It looks like 2013 will be a decent year for the auto industry -- in fact, we're already getting a preview. Thanks to the long-standing industry practice of introducing new model year cars midway through the previous calendar year, plenty of "upcoming" cars have been roaming the streets since the summer of 2012. It can be tricky to make such predictions, since numerous unpredictable factors can interfere with the release date of a new car (some can be delayed, while others can be completely killed off) but, at this point, we think this list is pretty safe.
Top-10 lists like this are always a little tricky -- like car shopping, some decisions are all business while others tend to get a bit personal. Facelifts of popular existing models are usually a safe bet because they're a known quantity, even when the automaker's worked in some interesting new features. And as far as all-new cars go? It's another fair bet that, if a new car has enjoyed a good amount of hype, or fills a particular void in a brand's lineup, it'll be rewarded with a fair amount of initial interest.
But, as it goes for all cars, whether they can actually compete in the market remains to be seen.
News of a new AWD wagon-esque/crossover-type vehicle from Subaru isn't exactly earth-shattering. That's what Subaru does best (well, that and rally cars). Getting excited about a new Subaru, though, means getting excited for new potential, even if you hardly ever use it. And the rest of the time (which is to say, most of the time) is a reasonably comfortable and pretty reliable ride, a comfy but not cushy five-door hatch with a decent amount of cargo space.
So what's the big deal about the Subaru Crosstrek? It is, essentially, a lifted Impreza Sport (and in fact, in other countries, the Crosstrek is just called the Impreza XV). The slightly goofy-looking wheel gap is the main visual differentiator between the former and the latter, but it serves a noble purpose -- if you ever go off-roading, it provides crucial ground clearance. Plastic trim panels protect the paint's most vulnerable areas from rocks and gravel. The suspension reportedly feels firmer than the base Impreza. In other words, roam with confidence, Subaru says.
EPA fuel economy estimates rate the Crosstrek as the most efficient AWD crossover available, but reviewers say that efficiency comes at a price. Although the body is attractive and comfortable, and Subaru's capabilities in the areas of sportiness and utility aren't to be underestimated, the engine and transmission are the Crosstrek's weak link. The CVT automatic transmission matches to the engine in an unpleasantly noisy way and saps the drivetrain of precious horsepower (the engine comes in at a scant 148-horsepower) [source: Neil]. The manual transmission option might provide a more satisfying driving experience, but it causes the EPA's fuel ratings to drop from 25/33 to 23/30.
Other than that, the Crosstrek is vacation ready. Go ahead, make fun of the roof rack. Joke that the Crosstrek looks naked without a surfboard or canoe. It doesn't matter -- even a Crosstrek that's temporarily de-accessorized is probably a Crosstrek that's had some good times.
Part of the problem with replacing a perennially popular car with a new model is that the outgoing version will remain popular for quite some time. However, it can be hard to see why, exactly, that might be a problem. After all, the automaker usually hopes that a lot of fans of the old model will trade up for the younger version.
Sometimes, though, that phenomenon translates into sales problems, especially in the case of traditionally high-volume models. It's not that buyers are rejecting the new car -- it's that the old car is still good enough, especially when dealerships are offering sizeable discounts to clear out the lots. That's what happened in the summer of 2012, after the release of the new 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco, and GM was worried that it affected the way people would perceive the car [source: Burgess].
No worries -- according to reviews, the Malibu is likely to stay strong, despite heavy competition (its main competitors in the midsize sedan segment have also been revitalized). But Chevy has retained the characteristics that made the Malibu a reliable seller, the moderate but accessible features such as a decent list of available options across three trim levels, reasonably efficient 4-cylinder engines, comfortable but not remarkable interiors and attractive but not polarizing exterior styling.
Among the most notable of the improvements is a range of new 4-cylinder engine options (the V-6 from the previous generation is gone). There's a 2.5-liter base engine that puts out 197-horsepower; buyers of upgraded trim levels can opt for a 2.0 turbo that clocks in at 259-horsepower. The Malibu Eco is another new choice, combining a 2.4-liter 4 with an electric motor that puts out a total of 182-horsepower. (Technically a hybrid, the Eco's configuration might cause some confusion since, unlike the more traditional hybrid setup, it cannot run on the battery-powered motor alone.) And a host of typical safety features rounds out the standard- and available-equipment lists. Nothing too groundbreaking, but if the older, rather stale Malibu was still in demand, it's probable a lot of buyers will appreciate Chevy's new touches.
The Hyundai Veloster is not new, and if you've driven one, chances are, you've been underwhelmed. It's a svelte hatch that's been puttering its way through crowds that should have easily parted. For two years, it's lacked the "oomph" factor that such a car would need to succeed.
But it's not like Hyundai doesn't know how to do this. The Tiburon and Genesis are two examples of peppy crowd-pleasers. So clearly, the Veloster needed a turbo. That's the only logical conclusion. And now, here it is. The 2013 Veloster Turbo.
Making a decent car less dowdy requires an external makeover, as well as internal, so it's obvious from the start that this Veloster is different. Its presence is illuminated by front LEDs, aggressive side-skirts, 18-inch alloys and dual exhaust tips. Also, Hyundai gives buyers the option of matte gray paint, which is a nice, and different, touch. (Matte paint jobs are popular on motorcycles and with the aftermarket crowd, especially on imports, but they've never really caught on with car manufacturers.)
Although bolting a twin-scroll turbo to the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder takes the Veloster from a miserly 138 to a more respectable 201-horsepower. The Veloster Turbo also comes with a 6-speed manual (an upgrade over the 5-speed that comes standard on the non-turbo model), but another grand will get the buyer a 6-speed automatic. The extra gear takes advantage of the turbo power, but it also helps the car run more efficiently at highway speeds. Hyundai says that about 30-percent of the Veloster's customers are satisfied with the manual option, compared to the nationwide average of just 7-percent [source: Schultz]. That stat is for both turbo and non-turbo Velosters, but it's as good an indication as any that the Veloster's got a chance to find its niche.
You might recall that there already was an Audi Allroad in the mid-2000s. From a distance, it was barely discernible from the Subaru Outback. Both featured muted paint jobs accented with plastic cladding. Slightly beefy tires and roof racks seemed to hint at potential more than actual purpose. But they were capable and comfortable. Then the Allroad went away, probably because someone at Audi realized it was just a toughened-up A6 Avant (which Audi never really tried to hide, anyway). People preferred SUVs and crossovers. And now that Audi is phasing out all their remaining wagons, as well as the A3 hatch ... the Allroad's back. (Not everyone wants an SUV or crossover, after all.)
It doesn't stand out as much as it used to, that's for sure. The plastic body trim is back, but it can be painted to match the car, for a more subtle look. And other body armor, like the steel skid-plates that protect the car's belly, are hard to spot. But they're there. And that's where most of the similarities stop. The new 2013 Allroad is based on the A4 platform rather than the A6, and even though the A6 is the larger of the two, the new Allroad is slightly bigger than its predecessor. Unfortunately, it's also a little less powerful. Its sacrificed the adjustable ride height that helped enable more adventuresome off-roading, but a slightly widened track and slightly higher ride help increase the Allroad's stability and ground clearance. And the Allroad also lost the V-6 and V-8 engine options; instead, it's got the turbo 2.0 inline-4 that's prevalent across the current VW/Audi lineup. It's loaded up with standard luxury features and creature comforts. And, because it's an Audi, it somehow manages to be even prettier after it's been spattered in mud. So, although it might not be as ballsy as the old Allroad, it still beats the pants off a regular station wagon.
The Toyota Prius is no longer a wedgy, angular, smug, small hatchback. It's a whole family of 'em.
So yeah, the Prius nameplate is now being treated as a brand rather than a model, and yeah, maybe that part is old news. But the 2013 Prius c is new. The range expansion is designed to increase the brand's appeal, it comes in at a lower price point and smaller size (about a foot and a half shorter) than the flagship original Prius, and it's designed to bring younger buyers into the fold. Its styling is less polarizing than its older sibling, but it offers many of the same features. From what Toyota calls "the most value-oriented hybrid in the U.S. market" buyers get Japanese reliability combined with European-oriented design, as well as more than a decade of hard-earned hybrid design and engineering expertise [source: Consumer Guide Automotive].
The Prius c's size allowed Toyota to design a pared-down drivetrain, though it retains Prius signature touches. The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder has been scaled down to a 1.5 (still good for 73-horsepower) and the smaller engine means it can be matched with a smaller battery pack. Like the original, it uses Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive to evaluate the driver's input and decide, on the fly, the best and most efficient combination of gasoline and battery power to use. Familiar aerodynamic styling, combined with ever-improving hybrid technology, enables the Prius c to achieve EPA ratings of 53 highway/46 city. Features like projector halogen headlamps, LED taillamps, high-tech console controls, advanced safety features and up-sized alloy wheel options, all spread across four different trim levels, mean the Prius c can boast its eco-cred without looking too nerdy or sparse.
The Viper is meant to go fast, and previous generations of Dodge's favorite racer made no apologies for the fact that -- despite the steep price tag -- there was no intention of truly competing with the luxury class. High-end European sedans might be extremely comfortable and also go fast, but the speed was an incidental benefit, a perk rather than a purpose. The Viper, by comparison, was rather coarse -- a notoriously uncomfortable entry prepped driver and passenger for a sparse interior and a rough, loud ride.
For 2013, the Viper has shed the Dodge name, and it's considered a product of the SRT team -- Chrysler's Street & Racing Technology division. (Other vehicles in the SRT family are allowed to keep their Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge nameplates, but the RWD two-seater Viper sits a bit away from the pack.) It's a bold move, for sure. It seems a bit contrary, then, that the Viper's rebirth comes a bit gussied up rather than stripped down.
The Viper features Sabelt racing buckets, which is pretty much the only businesslike part of the cabin. The rest is all luxury -- well, world-class sports car luxury, anyway. An 8.4-inch display screen dominates the dash, controlling the navigation system, Bluetooth interface and stereo (which features 12 or 18 speakers, depending on which audio package is selected). That's a lot of distractions on a racetrack, and that's a lot of speakers for a cabin that's only slightly bigger than the two seats it surrounds. And if that's still a little too raw and unrefined for you, well-heeled drivers can upgrade the interior with selections worthy of a high-end furniture showroom.
Just try to remember: The color or texture of the leather won't matter all that much when you're steering the SRT Viper through turns and using the 6-speed manual gearbox to control the massive 8.4-liter, V-10 engine that cranks out 640-horsepower. But the addition of cruise control and stability control might help ease the transitions between track days.
The BMW X1 comes from Europe, like all BMWs do. And in Europe, people are accustomed to paying top dollar for small cars. The X1 already had a brief interlude in the United States in 2009, but it was a time when American buyers were obsessed with buying as big as possible at bargain prices. Though the crossover market was gaining traction, the X1 was simply so small that people looked right past it ... or maybe mistook it for a 3-Series. Things have changed, and now the X1 is back. It couldn't have been easy, though. BMW had to make sure the X1 didn't steal market share from its formerly-entry-level X3, and the price point had to be right, as well. The X1 is a bit smaller than the X3, by about 6 inches of length and 3 inches of width, which makes it small by crossover standards, not just BMW standards. It can still comfortably hold a family and their cargo, though, so don't fret.
The base X1 is a RWD vehicle with a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, turbo engine paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission, good for putting down 240-horsepower. For true crossover capability, buyers can upgrade to AWD. In fact, a 3.0-liter, turbo, 6-cylinder, AWD version is an option, but since it's only paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission, it might be a tough sell for some buyers.
The interior is comfortable and equipped with most modern conveniences a family will expect, such as USB ports and high-quality design and materials. The aesthetics can be upgraded with a couple of different trim options: "Sport" offers sport seats and gloss black exterior accents, while "xLine" adds utilitarian exterior trim pieces that provide a more rugged look. And to improve the X1's actual function, buyers can select BMW's M Sport package, which upgrades the suspension and tires. These options mean the 2013 X1 is better poised for success this time around.
Scion finally went ahead and did something we've been hoping for since Toyota's younger sibling first came around to play. It has finally brought us a sexy little RWD coupe. Not that there was anything wrong with Scion's previous coupe, the TC, or its other small, cheeky, boxy econocars. But this new one, the FR-S, really raises the bar for Toyota's youth-oriented brand.
The FR-S is a coupe that seats four adults (in theory) although the driver will definitely be having the most fun. A thrifty but peppy direct-injected, 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine delivers 200-horsepower and mates to a six-speed manual transmission that's equipped with a limited slip differential for extra control. Though the engine is front-mounted, it sits low in the bay to provide a low center of gravity, and the car is grounded by a sport suspension with 17-inch-wheels that fit over vented disc brakes. The interior is sporty and comfortable -- well designed for spirited driving.
So what landed the Scion FR-S on our list, rather than Subaru's new platform-shared coupe, the BRZ? After all, the coupes were a joint development venture between Subaru and Scion. As a result, the looks are similar, mechanicals are the same and the base price difference is negligible (although, of course, actual purchase prices vary widely). In cases like this, buying one over the other comes down to factors like brand loyalty or exterior color options. But the FR-S represents more of a departure from Scion's direction; it's the kind of car that has potential to move the brand forward. (Not that the BRZ is any less of an accomplishment, but Subaru's buyers have always known that the capabilities of their reliable family wagons could also be adapted into really fun sport coupes.) Maybe it just took a partnership with Subaru for this car to develop. Or maybe Scion's just been waiting for its early adopters to grow up. Either way, let's just be happy the FR-S is here for 2013.
Even though the Dodge Dart nameplate of the '60s and '70s has been revived and the all-new 2013 model is finally ready, the one that's really worth waiting for is still on hold. That's not to say the plain Jane version of the Dart is a bad car. The exterior is a little bland for a sport compact, but Dodge has chosen to concentrate its resources elsewhere -- namely, driver experience, rather than pleasing onlookers.
Buyers of the 2013 base model Dart have two options. There's a 2.0-liter engine that provides 160-horsepower, and a 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder, turbo that also puts out 160-horsepower -- but quite a bit more torque. Dodge claims the Dart is "the most technologically advanced vehicle in its class," with an especially spacious interior and top-notch security features that outpace its competition in the compact car class [source: Dodge]. If that's what you're shopping for, by all means, go ahead.
But if you want a 2.4-liter, 4-banger that delivers 184-horsepower (dubbed TigerShark), you have to wait for the R/T version, due to arrive in early 2013. Your patience will be rewarded with telltale black exterior accents, 18-inch alloy wheels and a leather interior with a power adjustable driver's seat -- plus all the "technologically advanced" stuff found in the base model. (More patience, more money, more lust for power? Wait a bit longer for the possible SRT-4 edition, which is rumored to arrive even later in 2013 and could pack about 300-horsepower under the hood.)
Manufacturers have to be cautious when they revive a name like the Dart, but it suits this car: quick, efficient and easily underestimated. And its target audience is too young to remember the original, anyway.
New Cadillacs tend to get people all excited. They're big and ostentatious, representing some of the best innovation and solid quality that Detroit has to offer. They have an ability to steel a driver's nerves while simultaneously pampering the car's occupants. Based on early reviews of the 2013 XTS, that trend will continue. The Cadillac XTS is a full-size sedan that has been designed to fill the void left by the outgoing Cadillac DTS, even though there isn't much carryover from the old to the new.
A disproportionate amount of review space has been dedicated to the CUE system, which is Cadillac's new system to consolidate all the driver's controls. Each time a manufacturer introduces a new high-tech user interface, it takes some time for the driving public to adapt, inevitably leading a segment of the population to wonder why things need to be so complicated. It's important for designers to push things forward, though, and people eventually get accustomed to the new distractions. This time around, however, even seasoned testers seem genuinely flummoxed by the complexity of the system [source: Neil]. Get used to it -- the CUE, or some variation thereof, will be trickling down throughout GM's ranks. The CUE is flanked by a graphics-oriented instrument panel, and a few controls that Cadillac decided were too important to bury in menu screens. Aside from CUE, the interior is inviting and comfortable, featuring stitched leather and ambient LED lighting.
There are four trim levels of the XTS, all of which feature a 304-horsepower, 3.6-liter, V-6 engine paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. Leather interior and a Bose stereo are also standard. A suspension composed of front magnetic dampers and rear air ride keep the travel comfortable, riding on 19-inch wheels. The base XTS is FWD, but buyers who step up to a higher trim level can order AWD as an option. Other options include tri-zone climate control and the Driver Awareness Package with additional safety features (warnings of all types -- lane departure, front collision, and the catch-all "safety alert").
The ride is, overall, pretty nice, as reporters have said. So like each Cadillac that came before it, the XTS is more of the same -- but better.
There's a new world of self-driving automotive technology coming in the next decade. Learn about the future of self-driving cars at HowStuffWorks.
Author's Note: 10 Hottest New Cars for 2013
If you pay attention to such things, you may have noticed that the Scion FR-S, which appears early on our list, is similar to the new Subaru BRZ coupe. Really similar. That's because they were co-developed by Toyota and Subaru.
I write about cars. I like cars, and tend to be especially fond of sporty imports. So I know this happens -- it's really common. Look at the VW/Audi/Porsche family. It happens constantly in the GM universe and in the Dodge/Chrysler end of Detroit, too. But for some reason, this particular partnership took me by surprise. And although I've seen several FR-S and BRZ examples in person, the connection never clicked. Never once did I think, "Hmmm ... that's an interesting coincidence. A Subaru RWD hatchback coupey thing! And a sexy little RWD Scion! Priced kinda similarly!" (To my credit, at least I never saw them together. Then I'd really feel like a bonehead.)
I always learn something new when I'm writing a HowStuffWorks article -- if I didn't, I'd be doing it wrong. Sometimes, this new knowledge takes the form of, "This might be useful ... someday." Often, I'm blessed with a mouthful of new trivia. But it's rare that I find out something I really should have already known.
- 2012 New York Auto Show
- 2013 Cars
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- 5 Future Car Technologies That Truly Have a Chance
- Burgess, Scott. "Big Chevy closeout deals have 2013 Malibu Eco sitting on lots in favor of 2012 models." Autoblog. July 30, 2012. (Oct. 15, 2012) http://www.autoblog.com/2012/07/30/big-chevy-closeout-deals-have-2013-malibu-eco-sitting-on-lots-in/
- Consumer Guide Automotive. "2013 Toyota Prius c." (Oct. 15, 2012) http://consumerguideauto.howstuffworks.com/2013-toyota-prius-c.htm
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- Jurnecka, Rory. "2013 Scion FR-S First Test." Motor Trend. April 24, 2012. (Oct. 15, 2012) http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/coupes/1204_2013_scion_fr_s_first_test/viewall.html
- Markus, Frank. "2013 SRT Viper First Drive." Motor Trend. Sept. 10, 2012. (Oct. 15, 2012) http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/1209_2013_srt_viper_first_drive/viewall.html
- Neil, Dan. "Cadillac XTS Sedan Needs a Slow Hand." Wall Street Journal. Aug. 24, 2012. (Oct. 15, 2012) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444812704577605492913106230.html
- Neil, Dan. "Sorry, Can't Hear You Over the Subaru Crosstrek." Wall Street Journal. Sept. 21, 2012. (Oct. 15, 2012) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443995604578004270635022816.html
- Schultz, Jonathan. "Relying on Grand Style in a Crowd of Athletes." The New York Times. (Oct. 15, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/automobiles/autoreviews/relying-on-glam-style-in-a-crowd-of-athletes.html
- Siu, Jason. "Dodge Dart R/T Delayed, SRT4 Confirmed." AutoGuide.com. Sept. 4, 2012. (Oct. 15, 2012) http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2012/09/dodge-dart-rt-delayed-srt4-confirmed.html
- Weaver, Alistair. "2013 BMW X1 First Drive." Edmunds.com. July 26, 2012. (Oct. 15, 2012) http://www.edmunds.com/bmw/x1/2013/road-test.html