5. Nissan Leaf
Last year, I did an Auto Countdown of the Worst Cars of 2011. The Nissan Leaf was on the list for its exterior design, range, and performance. The car gets 98 miles on one charge, but it loses 22 miles if the heater or air conditioner is on. It has an unofficial 0-60 mph time of 9.9 seconds, but it felt slightly quicker than that.The Leaf has a top speed of 93 mph, which is low. What is pleasantly surprising about the Nissan Leaf is the interior. The Leaf has one of the best design interiors I have ever seen in any cars. The car is comfortable to drive with plenty of space in rear for adult passengers. The car has a unique gear shifter located on the center console instead of the dashboard, which I prefer. The hand brake is integrated nicely into the center console. The Leaf's interior and drive quality put this car on the pleasant surprise list, but it is low due to low range and slow acceleration. It still felt quicker than the Toyota Prius and the Chevrolet Volt.
4. Ford Focus.
I went to the Ford dealership to test drive the Ford Mustang since I test drove the Chevrolet Camaro during the previous weekend. While at the Ford dealership, I also drove the Ford Focus. This was a pleasant surprise to drive. The Focus has better styling than the Chevrolet Cruze and Subaru Impreza. The car was smooth on the road. I did not feel any vibrations or roughness while going over speed bumps. The Focus has some zip to it. I felt comfortable behind the wheel. I was not planning on driving the Focus, but I am glad I did. This car is a pleasant surprise.
3. Dodge Dart
My family had some issues with the Chrysler products in the past. My dad had a Chrysler LeBaron, and that car was nothing but problems. I was at an event at a local Subaru dealership. Next door is a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram dealership.I decided to test drive the Dodge Dart. This was a pleasant surprise. The car has great styling. I drove one with the basic 2.0L I4 engine that produces 160 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. The Dart has some zip to it. If you need desire more power and performance, the Dart come with a turbocharged 1.4L I4 engine and a 2.4L I4 engine. There is speculation that there could be an SRT version of the Dart coming out sometime in the near future. The car has a sporty interior. For a sports compact sedan, the car drove smoothly on the road. What holds this car back is the lack of head room and leg room in the back. I am 5'9" and I felt cramped in the rear. I hit my head on the ceiling.
2. Scion FR-S
Toyota created car that is fun to drive? From the car company that produces the Prius comes one of the best sports coupe of 2012, the Toyota F T86. In America, it is called the Scion FR-S FT-86/FR-S is a joint effort Toyota did with Subaru, which has its own version called the Subaru BR-Z. The car has a 2.0L flat 4 engine that produces 200 hp. This is a quick car. It has a sporty sound to it. Most of all, the FR-S is fun to drive. The car has a great sporty styling and a sporty interior. The FR-S comes with racing seats, which take some time to get use to. The car has a sporty suspension, so it is not as smooth as some of the other cars. At least the FR-S did not try to destroy my back like the Buick Regal Turbo. The FR-S is a great sports car to have for under $30,000. There is still one car that is a bigger pleasant surprise than the sporty FR-S. Great job Toyota and Subaru on creating a fun sports coupe.
1. Buick Verano
What a pleasant surprise from Buick, a brand that is associated with older drivers. This is a compact car, yet there is plenty of room for adult passengers in the rear. I drove the Verano at the 2012 Houston Auto Show and my dad was sitting in the rear. He says that he has more room in the Verano than in a BMW 3-Series. The Verano has a smooth drive quality. I had good head room and leg room behind the wheel. The car was very responsive when I pressed the brake and accelerator pedals or when I turned the steering wheel. There are some issues with the Verano. The Verano also has a nice styling profile. It is not as quick as some of the other compact sedans. There is speculation that Buick is going to make a turbocharged engine available for the Verano. But what it has is comfort and room. Most compact cars lack head room or leg room, especially for adult passengers sitting in the rear. For its surprisingly comfortable ride quality, its luxurious interior, and just the amount of head and leg room for adult passengers in the rear, the Buick Verano is the most pleasantly surprising car I drove in 2012. Great job Buick and GM.
Next time, I countdown the cars that are good, but are not a pleasant surprise.
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