The Los Angeles Auto Show opened last week, and visitors have a lot to consider, including a new Honda Civic that has been redone just 19 months after the previous model hit showrooms and was promptly slammed by critics for its many flaws.
Honda did a lightning-quick revision of the popular car after realizing that compacts from other automakers had passed the top-selling Civic. Honda faced criticism that the 2012 model was noisy, cheap-looking and didn’t handle or perform as well as older Civics.
It’s an unusual and costly do-over. But Honda – among the auto industry’s most highly regarded brands – was worried the car’s flaws would hurt sales and market share, analysts say.
The 2013 version just went on sale, and Honda has given it a sportier profile, replaced its chintzy dashboard and made the ride quieter. Outside, the car got a more aerodynamic look with a new hood, trunk lid and lights.
Here are some of the other most talked-about vehicles that are making their world debuts at the auto show:
MAZDA6 DIESEL: Mazda will offer a diesel version of its new, sportier Mazda6 sedan next year. It’s not releasing full details, but says diesels can get 30-percent better fuel economy than gasoline-powered cars. Mazda says it will be the first Asian automaker to offer a clean diesel engine in a noncommercial vehicle in North America. The revamped 6 is sleeker than the version it replaces.
SUBARU FORESTER: The new Subaru Forester, which will go on sale this spring, has more leg room and cargo space than the previous model of the small SUV. The base 2.5-liter, 170 horsepower engine remains the same, but buyers can also upgrade to a new, 250-horsepower turbocharged 2-liter. The design is less boxy and more aerodynamic, with a new mesh grille and sporty front bumper.
JAGUAR XFR-S: It’s the second model in Jag’s ultra-high performance lineup, with only 100 being offered for sale in the U.S. during the 2014 model year. It has a 550-horsepower supercharged V-8 engine that takes it from zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds, yet it avoids a gas-guzzler tax by getting 23 mpg on the highway. The car starts at $99,000.
PORSCHE CAYMAN: The third generation of the two-seat mid-engine sports coupe is lower, longer, lighter and faster than the old model, yet more efficient, Porsche says. The base model has a 2.7-liter, 275 horsepower engine, while the sportier Cayman S has a 3.4-liter motor with 325 horsepower. The S can hit 60 mph from a standing start in 4.4 seconds. The Cayman goes on sale in the spring and starts at $52,600.
TOYOTA RAV4: The fourth generation of Toyota’s RAV4, which practically invented the crossover segment when it went on sale nearly 20 years ago, has sharper, more aggressive styling, better fuel economy (up to 31 mpg on the highway), a new six-speed transmission and other features to help it compete with the Honda CR-V. The V6 engine option, side-hinged liftgate and optional third-row seat will no longer be offered.
FIAT 500E: The Fiat 500 minicar is bulking up and going electric. The Italian automaker is showing two new versions: An all-electric model that Fiat says will go 80 miles when fully charged and a longer, four-door model that seats five and offers twice the room of the tiny 500. The 500e will go on sale in California in the second quarter of 2013, while the 500 will hit dealerships all over the country in the middle of next year.
BMW I3: The battery-powered concept car, which swaps the traditional steel body for lighter carbon fiber, gives some clues about where BMW is going with its first electric car. BMW says the concept car can go 80 to 100 miles on a battery charge. It has a 170 horsepower electric motor and is rear-wheel drive. Battery cells are under the floor, lowering the center of gravity for better handling. No word on when the car will come to showrooms.
ACURA RLX: It’s a new version of the aging big Acura, the RL. The 2014 RLX will have an all-wheel steering system that controls the steering angles for better handling, a new communications setup and LED headlamps. It’s also 275 pounds lighter and has a new 310-horsepower V-6 that gets 31 miles per gallon on the highway.
CHEVROLET SPARK EV: An all-electric mini-car that will go on sale in California, Oregon, Canada and South Korea next summer. General Motors says the Spark EV will cost less than $25,000 with a federal tax credit and will go at least as far on a charge as rivals like the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus EV, which can go more than 70 miles.
FORD TRANSIT CONNECT WAGON: After a six-year hiatus, Ford gets back into the minivan business with the Transit Connect Wagon. It seats up to seven, has dual sliding doors and will be instantly recognizable thanks to its short size and high roofline. It will get 30-plus miles to the gallon and start around $20,000. It goes on sale in the fall.
LINCOLN MKZ: The totally revamped MKZ is based on Ford’s new Fusion sedan, but the similarities end quickly. The entry-level luxury sedan boasts a metal roof that slides back to open passengers to the sun.