Top 10 Most-Improved Cars from the Past 15 Years

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If you read our series on the business of redesigns, you know that reimagining a car from the ground up can be a billion-dollar feat to implement the industry's latest technology, keep up with ever-improving competition and ultimately (hopefully) increase sales. They usually do just that: In Cars.com's analysis of 61 redesigns from 2009 to 2012, sales for the average remake saw an increase of 32.6% in the months following.

Why? Just look at their predecessors. Some undertakings replace a onetime star that lingered well past its freshness date (see the Volkswagen New Beetle), while others are the successor to a product doomed from the get-go (see the Dodge Caliber). Whatever you call it, the most improved overhauls can sometimes create butterflies out of automotive caterpillars. An important note: Sometimes the changes go beyond just interiors and drivetrains, and sometimes the car being replaced was so poor that the automaker gave the new version an all-new name.

The last time we named the most-improved cars, we considered models that showed progress through successive generations in the 2000s. This time, our editors nominated the most improved single redesigns from the past 15 years.

By Kelsey Mays | October 14, 2013 | Comments (12)

Toyota World Hybrid Tour Shows What We're Missing

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Toyota is flexing its hybrid chops with a special traveling road show of the company's hybrid cars. The automaker recently brought the automotive media to a private test track in southeast Michigan to try out not only the cars it sells in the U.S., such as the venerable Prius and Camry Hybrid, but also a selection of international offerings that aren't available here. We were treated to a closed loop handling course followed by a highway-speed 3-mile oval and all day to drive the hybrid vehicles as many times as we liked.

Perhaps the biggest take-away from this event is how differently Toyota tunes its vehicles depending on the market in which they're sold.

By Aaron Bragman | September 4, 2013 | Comments (3)

Car Talk: What's the Ugliest Car?

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Just as a person's beauty is only skin deep, a car's is in the eye of the pink-slip holder. Still, there's just no denying that some have a face only an owner could love. Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the hosts of NPR's "Car Talk" radio show, solicited input online to determine the ugliest automobile currently in production.

Based on the nominations received, the field was narrowed to 10: Chevrolet Spark, Fiat Multipla, Infiniti QX56, Kia Soul, Lincoln MKT, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan Cube, Nissan Juke (photo above), Toyota Prius v and the Smart ForTwo. At last check, the Multipla was trouncing the uncomely competition with nearly 39% of the vote. Its nearest opponent is the Juke with nearly 26%; the balance of the nominees' vote tallies were in the single digits.

Is the Multipla being unfairly maligned in the face of an uglier opponent? Or perhaps you wish to contribute to the pile-on? Click here to cast your vote.

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Top 10 Ugly Cars
By Matt Schmitz | January 23, 2013 | Comments (15)

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid Video

In the 2013 C-Max Hybrid, Ford has given us a worthy, if middle-of-the-road, opponent for the Toyota Prius. Though substantially shorter than the Prius, this wider, taller hybrid hatchback still manages a hefty appearance with fuel-efficiency ratings and cargo space ranking between those of leading competitors, says Cars.com reviewer Kelsey Mays. The C-Max Hybrid succeeds in driving dynamics, but struggles with some interior issues. Does it have what it takes to pose a serious threat to the Prius? Watch the video and decide for yourself.

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By Matt Schmitz | January 22, 2013 | Comments (2)

Cars.com Reviews the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In

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Leery about putting all your chips down on either the efficiency of a pure-electric or the acceleration of an extended-range car? Cars.com reviewer Joe Wiesenfelder explains how the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In lets you hedge your hybrid bets. But while the plug-in version boasts a three-hour recharge time on household power and trumps the standard Prius on fuel savings, it costs $8,000 more — making the odds on whether it's worth it a wager you'll have to make for yourself.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Review
By Matt Schmitz | November 8, 2012 | Comments (4)

2012 Toyota Prius: Car Seat Check

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We already know the Toyota Prius is on top when it comes to fuel economy, but how well does it handle child-safety seats? Toyota’s midsize hybrid hatchback seats five passengers and offers a comfortable amount of space for a small family; its accessible Latch anchors were a welcome nicety.

For the Car Seat Check, we use a Graco SnugRide 30 rear-facing infant-safety seat, a Britax Roundabout convertible child-safety seat and Graco high-back TurboBooster seat.

By Jennifer Geiger | August 7, 2012 | Comments (4)

May's Fastest and Slowest Selling Cars

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The Toyota Prius may have left the Top 10 Best-Sellers last month, but shoppers still snapped up the latest additions to the Prius family: the Prius Plug-in and subcompact Prius c. Both have been among the fastest-selling cars since they hit Toyota dealerships earlier this spring.

Speaking of spring, the hottest one on record played well for Mercedes-Benz. The first full redesign in a decade for the iconic SL-Class roadster needed just eight days per car, on average, to sell. That car starts at $106,405 including destination.

Another droptop, the updated Ford Mustang convertible, sold fast, too, but its crosstown rival, the Chevrolet Camaro convertible, sat at Chevy dealers an average of 119 days. It joins a Losers list that remains mostly unchanged, with a scattering of posh — but slow-selling — nameplates.

By Kelsey Mays | June 12, 2012 | Comments (4)

IIHS Adds Three Cars to Top Safety Pick List

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety bestowed its top award to two redesigned vehicles and one all-new car. The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco, 2012 Hyundai Azera and 2012 Toyota Prius c all earned the top rating of Good in IIHS crash tests and have been named Top Safety Picks.

The updated for 2013 Malibu Eco mild hybrid midsize sedan, redesigned Azera large sedan and tiny all-new Prius c hatchback received Good scores in front, side, rear and rollover crash tests. The rollover test includes a roof-strength test. To pass, a vehicle’s roof must be able to withstand the force of four times its weight.

The 2012 Chevrolet Malibu is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Model-year 2006-11 Hyundai Azera models were only tested for front and side impacts and received the second-best Acceptable rating in side-impact testing. The 2012 model earned the Good rating across all test areas. Lastly, the Prius c is an-all new vehicle; it joins siblings Prius and Prius v on IIHS' Top Safety Pick list.

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By Jennifer Geiger | May 15, 2012 | Comments (5)

Can the Toyota Prius c Compete With Econoboxes?

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The Toyota Prius c kicked off sales in mid-March at a blistering pace, selling 1,201 cars in just three days. By contrast, it took Toyota all month to sell as many Scion iQ minicars. April marked the Prius c's first full month of sales, and we expected big results.

It turns out Toyota delivered a modest 4,006 units of the sub-$19,000 hatchback. The Prius v added another 3,847 sales to the nameplate in April, while the Prius Plug-in found 1,654 shoppers.

The Prius Plug-in outsold the Chevy Volt despite a veritable pittance of hype about its release compared with the blitz surrounding the Volt. The similarly hyped Nissan Leaf managed sales of just 370 units.

So if a plug-in version of the Prius can leapfrog its competition — albeit a small field — can the Prius c compete against traditional economy cars?

By Kelsey Mays | May 2, 2012 | Comments (5)

Movers & Losers: March 2012

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The Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Prius were in high demand in March, with just-released 2013 Elantra sedans staying at dealerships just three days before shoppers take them home — proof that if a car is executed right, it can sell fast even in its third year.

There are still nearly twice as many 2012 Elantras versus 2013s in Cars.com's national new-car inventory, and the 2012s moved briskly, too. They averaged just 10 days on dealer lots in March. That's well below the month's 41-day average, which was a tick slower than February's 39-day average but it's faster than March 2011, when new cars took 48 days to sell.

By Kelsey Mays | April 10, 2012 | Comments (0)

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