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choosing the best cars

2013 Porsche Boxster

The  Canadian new car and light truck market is a giant, bountiful buffet, one laden with a cornucopia of hundreds of different models. And scores of them are reinvented and re-styled every year. Confusion reigns.

That's true even for those who live and breathe this stuff like we do. Between us, we road test about 100-150 new vehicles a year – from pint-sized Scion iQs to glamorous, fire-breathing BMW M5s and everything in between.

Electric cars? Of course. Minivans? Sadly, yes. Sedans, coupes, crossovers, sports cars, convertibles… On and on we go. Most are mildly interesting, some are truly compelling, a few are mind-blowing and some are deadly dull or just plain disappointing.

We sample from this buffet regularly, getting more than our fill day after day, week after week, year after year. Naturally, that invites questions:

"What do you think of this one?"

"Is that new German thing any good?"

"What explains that ugly grille?"

"Would you buy that car now or should I wait?"

"What's new?"

You get the drill. The questions come in waves because new vehicles are expensive, with the average transaction price in Canada hovering around $30,000. Canadians spend big bucks on new vehicles and they're buying in big numbers. New car and light trucks sales are on track to hit 1.7 million this year, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants. That's way up from the depths of the recession a couple of years ago. There is pent-up demand out there in New Car Land.

Which takes us to our latest Top 50 list. As in the past, we refuse to conform to traditional or government categories. They are both dull and fail to offer a true description of what we're talking about. A grocery getter is a small city runabout, not a "subcompact." Something fast and fun is just that, so that's what we'll call it. The story is similar with all our categories.

We also don't limit ourselves to just the new-for-2013 models, though we have to admit this is a particularly rich year for introductions – from the Ram pickup to the Ford C-MAX Energi and everything in between. But you will find on this list, for instance, the dull, old Dodge Grand Caravan alongside the all-new Dodge Dart. That's because the Grand Caravan is the best family vehicle you can buy, dollar-for-dollar. Is it sexy? No. But if you're hauling kids and their junk, it's an inexpensive gem.

Also, don't look for reams and reams of stats here. We've got 50 favourites to cover, which means the job, in 100 words or so for each vehicle, is to capture the essence of why we salute a particular vehicle – and to entertain you at the same time, rather than bore you with the usual gearhead mumbo jumbo.

In short, while we're serious about our picks, we aim to have fun with this year's Top 50. Enjoy.


Grocery Getters: Little cars, lot of fun

Fast and Fun Rides: Get your heart racing

Green machines: Emission impossible

Big, beautiful boats: Smooth-sailing luxury machines

Practical People Haulers: Sensible, even when image matters

Practical people haulers: High-end SUVs

Mid-market machines: Popular picks

Starter Luxury: Moving on up

Serious Rigs: A heavy hauler