R&T Overview:As Chevy's biggest sedan, the Impala holds six folks if you get the optional bench front seat, although these days it feels a bit tight to have an adult passenger seated at your right elbow instead of a cushy armrest. However, there's a space in American culture for a car that can take mom, pop, two kids, granny and gramps to breakfast Sunday morning. The Impala uses the most advanced overhead-cam 3.6-liter V-6 engine shared by other GM cars, and it can run on E85 ethanol fuel if you live in the Corn Belt. It also comes standard with a 6-speed automatic, as well as standard anti-lock brakes, stability control and a suspension that is not too squishy. Competitors may be larger and quieter, but Impala makes for a clandestine drive.
Now that the Monte Carlo is dead and gone, the Impala is shouldering the load for Chevy in the midsize segment and on the track in NASCAR events. The front-drive sedan is certainly no “Car of Tomorrow”; the basic platform dates back to the ’80s, although it has been updated. It is one of the few cars to come in a 6-passenger configuration and offers a wide range of engine choices. The base engine is a 211-bhp 3.5-liter pushrod V-6. The LTZ has a 224-bhp 3.9-liter pushrod six. And the relatively hairy SS has a pushrod 5.3-liter V-8 that sends 303 bhp to the front axle. Chevy has worked hard at keeping the value end of the bargain going by adding such features as dual-zone climate control, traction control, ABS, new thorax side-impact airbags and Bluetooth connectivity.
Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the new VW Passat is a bona fide competitor for the likes of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. It’s super roomy inside, especially in back, and there’s a choice of three engines: a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder with 177 bhp, a 2.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder with 140 bhp and VW’s 3.6-liter VR6 with 280. Don’t be fooled by the diesel’s low bhp; this oil-burner has lots of torque, and although it does not make this new Passat exceptionally quick, it’s very efficient, able to squeeze 43 miles out of a gallon of diesel fuel when mated to the 6-speed manual transmission. If you value luxury over efficiency, get the 3.6 SEL Premium, which has leather, keyless entry, navigation, power seats and interior chrome accents.
The Ford Fiesta is a sub-compact, front-wheel drive, five-passenger car. Available in four and five-door bodystyles, the current benchmarks for the sub-compact segment are being tested by the Fiestas styling, comfort and luxury features, technology, and overall practicality.
The Fiesta is offered in three trims, S, SE, and a Titanium model. For 2014 there is the addition of the new ST trim to the hatchback lineup. Power comes from a 120-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. An advanced six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission is optional. The ST gets a turbocharged, direct-injected version of the 1.6-liter that offers nearly 200-hp, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Standard features on all models include air-conditioning, capless fuel filler system, power body-colored mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, aux audio input jack, electronic power-assisted steering and hill launch assist. Higher trim levels include cruise control, keyless entry, Ford's MyKey system, HD and satellite radio, alloy wheels, power windows, rearview camera with reverse park sensing, SYNC hands-free communications and entertainment system and SYNC with MyFord Touch. Standard safety features include AdvanceTrac electronic stability control, seven airbags including a driver knee airbag, tire pressure monitoring system, engine immobilizer and four-wheel anti-lock brakes.
For 2014, the Fiesta is a refresh with new interior and exterior styling, feature changes across the entire lineup and the addition of the ST performance hot hatch.
The ATS sedan is an all-new addition to the Cadillac lineup. The Cadillac ATS is a lightweight, compact sport sedan with a level of performance, luxury, and sophistication that will challenge the competition.
The ATS has a choice of three engines. A 2.5-liter inline-4 engine producing 202-hp matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission is available with rear-wheel drive. Available with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive a 270-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 and a 320-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine are also paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is available with the 2.0-liter turbo and rear-wheel drive. Standard features include eight airbags, a Bose speaker system, sport suspension, and LED lighting for the gauges. Available features include Brembo brakes, HD radio, Bose 10-speaker surround sound, CUE - Cadillac User Experience technology with an eight-inch LCD touchscreen, navigation, Magnetic Ride Control, and a wide range of new safety features to help prevent crashes.