Car makers have introduced some new models for 2016. Here are five of them– four that offer great value, and one expensive model that focuses on great performance.
GMC CANYON DIESEL
The new GMC Canyon mid-size truck was offered with a four-cylinder engine, with a larger V-6 if more towing ability was needed. Now a third choice will be available–a new diesel. Gas mileage is listed at 22/31 mpg in two-wheel drive or 20/29 in four-wheel drive. Horsepower is low at 181, but that massive 369 lbs.-ft of torque will offer comfortable towing ability, up to 7,700 pounds. On the negative side, buying one will not be cheap. The only body offered is the four-door crew cab, with an automatic 6-speed gearbox, and no manual. The starting price is about $35-K. The one tested here was loaded up with goodies, so it reached the $45-K bracket. But it was pleasant to drive, and is going to sell well.
The Mazda Miata, also known as the MX-5, has been totally redone for 2016. Gone is that dated engine that only got 21-28 mpg. This newer motor is rated at 27/34 with the 6-speed manual gearbox which this test car had, or 27/36 with the optional 6-speed automatic that costs a grand more. Although horsepower is only 155, this newer car is quicker, reaching 0-60 mph in about 6.5 seconds. Real-world gas mileage was 27/40 with premium blend.
This is a true sports car, quick cornering ability, strong brakes, and attention-getting styling that attracted crowds on the street. The downside is plenty of road noise, no glove box, no spare tire, and useless sun visors. But with a starting fee of about $25-K and the maxed-out test car at $32-K, the value and fun factor is there. Consumer demand is there as well, so dealers are not giving discounts any time soon.
While this car is sold by Scion dealers, it is actually made by Mazda, which is sold elsewhere as the Mazda Model 2. Mazda didn’t see much profit margin in this small car and Scion needed another new model, so they both made a deal to sell them with the Scion label. Everyone comes out ahead, including the consumer who is getting a nice car. Although the engine only puts out 105 horsepower, it moves well in city traffic. The gas mileage was rated at 33/42 mpg. This test car got 37 in mixed commuting, and up to 45 mpg at 65 mph cruising. That beats any hybrid car we have tested thus far, even the Toyota Prius, which got 42 mpg on the same trip last year. Quick steering, soft ride (for a tiny sub-compact), strong brakes, and a price of about $18-K make this the best car value under $20-K. And if you don’t want the excellent performing automatic gearbox this vehicle had, a smooth 6-speed manual box is offered for less money at about $16.5-K.
This test Scion iM with automatic transmission had a base price of $19-K, and with a few options, was about $21-K. It is mostly a Toyota Corolla under that body, but the difference is this version is a hatchback that offers 21-cubic feet of cargo room in the rear, and more if the second row seats are folded. This Toyota engine has 137 horsepower, and is rated at 28 mpg city, 37 highway, and 32 overall. In the real world, this particular car got 24 city, 27 mixed, and 33 on the freeway at 65-70 mph cruising. This version was equipped with the CVT automatic tranny. EPA figures say the 6-speed manual gearbox gets less gas mileage, but owners say it gets better. We have never driven the manual cars, so can’t say what the real mileage is on those examples.
The iM is pleasant to drive. Some Corolla suspension parts were replaced with better quality bits, so the ride is smoother. Wind and road noise was low on the freeway. Drivers who need room for four adults with gear in the back will find this car very practical. Toyota quality assures it will be running for a long time.
MERCEDES GLE-450 AMG
The base price of this vehicle starts at $65-K. With an extended option list that is too long to show here, the tab came to $84-K plus change. For this fee, we got a powerful 362 horsepower engine hooked to a 9-speed automatic gearbox. This in turn is connected to the Mercedes 4-Matic four-wheel drive system. A computer system with a console mounted control knob gives different settings (sport, sport plus, snow, etc.) for any driving condition. The large 22-inch AMG wheels look good, but add to the price.
This has been marketed as a powerful street car, yet has plenty of ability off-road. However, doing so isn’t very practical. There is very little space inside the cabin, especially in the second row seating area where leg room is lacking, and the trunk is tiny. Going on an off-road camping trip? If so, don’t expect to take much gear. Gas mileage is listed at 17/23, but using that engine power will drop that in a hurry. This is more of a rich person’s toy and not very practical, but very few people will refuse a ride in it. And if driving, few will want to give the car back. That is worth something.