Frequent Redesigns Leave Some Cars Behind
The steady pace of vehicle redesigns and midcycle updates has increased precipitously over the past decade as the competition for market share continues to get fierce. The average new car is redesigned or refreshed every 2.6 years as compared to 3.2 years just a decade ago, according to Merrill Lynch. Renewed competition among American, Korean and European carmakers has coalesced into a sort of friendly arms race in the automotive sector.
Nearly all of this is good for the consumer, but it does create some oddities. For instance, some older body styles that share nameplates with their newer, more popular brethren get left behind in the redesign process. One that comes to mind is the Nissan Versa hatchback. Now two model years removed from the Versa sedan's redesign, the hatchback is, arguably, the more refined and sophisticated of the two, though its asking price is much steeper and its gas mileage isn't as good.
Below we outline models that have been left astray from their more popular compatriots.
The 2013 Nissan Altima sedan has a new four-cylinder engine, fresh styling and more tech goodies like lane departure warning, but the coupe model remains a carryover of the fourth-generation Altima. For the 2013 model year, Nissan has dropped the 270-horsepower V-6 in the Altima coupe, removing most of the fun out of the model in the process. This is likely the last year for the Altima coupe, and we don't expect the model to be replaced anytime soon.
The redesigned 2012 BMW 3 Series sedan brought a four-cylinder powertrain back to the lineup; it was last available for the 1999 model year. Teamed with a new eight-speed automatic transmission, the sedan is one of the most fuel-efficient compact luxury sedans available on the market. While the BMW 328i sedan is equipped with the new powertrain, the 2013 328i coupe and convertible are still of the old 3 Series yoke, featuring a more poky and thirsty 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder, not to mention last year's styling, tech and features. A new BMW 3 Series wagon is headed here next year. No word yet on when the coupe or convertible will be updated.
The Nissan Versa sedan lost a lot of its luster when it was redesigned for the model year. While offering best in-class fuel efficiency (for 2013) and a roomy interior, the new Versa sedan is nosier and slower and lacks many creature comforts that are still offered on the Versa hatchback. Still, the Versa hatchback's fuel efficiency and pricing don't stack up well against newer models in that class, like the Hyundai Accent or Ford Fiesta. A new Versa hatchback is coming, but it will borrow a lot of the styling first seen on the Nissan Note, which is sold abroad.
The Hyundai Elantra Touring is one of the few compact station wagons still offered in the U.S. While sharing a namesake with the far more popular Elantra sedan, the two models share little else, since the sedan was updated in late 2010. The Elantra Touring is more conservatively designed and far less fuel efficient compared with the sedan, which can get up to 40 mpg on the highway. A new Hyundai Elantra wagon has been shown overseas, but the U.S. is getting an Elantra GT hatchback instead (which admittedly isn't at all the same thing as the Elantra Touring). The hatchback will be a more fuel-efficient successor. 2012-
We doubt folks will mix up the updated 2012 Subaru Impreza and the sport-oriented Impreza WRX or WRX STI, but it's good to note that the two are no longer really related. The new Impreza features more up-to-date styling, improved interior cabin materials and a new, more fuel-efficient engine. While based off the old Impreza, the WRX and WRX STI feature their own exterior styling and unique cabin materials that were one step above the old Impreza. The WRX is, of course, equipped with a more powerful turbocharged four-cylinder than the regular Impreza. We believe that few of the die-hard sport enthusiasts who buy the WRX will confuse the model with its newer, more plebeian brethren. When the WRX will eventually get updated is unknown, and we don't know if the model will keep the "Impreza" part of its nameplate or go solo with a WRX moniker.
The new Americanized Jetta sedan brought a lot of unwanted changes for faithful Volkswagen enthusiasts. Although the new Jetta is much larger and features a drastically lower starting price compared with the old one, the Jetta sedan isn't as refined to drive, and the interior materials aren't as nice to touch, either. The Jetta Sportwagen is still based off the old Jetta, however. The Sportwagen handles well and has a luxury-like interior. There's a substantial price difference between a base Jetta Sportwagen and a Jetta sedan, though, so you get what you pay for.
While the two certainly look the same, the Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S were redesigned for the model year. Refinements include a new electromechanical power-steering system that loses some feeling, according to Cars.com Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder. Porsche has a nasty habit of introducing new models within the same model year as the old one — the new 2012 Carrera and Carrera S share the model year with the last-generation model, too — so don't be surprised if these souped-up 911s sneak alongside the old models, both sharing the 2013 model year.