Best New and Redesigned Cars of 2016

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Best New Cars of 2016: Introduction

Photo © Aaron Gold

Welcome to the Best New Cars of 2016 -- my picks for the best new and redesigned cars on the US market. Of all the new cars on the market this year, only nine made the list—but we also have three honorable mentions. Let's take a look at the winners!

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Best New Cars of 2016: Acura ILX

2016 Acura ILX
2016 Acura ILX. Photo © Acura

Acura ILX

If you had told me last year that I'd be putting the Acura ILX on any best-of list, I'd have thought you were nuts. After driving the original version, I thought the ILX was beyond hope—but I am happy to say the 2016 model proved me wrong. A new engine and transmission brings out the brilliance of this car's chassis, and a new suite of advanced safety equipment fulfils the high-technology promise of the Acura brand. Combine this with aggressive pricing and Acura's well-earned reputation for bulletproof build quality, and you have an entry-level luxury car that has elbowed its way to the front of the pack. It's good to see the Acura brand getting back on track. 

Read my full 2016 Acura ILX review

Next: Cadillac CTS-V

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Best New Cars of 2016: Cadillac CTS-V

2016 Cadillac CTS-V front-left view
2016 Cadillac CTS-V. Photo © General Motors

Cadillac CTS-V

The CTS-V's 640 horsepower supercharged V8 is enough to get it to almost any top-picks list, but as with the previous-generation CTS-V, I'm most impressed by the way this car gets all the power to the ground. Once again, GM's engineers have developed a chassis that is inherently stable and forgiving, allowing drivers to safely explore all that this car can do without relying on electronic nannies alone to keep them safe. The CTS-V has its flaws; along with being brutally fast, it's brutally expensive, and its interior is full of mis-cues like the Cue touch-panel interface. But even those annoyances can't mask the pure brilliance of this automobile. I love it.

Next: Chevrolet Malibu

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Best New Cars of 2016: Chevrolet Malibu

2016 Chevrolet Malibu front-right view
2016 Chevrolet Malibu. Photo © Aaron Gold

Chevrolet Malibu

I love it when the home team scores, and the Malibu has definitely knocked this one over the fence. Though there wasn't much love lost between me and the old version of the Malibu, I think the new version is fantastic, from its sharp styling to its high-quality interior to its all-turbo engine lineup (especially the excellent 1.5 liter turbo that comes standard in the base model). And yet all the basics of a solid mid-size sedan are there: Roomy back seat, big trunk, and strong value-for-money. Here, once again, is a domestic family sedan that can compete against cars like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. That makes me happy.

Next: Chevrolet Volt

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Best New Cars of 2016: Chevrolet Volt

2016 Chevrolet Volt
2016 Chevrolet Volt. Photo © Aaron Gold

Chevrolet Volt

I thought the first-generation Volt was a brilliant but sorely underappreciated car—an excellent way to dip one’s toe in the water of electric vehicles. (Okay, maybe a metaphor that mixes water and electricity isn’t the best choice.) With the new version, Chevrolet has improved everything about the Volt: Longer electric-only range, better gas-engine fuel efficiency, more trunk space, and a vastly improved control layout. They’ve even improved the styling, and only the cramped back seat remains as a serious vice. Chevy estimates that 80% of Volt trips are done without using any gasoline at all the new car should raise that to 90%. If you have the desire for an electric car but aren’t sure about range, you should definitely test-drive the new Volt.

Read my full 2016 Chevrolet Volt review

Next: Honda Civic

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Best New Cars of 2016: Honda Civic

2016 Honda Civic front view
2016 Honda Civic. Photo © Honda

Honda Civic

When you’re at the top of the heap, you don’t really need to change anything, so I think Honda deserves kudos for making such a huge leap with the all-new Civic. The new car is beautiful to look at (I love the hatchback-like contours of the roof) and better equipped than ever, with advanced safety features offered even on the base model. Honda has embraced the concept of high-lux small cars, with a new Touring trip that offers leather seats and navigation as standard equipment. Honda improved the base engine and added a new small-displacment turbo engine, a big leap for this otherwise-conservative company. And the way the Civic drives shows a much-needed return to this car’s roots: It feels quick and agile, just like a Civic should. Only the infotainment system lets it down (all Civics but the base model have a stereo that is very difficult to use while driving). This is the future of small cars, and it’s no surprise to see Honda leading the charge.

Next: Kia Optima

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Best New Cars of 2016: Kia Optima

2016 Kia Optima front-left view
2016 Kia Optima. Photo © Kia

Kia Optima

Now that Toyota is trying to show that they can be different just like everyone else, Kia’s all-new Optima may well be the new benchmark in mid-size sedans. Roomy, comfortable, easy to live with, smoothly styled and well built, the Optima offers everything one could ask out of a mid-size family car. When a friend and fellow journalist few in for a visit, I picked him up in an mid-level Optima EX, and he said, “You won’t find a thing wrong with this car.” After a week of driving, I realized he was right—this is the idea middle-of-the-road sedan.

Read my full 2016 Kia Optima review

Next: Mazda MX-5

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Best new cars of 2016: Mazda MX-5

2016 Mazda MX-5
2016 Mazda MX-5. Photo © Jason Fogelson

Mazda MX-5

If you love to drive, you won’t find another car that so generously feeds your passion—at least, not at this price. Mazda has broken with tradition in designing the new MX-5; instead of trying to emulate old British roadsters (which the original Miata did very, very well), they’ve concentrated on simply making a great sports car, and man oh man, have they succeeded. Drop the top (it can be done with one hand), drop it into gear, and find yourself a curvy road. I love that Mazda has two versions of the suspension, with Sport and Grand Touring models offering a softer ride and mid-range Club models bringing the hard-core handling that sporting Miata owners love. One caveat: The new MX-5 isn’t comfortable for the big and tall. For us short guys, it’s a winner.

Next: Scion iM

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Best New Cars of 2016: Scion iM

2016 Scion iM front view
2016 Scion iM. Photo © Scion

Scion iM

Toyota spent a few years letting its youth-oriented Scion division wither on the vine, but now the brand is finally getting the love it deserves. The new iM—a spiritual successor to the Toyota Matrix—is a slick-looking hatchback based on a European-market Toyota called the Auris. It features sharp styling, an upscale Lexus-like interior with a boat-load of standard equipment, and it’s good fun to drive, at least by Toyota standards. And with regular maintenance, it should last until the stars fall out of the sky. Back seat comfort and trunk space leave something to be desired, but this is the sort of expressive, individualistic vehicle that put Scion on the map. The iM is the car that will give Scion its mojo back.

Read my full 2016 Scion iM review

Next: Toyota Prius

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Best New Cars of 2016: Toyota Prius

2016 Toyota Prius front-right view
2016 Toyota Prius. Photo © Toyota

Toyota Prius

Toyota could have kept on making the Prius exactly as it was, and had great success—so good on them for propelling this car into the future. The goal with this new design was to give the Prius more personality, and they’ve done it, from the more expressive (and almost sedan-like) styling to the sharper chassis, which, while not exactly as enjoyable as an MX-5, is definitely way more rewarding to drive than the old-shape Prius. Other welcome improvements include a nicer interior and better instrumentation, and—no surprise here—even better fuel economy. (I always averaged around 47 MPG in the old Prius, and while I’ve yet to do a week-long test on home turf, it wouldn’t surprise me if the car hits 50.) This is a great improvement for the industry’s best-known and most-respected hybrid.

Next: Honorable Mention - Hyundai Tucson

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Best New Cars of 2016 - Honorable Mention: Hyundai Tucson

2016 Hyundai Tucson
2016 Hyundai Tucson. Photo © Aaron Gold

Honorable Mention: Hyundai Tucson

As an SUV, the Tucson isn’t eligible for the Best New Cars list, but I must give this talented vehicle the attention it deserves. Everything about the Tucson is right: Styling, interior comfort and space, ride comfort and driving dynamics. I found a couple of nits to pick in the Tucson (option availability in lower trims and some turbo lag in the Eco model), but for the most part, this is one of the best SUVs I have ever driven, and I highly recommend it.

Next: Honorable Mention - Nissan Titan XD

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Best New Cars of 2016 - Honorable Mention: Nissan Titan XD

2016 Nissan Titan XD
2016 Nissan Titan XD. Photo © Aaron Gold

Honorable Mention: Nissan Titan XD

I’m not much of a pickup-truck kind of guy, though my family does own one—a twenty-year-old Chevy that we use almost exclusively as a tow vehicle. I can respect a pickup with a  good work ethic, and that’s why I am so fond of the Titan XD, a truck which bridges the gap between traditional 1500-class “half-ton” and 2500-class “3/4-ton” pickups. With a stout Cummins diesel under the hood, the Titan will tow 10,000 to 12,000 lbs with the stability and confidence of a heavy-duty pickup, but without the abusive ride—with the trailer disconnected, the Titan XD rides as comfortably as a half-ton. The Titan XD should be a boon for people like us who expect their pickups to earn their keep. It occupies a niche that needed filling, and I hope buyers recognize it for the smart truck that it is.

Next: Honorable Mention - Volvo XC90

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Best New Cars of 2016 - Honorable Mention: Volvo XC90

2016 Volvo XC90
2016 Volvo XC90. Photo © Aaron Gold

Honorable Mention: Volvo XC90

Here’s a vehicle that pushes the state of the art forward, from its futuristic infotainment interface to its high-tech engine. I generally prefer car interiors with old-fashioned dials and buttons (though not too many of them), but the XC90’s tablet-like interface means that if you can operate your iPad or Android, you can operate your Volvo. And the engine is remarkable: 316 horsepower from just two liters and four cylinders (and from the way it drives, you’d never guess the engine is such a runt). All this, plus plenty of passenger space with the ambiance we expect from a high-end luxury SUV. If you want a glimpse into the future, take a drive in the new Volvo XC90.

Back to the beginning: Acura ILX