As we get ready to announce the winner of TheCarConnection's Best Car To Buy 2012 award, we're faced with a big task: narrowing down the field of 25 eligible cars, crossovers and SUVs. It's not easy, since this year's contenders run in packs, with plenty of sedans and utility vehicles, but not as many green machines or minivans as last year. Among subcompacts alone, there are four worthy entries, with even more brand-new models left off the list due to lower ratings from TCC's editors.
With so many new vehicles aimed squarely at the mainstream--and at each other--we're presenting them to you in alphabetical order, for your consideration. We've already considered them, and we're almost ready to name the best of the best.
Stay tuned all week as we bring you more of the finalists--and visit us Monday morning, November 28, as we name TCC's Best Car To Buy 2012. Now, for the nominees:
The latest edition of the Acura TL mid-size, near-luxury sedan adopts a cleaner front end while it updates its in-car technology. Poised and responsive, the TL has a truly luxurious interior and an advanced all-wheel-drive system, but we're frankly confused by some of the controls, and find the automatic transmission to be a balky piece.
2012 Buick VeranoEnlarge Photo
Some of us are old enough to remember the bad old days of Buick compacts--Skyhawk, Skylark. The Verano blots out the past with a very handsome set of sheetmetal panels, a truly luxurious and quiet cabin, fantastic front seats and a comfortable ride. It's not particularly quick, but the Verano feels like a real luxury car, without the luxury-car pricetag.
2012 Chevrolet SonicEnlarge Photo
The more time we spend in the Sonic, the more we love its gutsy performance and its energetic styling. Sharp steering and a great small-car ride put Chevy firmly in the subcompact game for the first time, ever--and we think the Sonic's just as fun to drive, if not more so, than the Ford Fiesta. The smallest Chevy, it turns out, is the surest sign yet of GM's turnaround.
U.S.-spec 2012 Fiat 500cEnlarge Photo
It hasn't had the smoothest launch here in America, but the Fiat 500 is more than J-Lo's celebrity payday. It's very, very small and still not the best fuel-saver of the subcompact bunch, but the 500's brilliant styling and straightforward handling have us looking forward to the turbocharged Abarth model coming in 2012.
2012 Ford FocusEnlarge Photo
Ford's done it once before with the Focus. Back in 2000, when the Escort retired from service, the first Focus proved economy cars could really be fun. The 2012 Focus does it again. It's a fantastic compact car in many ways--with awesome poise, terrific handling and styling, and with the most advanced in-car technology in its class. Not everyone will be a fan of MyFord Touch's complex voice and touchscreen controls, or the sluggish dual-clutch automatic, but we're betting the opposite of the coming 240-horsepower Focus ST.