Although Labor Day traditionally marks the start of the new model year at your local car dealers, these days cars just trickle in over the course of the year with fewer coming at the traditional fall introduction. So whether it is a brand new model or just new options or revised sheet metal, the new ones will be in dealers this month.
So let's check out what's new in the lower rungs of the new car market, alphabetically:
: The all new, clean sheet Sonic finally hits the market kicking the Aveo to the curb--and I'm sure the dealers are dancing in the street about that one. It kind of looks like one of the cars from the Transformers 2 movie and like the concept car from years ago, but it really looks like a winner. It starts at $14.5k for the 4-door sedan and $15.5k for the 5-door hatchback, and fully loaded doesn't even get close to $20k.
With a 1.8l 4 cylinder or a Turbo 1.4l and a 6 speed manual or automatic it should get up to 40mpg on the highway. It continues the improvements seen on the Malibu and Cruze interiors, and is finally a credible player in the subcompact market from GM, with help from their Korean subsidiary, though the cars will be built in Michigan.
: Surprisingly enough the Caliber is still being built and sold! Why would you go shopping for one of these when nothing has changed since everyone didn't buy it when it was introduced five years ago? Stay away. Wait until some of the Fiat blood starts pumping in the old Dodge veins.
: The 500 steals the title of "It" car from the Mini after years of an undisputed battle. They start at $15.5k and can get up near $24k if you are generous with the options. But just like the Mini, even if you get the base model you are going to be starring in your own movie for the next 12 months. For that you get a 1.4l 4 cyl, and a 6-speed automatic, or 5-speed manual, 38mpg hwy and as much cute as a whole Hello Kitty shop.
Plus just like Mini, all maintenance is free for the first three years. So this car seems like a win-win for a three year or less ownership experience since demand for them will still be high come trade-in time plus being the star of the show until then--and no need to even pay to have the oil changed. If you are old enough to remember the last time we had Fiats in the USA, just forget about it. They are at least as reliable as a VW now.
: The company of Henry and Edsel has two options for you, with last year's updated Fiesta and the all new 2012 Focus--plus an all electric Focus.
The Fiesta is the smaller of the two and I think the better looking. It shares much of its chassis with the Mazda 2, but has all its own sheet metal. For less than $13.5K for the sedan or $15.5k for the hatchback you get 37-40mpg hwy, a 1.6l 4 cyl and a 5 speed stick or a 6 speed auto. The Fiesta has 85 cubic feet of passenger space on a 98" wheel base.
Its big brother Focus has another 5 cubic feet of space inside and about a 6" longer wheel base. If you are choosing the sedan, of either, you get a 13 cubic foot trunk. If you are going with the hatchback the Focus gives you nearly twice the space. You get a 2.0l 4 cyl and a 5-speed stick or a 6-speed automated manual (you'll never know the difference
) and 36-40mpg hwy.
You will pay more to get more, the Focus starts at $16.5k. There will also be an electric version coming in the next few months, but expect it to be more than $30k with a 75-100 mile range and a 123hp motor and single speed transmission. Check this Focus Electric review
for more details.
: There's a new Civic over at Honda, but it's been on sale since spring. It's not too different from the last one with the lineup featuring hybrid, regular, and natural gas versions. It starts at about $15.5k and can go all the way to $25k or more for a loaded hybrid or sporty Si version. You get a 1.8l (2.4l in the Si) 4cyl and 5 speed stick or auto, and 31-39mpg hwy.
The hybrid moves you up to 44mpg (city or highway
), and down to a 1.5l motor, plus you pay nearly $10k over the base model for an extra 3-16mpg (highway or city
). In the middle price wise there is the HF model with 41mpg hwy and 29mpg city.
It's a Honda Civic
; buying one is never a bad choice. If you do a ton of city driving in stop-and-go traffic, go with the hybrid. If you are a road warrior with thousands of miles of road through the mid-west on your monthly route, go with the HF. If you're just cheap, go with the base model. Details on the natural gas version aren't really out yet.
Honda also has the cool fairly new CR-Z if you long for a car that is half Insight half CRX. Its small, it's cool looking and it's about $20k. It basically uses the Civic hybrid power train to get 34-37mpg hwy depending on the transmission.
Well, that's it for this week. Stop by next week for the rest of the list from Hyundai to Zundapp.