Ten Best Cars for Real People

We looked at the 10 Best Cars list of another publication recently, and it inspired us to put together this list. The reason? The 10 Best list on the other site was apparently created for people who live in an alternative universe — an alternative universe in which taking kids to school, going grocery shopping or trying to stay on a monthly budget don’t exist. But we here at Driving Today know all to well that these things do exist, and our chosen goal is to help you find the best possible vehicles for your life. That’s what this list is about. It is a list designed to help typical workaday people choose a highly reliable, high-value car, SUV or minivan that can carry them into the next decade without draining their bank account.

So let others choose the 10 Best Cars for imagined lifestyles. We know what our lifestyles are, and the fact is we are quite comfortable with them. And if you choose a vehicle from this list, we expect you will be quite comfortable, too.

1. 2018 Honda Accord

Yes, we live in a crossover SUV era, but the all-new Honda Accord sedan is so darn good we couldn’t resist naming it number one on our list. This four-door is comfortable, roomy, economical to buy, economical to own and, amazingly, it is also fun to drive. The Accord’s safety equipment offering is impressive — forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are standard equipment. Two turbocharged 4-cylinder engines provide the motive force — a 252-horsepower 2.0-liter or 192-horsepower 1.5-liter.

2. 2018 Toyota RAV4

Here’s your crossover SUV, and the Toyota RAV4 isn’t just popular; it is so well-built it will offer years of carefree service. Since the RAV4 is one of the most popular vehicles in America, Toyota can afford to offer five trim levels giving buyers the combination of equipment and price they are looking for. The base RAV4 has ample room for five and an impressive array of standard equipment, including roof rails, parking camera system, and Bluetooth/USB integration and six-inch touchscreen in its audio system. Power is provided by a stout 176-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.

3. 2018 Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 pickup truck is the bestselling vehicle in America, and it has been seriously revamped for 2018. New features include standard auto start-stop for all engines, an all-new 3.3-liter V6 with port and direct-injection technology, and electronic six-speed automatic transmission with selectable drive modes. The exterior and interior styling has received a notable freshening, but the F-150 retains its winning combination of toughness, utility and surprising comfort. With trim levels that range from rudimentary to ultra-luxury, you can find an F-150 that suits your hauling and towing needs.

4. 2018 Honda Odyssey

Chrysler Pacifica fans might disagree but we think the new-for-2018 Honda Odyssey is the best minivan you can buy. Its time-tested reliability is accompanied by thoughtful features that include alloy wheels, remarkably versatile seating, parking-assist camera system, and Bluetooth/USB infotainment system. As you pay more the equipment level gets even more lavish — power sunroof, power liftgate, rear-seat DVD entertainment center with dual screens, even a vacuum cleaner. The safety equipment array is too long to list here, and the 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine offers plenty of acceleration.

5. 2018 Toyota Camry

Toyota product planners decided to have their cake and eat it too with the eighth-generation Camry. The lineup includes a plain vanilla version whose major calling card is unquestioned reliability, but other versions of America’s favorite driving appliance go out of their way to be more performance-oriented than any previous Camry. The sportiest Camry offers a 3.5-liter V6 offering a potent 301 horsepower, but most Camry buyers will opt for the 2.5-liter four cylinder with 203 horsepower. A nice compromise is the XSE with vivid styling, 206 horsepower and an MSRP just under $30,000.

6. 2018 Honda Civic

Uncommon safety and uncommon sportiness are two attributes that set the Honda Civic apart from other compact cars. Available in sedan and coupe body styles, the Civic is a chameleon that can blend in as a solid, economical commuter or stand out as a performance car. The base engine is a 174-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder, and a 205-horsepower version of the engine is available as well. As to safety, Honda Sensing features include the Collision Mitigation Braking System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist System, and Road Departure Mitigation. The Civic has received a 5-star Overall Vehicle Score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration based on its crash safety test performance.

7. 2018 Nissan Rogue

Nissan has found great success with its Rogue compact crossover SUV, and it decided to up the ante for the 2018 model year. Those who like connectivity will applaud the addition of NissanConnect featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and the addition of one more USB port, this one inside the center console storage area. The Rogue has always delivered great passenger and cargo flexibility with its much-copied EZ Flex Seating System and Divide-N-Hide Cargo System box on all trim levels. A wide variety of electronic driver and safety aids are available, and the Rogue also now has a little brother, the Rogue Sport.

8. 2018 Subaru Impreza

Solid reliability, excellent resale value and all-wheel drive traction — those are the hallmarks of the 2018 Subaru Impreza compact car. Built on the Subaru Global Platform, the conventional sedan and four-door hatchback models are more agile, more comfortable and more crashworthy than ever before. Equipped with Subaru’s trademark Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the Impreza delivers remarkable traction and roadworthiness. Power comes from a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection, an engine noted for its sturdiness.

9. 2018 Chevrolet Traverse

The Chevrolet Traverse has been completely redesigned for the 2018 model year, and one of its calling cards is its substantial size versus competitors in the midsize SUV segment. Third-row passengers fare better than in most competitors, and cargo space behind the third row is substantial. Split-folding second-row seats or second-row captain’s chairs have sliding features to enhance access to the third-row even with a forward-facing child seat in place. We at DT are fans of the standard MyLink system that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility plus an OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The standard engine is a 3.6-liter V6, while a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is offered in the RS model.

10. 2018 Mazda CX-3

The Mazda CX-3 uses innovative technology to deliver exceptional fuel economy, while also offering upscale amenities, a high level of safety and international style. The 146-horsepower SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is paired with an efficient six-speed automatic transmission, and in front-wheel-drive trim that combination delivers 29 mpg city/34 mpg highway/31 mpg combined EPA mileage. Mazda’s predictive i-ACTIV all-wheel drive is available on every trim level, and Smart City Brake Support, which can automatically apply the brakes in emergency situations below 19 mph, is standard across the board. The European-style interior features MAZDA CONNECT, a standard seven-inch, full-color display that combines infotainment and diagnostic functions controlled through voice commands, a touchscreen or control knob.

Best Family Cars 2018

Families come in all shapes and sizes so it follows that the 10 best family cars of 2018 also come in various shapes and sizes. If you are part of a family with infants and small children, we at Driving Today have a vehicle for you. If you have a mix of pre-teens and teens we have you covered, too. And even families with college-age children can find their vehicle on this list. As with all of our DT 10 Best Lists, we concentrate on quality, reliability, safety and value. Your family is the most precious cargo on Earth, and we want to protect them every way we can.

All the vehicles on this list are eminently family-worthy, but they are shown in our order of preference from number one to number 10. We’re sure this list can help you in your quest for the best family vehicle for your crew.

1. 2018 Honda Odyssey

While some still deride minivans, as a practical family vehicle the minivan has no peer, and in our estimation the new-for-2018 Honda Odyssey is the best minivan on the planet. Even in base trim it is filled with thoughtful features that include alloy wheels, remarkably versatile seating, parking-assist camera system, and Bluetooth/USB infotainment system. If you step up to higher trim levels the equipment gets even more lavish — power sunroof, power liftgate, rear-seat DVD entertainment center with dual screens, AC electrical outlets, Wi-Fi, even a vacuum cleaner. The safety equipment array is too long to list here, and amazingly this rolling rec room is actually very pleasant to drive, thanks to its 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine.

 

2. 2018 Toyota RAV4

One of the most popular vehicles in America, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 stuffs a lot of equipment and uncommon quality and longevity into a compact package. With five trim levels from which to choose, RAV4 buyers can find an appropriate combination of equipment and price. Even the base RAV4 has ample room for five and an impressive array of standard equipment, including roof rails, parking camera system, and Bluetooth/USB integration and 6-inch touchscreen in its audio system. Going up the trim-level chain nets you even more comfort, convenience and safety features like leather upholstery and parking sensor system. Power is provided by a stout 176-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.

 

 

3. 2018 Honda Pilot

Honda hit the high notes perfectly with the Honda Pilot when it was thoroughly re-designed for the 2016 model year. Since then the model has been constantly refined, improving its up-to-eight-passenger utility while giving it the comfort-and-convenience features of a topnotch minivan.

Compared to many of its import-brand competitors the Pilot is big, and that translates into useful passenger and cargo space. Lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control lead the list of driver-assistance technology offered. Three-zone automatic climate control and HomeLink remote system are just a couple of the many features standard on up-level trim models. Ample power is available from the 280-horsepower V6, and that power is channeled through either a 6-speed or 9-speed automatic transmission, 

 

 

4. 2018 Chevrolet Traverse

Completely redesigned for the 2018 model year, the Chevrolet Traverse bears a family resemblance to the even larger Chevy SUVs, and one of its calling cards is its substantial size. It offers surprising room for third-row passengers and features exceptional cargo space behind the third row. Newly designed split-folding second-row seats and second-row captain’s chairs have a sliding feature to enhance access and versatility. The curbside second-row seat tips up and slides forward to provide third-row access even with a forward-facing child seat in place. Keyless unlock/start and three-zone automatic climate control are standard on all models. The standard MyLink radio systems feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility plus OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The standard engine is a 3.6-liter V6, while a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is offered in the RS model.

 

5. 2018 Toyota Highlander

The midsize Toyota Highlander crossover SUV delivers seating for seven in three rows plus a plethora of standard and optional features. Even the base model includes alloy wheels, heated/power-operated mirrors, tilting/telescoping steering wheel, rear vents, split/folding second and third-rows, and six-speaker audio system with touchscreen. Safety highlights are collision mitigation and parking camera systems. Front and rear parking sensors, panoramic sunroof and a rear-seat entertainment system are among the up level goodies available. The 3.5-liter V6 engine delivers 295 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful in the segment. Plus the Highlander tops many lists for reliability and longevity.

 

 

 

6. 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe

Built on the substantial Chevrolet full-size pickup truck chassis the Chevrolet Tahoe has been a family favorite for decades because of its ample room, versatile interior and substantial towing ability. This year a 6.2-liter performance package is available including a 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission and performance-calibrated Magnetic Ride Control, but the standard 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8 engine gets the job done. Safety equipment abounds. Among the highlights: front and side-impact air bags for driver and front passenger with front-center air bag and head curtain side-impact air bags for all rows, Forward Collision Alert, Safety Alert driver’s seat, Lane Keep Assist and Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking. The Tahoe rides like a limousine and can be filled with convenience and entertainment options galore.

 

 

7. 2018 Chrysler Pacifica

Chrysler invented the minivan, and the company is dedicated to keeping a substantial portion of the minivan business. That’s why they reinvented their minivan a year or so ago and renamed its Pacifica. With a versatile interior that can accommodate up to seven, the Pacifica can be modestly equipped with a commensurate modest price tag or it can be equipped with a variety of bells, whistles and 20-speaker audio. Base models feature heated/power-operated mirrors, keyless entry, stow-away second-row seats, power-operated driver seat, and parking camera system. Chrysler’s infotainment interface is one of the best in the business. Going up the trim level chain power-operated doors, power-operated liftgate and power-folding second- and third-row seats become available. Powering the shebang is a 287-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 or a hybrid gasoline-electric system.

 

8. 2018 Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are head-to-head competitors, but the CR-V throws off a more lighthearted vibe, while the RAV4 is more businesslike. Both are great vehicles for smaller, younger families, and the CR-V has been one of the most popular vehicles in the country for a decade or so.

The CR-V was completely redesigned for the 2017 model year, so this year it largely stands pat, but it boasts a premium-quality interior, an available turbocharged engine, and an incredible list of safety features. The CR-V’s Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver-assist technologies includes Road Departure Mitigation and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow. Additional available driver-assists are Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, Blind Spot Information System, Auto High-Beam and Driver Attention Monitor. EX and higher trims are powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine while LX trims are powered by a 2.4-liter direct-injected i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine.

 

9. 2018 Kia Soul

Versatile economy is the hallmark of the Kia Soul. It is one of the few vehicles available under $20,000 that is suitable for family-car duty, and in some ways is the standard-bearer for the Kia brand. Now in its fifth model year, the Soul has ranked at the top of the J.D Power Initial Quality Study in its category for three consecutive years. For 2018 the popular UVO3 infotainment interface is available across the model range. New packages of equipment that can be added to the $20,300 Soul Plus include Smart Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, HID headlights and LED positioning lights. Three engines are offered: 130-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder, 161-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and 201-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. Fuel economy numbers for all the engines will be good news for the family budget.

 

10. 2018 Ford Expedition

Ford apparently got tired of Chevrolet owning the full-size SUV business so it assembled an all-new Expedition that provides families generous space, a heavy dose of connectivity and smart new technology. Ford claims the Expedition has best-in-class second- and third-row legroom. Flexible seating solutions include second-row tip-and-slide seats that offer easy access to the third row even when child seats are installed. The rear-seat entertainment system can stream live cable or satellite television, and there are USB ports in every row. The powertrain is a 400-horsepower 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission for fuel economy and towing capability. Towing is enhanced by Pro Trailer Backup Assist that makes it easier for drivers of all skill levels to back up a trailer.

 

 

2018 Jeep Wrangler Essential Expert Review

What you need to know

The all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler Does everything the previous-edition Wrangler could do, but it does it in a significantly more driver- and passenger-friendly way. Some might suggest that Jeep is trying to domesticate the Wrangler, but that is not the case. The seminal Jeep model will still rock-crawl with the very best of them, but when it comes to a day-to-day commute to work or picking up the kids at school, it will do so without the noise and ride comfort sacrifices of the previous Wrangler. The Jeep design and engineering team has done all it could think of to make the new Wrangler easier to live with. The windshield folds more easily; the soft top comes off and goes back on more easily; the carpet comes out and is replaced more easily. You get the picture.

Driving it

When we got behind the wheel of the new Wrangler we immediately became aware that something different was at work here. The interior quiet, even in our soft-top test vehicle, was palpable. But did that mean that Jeep had pulled the fangs from its off-road bite? Happily, no. What we discovered in a Sonoran desert ascent up a cliff-like rock wall is that a stock Rubicon model is as capable as any four-wheeler we’ve ever driven. Sahara versions are off-road capable as well, but they skew more toward creature comforts.

Best alternatives

2017 Jeep Wrangler, no other model compares

Price range

Base: $28,000       Fully Equipped: $44,000    Typically Equipped: $31,000

Best feature

Fuel-efficient, torquey turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 8-speed automatic transmission

Lacks

Adaptive cruise control

Typical buyer

Male/Female - 55/45 percent   Married/Single - 60/40 percent
Median age - 51   Median Household Income - $114,000

Safety

NHTSA Crash Test Ratings: Overall not rated; frontal 3-star; rollover 3-star

Electronic Stability Control, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Crash Imminent Braking, Dynamic Brake Support

IIHS: Not rated

Fuel Economy (EPA miles per gallon city/highway/combined)

Lowest: NA / NA / NA          Highest: NA / NA / NA

Predicted Reliability 

Poor | GOOD | Better | Best

Predicted Cost-to-Own (versus key competitive vehicles)

Poor | Good | Better | BEST

Driving Today Expert Rating

Poor | Good | Better | BEST

Best Cars of 2018 under $30,000

If you want to know what the best all-new cars of the 2018 model year are you’ve come to the right place. We at DT have had the opportunity to sample virtually every member of the brand-new-for-2018 crop, and we can attest that the bar has been raised to nearly stratospheric heights this year.  Certainly we must acknowledge the American market has turned to crossover SUVs in ever-increasing numbers over the course of the past decade, but that doesn’t mean the auto manufacturers have turned their collective backs on the car.  So if you are looking for a sports sedan, a family car, an economy car or a hybrid you will find some very tantalizing choices on this list.

We at DT consider ourselves to be masters of suspense, so to maintain suspense as long as possible, we have structured this list in ascending order.  For those of you who have trouble distinguishing “ascending” from “descending,” (and on some days we’re right with you) this means we are saving the top cars until last.  But from bottom to top, this is one hell of a list.

Kia Rio

If you think the all-new 2018 Kia Rio sedan and five-door hatchback have a European look, you are onto something. Kia is a Korean automaker, but its international design staff features players who had key roles at Audi not too long ago. Because of that the fourth generation of the subcompact is one of theKia_Rio most attractive vehicles in its segment.  Both sedan and hatchback have grown slightly, and both feature the “tiger-nose” grille treatment that Kia favors these days.  Despite the fact it is a subcompact, the Rio offers significant creature comforts including six-way adjusting driver’s seat, tilt steering column, full instrumentation, air conditioning and a console with storage and two12-volt DC power outlets, very nice for about $18,000.

Subaru Impreza

Want a model that is all-new for just a hundred bucks more than the previous model?  If so, the Subaru Impreza might be your cup of joe.  Subaru is proud of the fact that the Impreza is built on its utterly new Subaru Global Platform. What this means to you is the new sedan and four-door hatchback models are more agile, more comfortable and more crashworthy.  Of course, the Impreza is equipped with Subaru’s trademark Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, which gives the vehicle remarkable traction and roadworthiness. Power comes from a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection. Even the base model, with a suggested list price of $18,495, includes a bevy of features including a 6.5-inch multimedia touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, power windows with auto up/down and 60/40-split fold-down rear seat.

Hyundai Ioniq

This year the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid joins the Hybrid and Electric in the varied Ioniq model lineup, and it is a fine addition indeed.  With 27 miles of all-electric range when fully charged, the Ioniq might enable you to commute gasoline-free.  Should conditions compel the use of the 104-horsepower gasoline engine, you can rest comfortably knowing you have a remarkable 650 miles of range.  But there’s more to the IIon_IQ oniq than just fuel economy.  The attractive four-door hatchback features a seven-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the instrumentation is supplemented with a 4.2-inch display.  Steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, dual-zone automatic temperature control and automatic projector beam headlights give the $29,000 (est) Ioniq an upscale feel.

Toyota Camry

In its eighth generation the Toyota Camry presents a decidedly dual personality to the world. Toyota product planners made certain that the lineup includes a plain vanilla version whose major calling card is unquestioned reliability, but other versions of America’s favorite driving appliance go out of their way to be sporty.  Okay, not necessarily Porsche sporty, but certainly more performance-oriented than any previous Camry. As proof, while others are ditching their V6-powered versions, the Camry offers a 3.5-liter V6 offering a potent 301 horsepower. But if you want to keep your payout below $30K, you’ll have to stick with the 2.5-liter four cylinder with 203 horsepower. The sportier XSE delivers just three more horsepower, but it looks much cooler, and it has an MSRP just under $30,000.

Toyota_Camry_2018

Honda Accord

We hate to gush (really we do), but after spending time in several versions of the all-new Honda Accord we really can’t help it. This is a sedan that covers just about every family-car base – comfortable, roomy, economical and, yes, fun to drive.  Gone is the previous version’s V6, and in its place is a 252-horsepower turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine mated to a 10-speed automatic or manual transmission that has the car magazine guys excited. But if you’re like most Accord buyers, you’ll find the 1.5-liter four cylinder (also turbocharged) a very rational choice. Also utterly rational is the Accord’s safety array; forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are standard equipment. Multiple versions of the 2018 Honda Accord are available for less than $30,000.  The line forms to your right.

 

 

2018 Honda Civic Type R Car Review

The 2018 Honda Civic Type R is like no Civic you’ve ever experienced, at least if your driving experience has been confined to North America. For many years enthusiast drivers in other markets have had various performance-oriented Civic Type Rs to fuel their automotive fantasies, but here our Civics were very reliable commuter modules and little more. Then late in the 2017 model year, American Honda finally authorized the hot hatchback for U.S. audiences.  And now, after the limited-run 2017 went well, Honda has just introduced the ever-so-slightly tweaked 2018 version, one part pure performance sports car and one part practical four-door hatchback, all for the bargain price of $35,000.

Let’s begin with the performance portion of the equation, because the bang for buck is nearly off the charts. First there’s the 306 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque output of its 2.0-liter dual overhead cam direct-injected VTEC turbo engine.  It helps the new model jet from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than five seconds, and it makes the Type R the most powerful Honda ever sold in America in the bargain.

But there’s more to the Type R than just straight-line speed.  Its ingenious Adaptive Damper System continually adjusts suspension damping at all four wheels to enable an otherworldly 1.0 g lateral acceleration number, essentially racecar-like cornering grip.  The ADS is an integral part of the three-mode driving system that offers comfort, sport and +R modes, the last for track use. The system modifies damping, throttle response and steering assist to match up with the driver's chosen setting.  If you’re wondering how 306 horsepower can be channeled through the front wheels without killer torque steer, Honda has the answer in the dual-axis strut front suspension design.

When ordering your own Type R be prepared to shift gears yourself.  Flying in the face of the dual-clutch automatic trend in sports machines, the Type R offers a short-throw, 6-speed manual as its only transmission choice, accompanied by a limited-slip differential.  Despite the throwback transmission, the Type R is equipped with a bevy of new-as-tomorrow electronic driving aids.  Included on the list are Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control, advanced four-channel antilock brakes, electronic brake distribution (EBD), brake assist and an indirect tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).   It’ll even help you park with its multi-angle rearview camera with handy dynamic guidelines.

If you’re seeking to stay connected, you’ll be pleased to learn the Civic Type R includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility plus the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with voice recognition.  Those connections are accessed from a roomy and airy cabin that also offers substantial cargo room behind the rear seats.  And speaking of seats, the driver and front passenger seats are specially designed, high-bolstered units with suede-like upholstery in black and red. Fuel economy of 22 city/28 highway/25 combined won’t induce you to sell your Prius, but then the Prius won’t rocket to 60 mph in five seconds either.  In fact it’ll take about twice that long.

In the 2018 Honda Civic Type R Honda is offering a vehicle with distinctive looks, a convenient and comfortable interior and a level of performance that rivals the best from Audi, BMW and even Porsche, all for $35K.  We don’t know why Type R took so long to get here, but we’re sure glad it did.