2012 Mazda MAZDA5Enlarge Photo
Last year, every large minivan brought something new or revamped to the fore. This year, the midi-minivan--or MPV, or whatever you prefer--returns with improved looks and power. Mazda's Mazda5 has always struck us as a common-sense alternative to crossovers, especially when all-wheel drive isn't a requirement, but the 5's always been, and continues to be, held back by its relative lack of power. The packaging's expertly done, however, and we can't help but think there's room to grow for the Mazda5, since the similar Ford C-Max seven-seat MPV has been canceled from that company's future U.S. product plan.
2012 Mercedes-Benz C-ClassEnlarge Photo
The C-Class continues down the road of continual improvement this year, but the 2012 edition's a bit more special than usual. It marks the return of four-cylinder engines to the lineup, and with turbocharging and direct injection, this four-cylinder's far more than adequate in the entry-level C 250. The C-Class lineup now includes a very attractive coupe, and the C63 AMG also returns--in either body style, giving the BMW M3 a very serious competitor, one that speaks its own language, not just in the literal sense.