemporary, chiseled details. There's a bolder grille, which has attractive chrome accents and slender headlights that sweep upward and are rimmed by classy LED daylight running lights (EX trim and up). It's a huge improvement when compared with last year's bland front end. The 18-inch fan blade-like alloy wheels on our tester looked sharp against the serene Mountain Air Metallic color. Lyra calls the look chic, but Peter wonders if the design — even with its tweaks — is starting to show its age....
We're fans of the conventional Kia Soul, so we were eager to drive the electric Soul. For starters, EVs are not for everyone — especially if you're a long-distance commuter like Lyra. That said, this Soul — Kia's first electric, which rolled out initially in California — proved to be all that we liked about the gas-powered model with only a few drawbacks.
Appearance: It's the same funky little hatchback, with the most noticeable difference being the grille, or the lack of it. Instead, there's a panel that covers the grille opening. This panel contains a door that opens to reveal the charging ports. The EV also has a body-color front bumper. Our tester was Caribbean Blue with a white roof....
Chevrolet has redefined the SUV — literally. The carmaker calls its new Trax a "Smart Urban Vehicle." And that, it is. The mini sport utility vehicle is nimble around town, yet provides ample cargo space. The Trax is new to the United States, but its concept is not: Buick's upscale version, the Encore, was introduced in 2013.
Appearance: This subcompact SUV is built on Chevy's Sonic platform, just like the Encore. This ute-let is only 167 inches long and resembles a more muscular compact hatchback with its fender flares and a tall, creased hood. The rather-small two-part grille, with its chrome-trimmed horizontal slats, seems to almost pucker. Having already kissed up to younger buyers with the Encore, which has proved to be a hit with them, General Motors no doubt hopes this cute ute does the same. Our LTZ trim tester came with 18-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels that added a bit of character to what is an otherwise generic design....
We're glad to see that Kia hasn't run up the white flag on its Sedona minivan, which was long overdue for a redesign. The segment is dominated, after all, by Chrysler, Toyota and Honda. The frumpy Kia has been all but an afterthought until now. For 2015, the Sedona is going all-in in the minivan race.
Appearance: Call this new Sedona's style Minivan Modern, with hints of design influences from its competitors. The look is best expressed in the front end, which reads more SUV than minivan: low nose, wide black-mesh grille trimmed with bright chrome and wraparound headlights bisected by LEDs. It's unfussy and effective. The body is now creased by subtle character lines, and our tester had 19-inch chrome-alloy wheels....
It's now game-on in the midsize truck segment. Toyota's Tacoma had led the segment until General Motors reintroduced its Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon last year. Toyota will soon respond with an all-new Tacoma for 2016. We recently got a chance to drive a '14 Tacoma. Because there were few changes for 2015, we decided to give it a spin.
Appearance: It now looks a bit stale compared to the new midsize pickups we mentioned from GM or even its big sibling, the Toyota Tundra. Our tester's color — Spruce MIca — was an attractive dark green. (Sadly, not available for 2015.) Our Tacoma "Access Cab" came in the PreRunner trim, and had the TRD Sport Extra Value Package ($3,575). With that, you get TRD graphics, 17-inch alloy wheels, a hood scoop and touches such as body-color trim surrounding the grille and flared fenders. The truck also sits high with a 9.3-inch ground clearance. Overall, it has an off-road, but dignified look. ...
Volkswagen's venerable Golf recently was named North American Car of the Year. That honor, along with a similar award from Motor Trend, took many by surprise. Maybe it shouldn't have, because the redesigned-for-2015 Golf has a model range — from EV to diesel to performance — that pushes the boundaries of the compact hatchback.
Appearance: Now in its seventh generation, the '15 Golf is not a radical departure from its predecessors, retaining the familiar wedge-shaped hatchback design. The changes are subtle: upswept headlights and taillights and some character lines on the side body panels, generally a more angular look. Our tester, the four-door TSI, was an attractive Silk Blue Metallic color, which contrasted nicely with the car's black- and chrome-accented grille and 15-inch Lyon alloy wheels. A nice touch that we've always liked: In the rear, the VW badge is actually the hatch latch....
New cars and experimental concept vehicles were introduced at the North American International Auto Show, which will continue through Sunday. Here are some notables:
Ford GT: The lightweight, carbon-fiber GT has a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine that produces more than 600 horsepower. The two-seater has deep, dramatic scoops in the hood and the sides and advanced aerodynamics, including a deployable rear spoiler. It's Ford's first GT in more than a decade and one of 12 new Ford performance vehicles coming to market by 2020. Pricing will be announced later, but executive chairman Bill Ford says it will be in the range of other exotic supercars like the $200,000 Lamborghini Gallardo. ...
The Accord has long been a bestseller, but the car is in a class of its own when it comes to model range: Honda is the only automaker that still makes a coupe version of its midsize sedan. In some ways, it's a throwback to the day when two-door cars were common. For 2015, most of the changes to the Accord involve features for the various trims.
Appearance: Overall, the look is a bit simple, some might say bland, for a sporty coupe. But in this case, less is more. This isn't a performance car, after all. What you get is a handsome coupe with enough visual interest — bold, black-mesh grille, LED-underscored headlights, flared fenders, 18-inch alloy wheels — to stand out among the drones on your morning commute....
Pity the minivan. The family hauler seems under assault from the ever-expanding market for SUVs and crossovers, and now the automakers seem to be scrambling to make them hip (?) and competitive. Enter the refreshed-for-2015 Toyota Sienna, one of the leaders in the minivan segment.
Appearance: It's tough to make a boxy minivan look good, but Toyota has done its best. Most of the changes are in the front fascia, which is bolder and more chiseled, a la the rest of the Toyota line, and has more modern upswept headlights. In our SE tester, the restyled grille came with chrome-trimmed black mesh that gave it a sporty look. The SE also comes with 19-inch, 6-spoke alloy wheels....
When it comes to cars, the term "entry level" has a no-frills connotation. When it comes to Mercedes-Benz, however, it's a relative term. To wit: the new SL400. The sporty two-seater is nominally the entry-level SL model, but for $84,000 — $22,000 less to start than the more powerful SL550 — there's little this roadster lacks.
Appearance: With its convertible top down, the low-slung SL400 carries the classic Mercedes roadster profile: long hood, raked windshield and sweeping lines that seem born of a sculptor rather than of a computer. As a design element, the wide mesh grille makes a statement all its own. It's bisected by a chrome bar that has the three-blade, propeller-style Mercedes-Benz logo in the middle with a deep air dam beneath it. The car's iconic look is complemented by LED running lights and wraparound LED taillights....
Auto sales are up, gas prices are dropping and 2014 ends with the big SUVs surging in popularity again. But it was two small SUVs that impressed us. Here are our favorites from among the vehicles we drove this year. As always, there were many we didn't get the opportunity to drive, so we are already preparing our 2015 wish list.
Lexus NX 200t (2015): The Lexus is one of the best-looking small SUVs on the market and carries the automaker's first turbocharged engine. It has the practicality of a "ute," but in its F Sport trim also has lively performance and handling. Not to mention it's eye candy — all chiseled angles and bold character lines. Best of all, it's fun to drive. ...
It's not every day the term "mac daddy" is used to describe the Toyota Camry, which despite being the bestselling car in America, has always been more bland that hip. But when Peter pulled the redesigned-for-2015 Camry into a Publix parking space, the car was greeted by an admiring onlooker calling it the "mac daddy" of Camrys. That's true — our tester was the top-level XSE, a new package — but in any trim, this is not your daddy's Camry....