Hello Jeremy/Michael: I'm a huge fan of your show and your column in The Globe and Mail. I would like your opinion in regard to a suitable mid-size choice for me. I drive a VW Jetta bought in 2000. It's 13 years old, with 300,000 kilometres on the clock, and has served me well. I now need to move into something slightly larger. Being an auto fanatic and a spirited driver, I like most of the premium German offerings. However, when I think about leaving $40,000 in the driveway, only to depreciate, the engineer in me can't fathom the logic. What are you able to advise in terms of the current mid-size offerings? I want to have some fun driving and cornering, yet a sensible value. Is this possible? – Angelo in Montreal
Vaughan: Not only is Angelo an astute judge of high-quality television programming and terrific writing, he's a value guy. I love it. Thirteen years out of a VeeDub is the way to go. I speak from personal experience.
But cars have improved in many ways in 13 years and, Angelo, you have some happy choices available to you and not one of them is German. There's one that Cato likes, and he gets all upset if I steal his thunder, so just let me say it has a nose that looks like an Aston Martin.
Cato: That Aston-inspired beak is tremendous, but it has received far too much attention. Ford's designers have done a lot more than crib Aston's design notes for the Fusion. They nailed the stance, balanced the proportions, and have injected details that add up to a beautiful package. Best looking four-door car you can get for less than $35,000.
Did you hear that? Absolutely loaded, with all-wheel-drive, a modern EcoBoost turbocharged engine – 231 horsepower – all sorts of luxury features, and all for $33,999. That's the Fusion Titanium AWD. Or go to the other end of the Fusion line, the base car for $22,499.
Vaughan: Another sedan I like is the Buick Regal. You can get a 270-hp version, but the one that impresses me has a standard 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine with eAssist.
EAssist, you ask? It improves fuel efficiency by adding a compact electric motor and a lithium-ion battery to boost fuel economy by up to 25 per cent, depending on your driving. It's not a German car, but it drives like one, thanks to engineers at Opel who did so much work on it. Best of all, you can score some deep discounts on one.
Cato: Actually, the Regal is a German car, in all but name. That is not a bad thing. Speaking of name, the Regal in Europe is sold as the Opel Insignia and it's a former European Car of The Year.
An excellent chassis here, very tight, very Germanic. And the price makes sense. Yes, the Regal eAssist lists for $36,845, but there's more to the story. If you, Angelo, can string together some of the factory sales sweeteners – GM credit card, Auto Show Bonus, Loyalty Offer, Petro-Canada gas card and so on – then you slice several thousand dollars off the sticker.
If not the Regal or the Fusion, then, Angelo, the Honda Accord is a massively safe choice. Accord sales were up 161 per cent last month, by the way. Reliable, well equipped, fuel-efficient.
And speaking of fuel efficiency, Nissan's Altima delivers tremendous fuel economy.
And what of the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima? Both good, fuel-efficient and nicely priced.
Vaughan: All good choices, but Angelo calls himself a "spirited driver," so let's steer him to the Mazda6.
Mazda flogs its fuel-saving technologies as SkyActiv and it's a bunch of stuff like weight reduction, new engines, new transmissions and improved aerodynamics.
All of this comes together in the new Mazda6. This sedan is light years better than those highly forgettable earlier models. Angie, you'll like the way this one takes to the road. It's bigger than your venerable Jetta, but it drives smaller. It's a nice sports sedan that starts at around $25,000.
Cato: If the Fusion is the sexiest mainstream mid-sizer, the Mazda6 ($29,650 for the GT I-4) is a close second. A lot of car for the money. On top of that, the 6 should be reliable. That's what the research says, at least.
For now, the only engine is the four-cylinder gas. Angelo, if you wait until later this year, I'm betting your European sensibilities will have you jumping at the diesel-powered Mazda6 heading to showrooms. Either way, the 6 is a fun ride. Heck, a six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment with even the most expensive Mazda6.
Vaughan: Cato is all over the Fusion, with the Mazda6 not far behind. Me? I'm a Regal man.
Cato: Well, Your Majesty, add a crown to your hat collection.
HOW THEY COMPARE
|2013 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD||2013 Buick Regal eAssist||2013 Mazda6 GT-I4|
Track, front (mm)
|2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged||2.4-litre four-cylinder, with small electric motor and battery pack||2.5-litre four-cylinder|
|231/270 lb-ft||182/172 lb-ft||170/167 lb-ft|
|All-wheel drive||Front-wheel drive||Front-wheel drive|
|Six-speed automatic||Six-speed automatic||Six-speed manual|
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
|9.5 city/6.3 highway||8.3 city/5.4 highway||9.8 city/6.6 highway|
Base price (MSRP)
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.