In 2014, we saw one new model after another. So many, in fact, that it’s hard to do justice to the topic in just one article. To keep it simple, I’ve selected one game-changing vehicle per category. These are not necessarily the best-in-class winners, but they’re the vehicles that set new standards for technology, mechanics or appearance.
Here are our Top 10 game-changing cars for 2014:
The battle for this segment was fought by the new Honda Fit and the super-affordable Nissan Micra. The Micra caught everyone’s attention by starting at less than $10,000 and offering some very dynamic and practical qualities. But once you add a reasonable amount of equipment, its price becomes less of an advantage compared to the Honda Fit, which gives you better performance and a nicer ride for your money. The Fit’s engine delivers 130 horsepower versus the Micra’s 109, and its handling is markedly better. Not to mention that the finishing touches on the Fit are more impressive, as is its more versatile interior. The one thing we didn’t like about the Fit was the insufficient soundproofing.
With progressive lines and the same mechanics we were expecting, the Golf crowns this category for 2014 for three main reasons: its homogeneous package, ride and overall enjoyment. This car does everything well and with ease. The trims include the GTi performance version, the fuel-efficient diesel TDi and the regular model with a standard 1.8 litre 170 hp engine. As to be expected, the fit and trim is outstanding and the seats are very comfortable.
Yes, we know that the Chrysler 200 and Hyundai Sonata are all-new, while the Camry has just had some mid-cycle tweaks, but the Toyota’s updates are more significant in that they go beyond the surface for a truly more dynamic ride. The previous version had all the classic Camry qualities, but the 2014 version is more consistent across the board and offers much better handling, all of which makes for a less boring vehicle. Plus, a hybrid is now available.
When the CLA was released last year, it upset Mercedes-Benz’s hierarchy of models. To ensure that there wouldn’t be any price overlap between the CLA and C-Class, the manufacturer decided to enhance the latter’s equipment, luxury and performance. As a result, the C-Class delivers a better ride and extra space. Of course, the onboard safety technology is very advanced.
For ages, Mercedes-Benz’s least-known model was the CL, a coupe version of the S-Class sedan. Its discreet silhouette made it the perfect vehicle to blend into a crowd. This year, however, both the car and its name changed. It’s now called the S-Class Coupe and its exterior is one of the nicest in the industry. Featuring an active suspension, a 447 hp V8 and a super-rigid platform, this car’s ride will please even the most discerning drivers.
Sports car under $50,000
The arrival of the new Ford Mustang was a really big deal in this category. It was redesigned to catch the eyes of a broader client base, since a decision was made to distribute the model globally. This probably also explains why the suspension’s solid rear axle suspension was replaced by two independent axles. Some diehard Mustang fans thought it was treason, but it was time to update this icon of the North American market. The 2.3 litre turbo engine will appeal to some drivers, while others will prefer the 5.0 litre V8.
The Zuffenhausen-based automaker always opts for the path less taken, and the 918 Spyder is further evidence of this trend. Visually, it reminds us of the legendary Carrera GT, but its mechanical components have an eye on the future with a hybrid drivetrain made up of a 608 hp 4.6 litre V8 and a 286 hp electric motor. It even has 30 kilometres of all-electric range. One cool aspect are the moving body parts, which adjust their position in accordance with the vehicle’s speed.
This year, Ford made headlines by building the F-150’s body and bed entirely out of aluminum. It was a bold move, considering this is the most-sold vehicle in America. The ubiquitous use of this lightweight metal has helped the truck shed approximately 300 kilograms, which, when coupled with the vehicle’s aerodynamic exterior, should help keep costs down at the pump. In addition to that, Ford’s engineers have equipped the pickup with highly sophisticated mechanics and advanced safety equipment. The new engine for 2015 is a 3.5 litre EcoBoost V6 that pumps out 365 horsepower (5 more horses than the 5.0 litre V8).
Compact Luxury SUV
A lot of people were skeptical when this automaker decided to transform the Ford Escape into a Lincoln and give Germany and Japan’s finest compact SUVs a run for their money. But it looks as though Lincoln knew what they were doing. They’ve developed a vehicle with so much personality, we’ve all but forgotten the Escape. The luxurious cabin, superior soundproofing, decent handling, transparent all-wheel drive and responsive performance put the MKC on par with the best in the category, which is enjoying spectacular growth. We should also point out that Lincoln has opened several dealerships in China, one of this new arrival’s target markets.
This electric Beamer stands out from the competition thanks to its technological design, unique shape and range extender, which should get you out of a bind if you ever exceed the limits of the vehicle’s batteries. This Bavarian car also sets the standard with super light materials, and a platform that integrates most of the mechanical components and is bolted to the composite body. It marks a first step towards the alternative vehicles of tomorrow.
What about you?
What do you think are the best vehicles in each category? Deciding can be tough—there are so many to choose from!