I’ve dished out plenty of Buick love lately. The Verano beats Acura and Lexus at the entry-luxury game and the tiny Encore is an oddly attractive (albeit underpowered) crossover that is outselling the Mini Countryman and Range Rover Evoque by a wide margin. What can we attribute this sales success to? I posit that the original Buick Enclave is the impetus. Landing in 2007 as a 2008 model, it was the poster child of the “new Buick.” On the surface, the Enclave was the replacement for the Buick Rainier, the only GMT360 SUV I haven’t owned. (Just kidding, I’ve only owned 2 of the 11 varieties.) But that’s a simplistic view. In reality the Enclave was intended to elevate the brand enough to compete with three row luxury crossovers from Germany and Japan. This brings us to today’s question: six years and a mild face-lift later, does the Buick still have the goods?
The minor model change for the Chevrolet Malibu will be more than just a Honda Civic-style refresh. Chevrolet will apparently address the cramped rear seating area as part of the overhaul.
After decades of offering some of the best C-segment products available, Honda made the mistake of phoning in its latest generation of Civic just as the entire competition stepped up its game. Compared to the previous generation of Cobalts, Corollas, Elantras and Focii, the current Civic might be a fine car… but compared to the new crop of compacts, its barely competitive. In his TTAC review, Michael Karesh called the new Civic “a low point” and “dreadfully dull,” while Consumer Reports struck the body blow by failing to recommend the Civic for the first time in memory. And though Honda’s initial reaction showed signs of a potentially fatal bunker mentality, lashing out at CR and pointing to a second place Motor Trend showing (because that’s proof of an absence of mediocrity), it seems the company is coming around.
Like the Subaru Impreza, Kia’s Soul is a car that I’ve nursed a soft spot for ever since it became the first car I ever reviewed for TTAC. When friends approach me asking for advice about practical, flexible low-cost cars, the Soul is often one of my first suggestions, and nobody has ever regretted at least test-driving one. The Soul earned further brownie points from me during the Detroit Auto Show a few months back, when our rental Soul carted us through a nasty snowstorm with aplomb. So, like the Impreza, I was a little bit nervous when Kia announced they would be updating the Soul at the New York Auto Show.
Dodge has debuted images of its updated Avenger mid-size sedan, as Auburn Hills continues its re-boot of its entire product line. The new Avenger boasts the chrome-lined crosshair grille found on its updated Charger cousin, but seems to lack the depth of refresh that its Sebring platform-mate received in its transformation to the Chrysler 200. Will the Avenger update give Dodge a reasonably competitive offering in America’s most competitive segment, or is this just lipstick on a pig? We’ll need a full test drive to say definitively, but for now feel free to pass snap judgment based on the Avenger’s looks alone. After all, you won’t be the only one…
Americans like big cars. Even when designing a small car for the American market, it’s important that the small car be as big as possible. Sound like an oxymoron? It should. In a country where big is beautiful, the small practical cars go largely unnoticed, and so it is with the Nissan Versa. If you read TTAC regularly, you might know the Versa outsells everything in its segment, but did you know it just got a mid-cycle refresh? Even in the midst of a downsizing and belt-tightening economy, that news hasn’t made much of a splash. To find out if the cheapest four door car in America is worthy of more attention, we took a week to live with a Versa 1.8.
Well, the death of the Sebring name anyway. The Detroit Free Press reveals some of the first details about Chrysler’s all-important refresh of the Sebring/Avenger, a vehicle that CEO Sergio Marchionne recently admitted (in what was surely a Lutzie-award-worthy understatement) is “not the most loved car by car enthusiasts.” The biggest detail: it won’t be named Sebring. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering that the Sebring’s issues are less related to a tepid reaction from the enthusiast market, and have more to do with the fact that even the least car-literate Americans recognize the Sebring name as a symbol for all that is wrong with America’s auto industry.