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.
The Toyota Corolla is a front-wheel drive five-passenger compact sedan, well-known for being reliable and economical, yet refined and comfortable. For 2014 the all-new 11th generation Corolla is distinguished by a new exterior design, an upgraded interior with more passenger room, and a new continuously variable transmission (CVTi-S).
The Corolla is available in four trims: L, LE, S, and new LE ECO. The powertrain for the L, LE, and S trims is a 132 horsepower, 1.8-liter dual VVT-I engine, matched with a six-speed manual, four-speed automatic, or new continuously variable transmission (CVTi-S). The LE ECO includes a 140 horsepower, 1.8-liter engine with Valvematic, combined with the CVTi-S transmission. Safety features include front, side-impact, side-curtain, and new drivers knee airbags, ABS with brake assist, and whiplash protecting front seat active head restraints. Air conditioning and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control are also standard on all models. All Corollas now include LED headlamps, Bluetooth, a USB port, and power windows. Available features include cruise control, 16-inch wheels, tilt-and-slide power moonroof, Entune Audio, backup monitor, navigation, and leather.
The Sonic replaces the Aveo as Chevrolet's smallest car in North America (it's still called Aveo in Europe), but it also signals that GM has finally realized, like Mini, Fiat, Scion, Mazda, Honda and Ford, that small cars can be really cool. Like the Aveo, the Sonic will come as a 4-door sedan or hatchback, the sedan gaining about 4 in. in length, while it's slightly narrower and lower. The Sonic, however, shares the same 138-bhp 1.8-liter or turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinders as are available in the larger Cruze. The torque-laden turbo motor comes only with a 6-speed manual, while the 1.8-liter has a 6-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual. The turbo produces much more torque than the 1.8, and boost arrives without lag.
The smallest car in Subaru lineup, the Impreza has been Subaru's mainstay for many years. And thanks to its standard all-wheel drive and rally racing heritage, it's garnered a strong fan base; it's on the list of must-have import car driving experiences. Available in either 4- or 5-door body styles, it comes with a new 2.0-liter flat-4 engine that features better gas mileage and decent power thanks to variable valve timing. While overall size is the same, an extra inch of wheelbase brings interior room up by a couple of cubic feet, very desirable in the small-car category. And just because the Impreza is the bargain of the bunch doesn't mean it doesn't come with tech features. Optional features include Bluetooth and satellite navigation.