2013 L.A. Auto Show: Winners and Losers

2015_chevrolet_colorado

As in past years, luxury cars had a large presence at the Los Angeles Auto Show, but so did fuel-cell vehicles, which reclaimed a share of the spotlight alongside a new midsize pickup from GM and a redesigned version of the rally-inspired Subaru WRX performance sedan. Editors Joe Wiesenfelder, Aaron Bragman, Joe Bruzek and Mike Hanley scrutinized them all and separated the winners from the losers.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado

Joe Wiesenfelder: Winner
It's a nice truck and nice looking. Small-pickup lovers are a minority — a vocal one, but a minority. GM decided not to abandon them as the other domestics have, and I think GM will be rewarded.

Aaron Bragman: Winner
GM is right in saying that not everyone wants a big full-size pickup. This is the first entry into the segment in nearly a decade and with the style, equipment and refinement the Colorado seems to possess, this could be a big win for Chevy. Abandoned Ford Ranger fans, your new American truck has arrived.

Joe Bruzek: Winner
The Colorado's upright front styling gives the truck a commanding presence in photos, which in person is still there but on a smaller scale. GM could have made the distinction blurry if the Colorado were larger. Buyers needing a smaller pickup will have no trouble deciding between the Silverado and Colorado with the Colorado's medium size.

Mike Hanley: Winner
For all the truck guys who've been clamoring for a midsize truck with an available diesel engine, here's your pickup. The diesel won't come until the second model year, GM says, but the Colorado otherwise looks like a strong competitor to the Toyota Tacoma.

Ford Edge Concept  Ford-edge-concept

JW: Loser
This is one of those in-between concepts. Not interesting enough to be a traditional concept but not close enough to the real thing to represent the eventual product. Even if it does end up looking like this, it's merely fine. Nothing special.

AB: Loser
I'm starting to think that Ford isn't going to be satisfied until all of its vehicles look nearly identical. The corporate visage is attractive, but this refresh basically looks phoned in; it looks exactly as one would expect the next Edge to look — no surprises at all. The autonomous driving technology is pretty slick, but if it comes wrapped in an exterior that doesn't look all that different from the previous one, will shoppers even notice?

JB: Loser
This could very well have been the concept for the current Edge that was restyled for 2011. It's a lukewarm design we've seen before in other Fords.

MH: Winner
It's tame compared to the Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo and Cadillac Elmiraj that are on the show floor, but it looks sharp with intriguing hatch glass. If it makes the jump to production relatively unchanged, which I think it could, the Edge will be fine.

2014 Honda Civic 2014_honda_civic

JW: Loser
Sorry, but from an auto show perspective, I can't get excited about this. It blends in with the rest of the Hondas at the display. It seems solid and competitive, just like the Civic sedan, but … yawn.

AB: Loser
I'm not sure why Honda even bothered with refreshing the Civic. The new 2014 doesn't look updated, just different, as if Honda has a random styling generator in the studio and this is what came up for this year's face. And going with a capacitive-touch high-end audio system that deletes the knobs? Yeah, that worked so well for Ford …

JB: Loser
I can't fault Honda for improving the Civic's gas mileage with the new continuously variable automatic transmission, even after a 2012 redesign and 2013 refresh. However, it's one of those cars that could have quietly been released anywhere instead of at an auto show where it gets lost in the mix.

MH: Loser
I understand the thinking behind giving the Civic coupe a more aggressive look than the sedan, but the resulting design just makes it seem like Honda is trying too hard. More points lost for the introduction of touch-sensitive controls on uplevel trims.

Honda FCEV Concept Honda_fcev_concept

JW: Winner
Yeah, fuel-cell electric vehicles are back again. They have the same challenges they faced the last time there was a big push, and I'm as skeptical as ever, but smart companies remain devoted, and I support the research and development.

AB: Winner
The difference between past years' fuel-cell concepts and this year's is that automakers aren't talking about us seeing them on the road "sometime in the near future" — they're saying things like "next year" and "this spring." It's starting to feel like the 21st century has truly arrived, and this really attractive Honda concept heralds the arrival of good things.

JB: Loser
The latest fuel-cell technology absolutely sounds promising. The FCEV Concept at this point is only a promise though; it lacks any running gear or propulsion system under the skin. That's not uncommon for concept cars, but it looks like this concept came from "Blade Runner" prop storage after sitting for 30 years.

MH: Loser
The FCEV Concept is different for sure, almost a modern-day interpretation of the automaker's original Insight hybrid. But despite its out-there looks I'm unmoved. It doesn't generate the emotional response that the Mercedes and Cadillac concepts do.

2014 Hyundai Elantra 2014_elantra

JW: Winner
I've believed since this generation made its debut that it's one of the best designs on the road today. The 2013 still looks good today, and the exterior changes for 2014 only make it look richer. The interior is essentially the same, but the 2013 took second place in our recent $20,000 Compact Sedan Challenge. It'll do.

AB: Winner
It ain't broke, so Hyundai didn't fix it. And why should it? Elantra sells very well, holds its own in comparison tests with the latest competitors and is still an excellent value. Adding a Sport model with more power and a performance-tuned suspension is fun to see — here's hoping it's an entertaining drive.

JB: Winner
The 2014 Elantra barely skates through with a win, and only because the new Sport model injects some additional performance that may finally match the Elantra's aggressive looks.

MH: Loser
Like the Civic coupe, this one just got lost with all the more significant debuts at the show. The headlights have cool, three-dimensional LED accents on select trim levels, and the taillights look a little different, but it's otherwise indistinguishable from the prior version. That doesn't cut it for an auto show debut.

2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell 2015_hyundai_tucson_fuelcell

JW: Winner
See comments about the Honda above. It shows how far Hyundai has come, and for a company that's made many good decisions in recent years to make this move is another note in fuel cells' favor.

AB: Winner
The arrival of fuel-cell vehicles next year from a few different automakers begins to confirm what many industry experts have been saying: The technology is ready; all that's missing is the hydrogen fueling infrastructure. That Hyundai is opening up access to leasing a production fuel-cell vehicle (even if availability is limited to Southern California) for a reasonable price is frankly exciting.

JB: Winner
Unlike the Honda mentioned above, the Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle has an on-sale date and price for Southern Californians; specifically Los Angeles and Orange counties.

MH: Loser
What's interesting about the Tucson Fuel Cell — the powertrain technology and the future it points to — makes it a dud at an auto show. It's hard to get excited about it among all the auto show glitz, and that's not counting all the challenges this technology faces in the market.

2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop 2015_mini_cooper_hardtop

JW: Winner
True, from an auto show perspective, it doesn't look much different, but it's larger in ways that seem to pay off inside, and the interior quality and feature set have taken leaps.

AB: Winner
Many colleagues at the L.A. Auto Show were kvetching that the new Mini is too big. It's time for some perspective, people. It's still a teeny-tiny car. It's also still stylish, promises to be fun to drive and offers customization options few other automakers do. I dig it.

JB: Winner
The new Cooper has a great interior. The materials in the base model stand out, as do the comfortable seats, and the new multimedia technology controlled by a rotating knob combined with slick graphics make for easy usability.

MH: Winner
This wins, but just barely. The Mini shows one of the downsides of iconic design as this third generation of the modern Cooper doesn't break any new ground. That's the point, I guess. The interior is notably nicer with distinctive controls. If the driving experience remains typical Mini I'll be fully onboard.

Subaru Legacy Concept Subaru_legacy_concept

JW: Winner
Subaru's ability to produce captivating concept cars, including this one, is a consistent win; its ability to turn them into compelling-looking products, less so. But we can hold out hope. Again.

AB: Loser
Sorry Subaru, you can't fool me anymore. The concept looks great, but saying that the production Legacy is going to look anything like this is just dishonest. How do I know you're trying to pull a fast one? See: 2015 WRX.

JB: Winner
Pictures don't do this concept justice. I initially thought there was too much Hyundai Sonata in the profile, but closer inspection shows this concept is uniquely styled, hunkered down and attractive. Hopefully it actually looks like this once in production, but Subaru's track record is poor.

MH: Loser
This concept looks nice enough but it didn't leave much of an impact on me. Maybe the grille will see production but the roofline, as nice and sleek as it is, sure won't.

2015 Subaru WRX 2015_wrx

JW: Winner
Subaru did a nice job of making this one look more aggressive without going over the top. However, the automaker missed an opportunity to improve the interior — an area of increasing dissatisfaction.

AB: Loser
So this is what the hot WRX Concept from the 2013 New York International Auto Show turned into? What a disappointment. If Subaru can't take some styling chances with the one car in the lineup that can be wild and over the top, what do we think the mainstream Legacy is going to look like? Why does Subaru even bother to make genuinely good-looking concept cars when this is the end result?

JB: Loser
The WRX doesn't go far enough. Albeit, it's extremely hard to imagine the current non-WRX Impreza with a performance package considering its weird, uninspiring styling. I can't pinpoint whether the fenders don't flare enough or if the tiny wheels are tucked in too far — either way, something just doesn't look right.

MH: Winner
Man, tough crowd. Like Wiesenfelder, I'm fine with the fact that Subaru didn't go bonkers with the WRX's design; in all likelihood there'll be an STI version for that. I just hope this car is at least as fun to drive as the previous version.

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 2014_toyota_highlander_hybrid

JW: Winner
It's not much to look at, but the 2014 Highlander is so significantly improved, the Hybrid deserves to be called a winner, too.

AB: Winner
I liked the new Highlander when it debuted in New York earlier this year, and I like the Hybrid version just as much. I applaud any instance of Toyota trying to inject some interest and style into its mainstream products, and the execution on this one is top-notch.

JB: Loser
Unlike most new cars we see at the auto shows, the Highlander Hybrid has a price: a whopping $48,160 with destination charge. That's a substantial $7,130 more than the 2013 because the Limited is now the base Hybrid instead of the 2013's top trim option. Hello, Lexus RX hybrid territory.

MH: Winner
The price is steep, no question, but the Highlander Hybrid provides a third row of seats that the RX doesn't, which is important to some shoppers. A Toyota-estimated 28 mpg in combined city/highway driving is quite good for a large crossover.

Comments 

J

Interesting...The Mini looks exactly the same and blends in, yet it is a winner while the Civic is a loser...

Richard Joash Tan

but for me, the Subaru cars are always winners

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