2012 Hyundai Santa Fe
Crossovers are starting to evolve at this stage in their existence, and Hyundai's quickly learning that the crossover crowd will sacrifice engine size for interior space and efficiency every time.
The Santa Fe was always big for a midsized crossover, but Hyundai is lengthening the wheel base a bit for some of its 2013 models and adding an extra row of seats that increases rider capacity to six or seven. They're also doing away with an available V6 engine to go with a strictly four-cylinder lineup. The 2012 still has all its room, higher-output engines and tech toys such as satellite radio and Bluetooth and is still a bargain for buyers who aren't seeking extra space or additional cornering control.
The current auto market doesn't favor indecision, which made Chevy's not-a-pickup, not-an-SUV Avalanche an easy target.
Billed by Chevy itself as both a pickup and a truck, the versatile vehicle was never quite enough for lovers of either in the post-recession car world. Sales declined 2.6% to little more than 20,000 last year, collapsing from a peak of nearly 93,500 in 2003. The Avalanche couldn't overcome climbing gas prices and increasing numbers of crew-cab trucks, which makes the lame-duck 2013 nearly dead on arrival.2012 Toyota (TM) Avalon
It has luxury car size and luxury car mileage at a combined 24 miles per gallon, but the Avalon has just a few too many plastic parts and rough fabric to ever be considered a luxury. Toyota's trying to correct that by upgrading the 2013 to a Lexus ES frame and trimming fuel economy to roughly 35 miles per gallon. That leaves a hulking dinosaur of a 2012 model that hearkens back to big Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Chryslers of yesteryear. It's perhaps the last remnant of a time simple luxuries came in middle-class makes and models and weren't relegated to a high-end marque out of most americans' price range. 2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse
One of the last leftovers of Chrysler's partnership with Mitsubishi that also produced the Plymouth Laser and Eagle Talon in 1990, the Eclipse is a fading star in a dying constellation. The last Eclipse rolled off the line at the old Diamond Star Motors plant in Normal, Ill., in August 2011, leaving the Mitsubishi Galant as the only Mitsubishi vehicle still made in the U.S. America's hunger for a sporty family coupe has died down significantly since the Eclipse's heyday, but buyers who still have an urge to cruise their suburban strip of choice can get this sexy sub-300 horsepower beast for a song. 2012 Nissan (NSANY) Pathfinder
Of all the once-great SUVs on America's roads, the Pathfinder had perhaps the hardest time letting its '90s glory days go. Here we sit in 2012 A.D. And the Pathfinder is still being built to compete with the Chevy Blazer and Ford Bronco. It's still getting a paltry 18 miles per gallon and it still thinks a 4.0-liter V6 is something anyone wants in a family vehicle. Next year, the Pathfinder joins the rest of us in the 2010s by switching to a car-platform crossover, trimming to a 3.5-liter V6 and cutting fuel economy to a combined 21 miles per gallon. Folks who still enjoy their memories of listening to old Boyz II Men or Soundgarden tapes in their Pathfinder might like the discount on the 2012 model, but carbuyers who marvel at what they were paying for gas in the '90s may want to look into the 2013 upgrade.
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