2009 Los Angeles Auto Show: Best In Show

December 4, 2009

The 2009 Los Angeles auto show is over--for the press, at least. In the shadow of continual turmoil at GM, the show fielded a few important new production vehicle introductions, but not a lot more. The lightweight proof? The second press day, where more than half of the gathered journalists had disappeared and jumped early flights home.

High Gear Media's editors stuck it out, and found a handful of memorable moments in the continued auto-industry pall.  We brought you the new Hyundai Sonata and Tucson; Ford Fiesta and Mazda2; Toyota Sienna and Porsche Boxster Spyder. We scoped out the Honda P-Nut and Volkswagen Up! Lite concepts in depth for you. We even caught up with Patrick Dempsey (above) at the Mazda stand, and gave him the celebrity validation he needed. It's been a full 48 hours.

After all that, our editors have decided on a handful of moments as the best from the 2009 Los Angeles auto show. Which one's your favorite? Let us know in a comment at the end, or write your own post for High Gear Media. These are ours:

2009 Los Angeles Auto Show

2009 Los Angeles Auto Show

Best Production Car: 2011 Ford Fiesta

Wow. The U.S.-spec version of the Fiesta has officially arrived, and I heaved a sigh of relief that Ford didn't mess with the package too much and end up ruining it, as they've done so many times in the past. Euro-hipness completely intact, the Fiesta looks the part—with a beautiful interior—and at the show it ended up upstaging the Mazda2, even if they did have the ever-gracious Patrick Dempsey. My inner killjoy wants to push back at the massive "Fiesta Movement" and efforts in recent months to clog inboxes and twitter feeds with "buzzworthy content," but I can't muster anything. Behold, red leather upholstery with black piping! It's there in the Fiesta…and suddenly my impulse to twitter that has passed.—Bengt Halvorson

MazdaSpeed2 concept, 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show

MazdaSpeed2 concept, 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show

Best New Car: 2011 Mazda2

Considering the fact that cars have been getting heavier due to increased safety features and higher feature specs, only a few car companies have managed to reverse the trend in their own cars. One of these rarities is the new Mazda2, which engineers managed to make 220 pounds lighter than its predecessor. Finally, we here in the U.S. will get to experience the stylish and eco-friendly hatchback the rest of the world has been raving about.—Viknesh Vijayenthiran

2011 Hyundai Sonata

2011 Hyundai Sonata

Best Idea: Normal Cars

The Cruze, the Sonata, the Fiesta and Mazda2, the Sienna and Sonata and more: this year's show was muted and undersold because it wasn't a series of moonshots. It was a series of very meat-and-potatoes cars that build the image and sales of the respective carmakers. Without the idealistic halo cars or extravagant one-offs like those that dominated Frankfurt to distract us, there's less to talk about but more of a message.—Nelson Ireson

2011 Hyundai Sonata

2011 Hyundai Sonata

Best Press Conference(s): Hyundai

With two press conferences, each for new product introductions, Hyundai's presentations at the LA show had an air of confidence about it—and business-as-usual feel—that was missing from some of the other stands.—Bengt Halvorson

2009 Honda P-NUT Concept

2009 Honda P-NUT Concept

Best Green-Car Death Match in the Making: Honda P-Nut Vs. Volkswagen Up! Lite

One's a four-seater, one's a tandem two-seater—but you could hear the green gauntlet being thrown down when Honda flipped the switch on its city-car concept just a short while after VW's latest Up! concept made its debut. Volkswagen's concept seemed far closer to reality--its bare-bones interior housed a turbodiesel two-cylinder hybrid, but the dimensions and curb weight weren't far off that of the original VW Golf. The P-Nut, in contrast, seemed to take its inspiration from a Battlestar Galactica cylon, and the unusual seating position tipped it as more purely a concept car. We suggest a 35-mph frontal crash test to settle the "who's greener" question. May the most production-ready show car win.—Marty Padgett

2009 Volkswagen Up! Lite Concept

2009 Volkswagen Up! Lite Concept

Most Unceremonious Debut: 2011 Saab 9-5

That would be the North American debut of the new Saab 9-5. A new silver 9-5 quietly showed up at Saab's stand with no press conference, no representatives nearby to talk about it, and an uncertain future. We can only hope that it will be given a proper welcome at the Detroit show…that is, if Saab still exists.—Bengt Halvorson

 

Capstone Turbine CMT-380 concept car

Capstone Turbine CMT-380 concept car

Best Bizarre Basement Concept Car: Capstone CMT-380

This flat-black kit-car with an industrial turbine as a range extender is the product of an unlikely alliance between a car-crazy video game designer (he's creative director of Electronic Arts) and a make of industrial turbines for backup power who really want to see them used as range extenders in plug-in vehicles.—John Voelcker

Best Aggressive Greening of the Fleet Award: Hyundai

Saying that V6 engines will be a thing of the past for midsize cars and compact sport utilities and crossovers, Hyundai may be moving faster into fours than any other maker. The new Tucson crossover and Sonata midsize sedan won't have a V6 among them, and as usual, Hyundai is moving further and faster along a path it sees as profitable. Have they already left other makers in their wake?—John Voelcker

Best Confusing Technical Detail from Japanese Executive: Mitsubishi

Osamu Masuko, president of Mitsubishi Motors made news when he committed his company to launching an electric vehicle in the U.S. by 2011. But he caused a lot of head-scratching when he then described the company's PX-MiEV crossover concept as both a series hybrid (a la the 2011 Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle) *and* a parallel hybrid (a la the 2010 Toyota Prius), a truly unusual configuration. Lots of head-scratching later, Mitsubishi dredged up a technical paper and confirmed that, indeed, the PX-MiEV system may take the cake as the most complicated hybrid system that's not yet on the market. OK, then.—John Voelcker

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