While Nissan's Versa sedan came in for a ground-up redo for 2012, the 5-door Hatchback version carries over from the 2011 model year with two models, S and SL. Perhaps to soothe hatchback fans, Nissan ups the ante by adding four new option packages for the S model and then making what was the Premium package now standard equipment on the SL edition. With that upgrade come such extras as the Bluetooth Hands-free phone system, the "Intelligent" key and 16-in. alloy wheels. Opt for the S version and you get the 122-bhp 1.8-liter twincam four with a 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. SL models also have the 1.8 but are only fitted with the CVT transmission. Now the Vehicle Dynamic Control system is standard on both S and SL models.
With more than eight million sold since 1973, the Civic needs no introduction. Yet the all-new ninth generation for 2012 does. Sedans and coupes gain more sophisticated styling, improved fuel economy and new technology. Civic DX, LX, EX and HF receive a massaged 140-bhp 4-cylinder engine that nets EPA 41 mpg on the highway for the last. Sporty Si models boast a new 201-bhp 2.4-liter four mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. The Civic Natural Gas returns with expanded availability nationwide. Honda gives the Civic Hybrid a larger 1.5-liter gas engine, more powerful electric motor and lithium-ion batteries resulting in 44 mpg ratings for city and highway. A multi-information display, Eco Assist and Econ mode are standard on most Civics.
The Acura TSX is a sport sedan and wagon that offers a satisfying blend of performance, style and efficiency. The TSX boasts a muscular appearance and great handling, complemented by enhanced comfort, convenience and safety features. New for 2013 V6 models include the Technology Package as standard equipment. The front-wheel drive TSX is powered by a 201-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and auto transmission with Sequential SportShift, steering wheel paddles and Grade Logic Control; or a 280-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine and five-speed automatic. A six-speed manual transmission is optional with the 4-cylinder Special Edition. The TSX Sport Wagon is available exclusively with the 4-cylinder engine and five-speed auto powerteam. The TSX is well-equipped, with a power moonroof, Xenon High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, heated front seats, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, satellite radio and HandsFreeLink (Bluetooth) wireless connectivity. The 2.4-liter model includes 17-inch alloy wheels, and the 3.5-liter model includes 18-inch alloy wheels and unique suspension tuning. The Technology Package includes a navigation system with voice activation, integrated rearview camera parking assist and upgraded audio and climate control systems. Standard safety-enhancing features include four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control, front side-impact airbags, overhead curtain airbags and active anti-whiplash front head restraints.
Without getting too technical, one of the things we like about small crossover SUVs is that they are so darn handy. Like Nissan's Rogue, which is a conveniently sized people-hauler and yet can be converted into a carry machine with 58 cu. ft. of cargo area. Having a 60/40 split rear seatback is a plus, as is the optional fold-down front passenger seat...all the better to carry long items. While the 170-bhp 2.5-liter four suits the bill for normal driving, we do wish there was a 6-speed alternative to the standard CVT. On the optional list is Intuitive All-Wheel drive. New for 2012 is a Sport mode switch for that CVT, redesigned 16- and 17-in. alloy wheels and the availability of Nissan's terrific Around View Monitor with its bird's-eye view of the vehicle when parking.
The Toyota Avalon Hybrid is all-new for 2013. It combines the refinement and sophistication of the Avalon with the efficiency of a hybrid. The newest member of the Toyota family will make a welcomed addition to the full-size sedan line-up.
The front-wheel drive Avalon Hybrid is available in three trim levels: Premium, Touring and Limited. All are powered by a 2.5-liter engine, mated to an electronic CVT transmission that contains two electric motors that help produce 200hp of overall system output. All trims feature regenerative brakes, heated exterior mirrors, automatic headlamps, heated leather seats, wood-grain style interior trim, automatic climate control, steering wheel audio controls, Bluetooth wireless audio streaming and phone connectivity, cruise control, Smart Key, and a leather wrapped steering wheel. Safety features include anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, vehicle stability and traction control systems, front and rear side-impact airbags, overhead curtain airbags for front and rear occupants, driver and passenger-side knee airbags and active anti-whiplash front head restraints. Entune, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alerts, Safety Connect, rain-sensing wipers, three-zone automatic climate control, dynamic radar cruise control, eBin, pre-collision system and a rear camera parking aid are available high-tech features.
The Toyota Avalon Hybrid was introduced for 2013.