For those of us with practicality as an inherent trait, the CR-V wins with its roomy cabin space, versatile cargo area, stylish aerodynamic exterior and angled swoosh-like rear-quarter window. The winner of our Compact SUV Shootout, the CR-V comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that will never struggle to carry a small family (and all of their stuff), and its suspension will make the ride as smooth as butter, without the extra calories. While the cargo space is quite large enough to handle necessary runs to the warehouse store or a tricky-to-haul double stroller, the rear seats can fold flat to create a cavernous space.
With seating for up to eight and enough Latch anchors to handle a small preschool, there is no doubt the 2013 Honda Odyssey is the ultimate family mobile, and its head-turning exterior sets it apart from other ho-hum minivans. We've been wowed by the Odyssey's intuitive technology and versatile three rows of seats. A 3.5-liter V-6 engine supplies enough power to merge onto the freeway without feeling like we're hauling the entire neighborhood (even though at times we are). It's as fun as a minivan can get, and at this stage in family life, that's all we can ask for.
If you're a first-time driver who's new to the car market or if you haven't looked for a new car in a while, you might be surprised by what you get in the Hyundai Elantra. Whether it's value, fuel efficiency or style you want, this compact sedan shines with standard features such as iPod connectivity and air conditioning, EPA-estimated gas mileage of 38 mpg on the highway, and fashionable sheet metal befitting a more expensive car. Add Hyundai's strong warranty program, and it's easy to see why the Elantra is the sensible choice for first-time drivers.
The world of capable hardcore four wheelers is getting smaller these days, but Jeep continues to fight against the desires and tendencies of crossover buyers to keep the rough and rugged Wrangler close to its historical off-road roots. Still designed to be the toughest climber on a remote trail, the Wrangler now offers a more powerful and fuel efficient Pentastar V-6 and benefits from a redesigned interior. The classic styling (still sharing several visual cues with Jeeps from WWII), surround cab roll bars and a removable hardtop, this little SUV has almost no competition.
Mazda's MX-5 Miata has been around for more than 20 years, but its formula hasn't changed: It remains a small, lightweight and affordable roadster. This tiny, rear-wheel-drive convertible packs a big dose of fun, turning a routine commute into a thrill ride. For 2013, the Miata gets a slightly restyled front end, and it makes good on its athletic styling with a zippy 2.0-liter and agile handling. Soft- and hardtop versions are available for open-air motoring. It tops our Best Cars for Sun Lovers list because few cars offer as much everyday driving fun, and even fewer do it as inexpensively. In fact, it's never missed a year in this category.
From a base V-6 that feels two cylinders stronger to a GT V-8 that pulls like hell, the Mustang is still the tire-spinning antidote for life's duller moments, with more practicality than Chevrolet's rival Camaro. The V-8 Mustang Boss 302 reaches even higher performance limits, while the stupid-fast Shelby GT500 boasts drivability refinements so its 650 hp (yes, really) doesn't get away from you so easily. Tweaked and refined over the past eight years, the Mustang's 1960s-throwback styling has served the car well. It complements the car's drift-happy handling and addictive acceleration, giving the Mustang a repeat win for this category.
As one of the best-selling cars year after year, the Toyota Camry is no doubt used in every way possible. The Camry Hybrid stands out as a commuter car with its soft and refined ride. Commuters in stop-and-go traffic as well as on highways will appreciate the hybrid's gas mileage: 43/39 mpg city/highway in LE trim. The Camry Hybrid comes in two flavors: a base LE for frugal commuters and a higher-optioned XLE that adds higher-quality interior pieces, a power driver's seat, touch-screen display and more. The XLE has slightly lower gas mileage, at 40/38 mpg.
f ever there was an apt description for the basic pickup truck, "hard worker" would be it. And if any truck dominates this segment in both sales and features, it's the F-150. Powertrains are the main strength of the F-150 with two solid V-8 engine options (5.0-liter and 6.2-liter), and two very different V-6 choices (3.7-liter and 3.5-liter EcoBoost). More than half of all F-150s sold now are built with fuel-efficient V-6 engines, with the newer EcoBoost engine leading all engine choices in the segment.
The sporty sedan that Mercedes likes to call a coupe won our hearts this past year, whether it was in its regular or AMG trim. Either one you choose, the CLS has performance to match the style, a standout interior befitting a sports car and a slightly more livable backseat than in the previous generation. Its unique, anti-sedan styling holds up well, and the CLS is still rare enough that people will be staring. In this class, this much style and substance earns our highest honor.
In this age of plug-in cars and the proliferation (albeit slow) of clean diesels, the Toyota Prius might seem out of place in the contest for Eco-Friendly Car of the Year. But it's against this new backdrop that the Prius' universality truly stands out. Buy it at any Toyota dealership, park it anywhere, fuel it at any filling station and drive it hundreds of miles between stops. Can the same be said of other alternative-fuel vehicles? Still the most efficient car in the U.S. market, the Prius' efficiency and universality remain a potent combination more than a decade into the hybrid era it helped launch.