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Car hits and misses of 2014

How last year’s models really measure up

Published: September 2014

Every year, consumers get inundated with a plethora of ads, commercials, and social buzz about models that are either brand-new to the market or have undergone a major makeover. All of this fuels the growing hype and expectations. But which ones really deliver when their rubber meets our test track and they get put through our 50-plus evaluations? And which, well, stall out? Here are five models that shone in our testing and thoroughly impressed our autos staff, and three that left us wondering, “Where’s the beef?”

Hits

Acura MDX

The redesigned MDX is a well-rounded SUV that does many things well. It treats you to a hushed, versatile cabin, supple ride, and a new V6 engine that’s quick, responsive, and refined. At 20 mpg overall, it’s also among the most fuel-efficient SUVs in the class.

Read the complete MDX road test.

BMW M235i

The new M235i is a fresh, exhilarating coupe that’s a joy to drive. It’s taut and quick, and it has a satisfyingly sonorous exhaust note. Forged in the tradition of BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” mantra, it’s now one of our top-rated cars.

Read the complete M235i road test.

Ford Fiesta ST

Yes, it’s frugal, affordable, and easy to park, but this hot hatch is also exciting to drive. It won us over with its razor-sharp handling, near-telepathic steering, amazing braking, and invigorating exhaust bark. We also measured a great 29 mpg overall.

Read the complete Fiesta ST road test.

Mazda3

Redesigned for 2014, the Mazda3 has the magic formula of being fun to drive, fuel-efficient, and affordable. It delivers agile, even inspiring handling. And we got an excellent 33 mpg overall with the 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission, and 32 with the manual. The 3 also offers advanced safety features on midlevel trims and has earned top-notch crash-test scores.

Read the complete Mazda3 road test.

Toyota Highlander

The revamped Highlander is like the comfy, refined family sedan of SUVs. This top-rated model provides a versatile, crowd-pleasing cabin; good driving manners; consistently good reliability; and frugal gas mileage of 20 mpg overall or 25 in the hybrid version.

Read the complete Highlander road test.

Misses

Lexus IS

Marketed as an upscale sports sedan, the redesigned IS 250 we tested is neither sporty nor luxurious. It has lackluster handling, a cramped cabin, and mediocre fuel economy.

Read the complete IS 250 road test.

Mitsubishi Mirage

Despite its excellent 37 mpg overall, the new Mirage earned one of our lowest test scores in years, due to sluggish acceleration, a noisy, vibration-filled cabin, and clumsy handling, which result in an overall dismal driving experience.

Read the complete Mirage road test.

Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

This halfhearted hybrid costs about $3,000 more than the regular XV Crosstrek, but it got only 2 mpg better overall in our tests. That’s not convincing. At least the Hybrid is a little quieter and sounds less strained than the regular Crosstrek XV. Either way the regular Impreza hatch may be a better choice: it's quieter, quicker, cheaper, and better-riding.

Read the complete XV Crosstrek Hybrid road test.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the October 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.



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