2012 Subaru Impreza four-door sedan, Connecticut, Sept 2011Enlarge Photo
We're almost there -- these five vehicles represent the final nominees for TheCarConnection's Best Car To Buy 2012 award.
Of course it's because they're arranged in alphabetical order. There's no other reason to put the best-selling passenger car in America in the final bracket, alongside one of the longest-running nameplates in the car world--not to mention the product of almost $2 billion in investment in the state of Tennessee.
TheCarConnection's editors have now winnowed down the field of more than 250 vehicles on sale in the 2012 model year, to a group of 25 eligible cars, crossovers and SUVs. We've driven them, ranked them independently according to their merits, then stacked them up against each other based on those numeric ratings. Now, we're ready to name the best of the best.
Stay tuned as we bring you our winner on Monday, November 28, as we name TCC's Best Car To Buy 2012.
Now, for the final group of nominees:
The Impreza's been revamped for the new model year, and it's still a distinctive choice in a class of standard-issue four-doors and hatchbacks. For one, it's available only with all-wheel drive, and even with the extra weight and complexity, the Impreza still delivers up to 36 miles per gallon on the highway. The styling's gotten better and the interior's as high-quality as ever, and now Subaru's beginning to get the infotainment religion with new navigation and streaming features.
2012 Toyota Camry HybridEnlarge Photo
It's the best-selling passenger car in America, and this year the Camry's put all its eggs again into a conservative basket. The looks have changed and we're not sure if the overt references to Ford's Fusion are a healthy sign or not, but the Hybrid's even-higher gas mileage and the attention to some interior materials are noticeable.
2012 Toyota Prius vEnlarge Photo
The Prius is the first hybrid vehicle to win overwhelming mainstream success, and not only has it tweaked its fuel economy ratings for 2012, it's added a new plug-in hybrid model and the Prius v, a wagon that adds a little bit of extra space and better rear seating to a very successful package. Also new this year is Toyota's Entune interface, which lets drivers pipe in Pandora streaming audio to the car, lets them listen to text messages read back by the car's "voice," and searches for destinations not just on its GPS hard drive, but up in the cloud, wirelessly.
2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo – Copyright High Gear MediaEnlarge Photo
The longest-running nameplate in the car business--so long as we're including nicknames, too--the Beetle returns for the 2012 model year minus the "New" tag. There's a reason: it's a much more overt appeal to male buyers this time, and the cutesy appeal of the old New Beetle is mostly gone. The bud vase has been pitched, replaced by a tougher attitude and a trio of powertrain options. The base five-cylinder's a skipper, but the Turbo is pretty delightful, thanks to its distinctly different rear suspension, and turbodiesel and convertible models are waiting in the 2013 on-deck circle. If that's not enough to reopen your eyes, the Fender audio system will do it via your eardrums.
2012 Volkswagen PassatEnlarge Photo
It's the product of a nearly $2 billion investment right here in America--and Volkswagen hopes the new Tennessee-built Passat sedan moves its four-door sedan firmly into the mainstream. The Passat's a big, big car, with limousine-like rear-seat space, and the interior cuts fewer corners than the compact Jetta does. Of the three versions, the turbodiesel's our only choice--the base five-cylinder's too graunchy, and the V-6 comes with a big pricetag that doesn't offset the TDI's big highway fuel economy numbers. Infotainment and navigation features are a half-step behind the competition, but the Passat's Fender audio system wins us over with every playlist--and so do its confident, relaxed road manners.