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Our auto experts test dozens of cars every year. In addition to pushing them to their limits on our professional track, they use them for daily transportation, commuting, ferrying around kids, going on road trips, and so on. They get to know each car inside and out. And they learn which ones they’d consider buying themselves and those they’d avoid. To save you the frustration of having to find that out for yourself, here are a half-dozen to pass up.
Price we paid: $20,835
Yes, the retro look is cute. But this bug could end up squashing you with repair costs because reliability has been far below average. Also, the rear seat is cramped, the view to the rear is restricted, and a wide center console intrudes on front knee room.
Better choices: Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, Volkswagen Golf
Price we paid $15,49
It’s economical but a bummer to drive. The Versa feels slow, and the interior is noisy and looks cheap. This model scored poor in a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash test and got near-bottom scores in our owner-satisfaction survey.
Better choices: Chevrolet Sonic, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio
Price we paid: $36,500
It’s billed as an “affordable” Mercedes. But what you won’t get is Mercedes luxury for less. It’s a cramped compact with a stiff ride and poor visibility. It’s tough to get into and out of the car, and it lacks the handling finesse and refinement you might expect.
Better choices: Acura TSX, BMW 320i, Mercedes-Benz C250
Price we paid: $34,730
The Crosstour will make you cross-eyed. The sedan/SUV’s swoopy styling looks nice, but it cuts visibility and cargo space. And convoluted touch-screen controls are hard to use. Plus, handling is clumsy, and the wide turning circle makes parking a chore.
Better choices: Subaru Outback, Toyota Venza, Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
Price we paid: $21,130
Though the ads may rave about the great handling of this sporty-looking hatchback, we found the tC’s performance to be uninspiring. Plus, its ride is uncomfortable, too much noise creeps into the cabin, the interior feels cheap, and it’s hard to see out.
Better choices: Mazda3 hatchback, Subaru Impreza Sport
Price we paid: $27,180
This is one of the few small SUVs that can carry up to seven people. But the Outlander handles clumsily, is slow to accelerate, assaults your ears with engine noise, and shakes your body with a nervous ride. And the third-row seat is tiny.
Better choices: Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester