By on December 21, 2016

2016 Mazda MX-5 – Image: © The Truth About CarsOver the last year, the PR departments of 12 automobile manufacturers delivered 38 new vehicles to my driveway. Scheduling quirks and limited autumn availability saw that number slide from 2015, but week-long exposure to new vehicles was nevertheless extensive in 2016.

It’s a good gig. Sure, we work hard to maintain GoodCarBadCar.net — Mrs. Cain has even put in a fair number of hours since the October birth of our second baby boy — while I also contribute a couple of times per week to Autofocus.ca and work daily for The Truth About Cars. But in addition to our favored steed — the 2015 Honda Odyssey EX that we pay for with our own money — I get to drive (and fuel, and clean, and write two reviews about) a new automobile every week.

Those automobiles were collectively valued at $1.8 million in 2016, down from $2.2 million in 2015. The average price of the vehicles sent to GCBC Towers rose 4 percent to $46,671.

Every now and then, though less often than you’d think, I’d prefer a vehicle to hang around for an extra week. At least as often, I’d be content for vehicles to leave before their week was up. With the year now coming to a close, here are the best, the worst, the most surprising, the most disappointing, the most efficient, and the least economical vehicles I tested over the last year.

In 2016, Canada’s Maritime press fleet included one pickup truck, one roadster, two vans, seven sedans, three coupes, two wagons, eight hatchbacks, and 14 utility vehicles.

There were five hybrids, including a plug-in, and only four cars with manual transmissions. There was only one V8 engine; only seven V6s. 20 of the 38 powerplants were turbocharged.

Vehicles are hand-delivered to our driveway, but we don’t have any say in the selection or specification. It doesn’t work that way on Nova Scotia’s far flung east coast.

Best Of The Best: Mazda MX-5 Miata
“Mazda has been making the Miata such an exemplary example of the breed for so long that, with no surprises to be found, we can grow cold to praise of its attributes,” I wrote last summer.

It may be a painfully obvious choice, but the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata was by far the most fun I had all year. I’m in this business, rather than the business of measuring the linear feet of category space given to potato chips in grocery stores, because I enjoy driving. Over the last year, I drove vehicles with profoundly higher price tags than the MX-5’s. There was no shortage of cars with more power, more space, and more features.

But the Miata is better.

Honorable mentions: Volkswagen Golf R, Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4Matic, Audi A42016 Ford F150 XLT SuperCrew Image: © The Truth About CarsBiggest Surprise: Ford F-150 EcoBoost 2.7
I had already spent plenty of time in F-150s before the 2.7-liter EcoBoost appeared in my driveway. Without the 20-inch rims of more costly versions, this F-150 offered superior ride quality. But I was taken aback by the F-150 2.7’s essentially EcoBoost 3.5-matching off-the-line grunt. Is the 3.5 EcoBoost even necessary? Especially with the 2.7 achieving 19.4 miles per gallon and saving money at the point of purchase, as well?

Honorable mentions: Chevrolet Spark LS, Chevrolet Malibu 1.5T2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Image: © The Truth About CarsWorst Of The Worst: Fiat 500X Trekking AWD
To be fair, the Fiat 500X is oddly charming, and I can understand how others could consider it desirable. It’s also better to drive than its Jeep Renegade sibling that I drove the year before. But build quality is not up to par, the nine-speed automatic is horrific, pricing is absurd, and fuel economy is decidedly unimpressive. Objectively, this ain’t good, even if I want to like it.

Honorable mentions: Honda HR-V EX-L and Audi Q32016 Hyundai Veloster Image: © The Truth About CarsBiggest Disappointment: Hyundai Veloster Turbo DCT
The Hyundai Veloster’s age — it’s been around for five years — inevitably lowers expectations. But the Veloster failed to meet even that low bar. I’m glad the Veloster exists, I’m glad there are options in the small and stylish autosphere. But I wasn’t prepared for a car to ride this poorly, or for the dual-clutch transmission to shift this slowly, or for 201 horsepower to feel this underwhelming.

Honorable Mentions: Audi A3 e-Tron and Infiniti QX502016 Toyota Prius Image: © The Truth About CarsMost Efficient: Toyota Prius, 57 mpg
Consider yourself not shocked. We spent a long period of highway and city driving in the fourth-generation Toyota Prius and came away having spent very little on fuel. Rated by the EPA at a combined 52 miles per gallon, we didn’t try to be eco-minded and still achieved a 57-mpg result.

Ford C-Max SE (46 mpg) and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Reserve (39 mpg)2016 Acura MDX Image: © The Truth About CarsLeast Efficient: Acura MDX, 16 mpg
The Acura MDX with which we only just finished a week-long test was justifiably thirsty. Though fitted with a nine-speed automatic and not the six-speed that produced a 24-mpg result three years ago, this year’s test included unseasonably cold temperatures, frequent six-passenger loads, extensive city driving, and numerous remote starts.

Honorable Mentions: GMC Yukon Denali (17 mpg) and Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4Matic (18 mpg)

THE CARS
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander • 2016 Honda Civic Sedan • 2016 Honda HR-V •
2016 Fiat 500X • 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 • 2016 Ford Edge V6 •
2016 Audi Q3 • 2016 GMC Yukon Denali • 2016 Infiniti QX50 •
2017 Hyundai Elantra • 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid • 2016 Ford F-150 EcoBoost 2.7 •
2016 Volvo XC90 • 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris • 2016 Ford C-Max •
2016 Volkswagen Golf R • 2016 Toyota Prius • 2016 Honda Civic Coupe •
2016 Audi A3 e-Tron • 2016 Mazda 6 • 2016 Chevrolet Malibu •
2016 Mazda CX-9 • 2016 Lexus RC350 • 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe •
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata • 2017 Kia Sportage SX • 2017 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid •
2016 Chevrolet Spark • 2017 Audi A4 • 2017 Chrysler Pacifica •
2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo • 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 • 2017 Audi A4 Allroad •
2017 Ford Escape • 2017 Mazda 3 • 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback •
2017 Acura MDX • 2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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21 Comments on “My $1.8 Million Fleet in 2016 – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I love this roundup – it’s always an interesting summary.

    Who would have thought Lincoln (runner-up to the Prius) would ever produce a 39 mpg vehicle.

    I think I’m finally done pining for the 500X, even if I got the 1.4T/6M which allegedly drives better.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I frequently see someone in our neighborhood driving a white 500X and I was surprised at how attractive the exterior styling is. Proportions are decent and the exterior trim looks slightly premium. Hard to believe it came from the same maker as the 500L

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Wow, the 2.0T in the GLC300 only got 18mpg?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    As a frequent Uber user in Seattle I can testify that a Prius can get 40+ mpg even in the hands of ham-fisted drivers whose reaction to the thought “I’m going just a bit too slow” is to slam on the gas for 1 second.

    16 mpg out of an MDX sounds about right if the whole test was in the city. Heavy cars in the city get really, really bad results unless they’re hybridized.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    “Biggest surprise.” Good surprise or bad surprise? What was the biggest bad surprise?

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Thanks, Tim. That was very informative.

    The biggest surprise to me is your negative citation of the 500X, simply because of the love it’s gotten elsewhere on this site. But as my brother once said about his spouse, “if both of us agreed about everything, one of us would be unnecessary.”

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “Worst Of The Worst: Fiat 500X Trekking AWD”

    Paging Vulpine

    Paging Vulpine

  • avatar
    brettc

    Tim, did you write a piece on the Alltrack? Can’t seem to find any articles about it on your site, or on TTAC. Or maybe that’s the car you currently have?

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “Biggest Surprise: Ford F-150 EcoBoost 2.7”

    Paging both Big Al’s

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “Is the 3.5 EcoBoost even necessary?”

    You’d have to ask Ford engineers that question since the EB3.5 is their designated “go to” motor for any heavy lifting.

    It would be much more appropriate to ask, “Is the 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 or 5.0L Ti-VCT V8 even necessary?”

    The 5.0 (soon to be 4.8 V8) is necessary to keep the obnoxious driver and the aftermarket exhaust industry alive. LOL.

    The NA 3.5 is for the fleet industry. I doubt the 2.7 Turbo would fair well under the abuse of “I don’t give a sh!t” fleet drivers and haphazard maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      nvinen

      Is the turbo lag on the 2.7EB and 3.5EB better than on the 2.0EB? Because I have one car with a supercharged Coyote variant and one with the 2.0EB and the lag on the latter, while not as bad as I thought when I first drove the car, is maddening in comparison with the instant (and predictable!) power and torque from the Coyote. The 2.0EB seems to have “moods”; sometimes I floor the accelerator and get a burst of acceleration and other times it seems it needs a second or so to get its act together before it decides to deliver (in the same gear). This makes overtaking rather frightening.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @nvinen – I didn’t notice much in the way of turbo lag with the EB 3.5 F150 I drove. Downshifts when mashing the go pedal has some inherent lag but I felt it wasn’t appreciably different than my 5.4. I’m sure that traction management programmed into the ECU plays a role.

        • 0 avatar
          nvinen

          Thanks for the info. Maybe I’m just so used to instant throttle response from my supercharged V8 that the small lag from the 2.0EB seems huge in comparison. But it really seems pretty noticeable to me, even though a lot of reviews of the Escape with that engine say that it has no noticeable lag. That’s not what I’ve found. It’s better in “S” but then you have to remember to put it in S before overtaking; if you simply leave it in S fuel economy suffers.

          Maybe they’ve tuned the 3.5 to be a bit more aggressive. Maybe it simply has more power when it’s off-boost so you don’t notice the lag as much. Anyway, the EcoBoost engine is fine for my wife but I’m going to be sticking to superchargers for my own ride from now on I think.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            nvinen – To be fair, I have no experience with any of Ford’s smaller EB engines. The 3.5 EB in the F150 hits peak torque low in the RPM range and has a fairly long flat plateau. It drops of rather abruptly at higher RPM.

      • 0 avatar
        madman2k

        I haven’t driven a car with the 2.0 ecoboost, but I have a truck with the 2.7.

        The turbo kicks in at something like 1700 RPM, which happens to be where the transmission usually tries to keep it unless it’s in sport mode.

        There’s not much lag at all and plenty of torque. Passing is super easy, and exceeding the speed limit happens before you know it.

        The turbo that works at low RPM is probably why the ecoboost motors can tow things with less drama and downshifting.

        I haven’t towed a trailer up any hills, but I towed a slightly over 7000lb trailer – it was accidentally overloaded and the trailer brakes weren’t designed for the weight, so I kept it in lower gears than normal because I was going through town and caught a lot of red lights. Power to get moving was not an issue.

        The engine braking effect from the 2.7, at least on mine with 3.31 gears, is not very strong.

        Gravity can really push the truck up to high RPM’s and it doesn’t seem to have the slowing down effect of a bigger engine.

        In Colorado going down some mountains, with my family inside and some weight in the bed, about 700lb, I was putting it down into 2nd gear and running about 4000rpm in order to match the speed limit without using the brakes.

        The cruise control and tow-haul mode do a pretty good job of downshifting, but it’s easy to control yourself too.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    The general consensus appears to be that the MX5 is a super great car yet it’s the only Mazda without The Schnoz.

    Significant?

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