Top ten of 2012

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Date Posted: January 12, 2013
By Zack Spencer

here is a list of the best cars from 2012. Something for everyone here, including practical and not so practical forms of getting around.

Buick Verano

The Buick brand is not always top of mind for buyers of entry-level luxury cars but this new Verano is changing that attitude. Based on the award winning Chevrolet Cruze, the Verano takes the positive attributes of the Chevy and improves on them. The ride is very, very quiet and smooth, plus the interior is comfortable and very well thought out. The best news is the price. Starting at just under $23,000 and fully loaded just below $30,000, it makes a fantastic buy. Power hungry shoppers might want to wait for the turbo 2.0L 4-cylinder but the 180hp 2.4L engine is more than up to the task. If rumors are true, the fantastic new 2.5L engine found the in the Chevy Malibu might make it into this car. With almost 200hp, that motor would make the Verano very hard to beat. If you are looking at a compact or mid-sized sedan, take time to drive the Verano, it is a surprise.

Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ

There are very few cars that have created as intense a buzz as the Scion FR-S, or cousin, Subaru BRZ. Developed as a joint venture between Toyota and Subaru, these cars are all about back-to-basic performance and handling for a whole new generation. Some might remember the excitement around the introduction of the original Miata; well the buzz is similar for these two cars. With a Subaru's 2.0L horizontally opposed 4-cylinder, matched to Toyota's new direct injection system, this car has 200hp going to the rear wheels. With an eye on weight, the platform is very responsive and produces smiles even when commuting. The Scion is slightly cheaper ($25,990) but does not include Xenon headlights and navigation, where Subaru ($27,295) has included these features. For the money, there isn't much that can touch the FR-S/BRZ combo, plus there are very few option to drive the price up.

Honda CR-V

Honda has been criticized recently for the introduction of the 2012 Civic. Yes, it is still the best selling car in Canada but it was seen as a carry-over and a bit too basic. Learning from their mistake, Honda is fighting back. This new CR-V is the best all around compact crossover for the money. Starting at $25,990, the standard features now include heated front seats and a backup camera, plus the cargo area is larger and the rear seats can flip and fold with the tug of one lever. Sticking with the proven 185hp 2.4L 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic, might not be the most technologically advanced system in the market but it works very well and has a proven reliability record. The all wheel drive system has been modified to provide better grip, even when no slippage is detected and will be more than capable for many city dwellers. The interior is fitted with a hard plastic dash but the design makes the cabin feel fresh and modern. Honda is delivering of the features Canadians want like reliability, comfort fuel economy and space.

Mercedes B-Class

Here is something you might not have realized. You can buy a very well equipped Mercedes for $30,000. The all-new B-Class has a hatchback design that makes it useful and easy to live with for urban dwellers wanting more from a compact car and at a price that competes with non-luxury brands. In fact, Mercedes has included $7000 of added equipment in this new car but kept the price the same as the outgoing model. The star of the show is the 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder motor with 208hp, which is connected to an uber-slick 7-speed duel clutch automatic. In addition the centre of gravity has been dropped to provide sure-footed handling and a fun to drive attitude that competes with the slightly less expensive VW Golf GTI. The interior is now all-Mercedes Benz, using the same switches and dials found in their more expensive cars. Expect to pay between $30,000 and $35,000 for a nicely equipped car, but you get the Mercedes name, reliability and safety features at a great price.

Porsche 911

There are a handful of cars that have instant recognition and the Porsche 911 is one of them. Also known as the Carrera, the design is timeless but on further inspection this latest model is a dramatic departure from the outgoing car. Yes, it still looks the part but the wheelbase has been stretched by 10cm to provide better high-speed stability and much more interior space. The same interior design found in the Porsche Panamera and Cayenne has migrated into this new 911 with stunning results. The fit and finish is second to none, plus the driving position is perfect for every day commuting or going flat out at the track. Two new available engines power the car, including a fantastic 3.4L 6-cylinder with 350hp or the larger 3.8L engine with 400hp. If you are in the market, try the base motor it is very good. There are two knocks against this car. The hand brake has been replaced with a hard to access switch and the transmission is rather clunky. Overall the shortcomings do not detract form how good this car is.

Mercedes GLK diesel

The Mercedes GLK has been the best selling compact luxury crossover in Canada for some time. New for 2013 is the introduction of a fantastic 4-cylinder diesel engine that produces 369 lb.-ft. of torque, yet sips fuel like a compact car. The 3.5L gasoline V6 is still available, now with newly added direct injection. Power from the diesel (BlueTec) is fantastic off the line and it can pass with conviction on the highway. The suspension of the GLK has been modified for 2013 to accommodate electric power steering, yet this addition has been integrated very well, which is not the case with many new electric steering systems. Exterior and interior updates make the GLK more attractive to the eye and to the touch. With roughly 70% of shoppers choosing the BlueTec option in the Mercedes lineup, this new GLK will be no different. Not on sale yet but look for it arriving in dealerships this March.

Honda Accord

Just as the Honda CR-V might be the best all around compact crossover, Honda has done it again with the new Accord. Slightly shorter than the outgoing model, this new Accord has a more athletic look and stance. No longer sold with steel wheels or hubcaps, all new Accords will feature 17-inch or optional 18-inch alloys. The interior is at the top of this class in terms of materials and finish. The materials surrounding the vastly improved radio and navigation control unit look and feel like a more expensive car. The interior dimensions are roughly the same as the outgoing car and all seats are comfortable. The biggest changes are under the skin of the Accord and they include an all-new 2.4L 4-cylinder engine with direct injection and 185hp. This is matched to a continuously variable transmission for superb fuel consumption. This setup does not diminish the driving experience, as the Accord is still one of the most engaging cars to drive in the class. Prices start at $23,990 and run up to $35,290 for the 3.5L V6 with a 6-speed conventional automatic.

Porsche Boxster

It is hard to believe but the Boxster has been part of the Porsche family for over 15 years. Time sure fly's by when you are having fun. This all-new Boxster takes the winning recipe and adds a bit of attitude into the mix. Bigger than the outgoing model, the latest car has a stance that is more masculine and might even take a few potential buyers away from the more expensive 911. The interior is fitted with a similar interior to the Carrera but a convertible roof comes standard, as does two trunks--one under the front hood and a second in the back. The base motor puts out 265hp and the Boxster S has 315hp. The good news is that the 7-speed gearbox found in the 911 is not used in this car, instead a 6-speed unit, resulting in a smooth shifting experience. The Boxster S is the best all around value in the Porsche family.

Acura RDX

As mentioned above, the CR-V is the best all around compact crossover and the RDX, which is based on the CR-V is the best all around compact luxury crossover. With a starting price of $40,990 it competes very well with others in this class but the RDX is loaded with features. What Acura provides over the German competition is value. It starts at roughly the same low $40,000 range but offers 18-inch alloy wheel, HID headlights, keyless entry with pushbutton start and many more features for $40,990. The $43,990 Tech model includes a power lift gate and many more interior goodies. The latest RDX uses a simpler all wheel drive system, the same one found in the CR-V, but most commuters will appreciate the smooth relaxed and competent ride this vehicle provides.

Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Along with the CR-V, the Santa Fe has been a best seller for years. This vehicle is bigger than most compact crossovers; it really should be looked upon as an intermediate vehicle. The star of the latest Santa Fe is the arrival of a turbocharged 2.0L direct injection 4-cylinder engine. This dynamo, of a motor, pumps out V6-like power yet has the ability to sip fuel. Rated at 264hp, the engine delivers performance at all speeds, and most amazingly, it that it runs on regular, not premium gas. The Santa Fe is a more stylish vehicle now, with interior features that were only found in luxury cars just a few years ago. Some options worth considering are heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and huge moonroof. This vehicle supplies pace and grace.

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