TTAC Staff Thoughts on the Best and Worst Cars of 2018
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.”
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.
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]
Slavuta on Dec 29, 2018
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.
MBella on Dec 30, 2018
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.
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- DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
- Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
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- MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.