There are so many delicious cars to choose from how do you know which ones to look at? Simple: You trust your good friends at Cars! Cars! Cars! Really, though, you should check out all the cars because it's so convenient to have them all in one place (and you did have to pay to get in the show). Here are the ones we think you need to make some time for:
Why are we still going on about the all-new 2006 Honda Civic? Because we think it's near perfect... for a small car. We know not everyone wants a small car, but for those that do, this might be the best out there. It's got great styling (we know, subjective, but at least it isn't like the previous near-invisible Civic), good room, and great gas mileage. It's also got great versatility because you can get it as a sedan, coupe, boy-racer and hybrid. And we've made fun of car companies in the past for trying this (Saturn's Vue SUV comes as a boy-racer or as a hybrid, neither of which really works for us), but we think Honda's figured it out. The non-hybrid gets over 30mpg in the city and 40mpg on the highway. The hybrid will do you 50mpg where ever you are. Build quality seems to be top-shelf.
We like crossovers. Like many folks, we like sitting higher and, generally, we like the styling of crossovers (how Ford messed up with the Freestyle we'll never know). When the Nissan Murano came out we insisted crossovers would take over the role station wagons played in the 60s. That hasn't totally happened yet, but as more crossovers come out we think it will eventually happen. The problem for other manufacturers was that the Murano set the bar pretty damned high with its great exterior styling and a slick, yet functional, interior. Ford took a swing at the crossover segment with the Freestyle and hit maybe a solid single. But it wasn't enough and Ford almost immediately started talking about shutting down production (we even posted such information only to retract it). Now Ford has gone back to the drawing board and come back with the Edge (with apologies to Larry Mullen Jr.). We already trashed the Edge in our Notes from the 2006 NY Auto Show, but we needed to include it here. Why? Because the Edge is a prime example of why U.S. manufacturers are getting run over by the competition. The exterior styling of the Edge is great—we stared at it for some time and still didn't find much to pick on. But when we got inside... well, it was very disappointing. The beautiful exterior led us to believe the interior was going to be something special when, in reality, it was more of the same old thinking. And, even then, only executed with obligation rather than enthusiasm. We sat in the back seat and were so uncomfortable with how the seats felt that we couldn't imagine sitting back there on a trip. Our legs are too short and even we didn't have enough room. And the lame cup holders in the back seat were broken which left us wondering how long it would last with kids using it. We hope Ford earmarks a lot of money for the Edge's interior redesign because the Edge is an important for Ford and we hate to see the Edge remain mediocre.
Compact Trio Of Fun
There's a new breed of vehicle headed our way and it's the total opposite of the SUV-craze. The sub-compact segment has long been ignored by the U.S. market until now, but boy do we have a great start. The big three... uh, that's the big three from Japan, are introducing the:
We'll write more on these in an upcoming review, but these cars are worth looking at because they're in a new model segment without any domestic competition and they may signal the sign of the future (smaller is better). The are also pretty well put together and get good gas mileage.
Wow. Nice one, Saturn. We used to think of Saturn as pretty lame and barely a viable alternative to the foreign competition. But, wow. This is an honest attempt at not just following the competition, but actually catching up to the competition. This car can surely take on the Hyundai Sonata and is going to try to beat on the Accord and Camry some. The one thing we're unsure of is the price. At the press conference on Wednesday, April 12, Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak alluded to the fact that Saturn was able to get higher sale prices for Saturns over their list price (not by any shenanigans -- by offering packages to customers that raised the prices of the cars). So our concern with the Aura is that Saturn is going to push this closer to $30k than low 20s. But it appears to be a good car and we think it's worth you looking at.
Wow. Nice one. Where did we hear that before? When we first sat in the Pontiac Solstice we thought, hey, this is what Pontiac should make more of! But now that we've sat in the Saturn... forget the Solstice. The Sky looks great and has a far nicer interior than the Solstice. Whereas the Solstice looks spartan, the Sky looks complete. Not over-crowded, either. And with its highly polished plastics, it looks classy. We likey. There's also going to be a boy-racer version: Saturn Sky Red Line. Again, Jill Lajdziak mentioned it will have a premium over the regular Sky. A high premium. That's a bit concerning.
Honesty time: We're not sure why we included this one. Is the clever commercials? Was it the buxom girl in one of the commercials who bounced her way into our hearts? Not to mention the Mazdaspeed Mazda3 is probably going to clean the GTI's clock when it comes to performance... but, still. There's something about the GTI that we can't take our eyes of off. Maybe because we're partial to white paint. In any event, go downstairs to the VW booth (right! VW is now downstairs and Hyundai is upstairs! What's going on?) and check out the VWs. And make sure to sit in the Rabbit if for no other reason than the new logo is cute.
As Joe pointed out, we made a mistake on the name of the Freestyle by calling it the Freelander. Our bad. As a plus on our side: It's still in Ford's company. And the Freelander sucked even worse than the Freestyle. Sorry about the mistake.