With gas around $4 per gallon, hybrids are hot. Before, if they looked like their regular production counterparts, they languished while the different-looking Toyota Prius prospered. Now buyers would rather have extra bucks in their pockets than make a styling statement. Other than hybrid badging, there is little that makes the Malibu Hybrid stand out. It does get better fuel economy, primarily in the traffic where the stop-start feature helps squeeze 4 mpg more out of the city cycle. Chevy has done an admirable job in making the operation seamless; just don’t expect massive boosts in fuel economy. With a light foot, you can make the Malibu start off in pure electric mode, but it will soon pop on the 4-cylinder engine, especially if you have accessories like air conditioning running.
The Toyota Camry Hybrid sedan brings the quality and reliability of the Camry together with increased fuel efficiency.
The Camry Hybrid is a front-wheel drive four-door sedan that seats five passengers. Available in two trim levels, LE and XLE, the heart of the Camry Hybrid is the Hybrid Synergy Drive, a combination electric motor/gasoline engine that produces a combined 200-hp, and efficient, electronic continuously variable transmission. The standard warranty for hybrid-related components is 8 years/100,000 miles. Stability and traction control, ten-airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and tire pressure monitor are some of the standard safety equipment. Tech features include Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, garage door opener, rear camera, navigation with touch screen, HD and satellite radio, and the new Entune mobile app and services system.
For 2013, the Camry Hybrid LE is outfitted with a standard 6.1-inch touch screen audio system with Bluetooth wireless streaming.
The Kia Sorento’s 2011 remake catapulted this CUV into the heart of the crossover wars. With its carlike ride, zesty appearance, numerous standard features, relatively spacious seating and cargo capacity, two (of three) punchy engines and an agreeable price structure, the Sorento makes its case to a wide audience. Three trim levels are offered—the base LX (with such standards as a/c and tilt-telescoping steering), the fiesty EX (adding interior accent illumination, dual automatic-temp controls, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and rear a/c on V-6 models), and the upscale LX with its generous luxury appointments. The 3.5L V-6 EX with all-wheel drive is the hot ticket. Frugal buyers can opt for the new Gasoline Direct Injected 2.4 or the so-so multiport injected 2.4. All engines receive a 6-speed automatic.
Kia has re-entered the hotly contested large sedan market with the Cadenza (previously attempted with the Amanti).
The Cadenza is a near-luxury, large, four-door sedan with seating for five. A 293-hp 3.3-liter V6 sends power through a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel shift controls, to the front wheels. The exterior styling is contemporary and elegant. Inside, power heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and navigation system are just some of the luxurious standard features. Safety features include four-wheel anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control, stability control, eight airbags and a vehicle security system.
The Cadenza is an all-new vehicle for the 2014 Kia line-up.
All-wheel drive makes the Subaru Legacy an excellent choice for anyone who wants a midsize sedan capable of handling the worst weather. These cars are particularly enjoyable to drive through the mountains where winding roads may be dry, wet, icy or covered with snow. However, responsive handling, respectable performance and handsome styling make the Legacy enjoyable to own even when the sun is shining and the roads are dry.
All Legacy models are sedans. If you want a wagon, check out the Outback. Among midsize sedans, the Legacy doesn't seem overly large, thanks to relatively short overhangs front and rear and a coupe-like roofline. Distinctive styling helps the Legacy stand apart from other midsize sedans. Aggressive wheel arches are complemented with edged flares.
The 2012 Legacy offers a choice of three powertrains: Legacy 2.5i comes with a 2.5-liter single-overhead cam four-cylinder, Legacy 2.5GT features a turbocharged double overhead-cam four-cylinder, while the Legacy 3.6R has a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine. All are Subaru's signature horizontally opposed engines, two flat-4s and a flat-6, which keep the center of gravity low for improved handling.
The Subaru Legacy 2.5i gets good fuel economy and we found it effortless to drive, especially with the optional continuously variable transmission: put it in Drive and go. The Legacy 2.5GT is sporty and fun to drive with its turbocharged engine and manual gearbox. The Legacy 3.6R has strong low-rpm power from its big six-cylinder engine for excellent drivability; it's powerful and luxurious. All of them are enjoyable to drive and offer good handling, the benefits of all-wheel drive, a low center of gravity and nicely tuned suspensions.
Inside, the Legacy is wonderfully comfortable, with high-quality interior trim. We particularly liked the perforated leather on the Limited models. These aren't luxury cars, but they are premium cars in terms of the quality of materials and the engineering that goes into them. Front- and rear-seat legroom is adequate. Trunk space measures 14.7 cubic feet, average for the segment.