- Repair & Care
With loads of high-tech and luxurious features packed in at a very competitive price, it would be hard for financially-savvy and tech-appreciative families to pass over the Santa Fe Sport. Our team of editors took note and voted this small crossover right to the top. Our editors marveled at the massive panoramic sunroof that makes riding in the backseat pure pleasure for kids and adults alike (star-gazing night drive, anyone?). If you're more of a sun lover, available rear-seat sunshades help temper backseat glare to placate more sensitive passengers. Speaking of the backseat, the Santa Fe Sport's backseat thoughtfully slides back and forth up to 5.2 inches and reclines as well, giving families more flexibility when installing child-safety seats. Heated front and rear seats and ventilated front seats keep the whole family cozy and warm for early morning carpool runs, or cool, calm and collected when rushing around in the summer months. And if you're running a little behind, the Santa Fe Sport's zippy and fun turbocharged engine and surprisingly athletic ride will give you get-up-and-go, not to mention a little thrill.
Luxury roadsters pack handsome interiors and punchy engines, but few can connect the car and its driver like the Porsche Boxster. Thanks to its sublime balance, Porsche's mid-engine icon is still a performance car through and through. A 2.7-liter flat six-cylinder provides visceral, high-revving fun, but the Boxster S and its 3.4-liter flat-six satisfies best. Both engines still pair with a smooth-shifting manual transmission -- something the Boxster's BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz competitors forego in at least one version. Automatic shoppers sacrifice no performance thanks to the car's lickety-split, dual-clutch unit. Porsche redesigned the Boxster a year ago, and the updates come in the details: sculpted bumpers, sharp headlights and a contoured rear end that blends the taillights with a low spoiler. Some competitors employ power-folding hardtops, but the Boxster retains a simple (and lighter) power soft-top that works in less than 10 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph. Inside, the rakish dashboard sheds the automaker's penchant for upright severity; it wraps around you like a proper cockpit should. You want to stare at the Boxster outside and in -- and then fire it up to attack the nearest back road. That's the essence of fun, and it makes the Boxster our Play Car of the Year.
The BMW 328i is the perfect blend of luxury, sport and prestige. We tested it against the industry's best luxury sport sedans in 2013 and it came out on top, beating competitors from Acura, Audi, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. It does everything well. It gets strong acceleration from the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; has progressive, fade-free brakes; and sharp, nimble handling. It's quick: zero to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. It's frugal: Observed gas mileage in our testing rang in at 28.1 mpg combined city/highway. The list of equipment, both standard and optional, is quite complete. You can option one up to be a luxury cruiser or check the M Sport box to get a sport suspension, special tires and unique trim. The redesign for 2012 brought more rear legroom and a bigger trunk, but it did not sacrifice the driving pleasure that comes with the 328i. It's not easy to impress a group of automotive reviewers, so when a car does it as completely as the 328i has, an award is only natural.
It's a testament both to the Nissan Leaf and electric cars that this model finds itself on top again, three years after its first appearance. Last year, the Toyota Prius reigned for serving the masses even as plug-ins and clean diesels proliferated. Since then the Leaf has unveiled two dramatic improvements: Its starting price is down nearly $6,500, and it now offers the option to recharge twice as fast on a 240-volt, Level 2 charging system. As a result, the excellent Leaf is accessible to more buyers than ever, and the battery can be fully charged at home in about four hours rather than eight -- and adds range more quickly when grabbing juice at a public charging point. Greater affordability and faster charging are key to building the EV movement. We welcome the proliferation of clean diesels, hybrids and efficient conventional gasoline-powered vehicles, but electrics still deliver on the promise of zero localized emissions and the ability to operate on power generated by a variety of fuels, including renewable forms. The low cost of operation and maintenance is just as compelling for consumers who care more about a different kind of green.