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LeBlanc: Duds and studs of 2012

Published July 11, 2012

In purely practical terms, there are no “bad” new cars these days. Compared to the past, all cars get better fuel economy, are safer, and don’t break down as much as older vehicles. But from a marketing and branding standpoint, there are still plenty of new car “duds”.

Alphabetically, here are my top 10 new car flops you don’t want to buy, with my contrary “stud” picks as options:

Dud: Acura ZDX ($54,990)
The idea behind the ZDX sounded reasonable when it was launched a few years back. Who wouldn’t want to buy a less-expensive version of BMW’s groundbreaking 2+2 X6 Sports Activity Vehicle? Unfortunately for Acura, the number of ZDX no-takers has been quite a few. In 2011, only 129 examples of the ZDX were sold in Canada, compared to 1,140 copies of the pricier X6.
Stud: BMW X6 Sport Activity Coupe ($66,650) Coupe/SUV customers want the original.

Dud: BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo ($69,950)
Playing catch-up to the original (and oxymoronic) “four-door coupe”, the 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLS, six years later BMW burped out the 5 Series Gran Turismo, a cross between the “formality of a sedan with the functionality and high-seating position of a crossover”, according to its maker. Customers didn’t buy it. Literally. And BMW is already working on returning the car the 5er GT replaced, the more elegant 5 Touring, to North America A.S.A.P.
Stud: Audi A7 ($68,600) – Everything BMW got wrong with its 5 GT, Audi got right with its A7.

Dud: Honda Accord Crosstour ($34,900)
Instead of the Accord wagon customers have been crying for since its departure from Honda showrooms in the late-1990s, we got the Accord Crosstour, a demi-wagon-quasi-hatchback-slash-crossover-thingee. Are its looks controversial? Let’s just say, calling the Honda an ugly ducking would only offend the nice folks at Ducks Unlimited. The Crosstour has certainly been a dud with Accord fans. For 2013, the Quasimodo of crossovers goes by the name Crosstour alone.
Stud: Subaru Outback ($28,995) A family vehicle you won’t have to justify your purchase of.

Dud: Honda CR-Z Hybrid
Like the ZDX, on paper the CR-Z looks good. As the love child of the legendary CR-X two-seater and the eco-friendly Insight gas-electric hybrid, the Honda Zed-car should have been a stud. But it’s lack of real-world performance (it uses essentially the same hybrid system that debuted in the first Insight in 1999) matched with even worse real-world fuel-economy leaves the CR-Z a dud.
Stud: Mini Cooper Classic ($21,950) Fun-to-drive, fuel-efficient, and a pair of rear seats and cottage-weekend cargo room.

Dud: Hyundai Veracruz ($33,499)
Hyundai’s had some definite hits recently, but its worst selling model last year, the Veracruz, is a sure-fire miss. Non-descript styling, a floaty ride, and an under-manned engine bay made the seven-passenger Hyundai about as exciting to drive as watching paint dry. I guess that’s why the ‘Cruz is being replaced this fall by a three-row version of the new Santa Fe.
Stud: Dodge Durango ($38,195) The best-driving, three-row crossover for the money.

Dud: Mercedes R-Class ($57,400)
Following its debut at the 2001 Detroit auto show as the Vision Grand Sports Tourer, the R-Class was heralded as a new type of vehicle. Similar in concept to Chrysler’s discontinued Pacifica or Subaru’s slow-selling Tribeca, the R-Class was neither minivan fish, nor SUV fowl when it went on sale in 2005. Going on eight years later, customers still don’t know what to make of the world’s most-expensive minivan.
Stud: Audi Q7 ($58,00) Of the three-row German utility vehicles available, the Q is tops.

Dud: Mini Cooper Clubman ($23,250)
Inspired by its 1960s Morris Mini Traveller and Austin Mini Countryman iconic predecessors, the extended Clubman wagon was designed for those who want more in their Mini. But what you get is more compromise. Its double rear “barn” doors block your rear view. And there’s only one half side-door (on the passenger’s side) to get into the back seats. Ugh. To help juice Clubman sales, a commercial van version (dubbed the Clubvan) is being launched.
Stud: Volkswagen Golf 5-door ($21,475) If you want a roomier Mini with more doors, go get the Vee-Dub.

Dud: Subaru Tribeca ($38,995)
Like today’s BRZ sports car, the Tribeca was forced on Subaru, as General Motors planned on building a Saab version. Of course, that never happened. And the large and expensive Tribeca never found favour with Subaru nation. Only 460 Tribecas were sold in 2011, far behind the next best-selling Legacy sedan (3,115), making the crossover the brand’s official dud.
Stud: Kia Sorento ($23,995) The mama bear of small crossovers.

Dud: Suzuki Kizashi ($27,995)
After selling rebadged Daewoos here in Canada, I thought the in-house designed and built Kizashi would be a stud. Boy, was I wrong. Nobody’s buying Suzukis in Canada anymore, and with only 734 Kizashi sold last year (compared to the segment-leading Ford Fusion, of which 25,736 copies were moved) the Kizashi is a definite dud.
Stud: Kia Optima ($21,995) Gas, hybrid, sporty turbo—either model is functional, stylish, and a great-driving family sedan.

Dud: Volkswagen Routan ($28,575)
Volkswagen’s rebadged Chrysler minivan is about as far away from a VW Microbus as St. John’s, Newfoundland is from Victoria, British Columbia. And VW customers know it. Only 842 Routans were sold last year. I’m guessing VW Canada is counting the days when its contract with Chrysler build Routans in Windsor, Ontario is done.
Stud: Honda Odyssey ($29,990) Roomy, decent to drive, and well-built, the Odyssey continues to be the stud of minivans.

* Sales figures from Automotive News Data Center, Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada, and company sources.

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