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The Mazda CX-5 is a compact crossover SUV that entered production for the 2013 model year. It showcased and flagships the company’s new “KODO – Soul of Motion” design language. It is also the first Mazda to showcase the company’s full SKYACTIV system of performance, handling, safety, and economy in one package. Some of these technologies were first introduced in the high-selling Mazda3 compact sedan for the 2012 model year and have proven to be successful in improving fuel economy and driver experience.

The Mazda CX-5 replaces the larger and underselling CX-7 as well as the Tribute SUV. The CX-5 is a five-door crossover SUV that seats five and is powered by a choice between two gasoline and one diesel engine options (Europe only). It is available in both front- and all-wheel drive and is made in Japan for U.S. and Canadian sales.

Mazda CX-5 Origins

The Mazda CX-5 began as a MINAGI concept, shown in 2011 at the Geneva Motor Show. This was an all-new concept based on the SKYACTIV suite of technologies using a smaller version of the CX-7 crossover as its base. A European version of the concept was shown at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show followed by the Japanese version at the Tokyo Motor Show that same year. The production version of the CX-5 was debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show that year and released in early 2012 to global markets.

Although some component elements are carried over from the CX-7 and Tribute, the Mazda CX-5 is completely new in its architecture thanks to the full integration and ground-up design utilizing the SKYACTIV system. Directly replacing the Mazda Tribute, the CX-5 has seen far better sales figures than its predecessor did in the compact SUV segment.

About the Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 features all new styling in the KODO language, which won it the Japan Car of the Year Award for 2012-2013 and it has received acclaim from most of the automotive press worldwide. In late 2012, it was named a finalist for the Green Car of the Year award in 2012. A total of just over 43,000 CX-5s were sold in the U.S. in 2012.

The Mazda CX-5 offers a 2.0-liter, SKYACTIV-G or 2.5-liter, SKYACTIV-G engine option in a six-speed automatic or manual transmission. The automatic transmission gives an EPA rating of 26/32 mpg city/highway for the small SUV.

Mazda CX-5 Features

The primary feature of the CX-5 is its new exterior styling language, which will be the way forward for Mazda. The new Mazda6 sedan was the second vehicle to use it after the CX-5. The Mazda CX-5 has a sleek build, a saloon-like hood despite its SUV architecture, and a smooth, integrated style that moves forward with the eye.

Underneath, however, the CX-5 is a showcase of new technology as Mazda used it as a platform for the new SKYACTIV system. This incorporates a stiff, lightweight body frame that uses various alloys and high-strength steel to create a safer framework while shedding excess weight. Integrated with this is a chassis of stiff but responsive proportions, giving more control and better stability. Mounted on that framework are a suite of powertrain options tuned to optimize performance and economy. High-pressure gasoline engines and multi-speed transmissions are used to boost power output from smaller displacements, improving fuel economy and emissions outputs.

Throughout the Mazda CX-5 are other safety systems with class-leading options as standard. Both U.S. and European testing bodies gave the highest possible safety ratings to the CX-5.

Mazda CX-5 Evolution

The aging Mazda Tribute and the low-selling CX-7 were in need of replacement and Mazda needed both a compact SUV and a SKYACTIV showcase to put on the market. After years of investment and testing, the SKYACTIV’s preliminary market test in the Mazda3 was proving to be a great success. The Mazda CX-5 was conceived of as a way to both replace the outgoing models and showcase SKYACTIV.

About a year of development was required to finesse the KODO theme into the preliminary version of the MINAGI concept, which finally showed in 2011 on a world tour of major auto shows. With few changes, it was then put to production as the CX-5 and shown at the Los Angeles show at the end of that year. It was in showrooms just a few months later.

Proving to be a huge success in terms of sales volumes worldwide, Mazda had to add production lines to keep up with demand. This lead to other Mazda models incorporating the SKYACTIV system in their updates, starting with the Mazda6 in 2014. With design and production as fast paced as its look, the Mazda CX-5 is a showcase of what Mazda can do.

The Kia Sportage is a compact crossover that was introduced in the early 1990s. It was based on the Mazda Bongo, and both SUVs shared numerous components like the transmission, engine, and differentials. Over the years, the Sportage has developed into a unique crossover with many of its problems ironed out.

Kia Sportage Origins

Kia Sportage was introduced in 1993, when it was in an alliance with Mazda and Ford. It debuted in a two-door soft-top convertible and five-door wagon version. Unfortunately, it received heavy criticism and reported low sales for most of the first generation’s production life. It even failed to impress in South Korea. After Hyundai took over the company in 1997, the crossover saw two major recalls for issues with the rear wheels.

About the Kia Sportage

Despite its poor start, the Kia Sportage is currently one of the top picks in the U.S. crossover SUV market. In a span of around 15 years, it has grown from a poorly designed and executive vehicle to stylish, high quality, and well-rounded crossover. It is now in its third generation. The first generation Sportage was mostly a disaster with its poor design and reliability issue. The only saving grace was its offroad capabilities. The second generation was a huge improvement and still offers great value for money as a used car, but it still scored low in looks. The third generation, however, stands out with its sharp looks, build quality, and aggressive performance. Despite these positives, the crossover has a few issues. For instance, it is smaller than it looks, thereby restricting it to use by small groups and families.

Kia Sportage Features

The Kia Sportage is available in three trim levels, starting from the base level LX to the EX and the top-end SX. The LX and EX get a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers 176 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque. The top-end Kia Sportage SX is more performance oriented, getting a smaller but turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers 260 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. The standard drive system is a front-wheel drive, but an optional all-wheel drive system is also available. The transmission is available as a six-speed manual (standard on LX) or a six-speed automatic.

The Kia Sportage comes with a generous amount of features right from the base model. Standard features include alloy wheels, satellite radio, and an iPod interface with Bluetooth connectivity. The Bluetooth feature also comes with phone connectivity. The EX comes with additional features like LED running lights, telescoping steering wheel and keyless entry. Other features include leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, and ventilated and heated seats. The Uvo voice-activation system by Kia is also available, along with a navigation system and a rear view camera.

The Kia Sportage SX comes with all the above features, along with unique styling inside and out and a sport-tuned suspension. Speaking of interior styling, the Kia Sportage cabin has an abundance of high-quality and well-textured plastic. Despite their hardness, they are padded enough to keep passengers comfortable in case they hit the panels by mistake. The seats are well-designed to extract maximum space from the cabin, resulting in ample legroom and headroom in the front and rear. The rear bench, however, lacks reclining or sliding features. Moreover, the cargo space has been sacrificed to make the cabin in front roomier. The maximum cargo space expected is 54.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. Otherwise, the space is limited to just 26.1 cubic feet. In comparison, the average cargo space of other competing crossovers is around 70 cubic feet with the rear seat down.

The Kia Sportage is sportier and more athletic than its previous generations. In fact, it is more fun to drive than most other compact crossover SUVs in the market. This is mostly due to the fantastic suspension setup. It is a bit on the firmer side though, so the bumps on the road are felt by everyone inside. Both four-cylinder engines offer adequate power and nothing more, but the automatic transmission is smooth as silk.

Kia Sportage Evolution

The Kia Sportage was launched in 1993, but it came to the United States two years later as a compact SUV with a body-on-frame design. It was one of the first compact crossovers, but it was smaller than the few other competitors and vastly underpowered too. Production would continue until 2002 with low sales throughout. The second generation debuted in 2005 and came with considerable improvements. It was given a unibody construction similar to the Hyundai Tucson, and it was also bigger from the inside and out. However, its interior quality and exterior design were poor. It was a decent offering by Kia, but it lacked anything that made it stand out amongst competitors in a strong and competitive market.

The third generation was introduced in 2011, and this time with a striking exterior design characteristic of European crossovers, well-designed and quality interior, and better performance.

When the Kia Sorento was first introduced in 2002 it was a true midsize SUV. The first generation ran from 2002 to 2009 and quickly became a popular seller in the United States because of its people-moving utility, off-road capability, and relatively high fuel economy for the segment. It is now one of Kia’s best-selling vehicles in the U.S.

The Sorento seats five, is capable in many situations and has proved to be a value-based option. It has been one of the top-selling models in its segment for years.

Kia Sorento Origins

The Kia Sorento was one of the first vehicles that Kia Motors offered in the United States and Canada. As South Korea’s oldest car company, Kia was slow to come to the U.S., not incorporating here until 1992. Sales in North America began with the Sephia sedan. Soon after, in the mid-1990s, the Sportage SUV was introduced.

The design of the Kia Sorento has little in common with the Sportage, however, with the latter being a compact SUV based on the Mazda Bongo and utilizing Mazda and Ford parts in a partnership between the three companies at the time. Since then, the Sportage has become a Kia-only design, but the Sorento was never based on it. Rather, the new-generation Sportage was based on the Sorento instead.

The Kia Sorento was one of the first vehicles that Kia wholly designed in-house.

About the Kia Sorento

The Kia Sorento is a midsize SUV crossover with one of the lowest manufacturer’s suggested retail prices in the segment. It sells well in North America and appeals to families as a people mover with off-road capability. It has been sold as a vehicle that can both carry the kids around town for errands and take weekend camping trips without missing a beat.

The first-generation Kia Sorento was built primarily in Hwasung, South Korea, while the new generation Kia is built in South Korea (for Asian sales), Kazakhstan (for European sales), and Georgia, U.S. (for North American sales). The vehicle has won a five-star safety rating in the U.S., a five-star rating from the Euro NCAP test, and was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Kia Sorento Features

The Sorento seats five, has ample cargo space, and provides good power for the vehicle’s size. It has achieved five-star safety ratings since the 2007 model year and has become popular as a uniquely styled vehicle since its redesign in 2009. The Kia Sorento has always been one of the more fuel efficient and lower-cost options in the segment.

The first-generation Sorento is a rear-wheel drive vehicle with four-wheel drive as a driver-selectable option. In North America, it has been available with a small four-cylinder engine (until 2005) and two different V-6 options, depending on the year. In its second-generation, the Kia Sorento became a front-wheel drive vehicle with four-wheel drive as an option (drive-selectable). It had two engine options in the U.S., a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V-6.

The Kia Sorento has won many awards in recent years, including earning the Excellent ranking from Consumer Reports, SUV of the Year by New Zealand’s Autocar Magazine, and more.

Kia Sorento Evolution

The first generation of the Sorento was a truck-based (body-on-frame) sport utility with an automatic four-wheel drive system utilizing low range gearing. This generation was offered with either a four-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual. In 2005, a five-speed automatic was introduced, replacing the four-speed, and in 2007 the Kia Sorento was given a facelift and drivetrain improvements. This included a 3.8-liter Lambda engine that replaced the smaller 3.5-liter, nearly doubling the Sorento’s towing capability. In that year, the five-speed manual transmission was dropped as an option, leaving only the five-speed Sportmatic automated transmission. In 2009 the Sorento received another facelift but no significant improvements over the 2007 changes.

The second-generation Kia Sorento was introduced the next year, this time redesigned as a crossover (car-based frame). This was also the first Kia model to be manufactured in the United States at the company’s new state-of-the-art, billion-dollar complex in West Point, Georgia. 2009 saw the introduction of Kia’s new branding element, the Tiger Nose grille, designed by Peter Shreyer, formerly of Volkswagen.

There is a time gap between the 2009 introduction of the new Sorento in South Korea and its 2011 introduction in the United States due to the new factory requiring time to be completed. Significant changes for the new Kia Sorento included unibody construction, an independent suspension, a transverse-mounted engine making the Sorento primarily front-wheel drive, and the reintroduction of a four-cylinder engine.

For 2014, a new model Kia Sorento has been introduced with several changes, including a facelift and new drivetrain options.

The Honda Ridgeline is a midsize pickup truck. While it may not be the first name to come to mind when someone mentions pickup trucks, the Ridgeline offers consumers a comfortable ride and many comfort features. Truck purists may lean towards its more rugged competitors, but those looking for the convenience of an SUV and the power of a truck should consider the Ridgeline as a viable option.

Honda Ridgeline Origins

The Honda Ridgeline was released in March 2005 as Honda’s first true truck. Previous Honda trucks were built on an SUV platform. Despite some criticisms for the body structure from truck enthusiasts, the Ridgeline has enjoyed successful sales and has won a number of awards over the years, including Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year 2006, and consistently enjoys at least moderately high sales in North America.

About the Honda Ridgeline

The Honda Ridgeline is known for its combination of reliability and affordability, much like the Honda brand itself. However, the primary criticism of the Ridgeline comes from the unitized body construction, which differs from other trucks in its class and some claim makes the frame less solid. However, this construction provides more interior and loading room, and Honda claims it actually makes the vehicle stronger. Because of the Honda Ridgeline’s unique design, drivers enjoy a smoother, quieter ride than one would normally expect from a truck. Also, the seats are ergonomic and comfortable, making the Ridgeline an excellent vehicle for road trips.

Honda Ridgeline Features

The Honda Ridgeline is in the midsize pickup truck class. It is a four-door, five passenger truck sporting a unitized body construction instead of the body-on-frame design which is found in most pickup trucks.

The Ridgeline interior looks spacious, with as much room as many full-size pickups. The driver’s seat is height adjustable and the rear bench seats fold down for additional cargo space. Interior color options are the standard black, gray, and beige cloth. The Sport model comes with all-weather floor mats, a black leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, auxiliary input jacks, and power-sliding darkened rear privacy glass.

The exterior of the Ridgeline shows a slight redesign with a more aerodynamic look. The RT, RTS, and RTL models have a new grille designed to reduce wind resistance and help fuel economy. It features a five-foot cargo bed with tie down locations in eight places. The tailgate can open from the top down like traditional trucks, or from the side. Four cargo lights improve visibility. The later models have a trailer hitch and a large center console and a hidden storage area in the cargo bed that doubles as an ice chest.

The standard model comes with a 24-valve 3.5-liter SOHC V-6 with variable valve timing, which produces 250 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. The five-speed automatic transmission with the Grade Logic Control and automatic Variable Torque Management four-wheel drive on the Sport model offers a smoother ride as well improves traction and towing ability. It gets an estimated 15/21 mpg city/highway, which is better than many trucks in its class.

All Ridgeline models feature standard driver and front passenger airbags, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, active head restraints for the front seats, rollover sensors, tire pressure monitoring, daytime running lights, and an electronic stability control system.

The Ridgeline weighs 6050 pounds and can tow up to 5000 pounds, with a maximum payload of 1546 pounds.

Honda Ridgeline Evolution

The Honda Ridgeline debuted in 2005 as a 2006 model and has remained quite recognizable due to its unique body structure. It remains in its first generation. Some of the Ridgeline’s changes include the availability of additional models, such as a Sport model, and a slightly upgraded engine, though the platform has remained much the same throughout the years. The first model was available in three trims: RT, RTS, and RTL, followed by the chrome-accented RTX in 2007. In 2009 the RTX trim was dropped and the exterior and interior styling was updated. Since then Honda has also added an updated grille and Sport trim level.

The Land Rover LR2 luxury SUV sits in the Land Rover lineup between the larger LR4 and the smaller Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Much like other vehicles in the segment, the LR2 is actually a car based, crossover SUV rather than a traditional truck platform based SUV. The LR2 brings true offroad ability to the segment and is an affordable option for buyers seeking a small, luxury SUV with more offroad ability.

Land Rover LR2 Origins

Introduced in 2008, the all new Land Rover LR2 filled the slot previously occupied by the Freelander which was discontinued in 2005. Based on Ford’s Volvo platform, the LR2 was a welcomed upgrade to the Freelander’s internally developed platform. The LR2 offered more interior cargo space, higher ground clearance, and a stronger engine than its predecessor. Initial trim configurations were the SE and the higher trim level HSE which included larger 19-inch wheels, and upgraded exterior and interior styling and features.

About the Land Rover LR2

The Land Rover LR2 is a small, four-door, luxury SUV. Unlike most of its competitors, the LR2 possesses certified off-road credentials, but these come at the expense of its on-road manners and ride. The LR2 features a modified version of Land Rover’s Terrain Response off-road driving system which is arguably one of the best available four-wheel drive systems, but has been tamed somewhat for LR2 use.

Land Rover offers the LR2 at reasonable price points which, in theory, brings Land Rover quality, luxury, and ability to the majority of SUV buyers. However, Land Rover’s all things for all people strategy has essentially created an affordable SUV for a smaller group of drivers seeking the unbeaten and unpaved path to luxury.

Land Rover LR2 Features

The 2013 Land Rover LR2 did away with the less than competitive 3.2-liter, six-cylinder engine found in previous models for a more powerful 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine sourced from Ford Motor Company’s EcoBoost line. This change remediates some of the sluggishness found in previous model years and bumps output from 230 horsepower to 240 horsepower and 234 lb-ft to 250 lb-ft of torque. Other changes include an improved seven-inch, infotainment touchscreen that eliminates several extraneous switches and buttons, and subtle exterior modifications.

Available in either Base or HSE trim, the LR2 still offers a reasonable list of luxury features and segment standard finishes. HSE trims upgrade the LR2 with adaptive xenon headlights, driver seat memory settings, and satellite radio. The HSE LUX package adds a 17-speaker, surround-sound audio system with six-CD changer, additional powered seat adjustments, and premium leather upholstery. The LR2’s panoramic sunroof and its high-set headlights are mentionable features. Nevertheless, the LR2 feels more like a well-equipped Ford Explorer rather than its Audi Q5 or BMW X3 competitors.

Notably, the LR2 wears the iconic Land Rover badge, one of the last vestiges of British automotive history. Few other brands can match Land Rover’s globe-spanning off-road history; that in itself is enough to make the LR2 standout. While the LR2 falls short of competitors for cargo capacity, the high-set, upright Land Rover seating position proffers a commanding view from any angle. Rear seats are arranged in a stadium-style arrangement that offers rear passengers as good a view as front passengers. This makes the LR2 feel much less confined and allows for a much better, safety enhancing line of sight.

Land Rover LR2 Evolution

The 2013 LR2 utilizes the first-generation platform introduced on the 2008 model. 2008-2012 models employed a 3.2-liter, six-cylinder engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. All LR2s include a modified Terrain Response off-road driving system, but unlike its larger trailblazing siblings, the LR2’s is actually an all-wheel drive system rather than a four-wheel drive system like the LR4 and Range Rover systems. The LR2 lacks a low-gear range, which disqualifies it as a serious offroading, mud tromping, rock crawling SUV. The LR2 also uses buttons rather than a chunky knob for Terrain Response adjustments and only includes three settings for grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand. Even so, the LR2 will still best its rivals in off-road ability.

2009 dropped the Base trim and added an HLT option package which included a revised exterior and other mild cosmetic upgrades. For 2011, Land Rover revised the grille and taillights, dropped the HSE trim, and returned the Base trim. The biggest changes came in 2013 with a new engine, more pronounced exterior modifications (including LED headlights and taillights) and some interior styling changes like an updated steering wheel.

Kia introduced the affordable, subcompact Rio in 2000 as a sedan or hatchback which became two of the least expensive four-door vehicles on the market. The Rio’s stylish design, ample features, and excellent warranty help it stand out as one of the top picks among subcompact vehicles.

Kia Rio Origins

Kia launched the Rio in 2000 as a 2001 model and shared most of the vehicles’ underpinnings with the Hyundai Accent. Prior to the Rio, Kia sold the Sephia as its inexpensive, entry-level subcompact from 1994-2001. However, the Sephia was plagued with poor sales and ailing mechanical features. In addition, Kia was partially owned by Hyundai Motors Corporation which began differentiating its previously budget focused Hyundai vehicles by offering more upscale design, features and price points. As a result of Hyundai up-scaling the Accent, and in order to replace the Sephia, the Rio was slotted as Kia’s new budget minded subcompact.

When released, the sedan was sold as the Rio and the hatchback was sold as the Rio Cinco. The fifth door (rear liftgate) and utility features inherent in a hatchback, both vehicles were essentially the same, sharing identical powertrains and interior features. First-generation Rios offered decent styling and affordability, but ride and build quality were below average. The first generation spanned from 2001 through 2005 model years, the second generation spanned from 2006 though 2011, and the third and current generation began with 2012 models. As the American subcompact market matured, Kia incrementally improved the Rio and maintained it as a competitive offering. As a result, the more recent the model has bettered the vehicle’s styling, quality, and ride.

About the Kia Rio

The Kia Rio is a four-door, front-wheel drive, subcompact vehicle available as a either a hatchback or a sedan, with each configuration offering LX, EX, and SX trim levels. All vehicles feature lively engines, evocative styling, and abundantly spaced, nicely equipped interiors. The Rio focuses on style, sporting a bold look and Kia’s tiger-faced front fascia it stands out among most small cars and looks the part of a more upscale sedan or hatchback. Unlike other subcompacts, the Rio functions equally well as a first vehicle, a second commuter car, or as a viable option to more expensive, larger compact vehicles.

Kia Rio Features

Redesigned in 2012, the 2013 Kia Rio stands out as one of the best subcompact buys on the market. The Rio’s sharp, edgy design and ample interior dimensions belie the subcompact market and make the Rio feel larger and more expensive than it is. Both front and rear seats comfortably accommodate adults, and the high-mounted dash design provides generous front passenger legroom. The ride is more composed than sporty but the cabin remains reasonably quiet, and the soft-touch surfaces accented with tasteful metallic accents found in upper trims combine to create one of the nicest subcompact driving environments.

All Rio trims feature a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque. While not the most powerful engine, the Rio’s four-cylinder delivers peppy performance but with a moderate amount of coarseness when pushed. The LX, EX, and SX sedans, along with EX and SX hatchbacks, feature a standard six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. LX trims also offer an optional six-speed manual transmission. SX hatchbacks fit the six-speed manual as the standard transmission but can be fitted with the automatic transmission as optional. Automatic-transmission equipped SX trims include steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for manual shifting.

Kia Rio Evolution

First-generation Rios (2001-2005) featured an unbeatable price, decent build quality (for the price), along with a great warranty. Unfortunately, common creature comforts like cruise-control, and power windows and door locks were unavailable at any price until 2003. 2001 models only came as Base trim sedans while 2002-05 models were sold as a sedan or as the Rio Cinco. 2001-02 models carried a noisy, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine which was good for 98 horsepower if pressed hard. Five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions were available. There are also 14-inch steel wheels matched to an underwhelming suspension that moved early models with econo-box swiftness. Kia improved 2003 models with a 104 horsepower 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. Along with suspension improvements, larger disc brakes, and upgraded interiors, Kia freshened-up the front fascia and wheel covers on 2003 models.

2006 launched the second-generation Rio with cleaner styling, better engines, and much improved clutch feel and shifting throws from its five-speed manual transmission. The hatchback Rio5 replaced the Cinco wagon as the Rio5 SX and the sedan was sold in Base and LX trims. The Base trim still wore 14-inch steel wheels and was not available with air-conditioning, but the Rio5 SX had 15-inch alloy wheels and included features not generally expected from a vehicle in the class. A new 110 horsepower, four-cylinder engine replaced the old 104 horsepower engine. 2007 models added an SX trim sedan and featured 16-inch alloy wheels on SX trims. With all the changes, the Rio still lagged when compared to the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa and it was best matched against the Hyundai Accent or Chevrolet Aveo. 2011 finished out the second generation with both an LX and SX trim for the Rio5 and automatic transmissions on all trims except the Base sedan trim.

A completely new, third-generation Rio launched in 2012. Kia increased the Rio’s proportions which translated into increased passenger and cargo room. A 138 horsepower 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine matched to a standard five-speed automatic transmission on all but the base LX trim created a segment leading contender. New, modern styling and a generous standard feature list firmly set the Rio at the top of shoppers’ lists. Optional upscale features like touchscreen navigation, leather seating, and keyless ignition/entry can easily move the Rio, both in features and price, from the subcompact into the compact vehicle segment. Kia improved and stiffened the suspension which better lends the vehicle to sportier driving. Unfortunately, many other competitors have done the same and the Rio sometimes falls short of the Chevrolet Sonic, the Ford Fiesta, and the Honda Fit in driving prowess. Nevertheless, the Rio does what it offers very well and should be considered by any shopper looking for an affordable, subcompact value proposition.

The Jaguar XF is a midsize luxury sedan and a fierce competitor to German rivals such as the BMW 5-Series and the Audi A6. It’s clear that the Jaguar XF draws its inspiration from the C-XF concept car with its minimalistic chrome trim, low roofline, and athletic stance.

Jaguar XF Origins

The Jaguar XF is designed as a successor to the Jaguar S-Type, which ended production in 2008. Unlike its predecessor, which was designed using the classic Jaguar style, the company has placed a large emphasis on the contemporary design of the Jaguar XF. The original model had three trim levels available: Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Supercharged.

About the Jaguar XF

With the XF, Jaguar has provided luxury drivers with an excellent alternative to German competitors like BMW and Audi. The car is considered to offer better value for money than the BMW 5-Series and it is similar to German cars in terms of performance. The XF is an impressive improvement over its predecessor in styling and performance. Also, the latest version of the Jaguar XF has received a facelift which brings it closer to its original inspiration: The C-XF Concept.

Jaguar XF Features

The Jaguar XF is available in four different trim levels: Base, Portfolio, Supercharged, and XFR. The most noteworthy features of the Jaguar XF that make it famous are the drastic changes from its predecessor, the Jaguar S-Type. While the S-Type was a classically styled car, the Jaguar XF is aggressive in its design and has several unique characteristics. For example, the dash of the car is fitted with flush-fitting air conditioning vents that rotate when the engine is started. The XF is also fitted with the JaguarDrive Selector, which is a unique rotating gear-shifting dial that rises from the center console.

Another difference between the Jaguar XF and other classic Jaguar cars is the installment of a pale blue backlight for the switchgear, instruments, and major control panels. Minor systems like interior lighting are controlled directly from the light covers. And the glove compartment opens with just a touch.

The newer XFs boast a completely new front anatomy and a slightly different grille, along with streamlined headlights, LED daytime running lights, and redesigned lower vents. These new LED lights have been arranged to form the signature J-Blade pattern. The rear of the car has also been changed, with the tail lamps now extended onto the trunk lid. Also, Jaguar now offers more wheel choices with the Jaguar XF than before.

You won’t find interior cloth seats in the Jaguar XF. Even the basic model of the XF is fitted with fully trimmed leather seats. Interior appointments that were previously made with plastic in other Jaguar cars are now trimmed with leather. In addition to this, the Jaguar XF is also available with real wood veneers that are combined with an aluminum trim to give the passenger compartment a modern look.

In terms of performance, the base XF and XF Portfolio have a 5.0-liter V-8 which is capable of 385 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. The Supercharged model gets a supercharged version of the same engine cranking out 470 horsepower and 424 lb-ft. The XFR’s supercharger ups the ante even more to 510 horsepower and 461 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift paddles is the standard on all models.

Jaguar XF Evolution

The 2008 Jaguar XF was first introduced in 2007 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, which followed the display of the C-XF Concept car at the North American International Auto Show earlier the same year.

In 2009, two new models of the Jaguar XF were launched: The XFR and the XF Supercharged. The XFR was announced at the North American International Auto Show in 2009. It was designed as a performance-oriented form of the Jaguar XK range. The car was powered by a new 5.0-liter, supercharged, AJ V-8 Generation 3 engine with 503 horsepower. The XF Supercharged was a modified 2008 model Jaguar XF with a 5.0-liter, supercharged engine that produces 464 horsepower.

The Honda CR-Z was recently added to the Honda line-up in 2010. This sport hybrid coupe has a hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain and is yet another model introduced by Honda with fuel efficiency in mind. In fact, the new CR-Z has won many green awards already as well as the Japan Car of the Year in 2010-2011, the 2010 Good Design Award from the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization. If you’re looking for a sporty car with good acceleration combined with low emissions and less trips to the gas station, the Honda CR-Z may be a great option.

Honda CR-Z Origins

Honda, along with many other auto manufacturers, is jumping on the hybrid craze introducing new hybrids that not only boast impressive fuel economy, but also look appealing to the average driver. Over the years the design of hybrids has improved and the Honda CR-X is leading the pack. The Honda CR-Z is the third hybrid in the Honda line-up. This three-door hatchback is the successor to the Honda CR-X.

About the Honda CR-Z

While the Honda CR-Z is a hybrid and enjoys the low emissions and reduced fuel cost of its hybrid cousins, the CR-Z is certainly not a standard hybrid. With sleek likes and fun-to-drive handling, it provides much more than just efficiency under the hood. This two-seater may not be practical for everyone, but for those with their eye on sporty smaller cars like the Mini Cooper or the Hyundai Veloster, the CR-Z is another viable option.

Honda CR-Z Features

The Honda CR-Z body was inspired by Honda’s CR-X models sold in the 1990s. It has a wedged front end giving an aerodynamic impression and split lift gate window, which is similar to the styling found on other vehicles like the Prius and the Insight. This feature has conflicting reviews. Unfortunately the style of windows limits visibility, but also gives the vehicle a sportier look. It is one of the smaller vehicles on the market at only 160 inches long; it is just a little larger than the MX-5 Miata. Some other features include standard 16-inch alloy wheels with available 17-inch alloy wheels, standard LED taillights, a standard rear window wiper, optional high-intensity discharge headlamps, available fog lights, and optional heated side mirrors to ensure better rear visibility in increment weather. The interior is a little crowded with limited space for an array of controls. The driver sits in a cockpit-type setting, with all of the controls within easy reach. The CR-Z does not have a conventional center console, and if drivers opt for the optional navigation system it is slightly on the passenger side, though still within easy reach for most. It has power windows, locks, and mirrors, the bucket seats are manually adjustable, it has a tilt or telescoping steering wheel, it has a CD stereo with and MP3 jack and a USB port, there is an optional premium stereo and subwoofer, Bluetooth connectivity is optional, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel is optional.

The Honda CR-Z has an electric engine in tandem with a gas engine for a combination of efficiency and power. It is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 122 horsepower. It can be set in Sport, Normal, or Econ mode depending on driving conditions and your preference. In Sport mode the acceleration is more responsive and the power-steering assist is decreased. The six-speed manual transmission is manual with an optional variable automatic transmission.

In terms of safety, the CR-Z comes with side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags, four-wheel-disc Anti-lock Brake Systems, active head restraints to reduce the risk of whiplash, and an electronic stability system with traction control. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the CR-Z its highest rating of “Good” in its frontal-offset, side-impact, and roof strength tests.

Honda CR-Z Evolution

The hybrid Honda CR-Z was introduced in the United States in 2010. Throughout the first generation of this vehicle, little has changed. The only notable change from 2011 to 2012 was an additional optional exterior paint job and interior furnishing.

The Acura RLX, a midsize luxury sedan, is a new addition to the prestigious Acura line-up. The Acura RLX Concept was unveiled at the 2012 New York Auto Show, intended to replace its outdated predecessor, the Acura RL. The production model that was eventually released was almost identical to the concept model.

While this newest Acura has plenty to boast about when it comes to luxury and performance, it’s still struggling to keep up with the competition that offers an even more luxurious ride.

Acura RLX Origins

Acura is the luxury division of Honda. The Acura RLX was released in 2013 as a 2014 model and is the successor of the Acura RL. It’s relatively similar in size to the original RL, but takes more of its styling from the Acura ILX. Although Acura doesn’t offer all of the powertrain choices that are found with some of its European rivals, the cabin environment is among the best in the class.

About the Acura RLX

The RLX is the new flagship of the Acura, the luxury brand of Honda, released in 2014. It sticks with the powerful V-6 engine, even as many of its closer competitors roll out more powerful V-8 versions. This is in part due to the fact that Honda has not traditionally used a V-8 engine in any of its cars. As a result, the RLX enjoys relatively good fuel efficiency at 20/31 mpg city/highway. A hybrid version is also expected which, of course, will have even better fuel efficiency, but should still be a powerful force on the road.

This four-door sedan is loaded with all of the fun features one would expect to find in this class including LCD touch screens, a 14-speaker audio system, and plenty of safety features.

Acura RLX Features

The Acura RLX is available in base and hybrid versions. There are five trim levels: Base, Navigation, Technology package, Krell Audio package, and Advance package. As one would expect from Acura, the RLX offers a luxurious interior, including a stitched instrument panel, steering wheel, and a center console with wood and metal accents throughout the cabin. The RLX seats five comfortably and offers best-in-class rear seat legroom, with nearly three inches more room than comparable Japanese and European luxury models. It also boasts some of the widest front and rear passenger space in its class.

Standard and available features include tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a multi-view rearview camera, LED headlights, a sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, a 10-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, smartphone integration, and AcuraLink connected services. Adding the Krell Audio and Advance packages provides an upgraded 14-speaker audio system. Depending on the trim, the RLX comes standard with 18-inch or 19-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires.

As already mentioned, this luxury sedan does not come with a V-8 option. However, the 3.5-liter V-6 gets the job done producing 310 horsepower and generating 272 lb-ft of torque. This efficient engine is paired with a six-speed sequential SportShift automatic transmission.

The Acura RLX is also loaded with state-of-the-art safety features including blind-spot and front collision warning systems, lane departure, lane keeping assist, collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, a comprehensive airbag system, passenger airbag occupant sensing deactivation, three-point belts for all seats including the rear center seat, electronic brakeforce distribution, and rear door child safety locks. There are not yet safety ratings available for the RLX, but if the safety features and Honda reputation are any indication, it is likely to perform well.

Acura RLX Evolution

The Acura RLX replaced the almost forgotten Acura RL. Acura hopes to wow consumers with its new, sleek looking flagship.

With an exterior that is distinctive to the point of being divisive and a quirky interior, the Kia Soul is a latecomer to the funky compact crossover segment. The Soul is aimed at the same urban, style-conscious, hip consumer as established competition such as the Scion xB ad Mini Cooper, and other models also introduced around the Soul’s 2009 debut, like the Nissan Cube and Hyundai Veloster.

Kia Soul Origins

The Kia Soul was introduced in 2009 as Kia’s entrant into the urban compact multi-purpose vehicle segment. While Kia was already producing the Forte in the compact car range, they were in search of a hip, boxy vehicle that could make Kia relevant to the younger generation. The first-generation Soul complements the Forte while filling the gap between that model and the larger Sportage.

About the Kia Soul

The Kia Soul is a vehicle designed for style-conscious urban consumers in search of an economy car that can also hold plenty of cargo. The Kia Soul provides a neat, flashy cabin, good fuel economy, plenty of cargo space, high-tech amenities, and all for a nice low price. Supporting this is Kia’s developing reputation for competence and value.

Kia Soul Features

The Kia Soul is available in three different trim levels, the base level, the + level, and the ! level. From the outside, there is no real difference between these levels. The front end is centered on Kia’s Tiger Nose corporate grille, with large headlights bookending it on the front fascia. Combined with the large trapezoidal lower front fascia, from straight on the Kia looks a bit like a bulldog. The front end is rounded back into the hood, but this design changes a bit when it comes to the cabin area, going from rounded and car-like to boxy and van-like at the rear. The beltline angles up from the hood, while the roofline angles down from the front to the back, turning down to a nearly vertical rear hatch. With four doors, this angling combined with flared wheel wells helps to keep the Soul from appearing slab-sided. A few options are available to customize the exterior, mainly three different sizes of wheels, upgraded headlights, power-folding and heated mirrors, and a sunroof. All of this comes together in styling that is either instantly likeable or not, with no real middle ground.

Underneath this exterior is a roomy, practical, and stylish interior, with plenty of standard and optional features. Thanks to the boxy exterior of the Kia Soul, there is copious head and leg room in both the front and back rows. Behind the rear seats is 19 cubic feet of storage in a very usable layout, and this is increased to 53 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down, slightly above average for the segment. Fabric is the standard upholstery option available, although a two-tone houndstooth fabric or leather is available for an upgrade. The dash, constructed of hard plastic, provides a modern look and is easy to navigate, while the rest of the cabin continues to be mostly hard plastic, which feels a bit cheap but is put together nice and tight.

The variety of trims for the Kia Soul might be a bit difficult to figure out, but they all come with plenty of features standard as well as available as packages or stand-alone upgrades. All models get standard climate control, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, steering wheel with tilt and telescoping capabilities, and a CD stereo with satellite radio, USB and auxiliary inputs. Moving up in trim to the + model, or available as individual options on the base model, cruise control and Bluetooth capabilities are added. On the top-of-the-line ! trim, an eight-speaker Infinity audio system with speaker lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and the UVO media player interface is standard, while they all can be had as options on the lower models. Other available features for the Soul include heated front seats, automatic climate control, and a navigation system with a touchscreen.

Under the hood of the Kia Soul is a 1.6-liter engine producing 135 horsepower and providing adequate fuel economy, although the optional 2.0-liter engine provides 164 horsepower while having essentially identical fuel economy. The 2.0-liter should be the preferred engine, especially if the Soul is being used for moving a full load of passengers and cargo. The larger engine also makes the six-speed, automatic transmission feel better, as with the 1.6-liter the automatic lags and has rough shift changes at low speeds. A six-speed manual can help the 1.6-liter perform better, but it has long throws and a long, heavy clutch. When the 2.0-liter is combined with the automatic transmission, it makes the Soul feel crisp and taut. The steering is precise, although the suspension has a bit more bounce than is preferred.

Kia Soul Evolution

The Kia Soul has only been around since the 2010 model year, but has seen some significant changes in that time. The original model year had rear drum brakes that were changed to disc brakes for 2011. Also changed were the rear shock absorbers, providing for a smoother ride in later models. For the 2012 model year, a number of changes were made to the Soul, including six-speed automatic and manual transmissions in place of the previous four-speed automatic and five-speed manual, updated engines with additional power yet better fuel efficiency, revised steering, updated interior, and exterior styling and new technology options.

Produced for over a quarter century, the Toyota Camry was designed to be an affordable midsize sedan geared toward the family segment of the market. Over the years it has garnered a well-deserved reputation for reliability, comfort, and excellent standard features at a reasonable price.

Toyota Camry Origins

Debuted late back in 1983, the Toyota Camry was built to replace the old rear-wheel drive Corona. Equipped with front-wheel drive, the Camry was geared specifically toward the U.S. market.

About the Toyota Camry

From meager beginnings, the Toyota Camry would eventually dominate the midsize family sedan market for most of the next 25 years, becoming well-reputed for its excellent build quality, comfortable ride, and lasting durability. Perhaps noteworthy is that the family segment has vastly improved over the last few years. Although several rival sedans have eclipsed the Camry in recent years as far as quality and demand are concerned, the recent redesigned Camry has significantly improved the vehicle’s reputation. The Camry offers a comfortable and quiet ride that pleases consumers in the market for a solid midsize sedan. It also offers great power and fuel economy for either engine choice to boot. In terms of handling, however, the Camry comes up a bit short compared to its nimble competitors the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

Toyota Camry Features

The Toyota Camry offers a choice of two engines. Firstly, there is the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder which produces 178 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. Optional is a 3.5-liter six-cylinder with 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are paired with a six-speed, automatic transmission, and all Camrys are front-wheel drive.

The base L and LE trims only offer the four-cylinder engine. Highlights of standard features included with the L are air-conditioning, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a touchscreen display, and a six-speaker audio system with USB input. The upgraded LE offers several more standard features, while the SE affords a few extra goodies, including a sport-tuned suspension and sporty styling details. The high-end XLE trim gets a softer suspension and includes other features such as leather seating, a sunroof, dual-zone, automatic climate control, and power front seats. The XLE also offers an optional premium audio system with a larger touchscreen and a more advanced navigation system. The Camry’s recently redesigned interior features roomy seating, great outward visibility, and controls that are easy to access. Among the Camry’s major improvements, the quality of materials used in the cabin is better, offering plenty of soft-touch surfaces and fine stitching normally reserved for more upscale vehicles. Toyota’s Entune smartphone integration system is another noteworthy addition, offering high-tech features such as Bing search functions and streaming Internet audio, as well as traffic, sports, and stock information.

Toyota Camry Evolution

Redesigned for 2012, the Toyota Camry began its seventh generation of models. The interior got a significant upgrade and the four-cylinder engine is more powerful than previous incarnations. No major changes have been made in more recent models.

The sixth generation Camry was manufactured from 2007 to 2011. This generation of Camrys was generally praised for its roomy cabin, the powerful and fuel-efficient V-6 option, excellent ride quality, and high safety scores. The downfalls of this incarnation, however, included cheap interior plastics, inconsistent styling details, and poor driving dynamics for all but the SE trim.

For a majority of its run, the Camry was offered in the LE, SE and XLE trim levels, with CE offered only the first year as the base model. Many of the features offered standard for the upper trim levels were available as options for the other trims. The previous Camry was offered with either a four- or six-cylinder engine, and many improvements have been made to these engines throughout the years. The previous four-cylinder engine was a 2.4-liter that produced 158 horsepower and 161 lb-ft of torque. In 2010, the base engine was upped to a 2.5-liter, which increased its power to 169 horsepower. The SE now offered 179 horsepower, and both the manual and automatic transmissions were replaced with six-speed transmissions. Other changes for the 2010 model year were a new grille and taillights, standard stability control, satellite radio, and Bluetooth wireless connectivity for all trim levels.

The fifth generation Camry was produced from 2002 to 2006. Before 2005, the base Camry did not come with standard Anti-lock Brake Systems. As with other generations, this one offered a spacious and comfortable ride loaded with plenty of great standard features in all trim levels. Three engines were available. The first was a 2.4-liter four-cylinder which produced 154 horsepower. Five-speed, manual or five-speed, automatic transmissions were available, with a four-speed transmission offered until 2005. A 3.0-liter six-cylinder that made 190 horsepower was also available for the LE and XLE trims, and a 3.3-liter V-6 which produced 210 horsepower debuted in 2004 and was offered on just the SE trim. The six-cylinder options were only made available with the automatic transmission.

Camrys produced between 1997 and 2001 offered several excellent contemporary features such as side airbags and anti-lock brakes, and was available with either a four- or six-cylinder powertrain. This generation also offered the same quiet and comfortable ride that the Camry is well-known for. Camrys produced before this generation are not abundant, though are still found on the road today, providing a glimpse into how reliable this vehicle can be if properly maintained.

 

The Toyota Corolla is a popular family sedan from the Japanese automaker and has been in production since 1966. It became the biggest selling model in the world in 1997 and precise sales figures for the Corolla are available starting in 2000. Even when not the biggest seller in the world, it has consistently been one of the top selling models within its class in the U.S. and elsewhere with over 200,000 units sold every year and over 300,000 units sold from 2003 through 2008. Many of those years it has topped 400,000 units sold when Australian and Canadian sales are included. From 1966 through 1987 it was a subcompact model and starting in 1988 it was reclassified as a compact model.

Toyota Corolla Origins

In Japan the Corolla was available starting in 1966 as its own brand, the Corolla Sprinter. In 1968 a fastback version became exclusive to Toyota Auto Store in Japan, after that point the Corolla became a Toyota model. It has always been a sedan and has been a cornerstone of the Japanese automaker almost from the beginning.

About the Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is an ideal family sedan model for those who are looking for affordability, dependability, and a convenient vehicle for suburban and urban commutes. It is highly rated for its intuitive interior layout, fuel efficiency, and easy drive. Some of the areas where the Corolla receives lower marks include the feel of the steering, tight fit for adults in the back, and lack of performance capability within its class.

Toyota Corolla Features

There are five trim levels available: The L sedan four-cylinder, LE sedan four-cylinder, S sedan four-cylinder, S Special Edition sedan four-cylinder, and the LE Special Edition four-cylinder. Within its class, the number of available features may be less competitive than expected.

The Corolla body style is fairly nondescript with few details that could be called unique or noticeable within its class. It has a sharper front end than many of the current sedans sport with sharp wraparound headlights but an A-typical profile. Exterior features include power everything, daytime running lights, optional moonroof, and standard 15-inch wheels. Standard features include air, tilt/telescoping steering, and CD player with an MP3 jack. Fabric is standard. A navigation system and sound system upgrades are available.

The Toyota Corolla has a 132 horsepower 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine with a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual, a bit behind the times in terms of available gears which translates to a coarser feel than many of its competitors, even those with a few less horsepower. It is rated at 26/34 to 27/34 mpg city/highway, which is a bright spot in the performance arena. Safety features include front, side-impact and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, and front head restraints.

Toyota Corolla Evolution

First generation models were in production from 1966 through 1968 as a Corolla Sprinter then from 1968 through 1970 exclusively at the Toyota Auto Store as a Toyota but with few changes. These were four-door, angular with a flat front, rounded headlights, side-mirrors mounted midway on the hood, and a K pushrod engine. The second generation included models in production from 1970 through 1974. The exterior was almost identical but a couple of engine options were added including the 1400cc and 1600cc. The third generation was introduced in 1974. These were bigger and heavier, had a redesigned rear and upgraded powertrain. The fourth generation was introduced in 1979 with the same squared-off edges and only modest changes to the design but an all new series of engines and new fuel injection. The fifth generation saw the first major exterior redesign starting in 1985. Most models switched to front wheel drive as well. Sixth generation cares followed almost immediately in 1987 with thinner headlights and a very similar overall. The Corolla began getting better marks in terms of refinement at this point. In 1991 the seventh generation was introduced. These were larger with a more rounded frame and a sharper front. The eight generation models went on sale in 1995. The design was updated slightly but the main changes included technology improvements. The ninth generation was introduced in 2000 with a series of technology upgrades and a rounder front and body style. The tenth generation returned to a sharper front area in 2006 but with a flared rear and more powerful engine options. The current generation went on sale in 2012 with a range of engine options and short rounded exterior with wraparound lights and smooth transitions from front to body and the back end.

The early 1990s saw an enormous boom in SUV sales. As a result, over time, a number of carmakers choose to meet this need with a variety of SUV categories designed to appeal to the masses instead of just one demographic. The compact crossover SUV was born with traits that appealed to the outdoors enthusiasts as well as the family segment by supplying these vehicles with remarkable car-like styling and performance. One of the most popular of these attractive crossover SUVs is the Nissan Rouge.

Nissan Rouge Origins

The Nissan Rouge appeared on the scene for the 2008 model year and marks the first year for the Rouge overall. In its first incarnation, it was a well equipped compact crossover SUV with impeccable styling and plenty of features with families and busy professionals with the need for compact body style and space in the cabin.

About the Nissan Rouge

Compact crossover SUVs are a trendy pick and Nissan struck when the fire was hot with the Rogue. It is an elegant option in this segment with a variety of high end features and efficient engine. Most test drivers and owners like the Rogue’s ability to handle urban driving and parking as well as its appeal to suburban drivers. Among the stiff competition in the segment, the Rogue does make quite an impression on those that take the time to look this one over.

Nissan Rouge Features

The current edition of the Nissan Rouge is very similar to its earlier incarnations. This attractive crossover SUV is available in two trim levels, the S and the SV. Most consumers are likely to be surprised by all of the convenience features the S, as the base model has including full power accessories, air-conditioning, and keyless entry. This trim level also boasts high end technology in the form of its iPod interface.

As the upper level on the trim level ladder, the SV provides all of the same features as the S, but adds in some extras. This edition features Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, and a rearview camera. The SV features available privacy glass as well. It should be noted the special features on the SV are optional on the S trim level. Nissan chose to offer some optional features consumers may put on the SV model only as well. Heated leather seats, a navigation system, and Bose audio system are available for those buyers that want to take the Rouge to the next level.

Under the hood, the Nissan Rogue doesn’t disappoint either. This SUV is powered by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and paired up with a continuously variable transmission, which allows for smooth gear shifts, but might not be the best choice for this vehicle. Still, the Rogue has no trouble with acceleration and has been clocked at 8.6 seconds for a zero to 60 mph run. There are no other powertrain choices for this model.

Numbers are great for getting the idea of the type of acceleration the Rogue offers, but the drive quality is important as well. Behind the wheel of the current model for the Nissan Rogue it has been noted that it struggles a bit with highway driving in terms of too much engine noise, especially when the continuously variable transmission works hard to keep up with the shifts under those conditions. In the city, the Rogue is a masterpiece and navigates just fine through stop lights, lots of turns, and provides an overall comfortable ride.

Though the Nissan Rouge may need some tweaking when it comes to transmission, it has plenty of good selling points. This vehicle simply looks good. From the outside it might be difficult to distinguish this model from a luxury sedan with its bold, strong lines and curves in all the right places. There is simply no way to argue with Nissan’s body styling of the Rogue. It is sure to make an impression especially when compared to its less refined competition. There is a drawback to the highly stylized design of the Rogue however. The driver’s rear view is a little limited, though most don’t seem to mind much overall and there is always the rearview camera option.

Nissan Rouge Evolution

Since its debut in 2008, the Nissan Rouge hasn’t had a lot of time to evolve. Nissan has made some changes to the available feature options and to the trim levels as well, but the main concept for this attractive compact crossover SUV remains pretty much the same since its arrival. For the 2010 and 2011 model years Nissan did add a trim level the lineup. The Krom Edition was jazzed up with larger wheels and more chrome especially around the exhaust. It appears Nissan intends to continue to update this line and make it a giant among the compact crossover SUV segment and it appears to be off to a good start.

The Mazda3 is a compact car made by the Mazda Corporation that was introduced in the 2004 model year as a replacement for the Protege and 323 models. It is a five-seat coupe known for its handling, unique styling, and well-fitted interior. It is available as both a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback. The car is currently in its second-generation for U.S. sales.

Mazda3 Origins

The Mazda3 was a replacement for the Mazda Protege and 323 models, which were becoming outdated in the early 2000s. It is based on their same platform, but with improvements to enhance drivability and front-wheel drive performance. Designer Moray Callum created the original iteration of the Mazda3 to appeal to modern families and a younger generation of buyers, who took to the car willingly.

A small production of performance Mazdaspeed3 cars are made and sold every year as well, with focus on tuning and enhanced engine output.

The Mazda3 is manufactured in Japan, Colombia, Iran, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Mazda3s sold in the United States are made in Japan. The underlying platform is the Ford Global C1, which is also the base of the Ford Focus. In 2010, the Mazda3 moved away from that platform in favor of Mazda’s new SKYACTIV system.

About the Mazda3

A family sedan made to epitomize Mazda’s motto of “Zoom Zoom,” the Mazda3 is the company’s best-selling sedan in North America. Since its introduction in 2003, the car has received accolades from the automotive press for its superior handling, performance, and value-oriented price. Critics have usually pointed to disappointing early crash test ratings, which were later rectified with the addition of a sixth airbag.

In 2006, the Mazda3 became the best-selling car in Canada. Sales have been relatively brisk in the United States, though others in the segment usually outperform the Mazda3 in units sold.

Mazda3 Features

The first-generation Mazda3 was introduced in two trim levels: i and s, each with its own engine (2.0-liter or 2.3-liter, respectively). Later, Mazda added Touring and Grand Touring options to the mix of trims. Fuel efficiency varies, but is EPA estimated at 31/37 mpg city/highway.

Throughout its iterations, the Mazda3 has been offered in many body colors, interior options, and trim levels. It has usually received accolades for its high value for the price point in these regards. Models after 2007 offer electronic audio plugs, standardized climate controls, and other refinements. Touch-screen systems were added in 2010 and made standard in 2012. Touring models (i Touring, Touring Value) add front grille changes, fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, and leather-wrapped steering wheels and shift knobs.

Since 2006, all Mazda3s have included Anti-lock Brake Systems and other safety enhancements as standard, including six airbags and more. The 2010 and 2012 models added SKYACTIV safety components. From the 2006 model year forward, the Mazda3 has achieved five-star safety ratings.

Mazda3 Evolution

The Mazda3′s first generation moved away from the Protege platform to the C1 platform. To this, Mazda added their signature handling and body styling, making a unique vehicle that impressed many automotive journalists. The Mazda3 was first introduced in 2002 as the MX-Sportif concept, with styling from that concept largely being carried over to the production model.

The original model offered a 2.0-liter or 2.3-liter engine and five-speed, manual or four-speed, automatic transmission options. In April of 2008, a facelift was given to the Mazda3 as well as more engine options, including a more powerful 2.3-liter turbo gasoline. Transmissions were changed to a six-speed manual and a five-speed automatic to boost efficiency. The automatic was made standard with the manual being an option. 2008 also saw new wheels and bumper designs as well as new body color options. Photos and video from Mazda fueled rumors of a 2009 re-design in late 2008, showcasing a new design direction for the Mazda3. This turned out to be premature, however, as the car was not remodeled until 2010, when the new SKYACTIV-based Mazda3 was released to showrooms.

 

This new version carried elements of the C1 platform over to the new-generation, but eschewed many of them in order to accommodate the new safety, handling, and performance characteristics of the SKYACTIV system. The 2.0-liter gasoline engine was retained, though the turbocharger enhanced output, and a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder was added, offering more power without the larger displacement of a V-6. The new Mazda3 is slightly larger than its predecessors, but is still offered as a four- or five-door. Full SKYACTIV integration with the Mazda3 was unveiled in the 2012 model year update.

 

The Audi A6 is a German-made, executive luxury car that was introduced in 1994 when Audi switched to an alpha numeric naming system. This new, refined design was based on the Volkswagen Group C5 platform and had all-new internal combustion engines. With its upscale features and solid performance, it is a sedan designed to impress both the European and North American market.

Audi A6 Origins

The Audi A6 is the successor to the Audi 100. This luxury sedan was released in 1994 when Audi switched to an alpha numeric naming system. The first engines for the A6 were 1.8-liter four-cylinder, 2.8-liter V-6, and the 2.3-liter five-cylinder which was later dropped from most markets. Diesel engines were also available. Every A6 offers either front-wheel drive, Torsen four-wheel drive, or the Quattro system. The first generation Audi A6 came in a five-speed manual, six-speed manual, or a four-speed automatic.

About the Audi A6

Audi is a German company and is the independently owned luxury branch of the Volkswagen Group. The Audi A6 was introduced in 1994 and is said to have increased in quality throughout the years, beginning with the 1997 model year. Since 2000 the Audi A6 has been an acclaimed luxury vehicle, winning several awards and soaring to the top of “best-in-class lists” when compared to other popular models such as the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes Benz E-Class, Jaguar XF, and the Infiniti M.

Audi A6 Features

The 2012 Audi A6 is a faster and lighter version of past A6 models. It is a premium luxury vehicle. This year’s Audi A6 is also more fuel efficient. The A6 has been the recipient of best in class. The 2012 model has a steel-aluminum frame for increased performance and safety. Vehicles have the option of Quattro all-wheel drive for even the harshest road conditions.

The 2012 Audi A6 is available in the Premium, Premium Plus, or Prestige package. Some of the highlighted features include driver seat memory, eight-way power front seats and four way power lumbar adjustment on the driver seat, a multifunction steering wheel, LED taillights, keyless start, Audi drive select, music interface compatible with iPod, iPhone, and more, and HomeLink remote transmitter. There are many more features available with the Premium Plus and Prestige packages.

Each A6 offers a choice of front-wheel drive, Torsen four-wheel drive, or the Quattro system. The first engines for the A6 were 1.8-liter four-cylinder, 2.8-liter V-6, or the 2.3-liter five-cylinder engine which was later dropped from most markets. Diesel engines were also available.

Audi A6 Evolution

Since 1994 Audi has released one model for each year’s lineup, but with a number of varying options from different engines and on-board technology to slight modifications to the body style. Audi uses a classification for each platform noted with an alpha numeric system starting C. The Audi A6 production platforms starting in 1994 are: C4 1994-1997, C5 1997-2004, C6 2004-2011 and C4 for the 2012 model.

In 2000 the A6 was available in a wide range of engines including 1.8-liter regular and Turbo, 2.0-liter, 2.4, 2.8, 3.0, all V-6 engines, a 2.7-liter V-6 Turbo, 4.2-liter V-8, 1.9-liter turbodiesel, and finally a 2.5-liter, V-6 turbodiesel. It came with the option for manual or a five-speed tiptronic automatic transmission.

The 2002 model had a different look with a redesigned grille and headlights and a change in the body molding. Again a number of engines were available, many tweaked to produce more power. Each subsequent year’s models received minor revisions up to 2004.

The last major upgrade in the A6 line debuted in 2004 with new styling and a more powerful and fuel efficient engine line. Engines included 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo, 2.4-liter V-6, 2.8-liter V-6 FSI, 3.2-liter V-6 FSI, 4.2-liter V-8, 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI, 2.7-liter V-6 TDI, and the 3.0-liter V-6 TDI. These models are regarded as some of the most luxurious and powerful vehicles in their class, including the 2005 A6 which won the World Car of the Year award.

Introduced in 2003, the Mazda MAZDA6 was designed to be a nimble and sporty midsize sedan with lots of charisma that would stand out in a market chock full of competition, including the popular Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Mazda MAZDA6 Origins

The Mazda MAZDA6 took the place of the unpopular Mazda 626. This vehicle failed to get much attention amidst the stiff competitors in the midsize sedan market, especially in its final generations from 1993-1997 and 1998-2002. Early 626 models were reputed for their European styling and high performance, but later models were brushed aside due to the growing popularity of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

About the Mazda MAZDA6

One thing that helps the MAZDA6 stand out in such a competitive segment of the market is its engaging driving experience. The MAZDA6 is simply fun to drive. This is especially characteristic of the first generation of vehicles, which were reasonably compact, with a sporty suspension tuning which gave a rather nimble feel to its performance. The second generation included enlarged, although it still retained most of its original style.

With the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, the MAZDA6′s performance is similar to many other family sedans. While not the most powerful engine, it manages to get up to speed competently. One thing lacking in previous years, which the MAZDA6 got for its 2014 models, is better fuel economy. While lagging behind many of its rivals in the past, the 2014 is pushed to the top of the list with and estimated fuel economy of 25/37 mpg city/highway with the six-speed, manual transmission and 26/38 mpg for the six-speed, automatic.

Most of the materials utilized for the interior are good quality, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces. The metallic accents in the cabin are imitation, though they look reasonably close to the real thing. The power window switches are a lower grade than the rest of the interior, but otherwise the materials throughout are solid. Equipped with either the standard cloth or optional leather seating, the front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive, even around sharp curves. The backseat of the MAZDA6 is among the most spacious ones in its segment of the market, with plenty of room for taller passengers.

Mazda MAZDA6 Features

The Mazda MAZDA6 comes equipped with a choice of two engines. First, there is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque. A 3.7-liter six-cylinder is also available, and it produces 272 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. The four-cylinder is paired with a choice of a six-speed, manual transmission or a five-speed, automatic, and the V-6 comes with just a six-speed, automatic transmission. Five trim levels are available, including the i Sport, i Touring, i Touring Plus, i Grand Touring and the s Grand Touring. The i models include the four-cylinder engine, while all s models are equipped with the V-6. Base models are come reasonable well loaded with standards, while the upper trim levels include such bonuses as a sunroof, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a blind-spot monitoring system. Great options available for the MAZDA6 include xenon headlights, keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system, and satellite radio service. A choice of several body colors is available for the MAZDA6, including Liquid Silver Metallic, Meteor Gray Mica, and Snowflake White Pearl Mica. Interior colors for either the cloth or leather upholstery include black and sand.

The MAZDA6 Touring models can be equipped with an optional Technology Package that includes a navigation system, Bose premium audio, keyless entry, heated side mirrors, automatic headlights, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Also included is the Smart City Brake Support system, an infrared braking system that helps prevent or reduce the severity of a low-speed, rear-end crashes. Also available for the Grand Touring models is the Advanced Package, which adds to radar-based adaptive cruise control and forward obstruction with a lane departure warning system, automatic high-beams, and Mazda’s i-ELOOP regenerative braking system, which conserves energy during deceleration and to help power electrical components.

Mazda MAZDA6 Evolution

Debuted for the 2009 model year, the current MAZDA6 has seen very few changes these last few years, such as minor feature adjustments and trim level additions.

The first generation, launched in 2003 and manufactured through 2008, was originally available only as a sedan. The following year a four-door hatchback and a wagon were introduced in the lineup of choices. Available in two basic trims, the i and the s, the MAZDA6 i was equipped with a reasonably powerful four-cylinder engine paired with either a manual or automatic transmission which accomplished a decent 160 horsepower. The s model delivered higher performance marks with its 220 horsepower 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine, also paired with a manual or automatic transmission, though many of its competitors outperformed even this heftier engine. The recent generation of engines has upped the ante and made the MAZDA6 more competitive in terms of performance, now including an optional 3.7-liter V-6 which gets 272 horsepower, as well as better fuel economy than the previous generation of vehicles.

The economy car class, like the other segments, is high competitive with so many options it’s easy to lose track. This category must be able to produce high quality vehicles with an affordable ticket price and reliable performance. One of the most long standing choices is the Nissan Sentra. While it may not have always been at the top of its class in sales, it has certainly had years when it was among the best in the class. Especially in its more recent models, the Sentra is worth a look.

Nissan Sentra Origins

First offered up to consumers in the 1983 model year, the Nissan Sentra is one of the longest standing models available in the economy car segment. This well-known option has a reputation for dependability and a reasonable price tag since the beginning, though it wasn’t the flashiest or most high tech option available.

About the Nissan Sentra

Produced to compete with the biggest names in the automotive industry, the Nissan Sentra is a reliable, compact economy car with straightforward features and an overall attractive reputation. Over the years it has been in production, the Sentra has received revisions to just about every aspect of its makeup to push it closer to the top in terms of image and elegance.

Nissan Sentra Features

The 2013 Nissan Sentra marks the beginning of the little car’s seventh generation. Across the board it has already gained more attention and accolades than its predecessors. The current Sentra is offered in four trim levels, the S, SV, SR, and SL. With its new revisions, the Sentra sedan, in all of its trim levels, reflects the luxury car segment simply in a smaller body style. The S trim level features the standard air-conditioning, full power accessories, and an auxiliary audio jack. The SV trim level isn’t so much about the added features as the features the consumer can choose to add. Think of it as a build your own model. On up the trim level chain, the SR amps things up with design accents designed to give the Sentra a sporty look and feel that is certain to appeal to specific consumers who want and need an affordable car, but like the added swag as well. Finally, the SL is the top-of-the-line choice. Consumers can’t help but notice the luxury features this model offers. In short, the Sentra is available with features to appeal to any new car buyer.

While there may be plenty of choices when it comes to features and trim levels, the Nissan Sentra is available with only one engine powertrain. The latest model is equipped with a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission Nissan seems so fond of in its new lines. The choice isn’t necessarily a bad one considering this CVT is one of the best available. It does reasonably well driving on the highway and the engine noise isn’t overwhelming or anything you wouldn’t expect from an economy car. For town driving, the Sentra is incredibly pleasant and performance is more than decent.

Inside the cabin is impressive with its high quality materials and solid construction. The interior is where the new Nissan Sentra makes friends. This car has a decidedly luxury feel and is well designed for function and comfort.

Nissan Sentra Evolution

As noted, the Nissan Sentra has been around for a long time. This compact, economy car took a while to take off, but it has a solid background. First offered in 1983, the first generation of the Sentra didn’t wow anyone, including consumers. The company decided to keep at it though and in 1987 introduced the second generation. This time period saw several body styles for the Sentra including sedan, coupe, hatchback, wagon, and a sport coupe fastback. It is most noted for its amazing fuel economy.

Jumping ahead to the fourth generation, 1995 to 1999, Nissan made some drastic styling changes to the Sentra. The nose of these models dropped low, while the tail set high. It also marks the line losing its coupe version. A variety of trim levels were offered with this generation however.

The last generation before the latest revision to the Sentra was the sixth. Starting in 2007 it lasted until the 2012 model year. During this time Nissan focused on creating a slightly larger body style and styling as well as improved driving performance. The sixth generation was a noted improvement on Sentra models of the past, but in many ways still couldn’t compete with competitors considered to be top of the class. All of that might be in the past however. The current, revised new seventh generation could be just want Nissan needed to make the Sentra an economy car that looks more like a luxury car to appeal to the new car buying market.

 

Subcompact cars have a special place in the market. These vehicles are often affordable and attractive to new, young car buyers. They have recently become more popular thanks to their typically exceptional fuel economy. While it doesn’t necessarily get the most votes for its unique personality, the Nissan Versa is popular in this category.

Nissan Versa Origins

The Nissan Versa first showed up on showroom floors in the 2007 model year and this debutant impressed many automotive industry leaders. One of the biggest attention getters was the surprisingly spacious interior for such a small car. Additionally, it received praise for the high quality materials used in the cabin, making the Versa very comfortable for drivers and passengers.

About the Nissan Versa

It isn’t difficult to figure out why Nissan chose to introduce the Versa in the 2007 model year. Fuel concerns were a growing problem and the car market needed more fuel efficient models to choose from. The Nissan Versa has some benefits over the competition including its relatively spacious cabin and rather smart acceleration speeds. In this case, subcompact, economy car doesn’t directly translate to boring or uninspiring. The Versa was and continues to be a well made, solidly constructed choice in this segment.

 Nissan Versa Features

The Nissan Versa is available as a new model for the current year. As in the past, this economy subcompact car is equipped with a variety of feature options. It offers a four-door sedan body style, but for the 2014 model year, there are plans to release a four-door hatchback version to be called the Versa Note. The new body style is a change for this previously rather limited line in terms of diverse styling and options. Experts expect the Versa Note to appeal to consumers with a need for more interior space as well as increased cargo room.

The Versa is classified as a subcompact car, but it would be a mistake not to notice the innovative design and engineering that makes this car something special in its class. Thanks to the tall roof line Nissan has built into every version of this car, taller drivers and passengers find plenty of head and leg room, something almost unheard of in this segment’s competition. Passengers of about 6 ft. in height are given sufficient room even in the back seat. The four-door sedan version of the Versa can boast significant more cargo space than cars much larger than itself in some cases. When the Versa Note hits the showroom floor in the 2014 model year, the available cargo space will be vast with a truly impressive amount of space for such a small car.

In the cabin, the Versa is well constructed and is made with a long list of high quality materials. Additionally, Nissan made sure to provide this little car with plenty of convenience and comfort features that make it feel more like a family sedan and less like an inexpensive transportation option. Consumers are sure to appreciate the Bluetooth connectivity features and the rearview camera options. This vehicle is also equipped with a standard audio system and air conditioning. Nissan didn’t skimp on the safety features for the Versa. Several quality features are included with this model including anti-lock brakes.

Under the hood, the Nissan Versa is equipped with a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine paired with a five-speed manual transmission on the S edition, though consumers can choose the continuously variable transmission for this model instead if they prefer. The SV and SL trim levels are supplied with the continuously variable transmission standard. The engine is capable of 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque.

Overall the new Nissan Versa is a capable compact car with plenty of zip and nice accessories. Some consumers might be looking for a little more excitement behind the wheel. If so, they might want to explore some of the other options in this segment, but the Nissan Versa offers reliability and comfort.

 Nissan Versa Evolution

The first generation for the Nissan Versa was from 2007 to 2011. This generation marked not only the Versa’s introduction, but also the beginning of its solid reputation. These cars were offered in hatchback and sedan body styles. Nissan saw fit to supply the Versa with a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine with a bit more power than the engines used today. In 2009, Nissan chose to offer new versions of the Versa aptly named the Base 1.6 and the 1.6. These models featured the 1.6-liter four-cylinder still used for the subcompact model.

Interestingly enough for the 2012 model year, the Versa was available as a hatchback. Then in 2013, the hatchback model was dropped, only to be added again for the 2014 model year. The Nissan Versa in its current evolution is a strong, well equipped little car capable of providing reliable, affordable transportation.

The Audi A4 compact executive car was introduced in 1994, and played an important role in pushing the luxury brand back into the public eye. The A4 was and still remains one of top choices for a luxury sedan, thanks to its high build quality, luxurious interior and sharp looks.

Audi A4 Origins

The origins of the Audi A4 can be traced back to 1994, when it was introduced as a successor to the Audi 80. It shared many similarities with the Volkswagen Passat, and it inherited the numbering system of the Audi 80 before it. Introduced first as a sedan, the A4 came with a front-mounted longitudinal engine and front-wheel drive. Its Quattro models, of course, came with the ever-popular four-wheel-drive Quattro system developed by Audi.

About the Audi A4

The current Audi A4 is more expensive than the similar A3 hatchback, but it is still one of the best-sellers in the German company’s lineup. Like any good entry-level model, it offers the prestige and ownership experience attached with the Audi brand name, but at a lower cost. For its price point, the Audi A4 offers a well-finished and handsome cabin with tight panel gaps, firm and comfortable seating, and high-quality materials. All these factors add up to a properly European look and feel around the cabin, which is something that many people appreciate in a premium compact car.

Interior quality apart, the Audi A4 provides a supple ride and able performance that makes it perfect for occasional road trips. The sharp handling gives the car an edge around road curves, but some engines fitted under the hood of the A4 over the years seem a little underpowered. The A4 Quattro model offers lots of value to those who need more traction on the road. With all these features, it is obvious why the Audi A4 is one of the best choices among entry-level luxury sedans or wagons in the United States today.

Audi A4 Features

The Audi A4 front-wheel-drive models get two trim levels: Premium and Premium Plus. The Quattro models get an additional trim: the top-end Prestige. Even the base-level Premium trim comes with impressive luxury features like leather seating, a ten-speaker stereo, a sunroof, and the MMI electronics interface from Audi. Higher trim levels come with notable additional features like a navigation system, Bang & Olufsen stereo system, bi-xenon headlights, Bluetooth, and much more. A final Sport package is also available, adding a firmer suspension to the Audi A4, performance tires, and sports seats.

The interior is not exactly brimming with luxury features. However, it has an understated tone of luxury that should satisfy the urges of the most people looking for an entry-level premium car. Space is definitely not an issue, with plenty of room around the cabin and the trunk. The engine under the hood of the Audi A4 is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that delivers 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a CVT, or continuously variable automatic transmission, for the front-wheel-drive models. The Quattro models, on the other hand, come with a six-speed manual transmission as standard and an eight-speed automatic transmission as an option.

The four-cylinder engine offers enough punch to deliver decent performance figures, and it is a rather refined engine overall. However, the praiseworthy six-cylinder engine that was offered before is no longer available. With just one engine and three feature packages, the Audi A4 does not have as many choices as competing entry-level cars.

Audi A4 Evolution

Now in its fourth generation, the Audi A4 offers a better interior, newer features, and a more refined performance with better handling. Most old A4 models are similar to the current one, but the changes, although small, are significant.

Over the years, Audi introduced a wagon version of the A4 as well as a convertible, and all three have retained the core characteristics of the model, namely its quality cabin, great handling, comfortable seating, and good looks. In fact, even the polish of the Audi A4 has improved with each passing generation. Since day one, the car has offered an inviting and luxurious cabin and nimble performance. For those who drive through rough terrain or need the extra road grip, the A4 Quattro models are an excellent option.

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