Announces Best Bets for 2012 Models

As we've done for a long time, we're rolling out our Best Bets for the 2012 model year. We know that many consumers are looking for guidance when it comes time to choose a new car, and Best Bets were designed to help with that process.

Unlike our awards, which call out the absolute top models, Best Bets include any vehicle you can be confident in buying. We have four criteria in determining which cars to recommend:

  • The car must get average or better fuel economy for its segment
  • The car must have average or better reliability
  • The car must get average or better scores in crash tests (although we do have some exceptions for low-volume models that are not crash-tested)
  • And's editors must endorse the car as well.

In years past, we've rolled these out mostly in one shot, but this year we're trying something new. As more 2012 models are tested and rated, we'll keep adding to the list when new information warrants it, so check back on KickingTires to see which models have gained our recommendations.

By Patrick Olsen | March 5, 2012 | Comments (19)

Dodge Unveils Test Configurator for 2013 Dart

2013 Dodge DartAs Dodge prepares the 2013 Dodge Dart for its spring release, the carmaker is testing the waters with a comprehensive pricing and features strategy for the model.

On the Dodge website, there's now a test configurator for the model, which is for survey purposes only. The features, packaging and pricing are subject to change before the model goes on sale.

In a previous statement, Chrysler Group confirmed a starting price of $15,995 (not including the destination charge) for the Dart.

The Dodge Dart will be available in SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and R/T trims. Features usually reserved for larger luxury vehicles like high-intensity-discharge headlights, an LCD digital gauge cluster and a heated steering wheel are just a few of the items on the Dart’s laundry list of available equipment.

Who knows if all the features will make it, but currently the Dart can be priced slightly north of $30,000 with the configurator, though we doubt that will remain when the real configurator goes online.

There are very few compact vehicles that crack the $30,000 threshold – even a fully loaded 2012 Ford Focus with self-parking feature stays beneath that price.

Continue below for Dodge’s test pricing and feature details:

By Colin Bird | February 29, 2012 | Comments (9)

2013 Volkswagen CC Starts at $30,250

Volkswagen's redesigned-for-2013 CC sedan will start just above $30,000 when it goes on sale this spring. It costs almost $2,000 more than the 2012 model's $28,515 base price.

Updates for the new model year include revised styling that's more aligned with the redesigned Jetta and Passat siblings; a new bench seat that allows for three passengers in back; and LED taillights. The CC is available in front- or all-wheel drive, and its powertrains also carry over for 2013: both the 200-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and 280-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 remain available.

By Jennifer Geiger | February 28, 2012 | Comments (3)

2013 Acura RDX Priced at $34,320

2013 Acura RDX
When the totally redesigned 2013 Acura RDX goes on sale later this spring, it will have a starting price of $34,320, the automaker said today. The price excludes a destination fee of $885.

That's somewhat pricier than the outgoing RDX, which started at $32,895, but the latest-generation RDX has a substantial increase in features, better fuel efficiency and more performance.

The 2013 RDX comes with a more fuel-efficient and powerful V-6 engine that produces 273 horsepower (33 hp more than the outgoing 2012 model's four-cylinder motor) and should achieve an estimated 20/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined or 19/27/22 mpg when equipped with all-wheel drive. The boost in fuel efficiency is aided by a new adaptive electric power-steering system that replaces the old model's hydraulic system.

By Colin Bird | February 23, 2012 | Comments (6)

2013 BMW X3 to Get Four-Cylinder Option


An updated 2013 BMW X3 will go into production in April with a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine, more tech options and a new M performance package.

The 4xDrive28i will replace its 240-horsepower inline-six-cylinder with an equally powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder motor. The engine — already available on the 3 Series, 5 Series and Z4 — also comes with an auto stop/start feature for improved gas mileage. The current X3 xDrive28i gets an EPA-estimated 21 mpg combined.

The new four-cylinder won't make the X3 cheaper, but it won't make it any more expensive, either. At $37,995 including destination, the SUV costs the same as the outgoing 2012 trim. The xDrive28i gets more standard equipment, however, including a power liftgate, 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome tailpipes and a fuel-saving program BMW calls Driving Dynamics Control.

For folks who still prefer the sound of six-cylinder power, the xDrive35i soldiers on with its 3.0-liter inline-six, which produces 300 hp. It also gets an auto start/stop feature that will improve fuel economy by up to 3% in certain conditions, BMW says. The xDrive35i will go on sale for $43,595, which is also the same as last year's model. An M Sport Package featuring 19-inch wheels is available on the xDrive35i.

A new lane departure warning system is optional. Additional trim, feature and fuel economy info will be made available closer to the SUV's launch early this summer.

By Colin Bird | February 16, 2012 | Comments (10)

2012 Hyundai Azera Priced at $32,000

2012 Hyundai Azera

When the 2012 Hyundai Azera goes on sale later this year, it will have an easy-to-remember starting price of $32,000, excluding an $875 destination fee. There's only one option package, and it adds $4,000 of tech and luxury features for a range-topping price of $36,000.

The Azera sits in an odd place in Hyundai's lineup. The 2012 Hyundai Genesis starts at $34,200, and it packs more power but has fewer luxury features — there's no standard touch-screen or navigation system, for instance.

Among its competitors — such as the Ford Taurus ($25,555) and Chrysler 300 ($27,470) – the Azera is more expensive, yet it's more affordable than the Toyota Avalon, which starts at $33,195. Still, that's an unusual position for a Hyundai. Keep in mind that once you option the contenders with the same features, they all cost more than the Azera.

The Azera comes well-equipped with the following features: 

By Colin Bird | February 14, 2012 | Comments (20)

2012 BMW M6: First Look

BMW M6 Coupe and Convertible

  • Competes with: Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG, Bentley Continental GT 
  • Looks like: There's no clutch option on the M6, which is the case with the new M5 
  • Drivetrain: 560-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8; seven-speed M-Double Clutch Transmission 
  • Hits dealerships: June 2012

After a two-year sabbatical, the BMW M6 is back for the model year, packing more power and better fuel efficiency. First to launch will be the 2012 BMW M6 convertible in June, with a 2013 BMW M6 coupe following later this summer.

If you've read up on the 2012 BMW M5, you'll be familiar with most of the performance upgrades on the new M6. The model gets a new V-8 motor — first seen on the BMW X5 M, X6 M and most recently on the M5. Despite the smaller displacement and two fewer cylinders than the 2010 M6, the new engine provides more power and better fuel efficiency. Rated at 560 horsepower, the twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 also produces 502 pounds-feet of torque; it's the most powerful engine ever available on a retail BMW model, says the carmaker. The powertrain packs 60 hp and 119 pounds-feet more torque than the 2010 M6. Auto start-stop and regenerative braking also come standard on the model.

By Colin Bird | February 13, 2012 | Comments (0)

Would You Buy It? 2012 Volkswagen Up!

Historically, tiny cars haven't found much success here in "bigger-is-better" America. Change is afoot, however, as more micro cars hit U.S. streets. Smart's ForTwo may have been a flop, but Fiat's 500 is gaining some traction in the market here despite a weak debut. Is the U.S. ready to go smaller and is Volkswagen the brand to help us do it?

One appealing new model that just went on sale in Europe is the Volkswagen Up! Its tiny 139.2-inch footprint and too-cute styling could make it a hit with young city drivers. It joins like-sized competitors the Ford Ka, Fiat Panda and Hyundai i10 in Europe. Reviews from across the pond are favorable, but VW doesn't plan on selling it here. Is there a market for the Up! in the U.S.?

By Jennifer Geiger | February 1, 2012 | Comments (22)

Do Kids Influence Parents' Car-Buying Decisions?

One decision after another: That's what our days have become. Each decision seems to come with more and more options whether ordering coffee or buying a new car. And now my kids have opinions, too? What's up with that?

Buying a car is a complicated process. What are the safety and reliability ratings? Does it have a third row? Is there enough space for that rear-facing child-safety seat? What about all-wheel drive and the all-important keyless entry?

When's editors review cars we provide shoppers with this baseline information as well as our first-hand impressions. However, I recently discovered another strong variable. In addition to a spouse's reaction to a car, apparently kids have strong opinions about them, as well. This makes me wonder, how much weight (if any) do parents give their kids' opinions during the car-buying process?

By Kristin Varela | January 30, 2012 | Comments (4)

Shoppers Say Chevy Volt Expensive, Nissan Leaf Ugly in Study

Green carsDespite their small share of total vehicle sales, the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius garner a lot of attention from new-car shoppers, according to J.D. Power and Associates' 2012 Avoider Study.

The study finds that gas mileage is the most important attribute shoppers are looking at now, surpassing older key reasons such as exterior styling, reliability and price.

That puts the Volt, Prius and Leaf in a good position as each are among the most fuel-efficient cars in the country.

By Colin Bird | January 27, 2012 | Comments (42)

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