Kia has taken the once so-so Rio subcompact and turned it into a contender in this increasingly crowded marketplace. Right off, you notice the more sporty, sophisticated exterior styling, thanks to new sculpted contours and a posture that makes a 1.6-liter car look fun. Inside, the Rio delivers high marks for its class. The design not only ensures you won’t be bored behind the wheel, the newly extended wheelbase offers expanded passenger room. Fuel economy gets a boost with the 1.6-liter Gasoline Direct Injection engine when equipped with Idle Stop and Go system, which shuts off the engine when the car is at rest. There are three trim models: LX, EX and SX. Unfortunately, for driving aficionados, the 6-speed manual is only available in the LX, while EX and SX get the mandatory 6-speed automatic. Choose the Rio 5-Door hatchback…really.
The Aspen represents the luxury segment of Chrysler Corporation’s SUV fleet, or at least it did until the end of 2008, when the company shuttered its Newark, Delaware, assembly plant, eliminating both the Aspen and Dodge Durango. But a short run of 2009 models was built, and Aspens should still be available on dealer lots. The base engine in the Aspen is a 303-bhp, E85-compatible 4.7-liter V-8. The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with MDS cylinder deactivation is optional, newly upgraded to generate 376 bhp. All Aspens are sold in Limited trim, in rwd, awd or 4wd configuration. Third-row seating and a backup camera come standard, while uconnect phone, music and GPS are optional. Residents of colder climes may want the optional Remote Start feature. If you have a trailer to haul, the Aspen boasts impressive towing capability.
Infiniti has always seemed to struggle with the M’s identity, but with the introduction of an all-new M in 2011, the model’s future finally seems secure. To underscore that point, the M35h hybrid appears this year with 360 hp combined and an estimated 29-mpg combined fuel-economy rating. The V-6-powered M37 and V-8-motivated M56, meanwhile, get the addition of a new 18-in. wheel package, and the amalgamation of M56 Sport and Sport Touring packages into a single Sport Package. Both models are backed by a 7-speed automatic transmission, in rear- or all-wheel drive. As you would expect from a flagship sedan, the M is a showcase for “user-focused” technologies including the Infiniti Drive Mode Selector, Blind Spot Warning and Blind Spot Intervention.
The Ford Explorer has long been one of the best-selling SUVs in the market. A capable tow vehicle and off-roader, it also offers the generous interior space, comfort features and safety technologies necessary for day-to-day tasks.
The 7-passenger Explorer is available in both front- and four-wheel drive configurations, with a choice of four trim levels: Base, XLT, Limited and Sport. A 290-hp 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift manual mode are standard on all trims. The 4x4 models get a user-friendly terrain management system, while an efficient 237-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection is available for FWD models. Explorer Base trims are well-equipped with 17-inch wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, MP3 capability and MyFord driver connect technology; XLT trims add 18-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps and a reverse sensing system, along with a USB port, satellite radio and the SYNC communications and entertainment system. Limited trims are further outfitted with 20-inch aluminum wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery, HD radio, Intelligent Access with push-button start and a rearview camera. Standard safety features on every Explorer include AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control and Curve Control function, traction control, anti-lock disc brakes and a tire pressure monitor, as well as Ford's MyKey owner control feature and six airbags. Industry-first second-row inflatable seatbelts are available on XLT and Limited models, packaged with a Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert; additional options include Active Park Assist and adaptive cruise control with collision warning.
The Ford Explorer carries over with minimal changes for 2013. A front passenger knee airbag is now standard on all models, while XLT trims get a six-way power front passenger seat. Additionally, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist are offered on the Limited trim for this model year, and the available high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps now include automatic high beam control. The big news for 2013 is the addition of the high performance Sport trim with a 365-hp twin-turbo V6, sport suspension, 20-inch wheels and unique sport trim inside and out.
The Accord is Honda's largest car, offering generous interior space for up to five people wrapped in stylish exterior sheet metal.
The Accord is available either as a two-door coupe or four-door sedan with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 3.5-liter V6 engine. Depending on the trim chosen, three transmissions are available: a six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic, or a CVT. Cloth upholstery is standard on all but the EX-L and Touring models, which feature leather seats and a leather-covered steering wheel. Safety is enhanced on all Accords with six standard airbags, including side-impact air bags for front seats and side curtain air bags. Four-wheel disc, anti-lock brakes, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, and Brake Assist also come standard. The Accord can be luxuriously equipped with features such as heated power mirrors, power heated front seats, navigation system, LED head and brake lights, lane departure warning and Smart Entry.
The Accord has been completely redesigned for 2013. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder now feature direct injection. Six-speed manual or automatic, and CVT transmission choices replace the previous five-speed units.