small family cars

small family cars

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The 2014 TSX Sport Wagon is the perfect example of Acura giving shoppers a competitive, unique and well-built luxury station wagon for just above $30,000. And what does the market say in response to the only low-roof hauler in a time when Shooting Brake and coupe bodies have never been hotter?

The market yawns, then saunters over to the RDX sitting nearby in the (usually totally empty of humans) Acura showroom floor. A slightly taller ride height and a V-6 engine are available for a few thousand over this classy and nimble TSX Sport Wagon.

For that cash, the RDX brings much, much newer infotainment controls and available AWD that the TSX lacks.

But the RDX is wearing (even worse) looks these days that are like a melted and shrunken MDX. Or maybe a mushed up Starburst candy.

So the RDX solution is not quite as appealing as when the RDX was a spunky turbocharged bandit.

After being outsold by the brand’s crossovers by more than twenty to one, the TSX wagon is 100-percent carryover for 2014. Some new pics that are not renderings or a photochop are welcome from Acura , but the TSX is in a holding pattern while Acura tries to define its future strategy.

The TSX Sport Wagon is not alone in offering frugal family transit with great quality and handling. The BMW X1 is a sporty and quick rear- or all-wheel-drive crossover new in America for 2013, while the Mazda CX-5 is even a bit more eager in corners than the Acura .

But for the shopper who really wants to make a wagon envy statement?

Please follow the jump for all the details on the 2014 Acura TSX Sport Wagon.

With every passing year, compact cars seem to get better and better, so it’s no surprise that the the Sentra is not the same entry-level, cheapo Nissan it used to be. Our Sentra tester is fitted with the SR trim package, which adds in plenty of bells and whistles that you would expect from a more expensive vehicle, including keyless entry, push-button start and navigation. The best part is the price; at $21,550 as tested, the Sentra SR offers plenty of bang for your buck.

The Sentra SR’s exterior is very well appointed with LED headlight surrounds, sport front and rear bumpers, and side skirts that look like they belong in "The Fast and the Furious" series. Even the alloy wheels look pretty good for the price.

What really pulls the whole exterior together is that Electric Metallic Blue paint that we last saw on the 370Z a few years back. Sure, it’s not a Ferrari, but there’s a lot to take in for the price point.

Nissan Sentra SR

The interior is a not quite as satisfying as the outside, but the push-button start and navigation system for under $22k, we’re not complaining.

The seats are cloth, but they look good for the class, and the dash is padded with the more expensive, soft plastic. Add to that trimming that doesn’t feel like it was stamped in the same Chinese factory as your iPhone case, and the overall interior package is fairly attractive. Top that with good rear leg room, nice visibility all around and folding rear seats, and you have a flexible product with very little compromises.

On the road, the Sentra drives okay, but with a CVT driving the front wheels, it is not an overly exhilarating experience. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels better than a lot of more expensive cars, and the CVT does a good job at limiting torque steer and unwanted movement in the steering wheel.

The suspension is comfortable for daily use, but it also allows you to take corners with confidence. We even caught ourselves taking a few corners fast enough to get a little feedback from the tires, which added a some extra fun to the drive. Is it Porsche fun? No, but it is above average for the econo-box class.

Overall The Nissan Sentra SR gives you a lot for your money. On the outside, it looks good enough to prevent your buddies from chuckling at you when you roll up in it, and inside, you have plenty of premium features to keep you happy for years to come.

Of course, with the 2014 Toyota Corolla debuting a sporty look, your choice of entry-level sedans is getting harder.

Toyota Corolla
Toyota Corolla
Nissan Sentra SR
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Mitsubishi ’s biggest seller brings a number of new updates for 2014 to increase refinement, style and interior technology. Both models move up a notch in driving ability, helping maintain the 2014 Outlander Sport’s class-leading status among the compact crossover market segment.

A new LED running light design is available up front, along with some snazzy blue LED brake lights out back for 2014. A black leading edge of the roof is also quite stylish, and marks out the Outlander Sport SE at the top of the range. In the top trim level, the 2014 model year also brings better leather and a a standard display audio screen.

All Outlander Sports now pack a new balancer shaft for the engine, extra insulation and redesigned steering wheel controls. Overall, the Outlander Sport is still one of the sportiest and best-handling compact crossovers out there.

Is the Mitsu ’s tight handling and build quality enough of an incentive over the Jeep Patriot ? How about the turbocharged Nissan Juke ?

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, with all the updates for this model year, options info, and pricing data on the optional huge glass roof

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Detail changes refine the best-selling Ford Escape for 2014, including a new backup camera and better towing compatibility when equipped with the clever foot-activated power tailgate. The biggest other change to celebrate? A price cut of over $1,000 on the sporty Titanium EcoBoost trim versus 2013.

Full (versus partial on 2013 and before) leather trim inside the Titanium specification is joined by a gigantic available moonroof and a new style of wheels, in what Ford calls 18-inch sparkle nickel painted aluminum.

The Escape still carries much of its concept-car style onto the roads even without the upgraded Titanium’s xenon and LED lights. The proportions are firmly modern but maintain a sense of adventure with tough plastic for the fenders as sills. Overall, this redesign of the previous boxy Escape is a large leap, perhaps two or three normal generations in a single bound.

As such, the tech underneath also matches the future-tech mission of the exterior styling. Three available engines and a twin-clutch automatic are at the very forefront of tech in the crossover space, where the RAV4 and CR-V still bumble along with dated four-bangers and thirsty transmission setups. Is there anything slower than a Honda driver on the phone?

The Escape’s appeal is very solid in the crossover market, even with a price range that can grow far larger than its budget rivals. In top specification, this is truly the thinking man’s Evoque : a mechanically identical sibling of the mini Range Rover , but for almost exactly half the price at all trim levels.

In the real world, is the Escape as sporty as the Mazda CX-5, or as big as the brand-new, 2014 Nissan Rogue that arrives at dealers in November?

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Ford Escape, including all the new colors and trim options to go along with the latest backup camera and SYNC technology.

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Audi unveiled the new-generation A3 hatchback at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show , and shortly after, it started to test the other models in the A3 lineup, including the convertible version.

After being caught testing in many times, the new A3 Cabriolet will make its official debut at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show . To no one’s surprise, the model will carry over many of the components from the hatchback version, with the only exception being, of course, that new cloth top.

The new model grew significantly, as its total length goes from 166.8 inches to 174 inches. Despite this growth, the A3 actually drops 110 pounds over the previous model, thanks to Audi switching over to lightweight materials and the new building technologies.

Updated 09/09/2013: This review has been updated with the official details, images, specs and video.

Updated 06/19/2014: Audi announced prices for the all new A3 Convertible which will be put on sale on the U.S. market as a 2015 model year. Set to go on sale this summer, the A3 Convertible will be priced from $35,600. You will also find a new set of high res images and one new video. Enjoy!

Click past the jump to read more about the Audi A3 Cabriolet.

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This fall’s second Mitsubishi lifestyle concept car looks good enough to cause a double take. The 2014 Outlander H360 Winter Edition adds rich white paint and 20-inch wheels outside, plus a gorgeous quilted leather and suede cabin, to create a very cozy and fashionable way to hit the slopes.

In partnership with lifestyle brand H360 and professional snowboarder Bryan "Guch" Iguchi, Mitsubishi has transformed their popular seven-seat crossover into the ultimate winter shuttle. The styling outside is refined and classy, with those giant wheels really transforming the regular Outlander’s lines into something much sleeker and sportier than the standard model.

The beauty of these H360 makeovers is that they can inspire other Mitsubishi owners to personalize their own cars, and draw people into the brands by reinforcing their outdoor credentials.

Looking like a mix between a Range Rover Evoque and an Audi RS4 Avant , the Outlander H360 Winter Edition is powered by a smooth V-6 engine with S-AWC traction and a very quick sprint pace versus some four-cylinder crossover competitors.

More importantly, the H360 Winter Edition will look at home in Beaver Creek Ski Resort’s valet parking line. A host of interior and exterior additions make up this concept car, which will do the rounds at major auto shows this year.

These H360 concepts are just design exercises, and are not for sale themselves. Even so, they show the scope of accessories and versatility of one of the only value-priced crossovers to offer a third row of seats.

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander H360 Winter Edition, with high-res images of this beauty’s quilted leather interior and trunk-mounted coffee maker.

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Mitsubishi just revealed a pair of fitness and adventure-themed concepts, based on the best-selling Outlander and Outlander Sport . The Summer Edition is a thorough personalization effort, on par with the high-dollar luxury car makeovers from Kahn Design .

The custom Outlander Sport shows off: unique burnt orange metallic paintwork and 20-inch Vossen wheels, with matching satin graphite accents all around and sticky track tires. The wheel size jumps a full 2 inches over the 18-inch rims that are otherwise standard on all the Outlander Sport trims, which start from just $19,170 in manual front-drive configuration.

This H360 Summer Edition is based on the higher-range model, with a SportTronic paddle shift automatic and Mitsubishi ’s AWC four-wheel-drive system. Thule roof bars and matching Trek bikes are only a preview of the inside of this fitness machine.

Created with the help of celebrity fitness coach Jay Cardiello, the Outlander Sport Summer Edition is packing some bold color accents and numerous fitness and outdoor adventure gear. Hard-wired chargers are awesome details for the built-in GoPro and iPad mini in the grey suede headlining.

Click past the jump to get a closer look at those semi-slick Nitto 420S tires of the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport H360 Summer Edition.

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A dyno, a laptop and a dream: the BBM Motorsport upgrade for the E91 generation of BMW 3 Series brings an extra 251 pound-feet of torque with a simple induction, exhaust and ECU re-flash. Yep, this 330d has 635 pound-feet of torque to go with its appealing red foil wrap and 19-inch BBS alloys.

BBM Motorsport’s impressive project really shows the scope of tasteful performance modifications to this generation of BMW 3 Series wagons. From looking like it probably has melted candy in the leather seats, to now looking at home making sparks on the Nordschleife and racing RS6 Avants on the autobahn until the tires or nerves call it quits.

This revamp is pretty cost effective as well, with BBM offering component sales for guys who might only be able to afford one upgrade at a time. The LED lights and matte wrap might be eye-catching, but the real gold comes from 30 minutes of ‘hotsynching’ to the BMW ’s OBDII port.

A more effective ECU re-flash is hard to recall, but as we all know, tuners are not quite OEM in their durability and long-term reliability testing. Does the BBM kit push the limits of this excellent BMW turbo-diesel engine too high?

Despite sounding like a tractor or school bus to American ears, there is actually much more soulful inline-six bellow from the BBM upgrades. Bellows are the last thing you hear before your head meets the seat when the torque comes in a knockout punch.

Click past the jump for the full image gallery and details on the BMW E91 330d Touring by BBM Motorsport’s performance and style upgrades.

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Details about the new Jaguar XQ-type midsize crossover are emerging from Coventry ahead of the $45,000 model’s expected debut next month in Frankfurt . Exclusive TopSpeed renderings offer a speculative glimpse at the styling of this make-or-break next generation of aluminum models.

Twinned with the XQ-type is the Q-type sedan, which will be the smallest models in Jaguar ’s range outside of the F-type sports cars. The XQ-type aims for the sweet spot of the premium crossover market occupied by the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, each of which are formidable competition for Jaguar’s first American family SUV.

Fast-tracking the XQ-type’s ‘PLA’ code name aluminum chassis and body panels means this new compact benefits from both a nimble chassis and the best current and future components in the Jaguar Land Rover parts bin. Both the XF ’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder and the supercharged V-6 are expected, with the latter to offer Jag’s new Instinctive AWD as seen on both the U.S.-market XF and XJ.

A sporty bias for The XQ-type offers enough space between this model and the Land Rover SUVs, and the XQ is even likely to run as a rear-drive model in base configurations.

The XQ’s performance will be closely benchmarked against its German rivals, with further R and R-S options on the table. The beauty of this chopped-length PLA architechture, which will also underpin the new XF and XK, is that even the compact models will be quite wide and should be able to fit the firm’s rorty supercharged V-8 under that shapely ’bonnet.’

Is this the dream Jag for sporty crossover shoppers? Click past the jump to stare into the future of the Jaguar XQ-type, which is a sure thing to be officially imported into the U.S. as a late 2015 or early 2016 model.

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The sporty Mazda5 van brings its unique blend of hauling space, double sliding doors and low-dollar fuel bills into this year intact. The Mazda5 does without the latest touchscreen technology in its versatile cabin, but has a stellar driving position and balanced handling to make up for any missing trendy items.

There are real tradeoffs for the Mazda ’s eager handling and great mileage ratings. A slippery drag coefficient isn’t enough to silence the roars inside this boomy machine at 80 mph, but for some the car’s $20,000 entry price will mean accepting these shortcomings.

Where the Mazda is happiest is in the smart and practical small family car market, where not even larger crossovers can touch its skillful blend of attributes like easy city driving, amble rear-seat access for loading and unloading, and the hauling flexibility of the compact van’s capacious rear cabin (especially with the second row of seats removed).

The unique small minivan market position occupied by the Mazda5 is more crowded than before, with competition from seven-passenger haulers like the Mitsubishi Outlander and Dodge Journey a real threat despite the crossover models’ less-practical, SUV-style rear doors.

The crossover squad is also nowhere near as fuel efficient in daily driving as the Mazda5. While lacking the newest direct injection from the SkyActiv engines, the Mazda5’s 2.5-liter engine is rarely underpowered in the car’s family mission.

Click past the jump for the full review of the Mazda5, with highlights on all the latest updates and changes.


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