2013 Lemon Aid New Car Reviews - Mid-size

The mid-size segment, once a key market sector, is diminishing in importance year by year. Some buyers have downsized to the larger compacts now available, while others have defected to entry-level luxury cars and compact CUVs.

With all-new versions of the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mazda 6 (marketed as a 2014), and Nissan Altima on sale this year, 2013 is a banner year for new mid-size cars.

The four-cylinder cars in this class deliver a pleasing blend of performance, refinement and fuel economy. They are as quick and quiet as many six-cylinder cars in this class were a decade ago. The optional six-cylinder engines in this segment, originally for those who wanted a bit of extra power and refinement, have grown so powerful that most V6 cars in this class produce more horsepower than the 4L V8 did in the first Lexus LS400. That said, Ford and Chevrolet have eliminated V6 engines from their mid-size offerings and the Buick Regal, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Mazda 6 are now exclusively powered by four-cylinder engines. Though V6 engines have been left behind, big power has not. Turbocharged fours producing similar horsepower to the previous V6 engines are offered in the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. While it doesn't field a high performance engine in the new 6, Mazda has joined Volkswagen in proposing (no firm on sale date has been given) a diesel engine in its mid-size car. Automakers, keen on producing favourable test results on U.S. government fuel economy tests and to conform with CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) regulations, are creating complex powertrains that produce good test numbers but don't deliver any real-world performance or fuel economy benefits. 

Most vehicles in this class achieve Good scores in the four categores (front, side, rear and roof strength) tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and four or five stars (out of a maximum of five stars) in the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests. With passive safety almost a given in this segment, active safety is increasingly becoming a focus for automakers. Equipment like blind spot detection, cross traffic and  lane departure warnings and forward collision alerts are filtering down from the luxury segment into mainstream mid-size cars at a rapid rate. 

The former incentive wizards of the domestic makers once used cheap leases to attract buyers. With the credit crunch, domestics leasing stopped dead for a number of years. Ford and GM are back in the game, but more as a courtesy than as a marketing tool as (except for Buick) lease monthlies are are often so close to those for financing as to make leasing untenable. Chrysler hasn't leased since 2008. Of  the Japanese brands, Honda, Subaru and Toyota proffer high-value leasing plans. On the other hand, Nissan and Mazda will lease you a vehicle but the terms offered will divert you to financing. Hyundai and Kia leasing arrangements are inconsistent, being modestly tempting one month and lacking any appeal a month later. 

A note about mileage: The APA's posted fuel economy figures for 2013 differ from those published by the Canada EnerGuide. Starting in  2012, the APA used the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), numbers for fuel economy, as they better reflect real-world fuel economy. For more information, read APA President George Iny's article regarding the inadequacies of the Canada EnerGuide test cycle

 

Buick LaCrosse  Dodge Avenger  Mazda 6  Suzuki Kizashi 
Buick Regal  Ford Fusion  Nissan Altima  Toyota Camry 
2013 Chevrolet Malibu  Honda Accord  2013 Nissan Altima  Toyota Prius 
Chrysler 200  Hyundai Sonata  Subaru Legacy, Outback  Toyota Prius V 
  Kia Optima  2013 Subaru Legacy, Outback  Volkswagen Passat 

Buick LaCrosse

Specifications


 

 

 

 

What’s new
IntelliLink" an integrated phone link and audio system, is standard. Front-wheel drive variants feature electric power steering for 2013. The powertrain warranty has been changed from five years160,000 to six years 110,000 km.

Performance
The V6 is responsive but causes considerable torque-steer under heavy acceleration. Smooth, responsive transmission, generally smooth ride. The LaCrosse is very quiet.

Comments
The LaCrosse, built on the Epsilon 2 platform that underpins the Opel Insignia, benefits from the input of GM's operations on three continents. With clean lines and artfully subdued detailing, this is one good looking Buick. Containing cool blue instruments and a prominent centre stack, the dashboard of the Lacrosse borders on the avant-garde. The rest of the cabin is an example of how visual restraint can be luxurious. Top-notch cabin materials and assembly. Cabin space, while good, is less than expected in such a big car. Power stems from either the standard eAssist light hybrid system that helps during acceleration but can't run the car in a full electric mode, or an optional 3.6L V6. Power reaches the front wheels (or optionally all-wheels) via a six-speed automatic transmission. Active xenon lights and a Blind Zone Alert monitor are optional. Small windows and large roof pillars restrict outward visibility. With around 2500 sold in 2012, the LaCrosse is a low-volume car.

Pricing
The 1SL package is good value. The 1SR group includes $3000 in content plus the V6 for around $4500. The 1SH upgrade is priced to reflect the value of its contents. Similarly-equipped, the V6-only all-wheel drive system is priced $4070 higher than a 2.4L front-wheel drive model. 

Reliability
Limited information regarding this low-volume model. Complaints have been received regarding defective timing chains on the 3.6L-V6 engine. Predicted weak spots include the suspension and steering components. Expensive replacement parts. A GM extended warranty is recommended if you buy a LaCrosse.

See the Hybrid and Electric car section.


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants:  2/3
Engines:
2.4L-4 H (182 HP combined), 3.6L-V6 (303 HP)*
 
Transmissions: 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive*

City Fuel Economy:  13.8L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: n/a

Warranty: 4/80,000, 6/110,000

Country of Origin:  United States

 

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Buick Regal

Specifications


 

 

 

What’s new
Massive move upmarket, with the 1SL eAssist base model priced nearly $7000 more than the cheapest 2012 Regal. The IntelliLink integrated phone-audio system is standard. New colours. Powertrain warranty changed from five years/160,000 km to six years/110,000 km.

Performance
The Regal's eAssist 2.4L four is smooth and sufficiently quick in normal driving, but feels a bit pushed when maximum acceleration is requested. The 220 horsepower 2L turbo is lively; with the 270 horsepower turbo in the GS being very quick. The smooth automatic transmission acts very slowly at times. Sloppy manual transmission. Precise steering with good road feel. Progressive brakes. The ride is firm, yet never harsh. Crisp, stable handling. Large, heavily-sloped windshield pillars restrict visibility. Small door-mounted rear-view mirrors. Chic, modern and attractive cabin with comfortable seats and competitive room for a car in this class. Rear headroom is a bit tight for taller occupants. The large, elegant gauges are poorly marked. The button-festooned dash centre-stack makes adjusting the audio and navigation systems more complex than they need to be.   

Comments
Compared with the LaCrosse, the Regal is built on a 99 mm (3.9 inch) shorter wheelbase, measures 69 mm (2.7 inches) less from stem to stern, is 46 mm (1.8 inches) narrower and 13 mm (half an inch) lower than its showroom mate. Two four-cylinder engines, a standard light assist (it won't run in full electric mode) hybrid and two versions (220 and 270 horsepower), of GM's turbocharged 2L four, optional. Most Regals will send power to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, but a six-speed manual is offered with the turbos. Exterior styling is, except for the grille and some minor details, carried over directly from the very elegant Opel Insignia that the Regal is based on. Hobbling the Regal with GM's expensive and ineffective eAssist hybrid system has contributed to an astronomically increased base price which could finish off a car that was already selling poorly. It is a mystery why the Regal is not offered with GM's new 2.5L four.

Pricing
The 220 horsepower turbo is priced just slightly higher than a comparably-equipped eAssist model. The 1SR package is priced to reflect the value of its contents.  At $2695, the GS upgrade is expensive for an extra 40 horsepower.  

Reliability
Not rated. Insufficient data on this recently-introduced model. Suspension problems predicted. Expensive replacement parts. A GM extended warranty is recommended.   


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants:  2/3

Engines:
2L-4 T (220 HP,  270 HP [GS ]), 2.4L-4 H (182 compined)*

Transmissions: 6M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  9.4L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings:

Warranty: 4/80,000, 6/110,000

Country of Origin:  Canada 

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Chevrolet Malibu

Specifications

NEW

 

 

 

 

What’s new
The launch of the smaller 2103 Malibu was delayed from the winter of 2012 until the fall. Poorly received by the press and public, a major "refresh" of the Malibu is expected in the fall of 2013.

Performance
Tested with a 2.4L eAssist four-cylinder light hybrid powertrain, the Malibu was sufficiently responsive as well as generally smooth and quiet. The eAssist Malibu was as quick as a Ford Fusion 1.6T, but was a fair bit slower than the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. The mainstream 2.5L four is reputed to be stronger, smoother and quieter than the optional eAssist four. The Malibu's steering is light but precise steering delivers good feedback as to what is transpiring under its wheels. The six-speed automatic transmission, a Ford-GM co-operative venture, works better in the Malibu likely due to better transmission programming. The Malibu's dynamic balance is more biased toward ride than handling, but its handling is predictable and the Malibu's suspension is unfazed by a full complement of passengers. The suspension clunks that plagued the last Malibu are blissfully absent on the new car. Except when accelerating hard, the Malibu is very quiet. Small windows and heavy rear roof pillars restrict outward visibility. Excellent audio system. 

While the Malibu's interior is the antithesis of avant-gardist it is, except for the unfinished-looking ribbed plastic trim facing the front passenger, elegant and carefully constructed from very attractive components. Faux wood and faux allow trim are very well done. While the square-shaped instrument pods are gimmicky to some, the gauges themselves are crisp and clear. The centre stack contains a plethora of buttons, but that seems preferable to the touch-sensitive screens used by many makers now. All controls are smooth acting. Though it is a bit narrow, front occupants have sufficient space and reside on comfortable seats. The rear seat cushion is mounted a bit low, the space is narrow and legroom is no better than what is available many compact cars. Trunk space in the hybrid model is hampered by the necessary batteries, but cargo volume in Malibus powered by the mainstream engines is quite good. 

Comments
The fourth-generation Malibu in modern times is built on the shorter wheelbase version of the Epsilon II platform shared with the Buick Regal. This will open up more space between it and the next-generation Impala as the previous Malibu's similar cabin space, more elegant styling and cheaper price appealed to more buyers. GM claims the new Malibu's design is “Sportier” than its predecessor. Though more attractive in real life than in photos, the new car, with a super-tall grille and awkward conglomeration of styling elements, lacks the sleek grace of its predecessor. The new Malibu has been poorly received by critics and buyers, and like Honda with the "premature" release of the 2012 Civic, Chevrolet is rushing through a substantial remake of the Malibu for the fall of 2013. The base engine is a 2.5L four, with a 2.4L light hybrid and a turbocharged 2L four, optional. Power reaches the from wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission regardless of engine choice.

Pricing
1LT upgrade overpriced. 2LT package priced to value. LTZ turbo worth about $1900 when other package upgrades are accounted for. The eAssist hybrid system is priced $1145 (2LT) to $1615 (1LT) higher than the equivalent 2.5L Malibu. Poor lease value. 

Reliability
New car, not rated. Most GM new cars experience some launch glitches
See the Hybrid and Electric car section.


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants:  2/3

Engines:
2L-4 T (260 HP), 2.4L-4 H(182 HP combined)*, 2.5L-4 (190 HP) 

Transmissions: 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  9.4L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings:

Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000

Country of Origin:  United States

 

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger

Specifications


 

 

 

What’s new
No changes of note.
Performance
The 200's handling can be described as safe, sound and predictable, but also devoid of any sort of excitement or fun. The soft suspension is at its best on the highway, but copes poorly on broken pavement where it heaves and bounces. The nicely weighted steering lacks feel. With a spongy pedal and a lack of initial bite, the brakes are hard to modulate. The 3.6L V6 moves the relatively lightweight 200 with great alacrity, but lacks the polished refinement of Honda's 3.5L V6 or GM's 3.6L engine. The six-speed automatic transmission is keen on quickly attaining the highest gear possible, jumping from first to fourth in gentle driving, but is reluctant to downshift when asked to. Touchy accelerator pedal. Smaller outside and inside than competitors like the Accord or Camry, the 200 nevertheless has good space for four adults. The supportive seats are mounted close to the floor. Clear gauges and logical controls.

Comments
The 200 and Avenger return for 2013 with few changes after a major refit for 2011. Two engines, a 2.4L four and a 3.6L V6, are available in both cars. The four is hooked up to a four-speed automatic transmission, but a six-speed automatic, standard with the V6, is optional with the four. The 200 is also available as a two-door convertible. An optional steel folding hard top is optional on the S and Limited trim versions of the convertible.

Pricing
The 200 convertible is priced $10,200 to $12,700 more than its sedan equivalent. The soft top is standard, with a retractable hardtop optional on the Limited and S trim levels. Except for the Avenger SXT+ and 200 Limited, similarly-equipped versions of these two cars sell for the same price. Overpriced trim upgrades in 2013. The base models of these cars sell for only $1000 more than a Toyota Corolla CE EHP with automatic. A fully-equipped 200 is priced $4000 less than a fully equipped Honda Accord V6 sedan with navigation. Savage depreciation predicted.

Reliability
Not rated. The 3.6L V6 engine is unproven. The previous version of this platform was rated below average for reliability.


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants:  2/3

Engines:
2.4L-4 (173 HP), 3.6L-V6 (283 HP)* 

Transmissions: 4A, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  12.4L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: n/a

Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000

Country of Origin:  United States

 

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Ford Fusion

Specifications

NEW

 

 

 

What’s new
Alan Mulally's "One Ford" mantra has spawned an in-house replacement for the Fusion and European Mondeo.  
Performance
Equipped with a 1.6L turbo four hooked to a six-speed automatic transmission, the 2013 Fusion delivered solid acceleration and was acceptably flexible and refined on the open road, but sounded coarse and  felt lethargic in city driving. In a group test that included the Chevrolet Malibu Eco hybrid, and four-cylinder versions of the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima, the Ford was as quick as the Chevrolet but notably slower than the two Japanese-branded cars. The Fusion's six-speed automatic transmission, a GM-Ford joint venture, was reluctant to kickdown and was neither as smooth nor as responsive as the same unit installed in the Malibu. Nicely weighted and geared steering. The ride-handling compromise reflects careful development and is in keeping with the Fusion's mission as a large family hauler. Solid brakes. The swoopy styling, especially the swept back windshield pillars, restricts outward vision. Excellent rear view camera which shows the projected path of the car which alters depending on how much the steering wheel is turned. Ford has installed turbocharged fours in the Fusion more to provide a low fuel consumption figure for the U.S. government fuel economy test cycle and to conform with the government-imposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations than to provide real-world performance and fuel economy benefits to Fusion buyers. 

With fresh modern design and attractive materials, the cabin of the Fusion is a resounding success. The interior is fronted by an attractive dashboard containing what has become Ford's universal gauge package featuring a conventional speedometre flanked by changeable electronic displays. Employing the same components over multiple vehicles in the range can save a manufacturer a lot of money but the uniformity must be stifling in design terms and the look is becoming a bit tiresome. The 205A package SE we drove also had the MyFord Touch system, which, despite numerous updates, still defines counter-intuitive. Luckily Ford also provides "normal" controls for the climate and audio functions, but these touch sensitive as well and don't react reliably on every push. The touch-sensitive controls don't react to gloved hands so you will need to set your controls before you start off if it is a really cold day. Our early production car had a front passenger door with an inoperative window and a rattle, as well as a sunglasses holder that was only tentatively attached to the headliner. In all other ways, the Fusion's cabin was attractively designed and nicely appointed. Comfortable seats ally with sufficient legroom to let four (five in a pinch) people be comfortable on a long journey. That said, space utilization is disappointing considering the Fusion's XXXL exterior. Big trunk, but the small trunk lid makes loading awkward.

Comments
Alan Mulally's "One Ford" mantra has spawned an in-house replacement (the previous Fusion was based on the first-generation Mazda 6) for the Fusion and European Mondeo. Fronted by an Aston-Martin tribute grille, the new Fusion is marginally longer and a bit taller than its predecessor. The exterior design, lauded in the press, is one of the most attractive cars in a segment where style is generally an afterthought.

Power stems exclusively from four-cylinder engines. The base four is a normally-aspirated 2.5L with 175 horsepower. Two turbos, a 1.6L with 178 horsepower and a 241 horsepower 2L are optional. The 1.6L four can be hooked up to a six-speed manual transmission, but a six-speed automatic is the sole choice otherwise. Front-wheel drive is standard on the S and SE, with all-wheel drive optional on the 2L SE and mandatory on the 2L Titanium model. Two hybrids are available for 2013. The conventional hybrid twins a normally-aspirated 2L four with an electric motor to create 188 combined horsepower. The plug-in "Energi" model employs the same hardware but its lithium-ion batteries can power the car in full electric mode for the first 43 kilometres, after which the car reverts to "conventional" hybrid operation. 

Pricing
The base S model lacks expected equipment like power seat and alloy wheels and is merely a ruse to permit a low MSRP for advertising purposes. Good value SE trim upgrade. The leather-lined Titanium upgrade is good value but bizarrely imposes mandatory all-wheel drive. The optional all-wheel drive system on the SE is priced at $3400, but includes the 2L engine upgrade. The $1900 SE204A package includes the $900 1.6T engine. The 2L is listed as a $1400 option on the SE, but requires the $3000 205A option. The conventional hybrid is priced $3600 higher than an SE Fusion 1.6 SE. The 204A specification with optional heated seats is priced $1800 higher than a similarly-equipped Honda Accord.

Reliability
Not rated. The Fusion has an all new platform and mechanical units. Unproven turbo engines. Recent new Fords have experienced launch glitches. An extended warranty is recommended. Wait for a year before buying the hybrids. 

See the Hybrid and Electric car section.


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants:  2/3

Engines: 1.6L-4 T (178 HP)*, 2L-4 T (240 HP), 2.5L-4 (175 HP), 2L-4 H and Energi  (141 HP gasoline, 188 combined), 3L-V6 (240 HP), 3.5L-V6 (263 HP)
Transmissions: 6M, 6A*, CVT 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive*, all-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  9.8L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: n/a
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000, , 5/100,000

Country of Origin:  Mexico

 

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Honda Accord

Specifications

NEW

 

 

 

 

What’s new
All-new Accord sedan and coupe. Plug-in hybrid has been shown but is coming to Canada for evaluation only, with no plans for volume sales. Advanced safety equipment like a lane departure warning, side-view camera and collision avoidance are standard on the four-cylinder EX-L and higher trim levels. A full hybrid will go on sale in the fall of 2013. 

Performance
Hooked up to CVT, the Accord sedan's 2.4L four smoothly furnishes quick, eager performance. Honda's CVT, unlike many others, minimizes high-rev operation to such an extent that few drivers will be aware that the Accord is equipped with a CVT unless they seek sustained high levels of acceleration. The Accord accelerated neck and neck with the Nissan Altima, both of which were considerably faster than the Ford Fusion 1.6T and Chevrolet Malibu Eco they were tested against. Like previous Accords, the new one rides a bit more firmly than other cars in the segment but this is offset by crisper handling and a greater sense of control than competing cars. Nicely weighted and geared steering. Strong brakes with good pedal feel. Engine and wind noise are subdued, but Honda's traditional downfall, pronounced road noise is joined by prominent road grit pinging off the underside of the Accord. A high driving position and large windows provide a level of visibility seldom seen in modern cars.  

The Accord's cabin is fronted by a less intrusive dashboard than the one installed in the previous version of the car. The driver faces a gauge package pulled right out of the CR-V, but with darker gauge faces than in its showroom mate. The instrument cluster is easy to scan but the silver-painted perimeters of the gauges look like they were done by hand by a model car enthusiast. A large screen, for the rear-view camera in all models and the navigation screen on fancier variants, dominates the centre of the dashboard. Below the main screen is a separate touch screen controlling audio source and station selection, as well as a conventional volume knob. The all-button climate controls reside in a narrow strip between the radio screen and the multi-function control knob on navigation-equipped cars that dominates the main centre stack of the dashboard. While the Accord's cabin is fashioned from mostly attractive components, the (except for the headliner) all-black cabin standard with most exterior colours is oppressively grim in appearance. Faux alloy trim is particularly well done but trim fillets meant to be ebony wood in reality resemble dull scratched plastic and do nothing to relieve the monochromatic ambience of the Accord's cabin. Though the Accord's cabin may look grim, with big, comfortable seats and acres of space, it is one of the most comfortable cars in its segment. Trunk space is on the small size for a car this big.  

Comments
Although its silhouette is very similar to that of the previous Accord, Honda's new mid-size sedan has been shorn of the odd protuberances and indecisiveness of the last car to reveal a clean shape with some very elegant detailing. To improve packaging and according to Honda, noise abatement, Honda has installed MacPherson strut front suspension in place of the previous dual wishbone setup. Power stems from a new direct-injected 185 horsepower (189 Sport) 2.4L four referred to as "Earth Dreams" by Honda. The 2.4L is hooked either to a new CVT or to a six-speed manual transmission on all four-cylinder Accords except for the EX-L. A 3.5.L V6, hooked to a six-speed automatic, is optional. Lane departure, blind spot and forward collision systems are standard on the EX-L 2.4L and fancier models. An Accord hybrid which will run in full-electric mode like the hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry, goes on sale as a 2014 model in the fall of 2013.  

Pricing
Sport and Touring trim upgrades are priced to reflect extra content. The EX-L model is a bargain. The V6 is priced $3500-3700 more than a 2.4L Accord with similar equipment. The coupe lineup is structured differently than the sedan, but prices are close for similarly-equipped cars. Excellent lease value.
Reliability
Above average reliability predicted. Over the last few years, the Accord has generated fewer complaints than the Toyota Camry.


Body Style:  4SD*, 2CP
Occupants:  2/3

Engines:
2.4L-4 (185 HP* (189 HP Sport)  3.5L-V6 (278 HP)

Transmissions: 6M, CVT*, 6A 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  8.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: Tier 2 Bin 5

Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000

Country of Origin:  United States

 

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Hyundai Sonata

Specifications


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s new
The 2013 Sonata was released in the late spring of 2012. Changes include a new SE trim level spliced in between the GLS and Limited that includes leather upholstery, dual exhaust, 18 inch wheels and the same stiffer suspension settings as the 2L turbocharged Sonata. Standard equipment on Limited models includes a 400 watt name-brand stereo. The manual transmission 2.4GL and the base 2.0T have been discontinued for 2013.   

Performance
The 2.4L direct injection four is strong and flexible, but gets raucous at higher revs. Very good fuel consumption and range for a car in this category. The 2L turbo four matches V6 competitors for grunt and tractability, but lacks their polished refinement. The turbo will run on regular gas. The Sonata’s automatic transmission shifts smoothly and responds obediently to kickdown requests. The precise steering is nicely weighted on the normally-aspirated 2.4L model, some drivers found the turbo's steering to be too heavy and that of the hybrid is numb and reacts to inputs in a non-linear fashion. The conventional models have crisp handling and roadholding, offset by a harsh ride. The hybrid has a more absorbent ride than its platform-mates, but twins it with a lot more wallow in corners. Overall refinement can’t match the leaders in the mid-size segment. Large windshield pillars restrict vision to the front, but the view out is acceptable in other directions despite the shallow side windows and low seating position. Though the Sonata’s cabin is spacious, total comfort is compromised by short front seat cushions and an oddly shaped rear seat. The cabin is fronted by a dramatically styled dashboard housing two large main gauges, each of which contains a smaller readout, one for fuel and the other for temperature. Clever. The Volvo-style human body graphic, which in Volvos, can be pushed to direct airflow to the head, torso or legs, is just a graphic in the Sonata, with a Mode button controlling air distribution. Overall the Sonata’s cabin design looks a bit downmarket, especially the featureless door panels. Good audio systems. Very big trunk.

Comments
Most Sonatas will be powered by a normally-aspirated 2.4L four that produces an impressive 198 horsepower. With no V6 available, Sonata intenders who want even better performance than the 2.4L provides can opt for a 2L turbo four that cranks out 274 horsepower. The powertrain on the hybrid combines to create 206 horsepower, an impressive figure. The electric motor is powered by Lithium Polymer batteries that are, according to Hyundai, 30 percent lighter, 40 percent more compact and 10 percent more efficient than the Nickel Metal Hydride batteries used in other hybrids. Unlike most other hybrids, the power units are hooked up to a conventional six-speed automatic transmission that provides a more conventional driving experience than the CVTs used by the competition. 

Pricing
Upgrading from the GL to the GLS represents exceptional value. The price jump from the GLS to the SE reflects the additional content contained in the package. The Limited trim level is a bargain, but the navigation packages (which include a panoramic sunroof) is just reasonable value. The turbo is priced $2800 higher than a 2.4L Sonata with similar equivalent. Good lease value as of March 2013. 

Reliability
Not rated, insufficient data on this recent model with a new platform and new mechanical elements. The previous model was reliable. .

See the Hybrid and Electric car section.


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants:  2/3

Engines:
2.4L-4 (198 HP [200 HP SE]), 2L-4 T (274 HP), 2.4L-4 H (166 HP gasoline, 206 combined) 

Transmissions: 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  9.8L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: Tier 2 Bin 5 (2.4L, 2.0 T), Tier 2 Bin 2 (Hybrid)
Warranty: 7/120,000. Hybrid: 8/160,000 on all hybrid system components.

Country of Origin:  United States, South Korea (hybrid only)

 

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Kia Optima

Specifications


 

 

 

 

What’s new
2013 updates are limited to revised seats. 

Performance
The refined 2.4L base four, which pulls strongly from 2000 rpm to the redline, and copes easily with the six-speed automatic's tendency to grab the highest gear possible. Good passing power. The fast 2L turbo is overkill for most drivers, and can't match the silky delivery of the V6s offered by some competitors. Quick, economical hybrid. The steering will feel too heavy for some, and with absolutely no centre play, maintaining a steady path at highway speeds is a challenge. While firm, the ride is never harsh. Crisp handling in typical driving but the Optima's suspension loses its composure when the going gets rough, with the front end running out of travel on big bumps. The brakes lack initial bite. Excellent audio system. Thick rear roof pillars and a high trunk line impair visibility. Big, clear gauges and very logical controls (a bit less so with navigation). Comfortable front seats and plenty of space front and rear, however, the rear seat has an oddly shaped backrest that diminishes comfort. Attractive cabin fittings, even on the base model. The Optima's cabin design and materials are more attractive than they are on the Hyundai Sonata built on the same platform. 

Comments
Based on the Hyundai Sonata, the Optima has a totally bespoke exterior and cabin. The car has great presence in the metal and looks great on the street. It is visually clean and looks really expensive. The base engine is a 200 horsepower normally-aspirated 2.4L four, with a 2L turbocharged four, with 274 horsepower, optional. A hybrid version with 206 horsepower, sending power to the wheels via a conventional six-speed automatic transmission, is also available. A six-speed manual transmission is offered on the base model, but most Optimas will be fitted with a six-speed automatic. At about 2100 units shifted, Optima sales were about four times what its predecessor, the Magentis, sold in 2010. That said, the Sonata outsold the Optima nearly nine-to-one. 

Pricing
Upgrading to fancier models is very good vale. Poor value leasing. Optima and Sonata prices are so close that it won't influence the purchase of one versus the other. Poor lease value.

Reliability
Above average reliability predicted. The previous model was reliable.
See the Hybrid and Electric car section.


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants:  2/3

Engines:2L-4 T (274 HP), 2.4L-4 (198 HP)*, 2.4L-4 H (166 HP gasoline, 206 HP combined)
Transmissions: 6M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  9.8L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: SULEV (2.4L)

Warranty: 5/100,000

Country of Origin:  South Korea

 

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



2014 Mazda 6

Specifications

NEW

 

 

 

What’s new
All-new ''one world' third-generation 2014 Mazda 6 went on sale early in 2013. A diesel engine will join the mainstream 2.5L gasoline four sometime during the 2013 model year.

Comments
Based on the "Takeri" concept car, the new 6 went on sale early in 2013. The new car, built on a 40 mm (1.6 inch) longer wheelbase, is 76 mm (3 inches) shorter, the same width and marginally lower than the last 6. Unlike the last 6, which had a North-American specific model, the same version of the 6 is sold worldwide. Fronted by Mazda's five angle grille, the 6's shape is trim, athletic and modern, with some chic bright detailing. The 6's dashboard resembles that of the he CX-5. Big, clear gauges, logical controls and attractive materials except for cheap, unsecured carpeting. The front seats are a touch small for the segment and some thought lacked support for long-haul drives. Rear seat legroom is unimpressive for what is a very large car. A low roofline hurts space efficiency and also hampers ingress/egress, which is poor. The trunk is wide and long but quite shallow. Power stems from a 2.5L version of Mazda's SkyActive four developing 184 horsepower. A low-compression (14 to 1) 2.2L diesel engine has been announced and should be on sale by the fall of 2013. Final output figures have not been announced but the same engine produces just under 150 horsepower and around 280 ft-lb's. of torque in other markets where it is sold. The low-compression ratio of Mazda's diesel eliminates the need for expensive urea injection to conform with stringent particulate and nitrous-oxide emissions regulations. Six-speed transmissions, an automatic and a manual, transmit power to the front wheels. Mazda's i-ELOOP Smart City system, which uses regenerative braking to store power in capacitors to help run some electrical components, is part of the GT Technology package. This package also includes camera-based Lane Departure and Sonar based low-speed collision alerts.

Driven briefly by the APA with an automatic transmission, the 6 was quick, took on a sporty engine note when extended and except for a slight boom period at cruising speed, was quiet. Good isolation from tire noise but road debris pinging off the underside of the car, often sounded like the floor was being slapped by a wet towel, prompted comments from several passengers. The GT model, shod with low-profile 19 inch tires delivered crisp steering response and generated a firm but resilient ride in Ontario but drivers in Quebec thought the supension reacted too harshly on large road imperfections. Large, steeply raked windshield pillars, massive B-pillars and shallow side windows restrict outward visibility. The active cruise control on the car tested worked very well. Speed was modified imperceptibly to maintain the selected following distance, speeding up the car once an obtruction was removed and would actively brake the car if an obstacle, such as a car cutting in to close ahead of the 6, suddenly appeared. The rear cross traffic alert functionned very well, but the blind-spot monitor was a touch oversensitive and announced impediments too early. While its graphics were amateur, the name-brand navigation system worked very well, much better than the mediocre "designer" audio system. Good heating, Weak rear defroster. 

Pricing
The GS trim upgrade is priced to reflect the value of its contents. The GT trim level and GS Luxury and GT Technology packages are very good value. A 6 GT is priced slightly higher than a 2.4L Accord Touring.

Reliability
New car, not rated. Average reliability is predicted. Mazdas generally develop a few more problems than similar cars from Honda, Hyundai or Toyota.  


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants:  2/3

Engines:
2.5L-4 (170 HP)*, 3.7L-V6 (272 HP)

Transmissions: 6M, 5A, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  10.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: n/a
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000

Country of Origin:  Japan

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 


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