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Best automobile buys for 2012

 

 

So what if the economy is not at its best and buying a new car is considered a bad investment? There is nothing like that new car smell. And for those who want that new car smell, I have put together my second annual new car buyer’s guide.

All cars (and truck) are 2012 models and are organized by class. The vehicles were rated on both objective (price, performance, fuel economy, etc.) and subjective (comfort, appearance, driving experience, etc.) scores.

Drum roll, please.

 

Muscle Car: Ford Mustang

 

Whether you get the 305 horsepower base model, the 412 horsepower GT or the hairy 550 horsepower Shelby GT500, the Mustang will not disappoint. It’s not just the fact that it can outperform the competition at the drag strip, road course or fuel pump, but it is just downright the most fun. But let’s not forget the 444 horsepower, track-ready BOSS 302 that makes even M3 owners quiver and is possibly the best pony car ever produced. Honorable Mention: Chevrolet Camaro.

 

Truck: Ford F-150

 

Despite what all the truck commercials say, nearly all the full-size trucks in America can pretty much do the same thing. They each have comparable interiors, and as for styling, well, they’re trucks. But what sets the F-150 apart is the availability of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine. With 365 horsepower and 420 pounds per foot of torque, it has more torque (the most important factor when hauling things) than both the 5.7-liter V-8 in the Ram and the 6.2-liter V-8 in the Silverado, all while getting better fuel economy at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 miles per gallon on the highway. Honorable Mention: Ram 1500.

 

Full-Size Car: Dodge Charger

 

The Charger is instantly recognizable on the street, thanks to its attractive styling and unique “racetrack” LED taillights. But the Charger also has an attractive interior as well as great performance from both its V-6 and V-8 engines. However, the big change for 2012 is the addition of a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission for its 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine that improves fuel economy to 19 miles per gallon in the city and 31 miles per gallon on the highway, which are pretty impressive numbers for a two-ton car. Honorable Mention: Hyundai Genesis.

 

Mid-Size Car: Hyundai Sonata

 

The Sonata returns again on the best buy list for the same reasons it was on last year: attractive styling inside and out, a fun and comfortable drive, and great fuel economy and performance from its four cylinder lineup. However, Ford unveiled the new 2013 Ford Fusion at the North American International Auto Show this year, which could take the title from the Sonata next year given the fact the current Fusion lost to the Sonata by only a slim margin. Honorable Mention: Ford Fusion.

 

Compact Car: Ford Focus

 

     

 

Subcompact Car: Mazda 2

 

The Mazda 2 is Zoom-Zoom on a budget. The little hatchback is fun to drive with responsive steering and handling. The exterior styling is far from flavorless, especially with the available lime green paint. The interior is also nicely appointed for a sub-$20,000 car. The biggest downside is the underpowered 100 horsepower 1.5-liter engine that provides decent fuel economy with 29 miles per gallon in the city and 35 miles per gallon on the highway. If power is more your thing, you could opt for the Mazda 2’s platform mate, the 120 horsepower Ford Fiesta. Honorable Mention: Ford Fiesta.

 

Sports Car: Mazda Miata

 

The small, two-seat roadster has always been a winning formula ever since MG created it in the ‘30s, Lotus perfected it in the ‘60s and Mazda capitalized on it in the ‘90s. The Miata is the ultimate machine to make man and car one. It is one of the few cars, and the only car under $30,000, with which you can just put the top down on a Sunday afternoon and just drive on the back roads with a constant grin on your face. Honorable Mention: Porsche Boxster.

 

Luxury Car: BMW 3 series

 

The 3 series is just one of those cars where the engineers got everything right. The styling is attractive and tasteful, the ride can be both comfortable and sporty and the interior just has all the right textures and materials. Even better, 2012 sees the addition of a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine on the 328i that makes 10 horsepower and 60 pounds per foot of torque more than the outgoing inline-6 for a total output of 240 horsepower and 260 pounds per foot of torque. Fuel economy is also improved to 24 miles per gallon in the city and 36 miles per gallon on the highway, thanks to the smaller displacement and to the all-new 8-speed automatic. Honorable Mention: Audi A6.