2013 MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards: Winning Cars
In this era of fuel economy consciousness, there were no shortage of small cars that made their way to us last year. But, no subcompact had road manners that impressed us more than last year’s winning duo, the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio.
Sure, they no longer claim the 40-mpg’s that were first promised, but we’re just fine with a few less in a package that’s as stylish and practical as the Accent, or as sporty as the Rio. So, it’s a repeat win for the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio.
New compact car entries were even more plentiful, and our trophy goes to a brand that’s been out of the four-door compact sedan segment for a while, but returned with a mix of Italian flair and American ingenuity, the Dodge Dart.
Available in models from mild to wild, the Alfa Romeo based Dodge Dart gets our nod thanks to its fun to drive nature, advanced power-trains that are both spirited and fuel efficient, a gorgeous exterior design, and a knockout interior with changeable gauges and the largest touch screen in its class.
It’s the first all-new Chrysler product developed under Fiat leadership, and we can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
Our Best Family Sedan winner is the second generation, mid-size Ford Fusion. Sure it’s Aston Martin flavor knocks it out of the park in styling, but Fusion hits above average as well in high tech features, practical comfort and space, and fuel economy with all four-cylinder powertrains, plus hybrid and plug-in models.
Indeed, the 2013 Fusion bulked-up big-time on driver enjoyment, thanks to an available manual transmission for the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine; which is one really hot combo. These are the Drivers’ Choice Awards after all.
Moving on to Best Convertible, it’s the Volkswagen Beetle droptop. While the “tougher” makeover didn’t go far enough to fully win over those with both X and Y chromosomes, the convertible bug still put a smile on our faces.
Available with both gas and fuel stingy turbo diesel power, the cloth power-top folds quickly, storing more compactly than before; greatly increasing visibility; good news for drivers who like to see what’s behind them. And its $25,000 starting price is even better news for anyone who likes to have their top dropped and still have some money left in the bank.
Like some words, luxury is hard to define; but like some other words; we know it when we see it. And increasingly we’re seeing true luxury on cars with smaller and smaller price tags. And that’s a big reason why our Best Luxury Sedan award goes to the Lexus ES.
Now based on the full-size Toyota Avalon chassis, the ES has enough interior space and upscale amenities to please most everyone. So, whether you choose the silky smooth ES350 or the eco-conscious ES300h Hybrid, you’ll want for little, and do it without a 6-figure investment.
You might think our Best Sport Sedan winner is a shocker, but not if you’ve spent any time behind the wheel of the Cadillac ATS.
Once you’ve mastered its cutting-edge CUE voice and touch screen controller; if you keep both hands on the wheel and your foot to the floor, you’ll be in for an American-made driving experience that’s as close to a classic European sport sedan as you can get.
Add in great style, good comfort, and plenty of other high-tech goodies, and the ATS is a major game changer for Cadillac!
Despite the return of the affordable rear-wheel-drive sports car at Subaru and Scion, it’s actually a front driver that gets our nod for Best Sport Coupe, the Fiat 500 Abarth.
And that’s because even with front-wheel-drive, it tackles the road better. The Abarth looks mean, sounds great, and of course, handles way better than any of us expected. All while getting 34 miles-per-gallon, offering a surprising amount of storage space, and costing a couple grand less than the FR-S and BRZ.
Last year, Ford took our Best Performance Car pride with the BOSS 302 Mustang, as no other car offered more bang for the buck. Well this year, Ford one-ups themselves with the Shelby GT500.
We could sum up our reasoning by just saying 662-horsepower for 55-grand, but the GT500 is much more than that. It’s a total performance package built for the track, but manageable on the street. We fell in love with this Shelby at the first turn of the key.
Choosing our best Eco-Friendly winner has become increasingly difficult, as the field is increasingly crowded with new EVs, hybrids, plug-ins, and even diesels. Well, we always side with cars that we enjoy driving, so our pick this year is the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. With its forty plus mileage expectations, this full hybrid is the best example of getting your eco on while having fun doing it. How can you argue against a car with spirited handling, plus the best acceleration, most rear seat legroom, and largest trunk in the compact sedan hybrid class?
We normally don’t consider fuel economy performance when it comes to our price-is-no-object Dream Machine category, but this year we made an exception with the Tesla Model S. This pure EV upstart delivers high luxury, high style, and high practicality that rivals the world’s best known luxury sedans.
Turning from eco-performance to all out performance, our next Dream Machine for 2013 is the SRT Viper. It’s back, and while the exterior has been tamed somewhat, all of its V10 fury remains inside.
And we don’t just dream about cars either, the Land Rover Range Rover has always been a brute in a tuxedo, but now it’s dropped some 700 pounds of weight, and put on some fancier duds for true exceptional town and country living.