Latest Detroit sedans fail to win Consumer Reports' recommendations
DETROIT -- Some of the latest new car models from Detroit automakers received mixed reviews from Consumer Reports and have failed to win a recommendation from the popular U.S. shopping guide.
The Dodge Dart, the first all-new model from the Fiat-Chrysler partnership, earned kudos for a solid feel, handling and ride, and upscale options, the magazine said today. But the compact sedan was dragged down by underpowered powertrains and didn't score high enough by the magazine to be recommended.
The Dart, a replacement for the Dodge Caliber hatchback and Chrysler's first legitimate small car since the Neon, is based on the same platform that underpins the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Consumer Reports testers found that the Dodge Dart has a relatively quiet cabin, fairly nimble handling, taut yet compliant ride, and 'buttoned-down feel' that is often a feature of more upscale models.
"Where the Dart stalls out is its powertrains," the magazine said, adding the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine feels underpowered, while the optional 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder "is raspy and has drivability issues when mated with the optional dual-clutch automated manual transmission."
While the Dart is enjoyable to drive, like a sporty European sedan, the magazine's automotive testers found the Dart's front seats 'lumpy' with 'uneven, uncomfortable cushioning."
The magazine said it tested a 2.0-liter Dart SXT priced at $20,680 and 1.4-liter Rallye model priced at $24,490.
"The Dart is the first decent compact car from Dodge in decades," Jake Fisher, director of the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, said in a statement. "It has some solid positives. But overall it can't yet measure up to the best in class."
The Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze are the magazine's top-rated small cars, but the Focus is the only top-rated model not recommended. The Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Lancer and Volkswagen Jetta rank near the bottom of the magazine's small-car ratings.
Consumer Reports also failed to recommend the all-new Cadillac XTS and the Lincoln MKS sedans. The XTS scored much higher overall than the MKS in the matchup, but both cars underwhelmed the magazine's testers in a segment dominated by German, Japanese, and Korean models.
"A face-off between the flagship luxury sedans from Cadillac and Lincoln used to be a center-ring event. Not anymore," the magazine said. "With German and Asian automakers continually raising the bar in this category, the new Cadillac XTS and the updated Lincoln MKS are now little more than a sideshow among more inviting and higher-rated models."
The XTS is a replacement for the DTS and STS sedans in Cadillac's lineup.
Consumer Reports said the Cadillac XTS was "wonderfully luxurious, with a very spacious and well-appointed cabin."
Cadillac's XTS sedan lacks the silky ride you’d expect from a big Caddy, Consumer Reports says, "and although it handles well for its size, it doesn’t have the finesse or brawn of the better German and Asian competitors."
Infotainment system 'frustrating'
But Cadillac's new flagship is hampered by its CUE infotainment system, which testers found to be "convoluted and frustrating."
The magazine applauded the Lincoln MKS' plentiful features, quiet cabin and excellent fit and finish.
"But the car is hampered by its cramped driving position, ungainly handling, uncompromised ride, and limited visibility," the magazine said. "With an overall road-test score of 60, the MKS is the lowest-rated luxury sedan in class, lagging far behind previously-tested standouts like the Audi A6 and Infiniti M37."
Consumers would do better with the well-equipped, spacious and less expensive Chrysler 300 or Hyundai's Genesis or Equus, the magazine said.
In addition to the A6, M37, 300 and two Hyundai models, the magazine's top-rated luxury sedans are the Mercedes-Benz E350, Lexus GS 350 and BMW 535i.
The redesigned Lexus ES was also tested and received high marks for a comfortable, quiet interior, impressive hybrid and V6 drivetrains, and excellent fuel economy, particularly in hybrid form, the magazine said.
But the 2013 model took a step back in ride and interior refinement from the previous ES, Consumer Reports said.
"Although its handling didn't impress and its controls were newly complicated, both tested trims -- the ES350, ($43,702) and the hybrid ES330h ($44,017) -- scored high enough overall to be recommended and rank among CR's higher-Rated upscale sedans.
Spark scores low
The magazine also tested the Chevrolet Spark and said the four-door subcompact produces excellent fuel economy of 34 mpg overall and 42 on the highway.
It has a surprisingly useable rear seat, a comprehensive assortment of features, and is affordably priced at $15,420, Consumer Reports said.
But sluggish acceleration, stiff and jittery ride and very noisy cabin dropped the Spark's overall score to 34, the magazine said.
It is one of the lowest scoring cars tested by the magazine in recent years and is too low to recommend.
The magazine's top-rated subcompact hatchbacks are the Honda Fit, Kia Rio, Mazda2 and Scion xD. The Scion iQ is rated below the Spark.
You can reach David Phillips at email@example.com.