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2014 Fiat 500L (Chrysler)
2014 Fiat 500L (Chrysler)

Family Cars

Family Cars: Eight new practical cars Add to ...

How the best are evaluated: Choosing the car of the year no easy feat

BEST NEW SMALL CARS

BEST NEW FAMILY VEHICLES

BEST NEW LUXURY CARS

BEST NEW SPORTS/PERFORMANCE AND PRESTIGE VEHICLES

BEST NEW SUVs and PICKUPS

*****

 

The cars below are contenders in the family car categories for the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada's testing for Canadian Car of the Year. The Under $30,000 category is first, followed by the Over $30,000 category.

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2014 Fiat 500L
 

1. Fiat 500L

$28,250 as tested

The 500L is like no other car you’ve ever been in. Even the two-door 500 is nothing like it. A distant Fiat cousin that looked like a mobile aquarium, the Multipla, may have inspired the four-door 500L’s multiple windows that appear disproportionately large within the bulgy body. Inside it’s as airy and cheery as a piazza. A raised rear seat affords a clear view (while limiting headroom) or folds and stows for max cargo. Did I say it’s fun to drive? (Dan Proudfoot)

2014 Kia Soul
 

2. Kia Soul EX

$21,995 as tested

On my ballot the Soul bested its more practical Rondo sibling in ride comfort, steering, handling, braking and throttle response segments of the 17-point evaluation. Surprisingly, Soul also has more stretch-out rear legroom than the larger Rondo. The cargo area isn’t huge, but a divided sub-floor tray is useful. Styling refinements make Soul more enticing than ever, and the 164 horsepower engine completes the case. (DP)

2014 Kia Rondo
 

3. Kia Rondo

$23,995 as tested

Rondo gains some style after years of anonymity. Yet practicality remains its long suit: three rows of seats are available (but not at this price point). The second row tilts and adjusts fore and aft. The interior feels enormous. It’d be beyond criticism if the rear seat folded fully flat. Anyway, 912 litres of cargo capacity swallows a lot of shopping. The same engine as in the Soul is less perky with the Rondo’s bulk. (DP)

***** Family Cars: Over $30,000 *****

2014 Chevrolet Impala
 

1. Chevrolet Impala

$45,085 as tested

The Oshawa, Ont.-built Chevrolet Impala may be the most expensive vehicle in this group by a long shot, but it’s also the most family-friendly. With the largest cabin, most trunk space, most upscale and refined interior, as well as the best acceleration and braking numbers, it nails both the practical and dynamic aspects of the award. The main question is whether its as-tested price, which is about 10 grand higher than the others in this category, will affect its final ranking. (Michael Bettencourt)

2014 Mazda6
 

2. Mazda6

$34,995 as tested

The Mazda6 may not be the roomiest, quickest or most comfortable in this group, but its dynamic handling and styling give it the “fun” edge over all the others, especially given its reasonable price and surprising number of features. A “value equation” built into the final calculations moderates the expected increased competencies and features of pricier vehicles. In the same way that wise buyers plunking down their hard-earned money would favour the most car for the least outlay, the Mazda6 could very well end up the winner in this category. (MB)

2013 Ford CMAX Energi
 

3. Ford C-Max Energi

$39,627 as tested

The super-efficient plug-in C-Max Energi just edged out the Accord Hybrid on my scorecard by half a point, and won major kudos for interior comfort, NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) and refinement, since there’s no engine noise for the first 20-40 kilometres after a full charge. And though it’s listed at just under 40 large, buyers in Ontario and Quebec will receive provincial clean car rebates of $5,808 off that total, or $2,500 in British Columbia, bringing it well into line or lower than the price of its rivals in those provinces. Those savings won’t show up in the final calculations, and with its compromised cargo area and comfort-oriented handling, the otherwise impressive C-Max Energi seems destined to finish near the bottom of this group. (MB)

2014 Honda Accord
 

4. Honda Accord Hybrid

$35,600 as tested

The overall Canadian Car of The Year winner last year, the Honda Accord returns to the competition again this year thanks to a new Hybrid version on sale for 2014. This Accord Hybrid is quicker than that car, and much more fuel-efficient. Unfortunately, it seems to have cut a few corners on interior quality, while its as-tested price comes in about 10 grand higher than last year’s winner. Still, it remains a solid if unspectacular performer in almost every aspect. (MB)

2014 Volkswagen Jetta
 

5. Volkswagen Jetta Turbocharged Hybrid

$35,600 as tested

Perhaps the most surprisingly disappointing performer of the group was the VW Jetta Turbocharged Hybrid, which finished up with the slowest 0-100 km/h time, the longest emergency stopping distance, and was the least fuel -efficient of the three hybrids in this quintet. The fine interior, steering feel and visibility were counterbalanced with the surprisingly limp handling as well, suggesting that VW attempted to remove some hidden hardware costs to help bring its first Hybrid’s price in line with the Jetta TDI version. (MB)

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