With a bushel full of crossover vehicles on the market, the buyer has a wide range of choices. The Mazda CX-9 should be at the top of the list as it is reasonably priced, good looking, carries seven people and can be had with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. There are three models in the lineup: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The only engine is Mazda's 3.7-liter dohc V-6 with variable valve timing. It pumps out a healthy 273 bhp and 270 lb.-ft. of torque, which enables towing loads of 3500 lb. Interior fitments are well done and features include climate control, Bluetooth phone capability and Sirius satellite radio. All in all, the CX-9 offers the utility of a minivan but without the stigma.
There's a name for cars like the Mazdaspeed3: pocket-rocket. This refers to a compact-size car that provides more driving excitement than you can imagine. The 4-cylinder MZR 2.3-liter engine pumps out 263 bhp and 280-lb.-ft. of torque thanks to a responsive turbocharger. It's largely a carryover model for 2013 but has some changes, including 18-in. gunmetal alloy wheels, black outside mirrors, rear roof spoiler and rear lower valance. Inside for 2013, there is a Technology Package including a 5.8-in. full-color touchscreen nav system, HD radio, Pandora audio application, SMS text message audio delivery and voice reply. The Mazdaspeed3 is a 5-door with its large opening rear hatch that makes it easy to take your adventure gear with you. But the real adventure is in the driving!
R&T Overview:The long-awaited new Focus turns out to have been worth the wait, challenging small-car perceptions with an upscale combination of amenities and technology. More to the point, it’s a hoot to drive and frugal, too, thanks to a direct-injected 2.0-liter I-4 boasting twin independent variable cam timing. Not enough? Sometime in mid-2012, the 2013 Focus ST (photo) will make its debut, packing a turbocharged EcoBoost I-4 and 6-speed manual. Handling has always been a Focus strength, but now typical front-drive understeer is all but missing thanks to standard torque-vectoring control that distributes torque between the drive wheels to improve cornering traction and turn-in. Then there’s the Focus Electric, said to recharge in half the time of a Nissan Leaf.
The Mitsubishi Lancer offers an enticing range of compact cars from practical economy to sensible all-wheel-drive sedan to sporty liftback to rally rocket. The Lancer sports a tidy, sleekish shape with a bold and distinctive shark mouth. Its interior is clean, seating is comfortable, instrumentation is blessedly simple.
Good engines give it good value, with its base model bringing 26/34 miles per gallon City/Highway, according to the EPA. Seven airbags, including one for the driver's knee, help make it safe, in addition to anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and the mandated tire pressure monitor. Lancer was last redesigned for the 2008 model year.
The 2012 Lancer SE is a new model. It uses Mitsubishi's all-wheel drive system called AWC (all-wheel control), with the proven 2.4-liter engine making 168 horsepower. Ready for the Snow Belt, the Lancer SE comes with heated seats and mirrors.
The base Lancer DE is not bare bones, with its power doors and windows, keyless entry and auto halogen headlamps, but it lacks air conditioning, folding rear seat, and cruise control. Lancer DE uses the good 148-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that features Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system (MIVEC) with double overhead cams and 16 valves.
Driving gets more civilized with the Lancer ES with air conditioning and better seats, front and rear. For 2012, Lancer ES gets new interior fabric and instrument panel trim. The Lancer ES Sportback is a smooth-looking 5-door. We found the Lancer ES offers decent steering response and tracks well through corners, with no excessive body lean.
The Chevrolet Spark EV is a four-passenger, five-door hatchback, and the only all-electric vehicle sold by General Motors in the U.S.
The front-wheel drive Spark EV is offered in 1LT, and 2LT trim levels. The power comes from a 100kW electric motor and 20kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Standard features include: MyLink infotainment system, heated front seats, automatic air conditioning, power windows, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth, OnStar, and cruise control. Standard safety equipment includes stability and traction control, hill hold control, antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, and ten airbags.