Every year hundreds of new-car models are introduced and enter the research process for millions of car shoppers. The dizzying number of choices sometimes shrouds from the masses what are good cars.
Here are 10 cars that Cars.com's editors agree are overlooked due to no fault of each vehicle's own substantial merits.
The Mazda6 is one of the rare family sedans that is both fun to drive and fuel-efficient; it's rated as high as 28/40/32 mpg city/highway/combined with an automatic transmission and the optional GT Technology Package, which includes regenerative braking and active grille shutters. But even the base automatic gets 38 on the highway. Good cabin quality, intuitive controls, comfortable seating and a striking design also fall into the Mazda's favor.
"To be good, a small luxury SUV needs to be a family car, a utility vehicle and a commuter car, and the reworked 2015 Volvo XC60 does all that. It provides an upscale environment and a dash of surprise — both on the window sticker and under the hood," said Cars.com reviewer David Thomas. Check out Thomas' review for more.
Cars.com photo by Evan Sears
Volvo has progressively updated its XC60 compact luxury SUV over the past few years, adding some great touches like the T6's innovative turbocharged, supercharged and efficient engine and a well-done digital instrument cluster. What Volvo didn't need to change was the XC60's interior space — it's been plentiful and easy to use since the SUV's debut as a 2010 model.
The XC60's cargo space is competitive against luxury compact SUVs including the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Acura RDX and BMW X3. It actually bests those with 30.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the backseat compared to the 16.5 cubic feet, 26.1 cubic feet and 19.4 cubic feet of the others, respectively. Plus, the XC60 has a standard and versatile backseat that folds in a 40/20/40 split. There was more than ample room to fit our assortment of cargo items in the back without folding the seats, which you can see below.
For a brand so intensely focused on safety, Volvo having a stellar backup camera is probably less startling than the fact that its latest four-cylinder engine we tested in the 2015 XC60 and S60 is both supercharged and turbocharged and makes 302 horsepower. That's a different story for a different day, however. Let's talk cameras.
Recently a trio of 2015 Volvos hit our test fleet with various updates. Among them were parking systems with rear park assist camera, front blind view park assist camera, and front and rear park assist. Volvo's optional front and rear park assist systems combine a number of cameras and sensors around the car with a large, high-quality display screen to create a nearly perfect parking experience.
Volvo's compact crossover got some new powertrain options for 2015 as well as additional upholstery and trim choices and some more available convenience features. Its interior tweaks don't affect how child-safety seats fit in the XC60's second row, however. Legroom issues and buried Latch anchors complicated installation.
How many car seats fit in the second row? Only two car seats officially fit, according to our criteria (explained below), but the XC60's wide, flat seat cushion might be able to accommodate three car seats, depending on the car seats and their configuration.
It seems like a smart move for automakers to offer integrated child-safety seats in cars, but only two manufacturers currently provide integrated booster seats as an option: Volvo and Dodge. Of those manufacturers, only certain models in their lineups have the available integrated booster seat feature.
What is an integrated booster seat? It's a booster that pops up out of the rear seat's bench, raising the child up to create a better fit for the seat belt. When the booster is not in use, it can be stowed into the seat's bench. This feature is great if it fits your child properly, as the integrated safety seat is made specifically for that vehicle. A secondary benefit of the integrated booster is it will not be at risk of becoming a projectile in a collision.
Vehicles Affected: Approximately 7,767 model-year 2014 versions of the S60, S80, XC60 and XC70. Only vehicles equipped with keyless ignition are affected.
The Problem: The Central Electronic Control Module may not function correctly, causing the windshield wipers to run continuously and the turn signals, high beams and headlights to malfunction; cruise control may also not work. This could lead to a crash.
On Aug. 19, Tesla announced it had the safest car in America with the 2013 Model S, which earned the top score, five stars, across six different crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Just 1% of cars tested earn five stars across all six grades, Tesla said, and the agency's overall vehicle safety score, which automakers receive from the agency, captures a rating above five stars — in this case, 5.4 stars. That makes the Model S the safest car ever tested by NHTSA under its tougher 2011 standards, Tesla said.
The Model S earns an overall vehicle safety score of 0.42 (lower is better), which beats other five-star cars like the Buick Verano (0.5) and Cadillac ATS (0.53) sedans. Tesla says that translates to 5.4 stars. But NHTSA demurred: "NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond five stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the starred categories," the agency said in a statement to The New York Times. What's more, a number of other cars — from the ATS to the Honda Accord coupe — also get five stars across the board.
Dig into the details, and the stars reflect assessments of specific crash data — the individual readouts from various sensors on a crash-test dummy. Tesla argues, for example, that the Model S beats the Volvo S60 sedan (another car with five NHTSA stars across the board) because it preserved more driver space in NHTSA's side-pole test.
Volvo announced pricing this week for its 2014 lineup, across which exterior updates and technological enhancements have been made. Powertrains carry over from the previous year and include the 250-horsepower T5; 240-hp, 3.2-liter six-cylinder; 300-hp, turbocharged T6; and the Swedish automaker's most powerful engine, the turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder, which makes 325 hp and 354 pounds-feet of torque. Click on each of the models for details on what’s changed for 2014 on the S60 sedan, S80 sedan, XC70 wagon and XC60 compact SUV; the XC90 SUV continues virtually unchanged.
New offerings for the 2014 model year include the Adaptive Digital TFT Display instrument cluster that allows drivers to choose between three themes — Elegance, Eco and Performance — all with different configurations and functionality, Volvo stated. New paddle shifters, coupled with the automaker's Advanced Quick Shift transmission-optimization software, are said to improve the speed of each gear change, increasing zero-to-60-mph times by as much as 0.4 seconds on some models. Safety equipment debuting for 2014 includes pedestrian and cyclist detection with full auto brake, cross-traffic alert and a new radar-based blind spot monitoring system.
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