2012 Drivers’ Choice Awards: Cars
Everybody loves a winner and it’s that time of the year again when we pick our winners, with our annual MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards. It was a busy year, with lots of new models to test; but it was the car segment that were really chocked full of exciting new entries. So join us, as we take a look at the cars that earned our top honors for 2012.
Competition in the small car field was especially intense this year. So much so, that we’ve have divided our Best Small Car honor into two awards, Best Subcompact and Best Compact.
Our Best Subcompact Car award goes to the Kia Rio. Despite new entries from Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, and even Fiat; the Rio 4- and 5-door models stand out with handsome styling, athletic ride-and-handling, and a price that, while not the lowest in the segment, is very reasonable. Kia is striving to become the Korean BMW; focusing more on performance and style, than price and pure practicality. We like where they’re headed.
Now, since the Rio is based on the mass market Hyundai Accent, we honor it as well. In fact, the Accent’s slick styling and upscale interior, when set alongside the sportier Rio, gives the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group a formidable one-two, 40 MPG subcompact punch.
That leads us to our Best Compact Car, the Subaru Impreza. With its 2012 re-design, we think the Impreza is primed for prime time. No other compact comes close to the Impreza’s mix of standard all-wheel-drive, upscale interior, and near bargain pricing. Add in a fun-to-drive steering feel, plus a big jump in fuel economy, and you’ve got a four-season winner.
Our Best Family Sedan award goes to another pair of Korean cousins, the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. With its stunning design, four-cylinder and hybrid engines, and extensive warranties, the Sonata is a repeat winner.
But this year, we add the Sonata-based Kia Optima, another well built mid-size sedan that favors Jaguar more so than any rival. No wonder Optima is selling like hotcakes. And, as much as we love the exterior design of the Optima, we love the modern, ergonomically smart interior even more. Just like the Sonata, the Optima ranges from basic 4-cylinder, to sporty turbo, and to an eco-conscious full hybrid.
When it comes to dropping the top and carving up some curvy roads, we’d choose our Best Convertible winner the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible. Whether you chose V6 or V8 power, you’ll get a great blend of fine acceleration and economy. You’ll also get a power cloth top and styling, that despite being “retro” doesn’t look dated.
Last year our Best Luxury Sedan award went to the Infiniti M. And, this year it wins again as Infiniti has gone and made the M even better by adding a full hybrid model. Never before has cruising at 60 in electric-only mode been so enjoyable.
The Volkswagen Jetta won our Best Small Car award last year, and this year the Jetta returns, but with a new award, Best Sport Sedan. As much as we liked the Jetta last year, we love this new GLI even more. Packing a new independent rear suspension, the GLI is about as entertaining as a front-wheel drive, four-door can be, all for under $25,000.
Our Best Sport Coupe is another repeat winner, the Cadillac CTS Coupe. Even with a new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, and fun new entries like the MINI Cooper Coupe, the CTS still outshines them all when it comes to style, comfort, and performance; whether in mild, base form, or the extra-strength V variety.
This year, our Best Performance Car takes on an old-school muscle car flavor with the Ford Mustang Boss 302. We love everything about this new BOSS, from the nostalgic-yet-modern styling, to the 444-horsepower, 5-point-0 under the hood, to one of the best shifters we’ve ever laid our hands on. It’s everything you want in a performance car and it’s made right here.
Turning our attention to more socially conscious vehicles, our Best Eco-Friendly award goes to not one car, but a group of cars, the Toyota Prius Family. Not only does the original Prius outsell every other hybrid, but it still beats them all when it comes to fuel economy. It’s being joined by a plug-in Prius PHEV, taking its parking slot next a more versatile Prius v wagon, and soon to arrive Prius c with the highest city fuel economy rating going. A lot of hybrids have been launched in recent years, but none do it better than the Toyota Prius family.
Suppose saving money on fuel would never be an issue again. After all you just won the lottery and you’re ready for our Best Dream Machine category. As we always have trouble narrowing it down to just one, we picked three.
First up is the Ferrari 458 Italia. Using as many spaceship metaphors as we possibly can, the 458 is a “rocket” off the line, and a “blast” to drive. You truly feel like a”star” behind the wheel, whether “launching” at a race track, or “orbiting” the parking lot at the country club.
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is another one that we’d plunk our ill-gotten gains down on. Whether it’s the gullwing coupe or the smooth roadster, the SLS gives us a great feeling in our hearts. But, it’s the feeling we get everywhere else after a few laps around the track in AMG’s first ground up design ever that put it at the top of our list.
While our final Best Dream Machine doesn’t approach the lofty price tags of the first two, the Porsche 911 is a performance icon that needs little explanation. Now in its 7th generation, the all-new 991 takes the venerable sport coupe to a whole new level, one that most other manufacturers can only dream about.