Detroit 2012: Four Hits, One Surprise, and One Miss

Favorite Car 1: Ford Fusion

I think there’s something to be said about accessible design: it’s all well and good that the Aston Martin Rapide looks great, but it’s a very expensive car. The new Fusion is the embodiment of accessible design: it ditches the okay design of the current Fusion for one that reminds you of an Aston Martin and the current-generation European Ford Mondeo, a car I like very much. But it’s not design for design’s sake: Ford sold roughly 250,000 Fusions this past year, so it won’t be long before 250,000 of these gorgeous cars roll out onto American roads. Under the hood Ford has doubled down on its EcoBoost engine strategy, and the combination of that and the excellent exterior should make this a very compelling product.

Favorite Car 2: Chevrolet Code 130R

I don’t like being pandered to, so I’ll admit that I was skeptical when I heard that Chevy is making two Youth Concepts–two cars that cater to the twentysomething crowd. Still, I was pleasantly surprised when the cover was lifted on this concept. It’s got the presence of a BMW 1-Series, will probably have the affordability of a Kia Forte Koup, and a look that evokes–but doesn’t ape–the Camaro. It should be interesting to see how this develops.

Favorite Car 3: Hyundai Veloster Turbo

I like the Hyundai Veloster. I think it looks good, it’s great value for money, and it’s different without being too out there. But the bionic-sneaker exterior styling wrote checks the 138 horsepower engine couldn’t really cash. Add a twin-scroll turbocharger and the Veloster’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder now makes 201 horsepower, putting the Volkswagen squarely in its sights. Will the Veloster top the GTI dynamically? Probably not, but it’ll be an absolute blast to drive, and an engaging addition to the hot hatch market.

Favorite Car 4: Acura NSX

Every single bit of adulation possible has been written about that car already. And all of it–ALL of it–is true. Even on a stand surrounded by Acura’s current offerings (some of which are good, some of which are a bit lackluster), the NSX shone through. It’s gorgeous, technologically sophisticated, and special. It got a convention center full of jaded automotive journalists to express genuine awe, and that’s cause enough for an award.

Favorite Moment: Clown Car-ing the Scion iQ

Yes, the Scion iQ has been out for a while, but it took an off-hand tweet by an staffer to prompt all four Associate Web Editors to pile into the second smallest car on sale in the U.S. The biggest surprise? We all fit. Quite a testament to the iQ’s space-saving engineering and innovative packaging.

Biggest Disappointment: The Millennials

It would seem that the unofficial theme at this years show was the millennial, the mythical class of twentysomethings that have jobs and have strong convictions about the products they buy. I should enjoy the marketing and product attention–I’m a college graduate and a twentysomething, I have a little bit of expendable income, I like cars–but overall the attention was less catering and more pandering. An automotive reveal shouldn’t feel like reading the summary report after a market research study, and the resulting products shouldn’t feel like they were designed to check a set of boxes.

I like the Chevrolet Code 130R because it’s a good looking car. If Chevrolet had pulled the cover off and said “here’s a good looking car. We think people will like it” I would have enjoyed myself more than listening to how GM’s concepts will probably have Foursquare integration and the driving experience feels like maneuvering a cell phone. Stick to making good cars, guys, and the buyers will follow.

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