$20,000 Compact Sedan Challenge: Overview


Pop quiz: What size car do residents of planet Earth buy more of than any other? It's not the midsize sedan that's unique to the U.S. It's not pickup trucks either. It's compacts, of which more are sold around the world than any other segment.

In Europe they're used as family cars, but in the U.S. they tend to be less expensive entry-level vehicles that appeal to a wide range of buyers. From young college grads to empty nesters looking to downsize, these models are no longer the stripped-down economy cars of yesteryear. And with new models arriving for 2014, we figured it was time to look at the category again.

By Aaron Bragman | November 10, 2013 | Comments (11)

$20,000 Compact Sedan Challenge: Results


As with previous Challenges, the cars at the top were not too far apart, but some of the opinions of the judges were quite far apart. One sedan was the solid favorite for one of our judges, but it received the lowest score from our "real-life" judge, so opinions were clearly not unanimous. A reminder on who our judges were for this Challenge:

  • Aaron Bragman, Detroit bureau chief for Cars.com
  • Jennifer Geiger, Cars.com news editor
  • Bill Jackson, Cars.com assistant managing editor/research and production
  • James R. Healey, auto writer for USA Today
  • Fred Meier, automotive editor for USA Today
  • Brian Robinson, "MotorWeek" producer
  • Carol Gluckman, librarian from Montgomery County, Md., who is in the market for a compact car to replace her current car

Here's how the score broke down: The experts' scores accounted for 75 percent of the total score; 15 percent came from the civilian car buyer's scores; and 10 percent was based on fuel economy.

By Patrick Olsen | November 10, 2013 | Comments (22)

$20,000 Compact Sedan Challenge: Mileage


Fuel efficiency is a must for compact-car shoppers, so it's no surprise that most of the sedans in our Challenge returned impressive numbers, but one contender definitely outshone the rest. The newest kid on the block, the redesigned-for-2014 Toyota Corolla, wowed us with its observed 38.3 mpg rating. Because the 2014 Ford Focus did not have an mpg readout, we opted to use the observed mileage based on our fill-ups at the same pump for all cars, using a one-click method. We've provided the computer readouts below for comparison.

We started our trip in suburban Baltimore, Md., on four-lane thoroughfares, took a jaunt across state lines on small-town Pennsylvania roads, made a highway trek back into Maryland, and hit some urban and suburban roads. In total, we covered just more than 200 miles.

While some of the compact sedans impressed more than others, all beat their combined EPA fuel-economy rating:

By Jennifer Geiger | November 10, 2013 | Comments (2)

$38,000 Full-Size Sedan Challenge: Results


First, a quick reminder about whom our judges are:

  • Kelsey Mays, consumer affairs editor at Cars.com
  • Jennifer Newman, assistant managing editor at Cars.com
  • Kristin Varela, senior family editor at Cars.com
  • Fred Meier, automotive editor at USA Today
  • Brian Robinson, producer at "MotorWeek"
  • Bill Wegner of Skokie, Ill., our real-life family judge

Here's how the score broke down: The experts' scores accounted for 75% of the total score; 15% came from the family's scores; and 10% was based on fuel economy. To help you make your own comparisons of these sedans, we've pulled together a list of what you get for $38,000.

By Patrick Olsen | September 8, 2013 | Comments (22)

$38,000 Full-Size Sedan Challenge: Mileage Results


A mileage drive with full-size sedans is the 200-mile trek editors have been yearning for, because if we're going to spend all day in cars evaluating gas mileage, they might as well be large, comfy, feature-laden sedans.

Our route west of Chicago consisted mostly of highway driving with slower stoplight-to-stoplight traffic driving sprinkled in. We observed average speeds of around 40 mph, according to various onboard computers.

Surprises were minimal.

By Joe Bruzek | September 8, 2013 | Comments (4)

$38,000 Full-Size Sedan Challenge: Overview


If the new-car market is a Big Mac, full-size sedans would amount to only the sesame seeds. They're a sliver of the auto market, accounting for just 3.5% of new-car sales in the first seven months of 2013. Still, automakers believe in big cars. Seldom does a comparison see so many redesigned or new entrants. From April 2012 to April 2013, four new or redesigned full-size sedans hit dealerships. Through the first seven months of 2013, those four nameplates accounted for nearly half of full-size sedan sales.

By Kelsey Mays | September 8, 2013 | Comments (3)

What's the Most Affordable Compact Crossover?

What's the Most Affordable Compact Crossover?

The compact-crossover class is exploding in popularity because of the mix of utility and affordability these types of vehicles deliver. Introduced in 1995, the Toyota RAV4 was the first car-based compact crossover available in this country, according to MotorWeek. It was followed soon after by the 1995 Honda CR-V. Since then, we've seen a flood of new models — more than 20 nameplates at last count — and today nearly one in every 10 vehicles sold is a compact crossover, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

View Compact Crossovers

The competition is only beginning to heat up, with new models like the 2013 Ford Escape, 2012 Honda CR-V and 2013 Mazda CX-5 introduced in the past few months. A significantly reengineered Nissan Rogue will soon be added to the mix, too. So which one is the most affordable?

By Colin Bird | April 26, 2012 | Comments (10)

What's the Most Affordable Full-Size Crossover?

Affordable crossovers
The full-size, three-row crossover segment is relatively new to the automotive landscape. You need to look back only four or five years to see how quickly the segment has changed from just a handful of models to more than 15 models today.

For folks who find minivans anathema, these large crossovers are the best alternatives. Some — like the Chevrolet Traverse — are roomy enough that there's little tradeoff in terms of passenger room. The unibody architecture of large crossovers makes them generally more maneuverable and fuel efficient compared with three-row, full-size SUVs, like the Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition.

Check Out: $37,000 SUV Shootout

Recent converts from SUV to crossover pedigree include the Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer, which are now competing against fairly old stalwarts like the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.

The full-size crossover market will expand soon, with the three vehicles on the horizon: the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder (which switches to a crossover platform), the 2013 Infiniti JX35 and the upcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

By Colin Bird | February 28, 2012 | Comments (6)

What's the Most Affordable Midsize Sedan?

What’s the Most Affordable Midsize Sedan?
The midsize sedan is by far the most popular car segment in the U.S., with more than 2 million sold so far this year. So it’s no surprise that some of the best-selling vehicles in the country are midsize family sedans, such as the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion. It’s also one of the most competitive markets, with over 20 moderately priced models on sale today.

Over the past few months, the market has heated up even more. Toyota is launching the all-new 2012 Camry this month, and it will boast more features, improved gas mileage and more-affordable pricing for midlevel trims. The redesigned 2012 Volkswagen Passat is now a legitimate player in the moderately priced family sedan category, moving away from the premium category. Its starting price of $19,995 offers novel features, such as dual-zone automatic climate control, standard.

So which sedan is the best-equipped — and also the most affordable — car for the money? For this latest affordability study, we decided to pit the redesigned 2012 Camry and 2012 Passat against the 2012 Hyundai Sonata and the 2012 Fusion. All four have attractive pricing with lots of features.

By Colin Bird | September 19, 2011 | Comments (20)

How Affordable Is the 2012 Toyota Camry?

Midsized Comparison

Toyota showed off its 2012 Camry to a discerning public yesterday. The new version of America’s top-selling sedan goes on sale in October, with the Toyota Camry Hybrid following in December.

2012 Toyota Camry Review
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Review
2012 Toyota Camry: Trim Level Breakdown
2012 Toyota Camry Photo Gallery

Although Camry shoppers will see numerous improvements — slightly better ride and handling, a more luxurious interior and improved fuel economy — there’s the unfortunate reality that the Camry’s  introductory price has inflated to $21,995 excluding $760 for destination. That’s $1,800 more than the 2011 Camry.

But the price increase doesn’t tell the whole story. The new Camry packs a lot more value and is more competitively priced than its predecessor.

Below, we compare the Camry’s value to its three closest competitors in terms of sales — the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Honda Accord — and we’ll throw in the up-and-coming Hyundai Sonata for good measure.

By Colin Bird | August 24, 2011 | Comments (46)

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