Dramatic new styling is the most apparent difference in Ford's new mid-size sedan, but there's at least as much going on under the skin. A blizzard of four-cylinder powertrain choices starts with a 2.5-liter, graduates to a 1.6-liter EcoBoost (with manual or automatic transmission and optional auto stop/start), and tops out with a 2.0-liter EcoBoost (with optional all-wheel drive). Additionally, there are two hybrid options -- a standard hybrid and a plug-in version (the latter called Energi); both use a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine. In keeping with current Ford practice, the Fusion goes all-in with technology, offering MyFord Touch, lane-departure prevention, active cruise control, forward collision warning, blind-spot warning, and cross-traffic alert; it also will be significantly more expensive than its predecessor. The base model jumps by some $2000, while the top-spec Titanium AWD version tops $33,000.
On sale Late 2012/early 2013 (gasoline/hybrid)
Price $22,600-$33,800 (est.)
Engines 2.5L I-4, 170 hp, 170 lb-ft; 1.6L turbo I-4, 179 hp, 172 lb-ft; 2.0L turbo I-4, 237 hp, 250 lb-ft; 2.0L I-4/electric hybrid, 129 hp, 188 lb-ft; 2.0L I-4/plug-in hybrid, 129 hp, 188 lb-ft
Brings to battle High style, high tech, numerous powertrain choices.
GMC Terrain Denali
Chrome-faced Denali models sit successfully atop the GMC Yukon/Yukon XL and Acadia lineups, so why not one for the Terrain, the brand's biggest-selling SUV? The formula is easy enough: load up the equipment, add some additional finery inside, restyle the outside with body-colored fascias and plenty of bright accents, and you've created a Denali. That's pretty much what was done here. To the already well-equipped Terrain SLT2, the Denali adds a power front passenger seat, dual-flow dampers (on the front suspension), a blind-spot warning system, and rear cross-traffic alert. Like all Terrains, the Denali can be had with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and either a 182-hp four-cylinder or a V-6. That V-6 is now a larger, 3.6-liter unit good for 301 hp. The more muscular V-6 knocks about a second off the 0-to-60-mph time (now estimated at just under eight seconds) but matches the fuel economy of the old engine. It's definitely our choice over the marginal four-cylinder. The dual-flow dampers are less successful, as the Denali would still benefit from better body control. The interior upgrades are a welcome addition to the well-designed cabin, and you can judge the exterior styling changes for yourself. The cost to ascend to the peak Terrain? About $3000 more than an SLT2.
On sale Now
Engines 2.4L I-4, 182 hp, 172 lb-ft; 3.6L V-6, 301 hp, 272 lb-ft
Marketing magic Would this formula be as successful if it were called SLT3?
Supply interruptions due to the tsunami in Japan, along with an all-out push from Nissan, saw the Honda Accord knocked out of its traditional number-two spot in the best-selling-car hierarchy last year. A 2013 redesign should give the Accord a chance to battle back, although the Nissan Altima is also new and the top-seed Toyota Camry is only one year into its latest iteration. Honda again will field two body styles -- sedan and coupe. The Accord gears for battle with three new powertrains: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder (with a six-speed manual or a CVT); a new, more powerful V-6 (also with a manual or a six-speed automatic); and a plug-in hybrid. The latter can be recharged in less than four hours and can travel fifteen miles in EV mode. Impressively, the Accord defies today's new-car bloat by shrinking in length, height, and weight. A new slate of driver aids includes forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, and a backup camera. The styling, however, hews to Honda's recent history of conservative redesigns.
On sale Late 2012
Price $20,000-$33,000 (est.)
Engines 2.4L I-4, 181 hp, 177 lb-ft; 3.5L V-6, 277 hp, 270 lb-ft (est.); 2.0L I-4/plug-in electric hybrid, 161 hp
Brings to battle Solid-gold reputation, new powertrains.
Hyundai Elantra GT and Elantra coupe
With the addition of the Elantra hatchback and coupe for 2013, the number of compacts and subcompacts in Hyundai dealerships swells to six, with a small car of every shape and for every purpose.
The new Elantra GT hatchback replaces the recently retired Elantra Touring, but whereas that car was more of a wagon, its replacement is a shapelier hatchback. It looks less dweeby but is also smaller. Maximum cargo room shrinks by fourteen cubic feet and rear legroom is down two inches. The GT is based on the European i30, so it brings a handful of features not seen in other Elantras, such as a driver's knee air bag and three-mode adjustable steering assist.
The new coupe brings little to the table other than its attractive two-door form. Save for an SE model with a sportier suspension setup, it's essentially a two-door version of the sedan. Both new entries use the same powertrain as the Elantra sedan: a fuel-sipping 148-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
On sale Now
Price $18,220/$19,170 (coupe/GT)
Engine 1.8L I-4, 148 hp, 131 lb-ft
Because Hyundai needs even more 40-mpg small cars.
Hyundai Santa Fe & Santa Fe Sport
Hyundai's mid-size crossover grows to a two-model family with its 2013 redesign as it attempts to cover both the two-row and three-row markets. Somewhat confusingly, the standard five-seat version, renamed the Santa Fe Sport, replaces today's Santa Fe. The larger, seven-seat model now gets the Santa Fe moniker and takes over for the underachieving Veracruz. The Sport is within an inch in size of the outgoing vehicle and rides on the same 106.3-inch wheelbase. The long-wheelbase version has a nearly four-inch stretch between the axles and is 8.5 inches longer overall. The smaller Santa Fe Sport uses four-cylinder power exclusively: a 190-hp 2.4-liter and a 2.0-liter turbo with 264 hp. The larger Santa Fe gets a 290-hp, 3.3-liter V-6. Commendably, both Santa Fes counter the trend toward ever-heftier SUVs, the Sport shedding 266 pounds compared with its front-wheel-drive four-cylinder predecessor and the FWD seven-seater weighing less than two tons, which is light for a three-row crossover. Mileage estimates for the five-seat model range from 23/33 mpg city/highway for the FWD 2.4-liter to 20/28 mpg for the AWD turbo. The long-wheelbase model should get 19/26 mpg.
On sale Now/January (Santa Fe Sport/Santa Fe)
Price $23,000/$28,000 (Santa Fe Sport/Santa Fe, est.)
Engines 2.4L I-4, 190 hp, 181 lb-ft; 2.0L turbo I-4, 264 hp, 269 lb-ft (Santa Fe Sport); 3.3L V-6, 290 hp, 252 lb-ft (Santa Fe)
Room for Families of five (Santa Fe Sport) or seven (Santa Fe).
Hyundai Veloster Turbo
The standard Hyundai Veloster overpromises and underdelivers. Its wild styling and curious, asymmetrical, three-door packaging are undercut by tame, unexceptional dynamics. Yet even as we abandoned hope for a revelation during our first drive last October, we remained optimistic that Hyundai would take a mulligan with the turbocharged model.
Even before turning a single wheel in the Veloster Turbo, though, our expectations met the harsh reality again as product planners at Hyundai's U.S. headquarters revealed that the suspension dampening, the spring rates, and the bushings were all left unchanged. We had been hoping for a more mature ride -- something with the suppleness and sophistication of a Volkswagen GTI. Instead, the Turbo suffers the same busy, stiff-legged hobble of the base car. The steering is imperceptibly quicker and noticeably heavier, but piloting the Veloster Turbo feels nowhere near as visceral as the best hot hatches.
It's a similar story with the 1.6-liter four-cylinder. Despite a resume that includes a twin-scroll turbocharger, dual variable valve timing, direct injection, and 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, this overachiever lacks the personality we were looking for. Power delivery is more linear compared with similar-size engines in the Nissan Juke and the Mini Cooper S, but the Veloster is also significantly flatter in response to throttle changes. Rather than a boisterous driver's car, Hyundai has built yet another 38-mpg small car.
Even with a turbocharger, the Veloster's best attributes are quantifiables like value, fuel economy, and infotainment features, and as with the base model, looking at the car is a more emotional experience than driving it. Neat details like a headliner with a printed graphic and optional $1000 matte gray paint (don't drive through an automated car wash) add nothing when driving a winding, mountain road. When it comes to rational, practical automobiles, Hyundai can hang with the best, but when it comes to capturing passion and character, the Koreans are designing when they need to be engineering.
On sale Now
Engine 1.6L turbo I-4, 201 hp, 195 lb-ft
Worth the wait Not yet. We're still waiting for a Veloster that drives as good as it looks.