Buy a new car now, and you might regret it before the year is out. More than 40 new models were recently unveiled at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Some are concept cars that are unlikely to reach the roads soon, if ever, but others are 2013 model-year vehicles that will be in showrooms by mid-to-late 2012. Among those are a handful that are so impressive that many car buyers will find them well worth the wait…
The redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion is about to present a major challenge to the midsize sedan competition, including the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata.
The new Fusion’s styling is striking—reminiscent of an Aston Martin. Its interior is elegant and relatively spacious, and it will offer a wide range of impressive drivetrain options. The base gas engine is expected to provide 26 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 37 mpg on the highway* (best of any midsize sedan, excluding hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles), while still producing a respectable 170 horsepower (hp). There also are more powerful gas engine options…and a gas-electric hybrid that should deliver 47 mpg in the city and 44 on the highway. A plug-in hybrid with a gas engine and a battery that can be charged from a wall socket will do even better.
Prices have not been announced but are expected to start at $18,000 to $19,000 for the base model and up to $26,000 to $28,000 for the hybrid. There will be an all-wheel-drive version, too.
Available: Fall 2012 for gas and standard hybrid…early 2013 for the plug-in hybrid.
Sure, hybrids make sense for the environment. They just haven’t made much sense for our wallets. Any money that hybrid owners save at the pump usually is offset by the high prices of the vehicles…until now.
The soon-to-be-released Toyota Prius c five-door hatchback is the first hybrid that truly makes financial sense—it’s both less expensive and more fuel-efficient than earlier hybrids. With a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) that starts below $19,000, it will be only a few thousand more than well-made, well-equipped nonhybrid hatchbacks. Expect 53 mpg in the city and 46 on the highway. The trade-off is size—the Prius c is 19 inches shorter than the standard Prius, but the backseat folds down to provide plenty of cargo space.
Available: March 2012. (Despite its late release, the initial Prius c will be part of Toyota’s 2012 model year.)
Chrysler is bringing back a Dodge Dart, a name not seen on any new car sold in the US since the mid-1970s. But this new Dart actually has European roots. It was designed in collaboration with Chrysler owner Fiat and will be built on a modified Alfa Romeo platform. The result is a sharp-looking compact sedan that should offer a taste of the fun and sharp-handling ride of a European performance vehicle. It’s expected to start at just $16,000 to $17,000. A range of available engine packages and options could push prices much higher, however. Fuel-economy data has not yet been released, but low-to-mid-30s mpg can be expected.
Available: Spring 2012.
The Hyundai Veloster 3-door coupe already is on the roads, having debuted as a 2012 model. It’s a very appealing car for its price, offering sporty looks and handling, good fuel efficiency and Hyundai’s strong quality and warranty.
In fact, the 2012 Veloster had just one significant flaw—its 138-hp, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine felt underpowered for a car designed to be sporty. Hyundai is correcting that for the 2013 model year with the new 201-hp Veloster Turbo. The result could very well be the most fun driving experience in this price range. The Veloster Turbo’s projected fuel economy—27 mpg city, 38 highway—also is quite good for a car with this much power.
It’s likely to start somewhere between $21,000 and $24,000.
Available: Summer 2012.
The BMW ActiveHybrid 3 is a hybrid version of the BMW 3-series, the entry-level luxury sedan against which all other entry-level luxury sedans are measured. The ActiveHybrid 3 is no underpowered, efficiency-first hybrid—it likely will have a 300-plus-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine. Still, the hybrid technology boosts fuel efficiency by 12.5%, compared with similar 3-series models, according to BMW. That likely will mean around 37 mpg on the highway. Expect prices to start a little below $40,000.
Available: Fall 2012.
The terms “Buick” and “SUV” both conjure up images of large vehicles, but the new Buick Encore crossover SUV is small and efficient. It’s just 168.5 inches long—more than a foot shorter than the popular Toyota RAV4, but its interior feels surprisingly spacious, and there’s an impressive 48 cubic feet of cargo space when the backseats are folded flat.
The same small-but-effective ethic applies to the Encore’s engine, a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The Encore’s styling and interior are as luxurious as you would expect from a Buick. Prices are likely to start in the mid-$20,000s.
Available: Early 2013.
*Fuel economy figures noted in this article for 2013 model-year vehicles are estimates from the automakers. Official EPA figures will be released as the cars approach their release dates.
Source: Karl Brauer, a longtime automotive journalist in Camarillo, California, who recently launched www.TotalCarScore.com, which brings a wide range of car reviews together in a single location. He previously served as editor in chief of the leading automotive Web site www.Edmunds.com.