The outlook: Subaru had an unexpected hit on its hands with the XV Crosstrek when it launched last year, and the hybrid version will play to the brand's outdoorsy demographic very well. The compact crossover was already economical, but the hybrid badge will add cache.
The A3 returns to the US, but as a sedan rather than the small wagon of the previous generation. Although pricey for a compact, the A3 will show off Audi's hottest technology along with a premium feel and dynamics.
You may roll your eyes at my calling the redesigned 2014 Toyota Highlander "the ultimate mom-mobile," but Toyota clearly had mobile mommies in mind when designing some of this Hybrid SUV's most unique features. For example, there's Driver Easy Speak -- a sort of automatic in-car public address system that let's the driver speak to passengers way back in the third row without raising her voice, turning her head, or taking a hand off of the ever-important steering wheel.
The outlook: The 2015 Subaru WRX is the quintessential Subie. Its excellent turbocharged engine delivers on the brand's sporty image. It uses the best and most advanced example of the automaker's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. And its looks are, well, quirky! About the only thing more tempting to Subaru fans and all-wheel drive enthusiasts is an upgrade to the rare, more hardcore 2015 Subaru WRX STI Launch Edition, which also hits dealerships this spring.
The outlook: The Fiesta SFE will raise eyebrows at its tiny, 1-liter engine, but that little mill packs more power than the 1.6-liter engine in the standard Fiesta, while getting fuel economy up to 45 mpg on the highway. Although the 1-liter engine will be a $1,000 option over the standard Fiesta, it's hard to argue with the win-win of greater power and fuel economy.
The outlook: The Mini Cooper was exciting when it launched in 2001, but has gotten a bit stale over the years. This new generation doesn't look terribly different, but it updates engine and cabin electronics, which should propel the little Cooper back into the public spotlight.
The outlook: Jeep has gone off of the beaten path with its latest generation of friendly, small crossovers. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is an exploration of new frontiers of design and a clever collection of technologies that we like, including automatic parallel and perpendicular parking assist. It's a Jeep for the city, but the 4x4 Trail Rated Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk model is as at home off the road as it is on.
The outlook: The electric i3 is a departure from BMW's sports reputation in the US, but could spell an important future direction for the brand. The i3 was designed from the ground up to be an electric car, rather than a conversion of a gasoline model, but its average 100-mile range on a full charge doesn't help it stick out from other electric cars on the market.
The outlook: No, this Garmin won't tell you where to go, but it will keep its digital eye on the road for you. In the event of a fender bender, the Garmin Dash Cam 20 will automatically capture a video snapshot of the moments leading up to the accident and a few moments thereafter. The 20 also records GPS latitude, longitude, date, time, speed, and direction of travel: this vital information could end up protecting you from a variety of legal and insurance woes.