By on December 28, 2018

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

A little over a month ago, we ran the results of our best/worst cars of 2018 poll. At the end of each post, I reflected a bit on the results, but I wanted to dig a bit deeper.

While I had hoped to do this a bit sooner, other work got in the way. So Steph and I decided it would be a good way to close out the year.

I already established in the final thoughts for each piece that if we’d averaged things out, as opposed to simply tallying first-place votes, things may have played out differently. As mentioned previously, certain vehicles proved very, very polarizing – the Tesla Model 3 garnered many first-place votes for Best Car, but also saw many 20th-place rankings, while the Jeep Wrangler was heavily nominated for both categories (and entered the Best-Car race due to the adjusted scoring).

So I won’t repeat myself here. What I wanted to do, though, is provide more detail on OUR thoughts. We let you have your say first, keeping our reasoning internal, in order to not influence the voting, but now it can be told.

(We’re not going to mark down every staffer’s every thought – some were more loquacious than others, and you’re busy, anyway, but here’s a sample of what we were thinking:)

Like those in B & B land, the Ford Mustang ranks high among our staff. As Chris Tonn wrote, it’s the “best budget performance car on the market, as long as you don’t get carried away with the options list.”

2018 Ford Mustang, Image: Ford

I’m inclined to agree (full disclosure, I’ve always been a Mustang fan) – Ford continues to make a Mustang that’s a blast to drive and relatively affordable (although all three American pony/muscle cars are no longer as affordable, relative to the overall market, as they once were. Especially if you want V8 power). It’s not perfect, and it gets pricey quick, but it’s a hard car not to love.

Other cars on our best-of list include the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Mazda Miata, Mazda CX-5, and the Honda Civic/Civic Type-R. Add in trucks like the Ford F-Series/F-150 and Ram 1500, as well.

Moderator Adam suggested the two trucks, and I won’t argue with him — much. Having just tested the Ram in Longhorn trim with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8, I loved everything except the gaudy interior stitching. Adam chimes in: “The RAM 1500 is the most refined full sized truck ever. The interior is fantastic and the exterior is still good.”

I’m less enamored of the F-150, but I get why it’s beloved. It’s aged well, the interior is nice, and the engine offerings are solid.

Chris and I also agree on the Honda Civic Type-R, although, in the end, we grouped trim levels together to keep things simple. As such, the Type-R ended up being counted in with all Civics.

Which is fine, were up to me – I like the entire Civic lineup, odd styling aside. The availability of a bargain Si trim doesn’t hurt. As for the Type-R, Chris writes: “While the styling is not attractive, it’s an incredible feat of engineering – and considering the performance, an incredible value. Assuming you can buy one at sticker.”

My take on the Type-R is similar. It’s no looker, but it’s damn near perfect when it comes to driving dynamics. I’d live with that stupid wing just to drive one daily.

Type-R aside, count Steph as another Civic fan: “The Civic represents one of the last opportunities for entry-level car buyers to get what they desire. It’s a trim and bodystyle buffet. Enviable gas mileage, generous room, attractive styling (hatch excluded), engaging road manners even in base trim, the availability of a manual transmission throughout the range, and multiple opportunities to pour on extra power makes it a standout in both the segment and industry.”

Matt, too: “The Civic’s styling is the automotive equivalent of a Michael Bay film. But it’s a fine car.”

My personal tastes run similar to you folks out there – I, too, enjoy sporty compacts like the Volkswagen Golf family, and I also dig fun-to-drive sedans like the Mazda 6. You’ll get no argument from me when it comes to Miatas. Not to mention, the Chevrolet Corvette remains a bargain for a car of its ilk. I’d buy one, if I had the cheddar.

Regrettably, I haven’t yet driven the Model 3 — the vehicle which took the crown. I did enjoy the new Accord, however, and I think Kia’s Stinger is a good first effort. Corey agrees with that latter assessment: “Kia revealed the Stinger concept art, and everyone said ‘Yeah right.’ Then they built it. Affordable, rear-drive, V6. It’s what the American companies won’t build.”

Our staff opinions on the worst cars of 2018 are interesting. Chris pans the Mitsubishi Mirage (your worst overall) as being subpar compared to a 1990 Hyundai Excel, and while it’s been a while since I’ve piloted one, I get the sentiment. As for me, I’d rate the Ford EcoSport as one of the worst vehicles on sale these days – Ford didn’t bother to really try to adjust it for our market. Oddly, the EcoSport still isn’t the worst car in its segment. That honor, in my opinion, goes to the Chevrolet Trax. Slow, cheap, and ugly is no way to go through life, son.

Adam backs me on the EcoSport pick, and he riffs on another product that’s under Ford’s umbrella: The Lincoln MKC. Quoth the mod: “The MKC is a subcompact sized crossover that gets real world gas mileage on par with the largest vehicles Lincoln makes. It is everything that is wrong with crossovers taking over the market. When adjusting for the quality of vehicles being made during various eras, it is the worst Lincoln ever made.”

Corey, too, loathes the EcoSport. It’s actually impressive how much the EcoSport unites us in hate: “An old CUV which was developed for third-world countries, now being sold in the US at first-world pricing. I hate everything about it, and Ford should feel bad,” writes our Rare Ride czar.

2018 Ford EcoSport - Image: Ford

Chris adds another Mitsubishi to the list: The Outlander. That’s because both of us experienced flexing seats on our test cars, which presumably were different units. Like me, Chris also dings the Toyota C-HR over looks and comfort, but unlike me, he also penalizes the Alfa Romeo Giulia due to its reputation for reliability, or lack thereof. I’d have placed the Giulia on a best-cars list, simply because I am a sucker for temperamental beauty.

The Fiat 500L made your list and several of ours. It’s a rolling bubble of boredom, and I hope Fiat Chrysler replaces it soon.

Acura’s ILX hit at least one staffer’s list while also making yours, because being a “warmed-over 2012 Civic,” as Chris says, isn’t enough. The Nissan Titan also made Chris’s list for being old, while Corey dinged the brand’s 370Z for the same reason.

As for my personal list, I’m once again more in line with you guys than not, though there’s a few cars that didn’t make the final list that should have. I don’t understand the existence of Buick’s Cascada – it’s laziness personified to just sell a droptop Opel here, hoping for fleet sales in the Sun Belt. Most of my beefs with the Trax extend to Buick’s similar Encore, though I give it credit for being a bit more upmarket and actually boasting reasonable styling.

I also have hate for the Outlander and Outlander Sport – it shows that Mitsubishi is barely hanging on. Nissan’s Sentra is a clinic in how NOT to do a small car. And I too am annoyed that the ILX isn’t the sporty entry-lux car it could be, especially since Acura could move it to the current-gen Civic platform.

What’s interesting is that, with a few exceptions on both sides of the ledger, TTAC staff are more in agreement than not with each other — as well as you, dear reader. Whether that’s a sign of groupthink among car enthusiasts or not, I’ll let you debate. Personally, I don’t think it’s mindless groupthink – we know the good and bad when we see it, we know why a given vehicle is good or bad, and we know which ones fit which criteria – but rather, legit consensus among those who know their way around the industry.

There you have it folks. TTAC’s staff’s thoughts on the best and worst cars of 2018. Have a happy new year, all.

[Images: Acura, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi, Tesla]

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40 Comments on “TTAC Staff Thoughts on the Best and Worst Cars of 2018...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Ok, your reasoning and choices seem well thought out and since I don’t have any first hand experience with any of these vehicles I’ll default to our expert TTAC staff

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I want to see a Trax vs EcoSport review for the crown of crappyness.

    Hack my life baby!

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I wouldn’t be interested in either when you can get a Renegade for less

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      Lizzie Borden style or Freddie Krueger?

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      The Ecosport is selling almost 6,000 units a month. Add in the 8,000 Trax that Chevy moves each month and we almost have around 170,000 of these little crap boxes being put on the road each year. If they were one model, they would be around the 9th best selling car in the nation.

      I’m amazed at how stupid the American consumer is. The only shining light is the cars will prove so crappy that they will switch back to cars. Time (and Third World driving dynamics) is a great healer, as they say!

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        ” The only shining light is the cars will prove so crappy that they will switch back to cars. ”

        What makes you think that crappy little economy cars are any better then crappy little crossovers? If I had to choose between the two I’d still go with the crappy crossover

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          That isn’t the point. Many people who bought crappy economy cars never went back to economy cars. So hopefully, people who buy crappy CUVs will not go back to CUVs.

          • 0 avatar
            volks92

            Those who have a bad experience with economy CUVs are likely to solve their problem buying a bigger, better CUV, as did the people who used to buy economy cars.

          • 0 avatar
            jatz

            “likely to solve their problem buying a bigger, better CUV”

            This. Who’s going back to being eye-level with everyone else’s door handles if they can avoid it?

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      I wonder how these compare to the Jeep Patriot/Compass (whatever one they still make).

  • avatar
    vanpressburg

    Honda Civic Type-R is the best car of 2018,
    but I heard it has a lot of tire noise, doesn’t it?

  • avatar
    JMII

    Not to mention, the Chevrolet Corvette remains a bargain for a car of its ilk. I’d buy one, if I had the cheddar.

    The real bargain (no surprise) is a USED C7 like I got. This way you can save your cheddar for gas. Most ‘Vettes lead a sheltered life as garage queens just moving from one Cars and Coffee meet to another. They come with summer only tires so unless the previous owner put all seasons on it or lived in a year around warm climate (FL/CA) the car likely only saw good weather limited use. As such you can get a low mileage (my ’14 had just 17K) at HALF the price of a new one. There were very few changes over the last 4 years, basically just infotainment upgrades, so an “old” C7 isn’t a compromise.

    I daily and track mine just like I did with my previous 350Z. I’ve had it for 5 months with just 2 very minor issues: the SiriusXM antenna worked occasional and the power lumbar/side bolster drivers seat will no longer hold pressure. I fixed the antenna with a $15 aftermarket part (DYI easy) but not sure what to do about the seat. The part is less then $200 but the labor/effort to reach it seems excessive. I swore off GM products after my wife’s Cavalier and father’s TrailBlazer both of which were major junk, but the ‘Vette appears to benefit from being engineered and built outside the normal GM sphere of influence.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I agree, of all the true sports cars on the planet the Corvette is by far the best value

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        And it is also a great sports car. All sports cars are compromising other areas, whether it is cargo space, passenger space, etc. But the Vette manages to keep those compromises, save the extra passengers, to a minimum, especially when you consider the performance envelope. JMII is correct that most are used as toys. My 2014 is just for fun and the mileage at 11000 miles indicates that. Garage kept, it is basically a new car. I had to pay full freight in the spring of 2014, but today you can either go used with a “queen” like my car or get a new one with 20% off MSRP. Either way you have a car with capabilities well beyond what you can tap on a typical street. If you are fortunate enough to live where you have open two-lane roads that wind through the countryside then you will be in your glory. The sheer thrill of generating such high g-forces will keep a smile on your face in perpetuity…

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          The car grips like crazy, its shocks most people as for years the ‘Vette was just big engine wrapped in a plastic body. However these days it is no slouch in the handling department. The trunk space is huge, my wife actually prefers to use the C7 over our Q60 coupe for grocery trips as there is more room in hatch.

          • 0 avatar
            87 Morgan

            I have an 05′ C6 as, for me the C7 was still more dough than I was willing to part with.
            I highly encourage all who will entertain the idea, give a high five to every jort New Balance sneaker wearing C&C only Vette’ driver you see. These guys enable the rest of us to buy their car from them at a steep discount while they methodically washed and waxed the Vette’ after every 2nd use regardless if it was needed or not.
            For now, I am 13k miles driven, total of 47k on odo and have spent a little more than $500 on repairs on the car. $300 of it was me replacing the wrong part, throttle body, when I later determined some wiring had been ‘redone’ at some point very poorly. Can’t really blame GM for that. So for me, my summation is a 15 year old Vette for less than 20k = great amounts of fun.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            You can keep your car immaculate (like me) and pound on it (like me)…but I do know some that are waxers only…and they own all types of cars…but yeah the amount of old(er) Vettes available in pristine low mileage condition is amazing. No wonder the high(er) mileage cars go for dirt…

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            87 Morgan, I wish I could upvote your comment. You are absolutely correct. The stereotypical middle aged Corvette buyer is your best friend when you buy one used. I’m currently on the fence about pulling the plug and buying one. Maybe in the next year or two, especially if the C8 craters C7 prices.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I’m a bit torn between replacing my Roadmaster with a C3/C4/early C6 as a “Sunday Driver” car in 2019 or holding off and replacing the Stinger in a few years with a C7 as my primary car.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Z to Corvette is a very natural progression. Glad you track it as well, it’s made for it.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        “Maybe in the next year or two, especially if the C8 craters C7 prices.”

        If anything it seems more like the C7 will hold value if not go up, like air-cooled 993s did as the last of their breed. As the last front engine ‘Vette, a similar dynamic (though probably not as insane) wouldn’t be surprising…

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    “…the Model 3 — the vehicle which took the crown.”

    took the crown?
    really?
    this comment totally shuts down the discussion and i walk away.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    For me, the Tesla 3 has to be the winner.
    Musk sold so many, that I can now buy gas for my dinosaurs at a buck seventy five a gallon.

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    Too funny. Only a few short hours ago we encountered a Trax at a 4-way stop and as he crossed in front of us I said out loud to the missus “he does know he could have bought anything else, right”.

  • avatar
    jatz

    People who hate the EcoSport also hate babies and puppies.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    The poorness (if that is a word?) of the Ecosport and Trax is catagorically unacceptable. GM and Ford decided to get out of the ‘car’ manufacturing business, which is fine. But they had better figure out how to design, build and market a ‘cute ute’ stat of they want to compete as this market is probably the only one with any true growth in the near future for a year or two. The sub 30k CUV market is way too important to insult the masses with these poor efforts.

    I had two Equinox (company cars), put 150k on them combined and found that I really liked them. Good size, decent power (not great but I really was not expecting LS performance) for what they were and great MPG for an AWD 4 mil. Why they can’t shrink that down just a tad and find a different name than Trax I have no idea.

  • avatar
    brn

    “(although all three American pony/muscle cars are no longer as affordable, relative to the overall market, as they once were. Especially if you want V8 power).”

    I think it’s a matter of expectations. The 300+ hp ecoboost model gets to 60mph in about 5 seconds. That’s quick! It also handles better than it’s V8 predecessors. Starting at $25K (street), the Mustang is still a great example of affordable muscle.

  • avatar
    brn

    I get and appreciate your “best of” examples. Don’t agree 100%, but it’s quite reasonable and reminds us that you are automobile enthusiasts.

    Every car on the “worst of” has redeeming qualities. They have their place, though they may not survive.

    Not quite sure how the MK-C made your worst. I haven’t driven it, but it’s Ford equivalent is an exceptional (albeit boring) vehicle. Maybe the lack of excitement carries over to Lincoln and is why it made your list.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      That’s true. The Echosport is roomier than some vehicles in its class that are larger outside. Ford is working on a next-gen model right now based off the new Fiesta, I’m sure itll be better suited to markets like ours. Probably the same deal with the Trax.

      But, really, are any vehicles in that category well-liked by the B&B? Some have praised the Kicks, but it’s still and ugly little POS with no available AWD and only a CVT. Same with the CH-R. The Renegade is about the only enthusiasts choice, but it isnt that great.

      These vehicles are not built for enthusiasts. They’re built for people who dont know cars and don’t care to. They’re easy to park, have ride height, are practical and not expensive. That works for some people.

  • avatar
    carguy67

    ‘… the Ford Mustang ranks high among our staff. As Chris Tonn wrote, it’s the “best budget performance car on the market, as long as you don’t get carried away with the options list.”’

    Can confirm. Just exchanged my 2008 Bullitt Edition for a 2019. Has the options I think you’d want on pretty much any ‘Stang: Coyote, Magneride, Brembo front calipers and electronics package (left the Recaros at the dealers). Throttle body and intake manifold from the GT350 for a bit more top end, and Torsen LSD 3.73 on the rear end (may be standard on V8s).

    One standard part of the Bullitt package I’ve not seen mentioned is the ‘Engine Cover Delete’ (along with ‘Bling Delete’ and ‘Spoiler Delete’). Why on earth would you cover that marvelous engine with a big slab of plastic, ever?

  • avatar
    vanpressburg

    How is the ride on Civic Type R, can it be a daily driver?
    I tried Subaru sti and I felt every rock on the road.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I don’t get phrase for Civics. They are so basic in their base trims. To get split folding rear seat and variable intermittent wipers you need to climb trim ladder. Once you do this, you are really in a price range where you can get bigger car with more options. Then I drove Si, Sport Hatch – nothing special. Many complain about exteriors – I don’t like the interiors.

  • avatar
    MBella

    I’m going to criticize the lovefest for the Ram. It might be as good as you can get as a car, but they’re not good as trucks. As people here claim to be about practicality, the Ram is bad at being a truck. With any kind of real load, it chugs fuel like crazy. Before I got my Silverado, I narrowed my colleague’s Ram to tow my utility trailer and pick up some firewood. It did absolutely awful. The amount my 4X8 trailer bogged down the truck was amazing. This was with a Hemi and tow package. On my 5.3 Silverado, unloaded it might not be a race car, but with a bed full of soil, or my heavily loaded utility trailer, its performance loss isn’t really noticable. I also trust leaf springs more than coils for actual truck use. The Ram is real only good for the urban cowboy crowd that will never use their truck for work. If you’re daily driving one, the F-150 seems to be the best compromise. It rides nice, but is still tough enough to be a real truck.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Anecdata, but everyone I know that likes Rams and gets a truck for “work” goes with a 2500/3500 while those that want a “car” get the 1500. As many have pointed out a lot of these half-ton trucks exist to replace the former full-size sedan (or muscle car) segment(s), so I’m not sure FCA’s strategy of having a softer half-ton hurts them that much.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I’m not saying it’s the wrong strategy for Fiat. I’m saying we shouldn’t be praising them for it. Crossovers are almost universally hated on this blog, but a company would be stupid not to have one in every category. I’m saying the Ram shouldn’t get praise for basically being a modern lifted El Camino and sold as a half ton truck.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        That may reenforce MBella’s point. Plenty of Ford and Chevy half tons out there working. If you have to step up to a 2500 Ram to do any work, he’s not wrong.

        I like the styling and the ride, but yeah, payload sucked, at least on the last one.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I like the interior. I think it is excellent. I think the exterior looks great as well.

      However, I would buy an F150. I really like the STX package. It’s my perfect truck. Everything I want on a truck, and nothing I don’t.


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