2014 Subaru ForesterEnlarge Photo
2014: Subaru Forester
With its wide range of trim levels, two powertrains, standard all-wheel drive, and stellar outward visibility, the Subaru Forester was an easy choice as the Best Car to Buy 2014. We liked its base 4-cylinder engine as much as the zippy turbo unit in the Forester XT, and we were especially appreciative of its move toward the mainstream.
"It's no longer an oddball niche wagon; instead it's a fully sorted, thoughtfully designed vehicle in nearly every respect, looking beyond the crowd that dons Tevas and fleeces and incorporates a carabiner in their daily commute gear," we said.
Rivals have brought fresher designs to the segment, but the Forester was just given a thorough nip-and-tuck for 2017, and it is still the most fuel-thrifty all-wheel drive model in its class.
2013 Ford Fusion
2013 Ford FusionEnlarge Photo
2013: Ford Fusion
Aston Martin-like styling wasn't the only thing that attracted us to the Ford Fusion a few years back. Making its predecessor look like the humble choice that it really was, the redesigned Fusion brought some much-needed style and a wide range of engine options to the mid-size sedan segment. Not only that, but it was entertaining to drive and comfortable on the freeway.
"There's nothing exotic on its spec sheet, but the Fusion steers briskly, rides firmly, and barely conceals the European-engineered sport sedan hiding behind its American nameplate," we said.
Today, the Fusion is starting to feel a little long-in-the-tooth up against more recently redesigned rivals, but it's still a looker. And a new Fusion Sport with a twin-turbo V-6 has infused (pardon the pun) this model with some more excitement, keeping it relevant before its next redesign.
2012 Ford Focus
2012 Ford FocusEnlarge Photo
2012: Ford Focus
Ford reached into its European market portfolio for the 2012 winner, too, with its all-new Ford Focus. After being short-changed a Focus redesign (its predecessor dated back to the late 1990s), we found a Focus that was totally worth the wait. Available as a sedan or a five-door, the Focus proved to be a hoot to drive and it offered a lot of small car for the money. Suddenly, everything else in its class felt, well, outclassed.
"Even in a day where dull, droning econoboxes are the exception rather than the rule, the 2012 Focus grabs attention, both for the way it looks and for the way it handles," we said back then.
The Focus hasn't changed as much as it probably should have over the last five model years, but one bright point is the new-for-2017 Focus RS. With its big turbo-4 and standard all-wheel drive, it's basically a rally car for the street. That's not all that relevant for the average consumer, but it certainly keeps enthusiasts happy. We know a new Focus is on the horizon and we're optimistic that it will wow us as much as the last one.
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
2011 Hyundai Sonata HybridEnlarge Photo
2011: Hyundai Sonata
Few cars have wowed the auto industry in recent years quite like the Hyundai Sonata. Going from dull to stop-and-stare in just a single generation, the Sonata is the model that really ushered Hyundai into the mainstream. Every Hyundai since owes its success to the 2011 Sonata. We loved its lineup that included naturally-aspirated and turbocharged 4-cylinders, as well as a thrifty hybrid, which helped us award it top honors in our inaugural
"That it does so at a base price of $19,995 is a testament to the thorough transformation it's undergone--in moving to a U.S. assembly site, in adopting a vivid and memorable new styling theme, and in delivering top-notch safety and a full list of standard features, right out of the box."
A new Sonata arrived in 2015, and while it's more refined, it's also more subdued. We like it, even if we're not quite as enamored with it as we were back in 2011.