Let’s Golf! Third Auto Builds a 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is famous for combining performance without sacrificing practicality. By thoughtfully integrating performance upgrades into the efficient and roomy Golf platform, the brand has been able to build a reputation for the GTI has as a fun car with few compromises and a reasonable price. For 2019 Volkswagen made some trim line changes and added more horsepower and more powerful brakes as standard equipment across the line. Let’s build one of these storied GTI’s to find the best balance of features, performance, value and style.

Trim Levels:

Starting with trim levels, shoppers have five to choose from. The base S has all of the essentials and includes the signature Clark Plaid cloth seat coverings that have become emblematic of the GTI among car enthusiasts. Style and convenience features are available on the new Rabbit Edition, which includes LED headlights and keyless access with push-button start. Also included are stylish dark wheels. Unfortunately, only a few exterior colors are available for the Rabbit Edition. However, the vivid Cornflower Blue is quite eye-catching.

Move up to the SE and luxuries like leather seating surfaces, a panoramic moonroof and 8″ touchscreen come standard. Although the SE’s interior is less charming without the plaid, the amenities make for a more comfortable cabin that will make the GTI better suited for the long haul. With a starting price of $31,795, the Golf GTI SE is reasonably priced and very well-equipped, making it the pick of the litter. The top-end Autobahn model costs over four grand more and adds features that aren’t exactly must-haves. We’ll proceed with the SE and continue with the build.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI trims


With the Golf GTI in SE trim shoppers have access to a fairly wide range of colors. A standout paint color that was added for the 2018 model year is Great Falls Green Metallic, which is a rich medium green that nicely fits the GTI’s understated and somewhat quirky personality. Let’s go with that and move on to the interior.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Great Falls Green Metallic

Within the cabin shoppers can choose from any color as long as it’s black, Titan Black to be specific. Red stitching contrasts nicely with the black leather and creates a cohesive look by matching with the red trim found throughout the exterior. It would be awfully nice if Volkswagen was able to add at least some plaid trim to the leather interior, perhaps with door inserts.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI interior

As with the base Golf, the Golf GTI’s dashboard is straightforward, highly functional and exudes quality. The classic design may not excite like some trendier interior, however the timeless look will never go out of style. Time to shift over to the transmission as we complete the build.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Titan Black Leather


Here’s where things get controversial. Purists will say go with the standard manual transmission, which has no added cost and provides a more engaging driving experience. Pragmatists will insist that the 7-speed automatic is more efficient and better adaptable to a variety of driving situations. For today’s build we’ll save some cash and go the traditionalist route with the old-school manual transmission. The next and final stop is options.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI manual transmission


Volkswagen makes things pretty simple when it comes to selecting options for the 2019 Golf GTI SE. There is only one available, the Experience package. Comprised of a Fender Premium Audio System and DCC adaptive chassis control, this is well worth the $860 investment.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Experience Package


That brings our build to a close. This 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE with Experience package and a manual transmission retails for
$32,690 before fees. Considering the level of equipment and performance packed into the Golf GTI, this represents a very good value for a vehicle that can handle trips to the superstore just as well as bombing down the interstate at sufficient pace.

Side Note:

Volkswagen would be well served by leveraging the specialty approach perfected in the Golf GTI, of adding distinctive and significant performance updates to core models, by scaling it across their lineup. Outfit the Tiguan with Clark Plaid seats and drop in major engine and brake upgrades and it’ll be everything that the Tiguan R-Line simply isn’t. Call it the Tiguan TGI and capture market share from the Mazda CX-5 and Volvo XC60.

[Images: Volkswagen]

Building a 2019 BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series sedan has been completely redesigned for the 2019 model year. As we previously covered, the 3 Series has carefully evolved throughout the decades and has traditionally placed an emphasis on sporty driving dynamics, technology and crisp design. Styling has generally been conservative, and the seventh-generation model carries on that theme.

The exterior is handsomely rendered and features luxury styling cues, like chrome window surrounds, combined with aggressive bodyside sculpting and an integrated decklid spoiler. It all makes for an assertive, yet restrained design that’s distinctively European. It strikes a balance between the swishy Mercedes-Benz C-Class and somewhat cartoonish Lexus IS. The 2019 3 Series sedan is lower than its predecessor and that makes for a more grounded appearance while also paving dividends when it comes to handling.

In terms of driving dynamics, initial press coverage reports that BMW has put extra effort in to make this generation 3 Series a more enjoyable drive that its predecessor. Within the auto enthusiast sphere it has been widely suggested that the 3 Series softened over time and lost its razor-sharp performance, so it’s reassuring to learn that BMW may have taken the feedback to heart and righted the ship. Unfortunately, a manual transmission is no longer offered, which is sure to disappoint some loyalists.

Now that we’ve touched on the heritage, design and dynamics of the all-new 2019 BMW 3 Series sedan, lets build one to find the best combination currently available.


2019 BMW 330i

We’ll begin under the hood. For the initial launch BMW is only offering the 330i equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine. It’s good for 255-hp and a respectable 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds in rear-wheel-drive form. While, all-wheel-drive is available, we’ll forgo it to save a bit of coin and also stick with the traditional driving wheels for the 3 Series. Before destination the price is $40,250. While it’s easy to go overboard when outfitting a BMW, we’ll be pragmatic with this build so as to combine the best elements for most drivers without an exorbitant final price.


2019 BMW 3 Series Designs

Shoppers must select one of three design trims on the 2019 BMW 3 Series sedan. The standard Sport Line comes with chrome window surrounds and features black high-gloss trim on the bumpers. It makes for a nicely balanced look between upscale and performance. The glossy black trim is replaced with chrome accouterments in the Luxury trim level, which, although unoffensive, don’t quite fit the character of the car as well and seem tacked on. The top-level trim in terms of price is M Sport, which has gloss black window surrounds, larger wheels and other details, but will set you back a cool five grand. The standard Sport Line does a good job of blending the best elements of both trims together and comes with attractive standard wheels, so we’ll go with that and proceed to the next stage.

Colors & Wheels:

2019 BMW 3 Series colors

Lighter colors nicely set off the deep bodyside and hood sculpting. Alpine White looks excellent on the new 3 Series. However, darker colors contrast with the Sport Design’s chrome trim and nicely set off the chrome grille. Black Sapphire Metallic gives a crisp and classic look to the exterior, slightly edging out the deep and lustrous Mediterranean Blue Metallic for top dark paint color.

2019 BMW 3 Series wheels

We’ll now step inside to admire the modern and clean design. BMW did a nice job of injecting some excitement into the cabin and it has a very upscale look that coveys solidity. From the design of the 14-way power seats to the metal and wood accents that adorn the dashboard and doors, there’s a strong sense and craftsmanship. While all of the interior colors on offer look very nice, it’s high-contrast Oyster leather combined with black carpeting and trim that has the sharpest appearance. Well worth the upgrade, the lovely Oyster color is only available with leather upholstery which costs $1,700 over the standard SensaTec, which is BMW speak for pleather. Next up, let’s have a look at the packages and options.

2019 BMW 3 Series Oyster interior
2019 BMW 3 Series Oyster interior dash

Packages & Options:

Choose the $2,150 Convenience Package for its lumbar support, keyless entry including hands-free trunk opening, SiriusXM Satelite Radio and active blind spot detection. This is a well-rounded package that equips the 3 Series with features that should really be standard.

The Premium Package brings with it niceties such as a heated steering wheel, navigation system and large 12.3″ infotainment display, among other features.

There are several stand-alone options that are worth checking off the list. For optimal sound quality the $875 Harman Kardon surround sound system has 12 speakers, including two central bass speakers located under the front seats. A $500 wireless phone charging tray adds convenience and can be had with a WiFi hotspot.


That brings our grand total for this well-equipped 2019 BMW 330i to $49,520 including destination. So here we have it, a 2019 BMW 3 Series with a great color combination and packed with all of the must-have features, all for under fifty grand.

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class will set you back just about as much, while the Lexus IS and Audi A4 will come in slightly less expensive once optioned up comparably. With fresh styling and a refocus on performance, the 2019 BMW 3 Series sedan is an appealing choice for shoppers looking for a luxury compact sedan that’s fun to drive and sharply designed.

[Images: BMW]

Building a [Big Money] 2019 BMW X7

For 2019 BMW has introduced the X7, its largest ever SUV, which slots above the mid-size X5 and X6 in the brand’s massive crossover lineup. The full-size X7 is designed to comfortably seat up to seven passengers, with a far more hospitable third-row seat than can be had in the X5. Competing head-to-head with the Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lincoln Navigator and Land Rover Range Rover, the X7 carries a starting price of $73,900.

As with most vehicles within the full-size luxury SUV class, the starting price is a mere suggestion of what shoppers will actually end up paying.  BMW is known for bundling must-have features into available packages or as stand-alone options, so when it comes to keeping the sticker price below $80,000, resistance is futile. Let’s build a well-equipped 2019 X7 and see how many Benjamin’s we owe Bayerische Motoren Werke.  


Starting in the engine compartment, BMW offers two choices. The X7 xDrive40i features the brand’s buttery smooth inline six-cylinder engine, good for 335-hp and a 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds. For those who frequently tow, the V-8 engine available in the X7 xDrive50i will be appealing, but you’ll pay dearly for the rumble of that powerplant and a slightly faster 0-60 time and 121 additional horsepower, as the 50i carries a massive $18,700 price premium over the xDrive40i. Since the six-cylinder provides commendable performance for most driving situations, let’s proceed with the $73,900 X7 xDrive40i.

2019 BMW X7 Engine Options


Up next, BMW has shoppers choose between the standard Luxury Design package, which features chrome trim and traditional luxury vehicle styling cues. For an additional $2,900, the M Sport package ditches the shiny bits for a blacked out style and sportier wheels that conveys a “muscular aesthetic”, according to BMW. Overall, the M Sport styling more closely aligns with the brand’s pedigree, and sets the X7 apart from the chromed-out competition, so we’ll proceed with this package, bringing the price up to $76,800. Ca-ching!

2019 BMW X7 M Sport


Disappointingly, BMW only offers five colors for the M Sport version of the X7 xDrive40i, none of which are very exciting. However, classic Alpine White sets off the blacked-out M Sport exterior detailing nicely, so we’ll proceed with this.

2019 BMW X7 Alpine White


While the X7 has a number of available wheel sizes and designs, the standard  21″ Double-spoke bi-color orbit grey wheels that come with the M Sport eschew the fussiness of the other options, so we’ll stick with these and incur $0 in additional expenses. 

2019 BMW X7 Wheels


To liven up the color palette, Cognac Vernasca Leather gives the X7 some warmth and character and adds $1,450 to the bottom line. Fineline Stripe Brown High-gloss Wood Trim provides a nice accent and is available at no extra cost. Score!

2019 BMW X7 Cognac Vernasca Leather


Be prepared to make it rain with those dollar bills, we’re up to the Packages stage of BMW’s build process. With no less than seven packages available, ranging in price from $700 up to $3,850 each, this is where BMW makes their coin and shopper’s part way with cold hard cash.

The Cold Weather Package comes at a cost of $1,200 and includes heated front and rear seats, a 5-zone automatic climate control system, a heated steering wheel and front armrest. This package is a must-have. 

The Luxury Seating Package brings 20-way power, ventilated and massaging front seats. At a time when mainstream cars costing tens of thousands of dollars less than the X7 come with some of these features, this is a package without which the X7 would feel incomplete. Comfort comes at a cost, this package will set you back $1,600.

While an Off-road Package and Dynamic Handling Package are offered, the X7 will fulfill the majority of its day-to-day duties just fine without them. Let’s skip these and move on.

The Parking Assistance Package allows the X7 to be automatically parallel parked, and also includes the capability to remotely view the X7’s surrounding’s when its parked through the BMW Connected App.

Finally, that brings us to the $3,000 Premium Package, which according to BMW is comprised of “exclusive features that enhance the premium persona of your BMW”. These include heated and cooled cupholders, remote engine start, soft-close doors, a premium sound system and more.


Ready for some decadence? The 2019 BMW X7 offers stand-alone options that include features that really bring the interior ambiance to the next level. Panoramic Sky Lounge LED Roof allows a selection of colors to be projected onto the moonroof, bringing a sense of occasion to nighttime driving. Handmade diamond-cut glass fittings ad elegance to the cabin, allowing the X7 to truly sparkle. To accent the glimmering controls, a leather dashboard adds to the luxurious atmosphere. The total cost for these additions comes out to a $2,600 even.

2019 BMW X7 Options

Grand Total:

Whip out your credit card, folks! The grand total for this pimped out 2019 BMW X7 xDrive40i with M Sport Design, a total of four package, and three options comes out to a cool $88,345 after destination and handling. That is a $14,445 increase over the base price and brings with it some of BMW’s most luxurious interior fittings and technologies.

2019 BMW X7 M Sport Alpine White

For comparison, this is about how much a well-equipped Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lincoln Navigator and Land Rover Range Rover will cost. Overall, the BMW X7 is a compelling interpretation of a full-size luxury SUV that offers impressive craftsmanship and a dizzying amount of technology, not to mention bold styling, to set it apart from the crowd.

[Images: BMW]

Discovering Automaker’s Awesome Original Websites: Japanese Luxury Roundup

In the mid-1990’s most automotive brands that existed at the time began launching websites as digital was rapidly becoming the next frontier and offered an opportunity to showcase products and influence consumers as they perform research. Early examples of auto manufacturer websites provide a unique window into brand identity as there were wild variations in style and tone compared to the much more uniform websites of today, where virtually all have a nearly identical layout and user experience.


Lexus then

Lexus.com, 1996

The first snapshot of Lexus’ website was recorded on December 22, 1996. Creatively titled “Lexus Centre of Performance Art”, the website navigation is overlaid atop an sketch that resembles an interpretation of an ancient Roman villa. Resembling a guide for tourist in a faraway land, perhaps Lexus employed this model to help guide brand-new internet users by leveraging a familiar map-based layout from traditional printed media. There is also a “concierge” named Alex prominently featured, who was doubtlessly utilized by befuddled website visitors back in the day. According to the description Alex is there to “help you at any time, on any page”. Perhaps the most striking element of Lexus’ homepage in 1996 was that there was no imagery of their vehicles. At this time the brand’s lineup consisted of the ES, GS, LS, SC and LX.

Lexus now

Lexus.com, 2018

Fast forward 22 years and we encounter Lexus’ website in 2018. Taking on a far more sophisticated look, the design has been cleaned up and organized. Alex the concierge has retired, however there is a “Shopping Tools” menu with visuals for top functions at the bottom of the page. As web users as a whole became more acclimated to navigating websites and assimilated to the digital word, we notice less copy and far more visuals. While less cluttered, the website has certainly lost some personality over time. Here’s a little message for Lexus: Bring back Alex! Perhaps he could be reborn as a virtual chat assistant. In 2018 the brand’s lineup has doubled in size compared to 1996. The current vehicles are the IS, ES, GS, LS, RC, LC, NX, RX, GX, LX.

RELATED: Lux SUV Olympics: Going For Gold!

Continue Reading “Discovering Automaker’s Awesome Original Websites: Japanese Luxury Roundup”

Tumbling Dice: Gambling On Tailfins

At a time when only the flashiest and most unique luxury sedans are postured to thrive in a market increasingly shifting toward SUVs, a strong case can be made for Cadillac to go balls to the wall with their sedans. Bring back the names, like Fleetwood and DeVille, bring on the chrome and tailfins. Make Cadillac sedans look bespoke, eye-catching and stylish beyond compare. Make the design proudly American, with bold lines and fearlessly shaped sheet metal.  A Cadillac emblem atop the grille is a must. It might take awhile before Cadillac ratchets things up to that level, however in the meantime the 2019 Cadillac CT6 provides the perfect template for the start of the brand’s renaissance era.


The existing Cadillac CT6 has strong bones to build up. However, it is letdown by elegantly rendered but anonymous styling; it doesn’t look like a Cadillac.

Should Cadillac decide to go all in with a bolder design direction, they have an excellent foundation to build upon with the current CT6. With an excellent chassis and advanced lightweight construction, it is only letdown by ho-hum exterior styling and an interior design that lacks wow-factor.


Let’s call this the 2020 Cadillac Fleetwood. Adding classic design cues to the foundation of the CT6 result in the Fleetwood imbuing the presence of thundering Cadillacs of yesteryear. A character line starting at the front fender extends the length of the vehicle and transitions into the tailfin, which is punctuated by an exuberantly extended tail lamp design. Wheels are at once elegant and powerful and come directly from the 2003 Cadillac Sixteen concept car.

Improving the exterior is easy, just add tailfins. Elegantly extended taillamps flanked along the rear-quarter shoulder of the vehicle is a statement piece that sets the tone for a complex and eye-catching design philosophy. Leveraging shadow and light, the doors and fenders take on a more cohesive look with sculpting all the way from beneath the A-pillar, across the doors, and into the tailfins, lending a graceful forward motion to the design.

Cadillac Sixteen- Wikipedia

The 2003 Cadillac Sixteen concept car provides hits of Cadillac’s potential if a more expressive design language is embraced.

Pulled from the 2003 Cadillac Sixteen concept sedan, the gorgeous wheel look like nothing else on the market and are at once modern and a nod to the brand’s decades of design excellence, with echos thundering 1960’s Cadillacs in their detailing.

1959 Cadillac Eldorado.JPG

The legendary 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, replete with gloriously large tailfins.

These updates would be fairly easy to implement with a refresh of the CT6 and would go a long way toward making Cadillac a fearless design leader, rather than a follower. Using a mildly undated CT6 as a springboard for truly revolutionary designs the brand could easily begin a return to the glory of its golden era in the 1950’s and follow-up with a succession of ground-up elegant, powerful and distinctly American designs that honor the past while looking toward the future.

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Smart. Actionable. Insightful. ThirdAuto.com Now Offers Automotive Industry Analysis & Consulting Services For Manufacturers, Sales Organizations & Media.

36176972_2130100717221198_3731073798393298944_nThird Auto offers expert automotive industry consulting services for dealerships, manufacturers and media companies. With a focus on consumer trends, sales analysis and digital marketing tactics, Third Auto can provide insights and information across key areas within the automotive sector. ThirdAuto.com also offers exclusive Sponsored Content placement opportunities for advertisers. Please contact us for additional information.

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[Images: Cadillac, Wikipedia, ThirdAuto.com]

2018 Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is a popular sedan that competes with the Honda Civic and other compacts. Priced from $18,550, the Corolla is slotted above the subcompact Toyota Yaris and below the midsize Toyota Camry in the brand’s lineup. The Corolla is a basic and reliable choice, but not very engaging. As an efficient commuter car it does its job well, however this might not be the best choice to take on a long road trip.

Pros: Efficient, Low Price, Roomy Interior, Durable, Standard Advanced Safety Features

Cons: Boring Inside & Out, Not Engaging To Drive, Excessive Road Noise

Looks Best In: Blizzard Pearl exterior/Almond interior

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Competition:  Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze, Nissan Sentra, Volkswagen Jetta, Kia Forte

Safety Score: The 2018 Toyota Corolla was awarded the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick distinction.

Summary: Basic and reliable, the Toyota Corolla is a safe, if unexciting, choice. Toyota Safety Sense is a standout standard safety feature suite that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and other advanced safety features as standard. These items are either optional or not available on many competitors. For a more engaging driving experience check out the Honda Civic.

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[Images: Toyota]

2018 Ford Escape

Among the best-selling vehicles in America, the Escape nameplate has been extremely popular ever since its launch in the early 2000’s. The reason for its success is that it combines utility with a comfortable and car-like ride. The 2018 Ford Escape is the brand’s compact SUV, with prices start at an MSRP of $23,850. The Escape should be just the right size for a majority of shoppers, however Ford offers many other options if it’s not quite the ideal fit.  The mid-size two-row Ford Edge and three-row Ford Explorer round out Ford’s car-based SUV’s and have significantly more stretch-out space and cargo room inside compared to the Escape.

Pros: Engaging Drive, Powerful Engines, Premium Interior

Cons: Smaller & Less Efficient Than Competitors, Hybrid No Longer Offered, Outperformed In Safety Tests By Competitors

Looks Best In: Cinnamon Glaze exterior/ Charcoal Black interior

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Competition: Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Tiguan, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet EquinoxMazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4

Safety Score: The 2018 Ford Escape received a “Poor” rating for the passenger-side small front overlap crash test performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and was outperformed by some competitors.

Summary: With crisp handing, smooth engines and a nicer interior than some competitors, the Escape is a driver-focused compact SUV. However, if fuel efficiency is a major concern, there are so better options and even a few hybrids within the compact SUV category.

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[Images: Ford]

2018 Ram 1500

The 2018 Ram 1500 enters its final year before a redesign. Routinely among one of the best-selling automobiles in America, the Ram competes directly with the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. Prices start from an MSRP of $27,095 and, like most large pickups, it is available with multiple cab configurations and several special editions.

Pros:  Available Diesel, Comfortable Ride, Available V-8, Nice Design, Special Editions

Cons: Outdated Infotainment, Missing Latest Safety Tech

Looks Best In: Granite Crystal/Brilliant Black exterior/ Black/Red interior

2018 Ram 1500 exterior

2018 Ram 1500 interior

What You Should Know: An all-new Ram 1500 is expected to be released for the 2019 model year. Wait for that if you’re interested in the latest safety features, like collision warning and adaptive cruise control, which it’s expected to include. Otherwise, deals are plentiful on the 2018 model.

Coolest Feature: The wonderfully over-the-top 33-inch Toyo off-road tires on the Rebel trim.

Competition: Toyota Tundra, Chevrolet Silverado, Nissan Titan, Ford F-150

Summary: Still trendy even in the last model year for the design, the 2018 Dodge Ram 1500 is a solid choice that offers a more comfortable ride than many of its competitors, which could make a big difference on long commutes over bad roadways.

Did You Know? Ram offers a Harvest edition of its truck, which is designed for “farm work” according to Ram’s website. This rig is as American as apple pie!

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[Images: Ram]

2018 Chevrolet Impala

One rung above the midsize Chevrolet Malibu in Chevy’s lineup you’ll find the full-size 2018 Chevrolet Impala. Offering more space and features, it has stretch-out space front and rear and its long wheelbase allows for a smoother ride than those found in the midsize class. It’s an ideal road trip car. Prices start at an MSRP of $27,895.

Pros: Huge Interior, Fuel-Efficient, Luxurious

Cons: No Available V-8

Looks Best In: Iridescent Pearl Tricoat exterior/ Dark Atmosphere/­Jet Black/­Light Wheat interior

2018 Chevrolet Impala exterior2018 Chevrolet Impala interior

What You Should Know: Although the Chevy Impala has all the basics covered, for shoppers seeking a bit more bling and opulence, check out its platform mate, the Buick LaCrosse.

Coolest Feature: Available 3.6L V-6 engine has 305 horsepower and delivers smooth power and decent efficiency.

Competition: Chrysler 300, Hyundai Azera, Toyota Avalon

Summary: The Chevrolet Malibu is a high competent full-size sedan. With it’s massive passenger compartment, it is a high-value choice that can cost less than some midsize offerings if smartly optioned.

Did You Know? Chevrolet’s Impala nameplate dates all the way back to 1958.

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[Images: General Motors]

2018 Chevrolet Malibu

The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu is the brand’s midsize sedan, ranked in the Chevy lineup between the compact Chevrolet Cruze and the full-size Impala. It is available with several powertrain options are available, including a hybrid. Prices start at $21,680.

Pros: Efficient, Comfortable, Available Hybrid, Roomy

Cons: Not Very Sporty,  Expensive Optional Safety Features

Looks Best In: Blue Velvet exterior/ Dark Atmosphere/­Medium Ash Gray interior

2018 Chevrolet Malibu exterior2018 Chevrolet Malibu interior

What You Should Know: The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu has available built-in WiFi, which can be used to connect up to seven devices.

Coolest Feature: The optional wireless device charger makes life easier.

Competition: Toyota Camry, Honda AccordNissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata

Summary: A solid pick in the midsize sedan segment, the Chevrolet Malibu is often overlooked in favor of more popular competitors. It is capable, efficient and a smart choice.

Did You Know? 205,117 Chevrolet Malibus were sold last year, making it one of America’s most popular sedans.

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[Images: General Motors]

2018 Hyundai Sonata

The 2018 Hyundai Sonata is the brand’s popular midsize sedan and is based on the same platform as its cousin, the Kia Optima. With a starting MSRP of $22,935, it competes with heavyweights like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Sonata offers a range of powertrain options, including a hybrid model.

Pros: Roomy, Comfortable, Long Warranty

Cons: Tight Rear Headroom, No V-6

Looks Best In: Scarlet Red exterior/Gray interior


2018 Hyundai Sonata exterior

2018 Hyundai Sonata interior

What You Should Know: The Hyundai Sonata was refreshed for 2018, with sharper styling and more safety and tech features.

Coolest Feature: The optional wireless device charger makes life easier.

Competition: Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima

Summary: The Sonata is a competent and refined midsize sedan that can be outfitted with high-end features.

Did You Know? With 185,614 sold, the Hyundai Sonata was the 22nd best-selling vehicle in 2016, ranked 21st was the compact Hyundai Elantra with 188,763 sold.

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[Images: Hyundai]

2018 Volkswagen Jetta

The 2018 Volkswagen Jetta is the brand’s compact sedan. Combining a more refined driving experience and mature styling, the Jetta looks and feels more grownup than some of its funky competitors. A highlight is the smooth and efficient turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which was named one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines.  Prices start at an MSRP of $18,645.

Pros: Graceful Styling, Refined Engine, Roomy Interior, Seat Comfort

Cons: Pricier Than Competitors. Cheap Interior Details

Looks Best In: Cardinal Red exterior/Cornsilk interior

2018 Volkswagen Jetta exterior

2018 Volkswagen Jetta interior

What You Should Know: With a redesigned model just around the corner, now is the time to snag a great deal on a 2018 Jetta.

Coolest Feature: Optional Fender audio system with 400 watts of power

Competition: Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, and Honda Civic

Summary: The Jetta is very much a European interpretation of a compact car, with more of a focus on driveability, comfort and stability than some rivals. While it can’t compete on price, it offers a more upscale ambiance than models like the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic.

Did You Know? The Jetta is Volkswagen’s best-selling car in the United States.

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[Images: Volkswagen]

2018 Alfa Romeo 4C

For the driving enthusiast looking for something with more character than Porsche Boxter, the 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C provides an avant-garde experience behind the wheel. Driver and passenger should pack lightly though, as there’s hardly any room for cargo. With a starting MSRP of $55,900, the lightweight 4C Coupe features a carbon fiber roof and has a mid-mounted 237-hp turbocharged four cylinder mated to a twin clutch automatic transmission, good for a 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds. It’s also available in convertible form, known as the 4C Spyder. Sadly, no manual transmission is available. Overall, this is a car to enjoy in short spurts of fun, not one to take on a road trip.

Pros: Pure Driving Experience, Lightweight Chassis, Classy Exterior

Cons: Not Practical For Everyday Driving, No Manual Transmission, Minimal Cargo Space

Looks Best In: Rosso Competizione Red exterior/Black interior

2018 Alfa Romeo 4C exterior

2018 Alfa Romeo 4C interior

Coolest Feature:  The strong and lightweight carbon fiber monocoque chassis makes the 4C an excellent companion through twists and turns.

Competition: Porsche Cayman, Porsche Boxter, Chevrolet Corvette, Mazda Miata

Summary: For thrill seekers looking for something less common than the venerable Porsche offerings, the Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe and Spyder bring forth a purist approach to driving.

Did You Know? According to Alfa Romeo, the 4C is assembled at the Maserati workshop in Italy and takes six weeks to complete.

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[Images: Alfa Romeo]