COMPACT: 2009-12 HONDA FIT
It?s been called the Swiss Army knife of small cars. Its trick folding rear bench, along with a fuel tank that?s cleverly tucked under the driver?s seat, make the Fit a remarkable Tardis Box (thanks, Doctor Who) that is bigger inside than its exterior suggests. Not to mention it offers great visibility and safety features, sips gas like it?s champagne and is entertaining to drive.
WE LIKED: Multiple cargo permutations. Grin-inducing drive. Made-in-Japan reliability.
WE DISLIKED: Ride is a little choppy. Tiresome on long trips. Missing armrest.
Engine: 1.5 L four-cylinder
Power/Torque: 117 hp/106 lb.-ft.
GTA Price range: $10,000 to $15,000
Look out for: chipping paint finish.
MID-SIZE: 2009-12 ACURA TSX
The Acura TSX may be an uncommon mid-size pick, but drive one and its appeal is infectious. The upscale interior pampers, the standard equipment leaves little to pine for, and it?s a riot to pilot in traffic. Its 201-hp four-cylinder engine loves to rev, but is good on gas. The back seat is a little pinchy, but when?s the last time you took four adults out?
WE LIKED: Euro-spec handling. Posh accoutrements. Slick six-speed stickshift.
WE DISLIKED: Revs high on the highway. Short on rear legroom. Premium fuel ? doh!
Engine: 2.4-L four-cylinder or 3.5-L V6
Power/Torque: 201 hp/170 lb.-ft. or 280 hp/254 lb.-ft.
GTA price range: $17,000 to $27,000
Look out for: Blown speakers, short-lived batteries and brakes.
MINIVAN: 2011-12 TOYOTA SIENNA
A veritable living room on wheels, the newest generation of the Sienna seats eight comfortably and still has room for lots of gear. The Sienna drives better than it used to: the steering provides decent feedback and the van no longer wallows in the corners. Choose between a four- or six-cylinder engine; both are refined and capable. All-wheel drive is available, too.
WE LIKED: Silky six-speed automatic. Numerous seating configurations. Drives smaller than it is.
We Disliked: Evidence of cost cutting. Noisier than previous model. Four-cylinder is thirsty.
Engine: 2.7-L four-cylinder or 3.5-L V6
Power/Torque: 187 hp/186 lb.-ft. or 266/245
GTA price range: $19,000 to $32,000
Look out for: Broken power-door cables.
?COMPACT CUV: 2007-12 MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER
Surprised? The Outlander is a stylish and genuinely sporty utility that?s well-put-together. Choose between a smooth 2.4-L four-cylinder working through a CVT transmission or a 220-hp 3.0-L V6 tied to a six-speed autobox. Optional third-row jump seats are for munchkins only.
WE LIKED: Agile handling. Handy two-piece tailgate. Aluminum roof.
WE DISLIKED: Stiff ride on 18-inch alloys. Downgraded cabin plastics. Some wind, tire noise.
Engine: 2.4-L four-cylinder or 3.0-L V6
Power/Torque: 168 hp/167 lb.-ft. or 220/204
GTA price range: $12,000 to $24,000
Look out for: Front-end clunks and soft paint.
MID-SIZE SUV: 2008-12 TOYOTA HIGHLANDER
Look past its boxy, unadventurous appearance and the Highlander impresses with its polished drivetrains (both four and six cylinders), roomy and flexible seating for up to seven, and its quiet and well-sorted ride. This is an ideal vehicle for active families looking for an all-weather conveyance.
WE LIKED: Family-friendly interior. Four-cylinder doesn?t shirk. Long-distance runner.
WE DISLIKED: Vague steering feel. Compromised cargo room. Fast-wearing tires.
Engine: 2.7-L four-cylinder or 3.5-L V6
Power/Torque: 187 hp/186 lb.-ft. or 270/248
GTA price range: $18,000 to $35,000
Look out for: Short-lived water pump.
Others worth considering
Compact: 2010-12 Mazda 3: This overachieving sedan and five-door hatchback does everything with so much panache, the ?econobox? label won?t stick to it.
Midsize: 2007-11 Toyota Camry Hybrid: This hybrid sedan is so smooth and trouble-free, you?ll have to arm-wrestle a cab company to get your hands on one.
Minivan: 2005-10 Honda Odyssey: Honda?s big kahuna is everyone else?s favourite van, but it?s had some drivetrain issues and it?s pricey.
Compact CUV: 2006-12 Toyota RAV4: The crossover that started it all, the Ontario-built RAV4 is a local hero with a stealthy (optional) V6 that can light up its tires.
Midsize SUV: 2007-12 Hyundai Santa Fe: A perennial favourite around these parts, Hyundai Santa Fe combines great design and high-value content at an accessible price point.