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Volkswagen goes mainstream while Lexus just ages

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan cropped for webThe 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is roomier and safer than its predecessor, but it remains on the pricey side for the compact crossover class. COURTESY PHOTO  Look at the characteristics of the most popular vehicles in the U.S., and the two key attributes that will stand out to you are size and price, as Americans understandably look for cars that hit the sweet spot of roominess and affordability.
In recent years, the compact crossover class has exploded for precisely those reasons. At prices well below $30,000, buyers can find well-equipped vehicles with comfortable seating for five passengers and ample cargo.
But one of those compact crossovers – the Volkswagen Tiguan – has in recent years excelled in neither area. Smaller yet more expensive than a Ford Escape, Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, the Tiguan tried to provide a luxury experience at a discount – the sporty performance and outstanding build quality of an Audi, for prices closer to a Honda. But that sales pitch never really worked. While some buyers appreciated the Volkswagen's unique niche, the heart of the market remained elsewhere.

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Subaru sticks with AWD while Ram stays big

2017 Subaru Impreza Limited cropped for webThe redesigned 2017 Subaru Impreza is roomy and user-friendly – but it can get expensive without really feeling fancy. COURTESY PHOTO  On most cars, buyers who want all-wheel-drive have to pay a couple thousand dollars extra for the system – if it's even offered at all.
The Subaru Impreza compact car, like most Subarus, bucks the norm by including the system standard. It's the only car in its class to even offer all-wheel-drive. If you're looking for an affordable vehicle that can easily power through mud or snow, the Impreza sedan or five-door hatchback belongs high on your shopping list.

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Updates to Ford crossover bring it up to par while Chevy is rudimentary

2017 Ford Escape -- cropped for webThe 2017 Ford Escape was updated with revised styling and other upgrades that help it to be competitive with other compact crossovers. COURTESY PHOTO  

The Ford Escape compact crossover is consistently one of the best-selling vehicles in the country – a pleasant vehicle in a hot market segment. Ever since its 2013-model redesign, the Escape has neatly married respectable, almost sporty driving dynamics with a spacious interior and affordable prices. That proved to be a winning combination on the sales front.
However, the Escape had its weak points: mediocre gas mileage, some missing safety features, poor performance in one crash test and a finicky dashboard touchscreen. Ford has now taken steps toward addressing them as part of a comprehensive 2017 update.

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Reviews of the 2017 Buick Envision and Honda Accord

Buick's premium crossover isn't Mercedes-grade

2017 Buick Envision -- cropped for webThe 2017 Buick Envision is a compact crossover that's more luxurious than it looks. COURTESY PHOTO  

At first glance, the new Buick Envision doesn't look particularly notable. This compact crossover blends quietly into traffic, without dramatic styling cues or a badge that screams luxury.

But there's more to it than meets the eye. The Envision, first introduced as a 2016 model, boasts a posh, feature-laden interior and wears a price tag that starts at $34,990 and can surpass $50,000. And it's notable as the first model line to be fully imported to the U.S. from a factory in China.

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Reviews of the Acura ILX and Mazda MX-5 Miata

Acura's premium compact sedan misses the luxury mark

2017 Acura ILX -- cropped for webThe 2017 Acura ILX offers a premium badge at an affordable price – but the humdrum experience isn't worth the money. COURTESY PHOTO  

Ever since Acura started trying to turn the Honda Civic into a luxury sedan back in 2013, the idea had potential. The Civic had solid bones, as a roomy and pleasant-to-drive little car; all Acura needed to add was more upscale styling, a fancier interior, more features and a more powerful engine.

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Reviews of the 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Ford Focus

Electric car i-MiEV is rudimentary but affordable

2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV    COURTESY PHOTO  

The stereotypical electric vehicle is a slow, silly-looking excuse for an automobile that can't go very far before running out of charge. Most of today's EVs avoid this image. The best-selling model is the fast, luxurious Tesla Model S, which goes several hundreds of miles at a time; most other models are simply normal cars that are fitted with a battery instead of an engine.

Then there is the 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which at first glance looks like a walking advertisement for the internal combustion engine. It's a tiny car that isn't very quick and is only rated to travel 62 miles per charge, by far the worst of any all-electric car on sale today. Its interior appointments are basic and the exterior is almost comical.

But if you're at all interested in the idea of a gas-free runabout, you may want to look further into the egg-shaped i-MiEV (pronounced EYE-meev). As long as you wouldn't need to drive long distances in this car, low operating costs and numerous state and federal incentives give it some appeal.

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