You have 366 days to fulfill your New Year's resolutions in 2016. That's a long way to go without a ride.
Automakers may want to resolve themselves being more active in 2016 after more than 5% vehicle sales growth through the first 11 months of the year. That's an improvement of about 800,000 vehicles from the same span in 2014, but a noticeable slowdown from the rapid pace of the industry's recovery from both automaker bailouts and the economic collapse. With the average gas price making its way below $2 nationally, automakers might want to draw more connections between cars and people's lives that just their daily commute and the distance between Point A and Point B.
A poll commissioned by Marist last year found that 44% of Americans planned to make a New Year's resolution in 2015. That jumps to 56% for Americans younger than 45 years old and 64% of those under 30. That's identical to the 44% of Americans who made similar promises last year, but last year's results bode ill for this year's crop. Of those who vowed to make changes after 2014, 59% stuck to their word, down from 72% a year earlier.
The targets of 2015 New Year's promises are as well-worn as elliptical pedals in January or financial advisors' office chairs in February. Nearly 40% of those resolutions involved losing weight, exercising more or getting healthier in general. Another 7% want to spend less money and save more. The same percentage wants to stop smoking, while 4% just want to be kinder to others or "enjoy life." For each of those resolutions, there's a car built to get folks to their goal. With a little help from experts at car-pricing sites Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book, we've put together a list of ten vehicles ready to get your resolutions rolling:
Get fit (best car for an active lifestyle): 2016 Subaru Impreza
Starting price: $18,295
Miles per gallon: 28 city, 37 highway, 32.5 combined
The Subaru Outback was once simply a Subaru Legacy wagon. The Subaru Forester was basically just a very tall version of a wagon in its earliest days. The Crosstrek XV wants to say it's a crossover, but it basically looks like a wagon.
That makes the fuel-sipping stretched version of the Impreza the last true wagon being sold by a company that was basically built on them. It also makes both the sedan and wagon the most-efficient vehicles that all-wheel-drive-loving Subaru produces. This isn't surprising, considering the Impreza is Subaru's small car and is just all its other vehicles' features shoved into a sporty little package, but it has to be comforting to people who didn't pay nearly $7,000 extra for a hybrid that still doesn't match this vehicle's mileage. With Subaru-standard all-wheel drive and an entry-level price below $20,000, the Impreza cannot only get you to the beaches and trails, but will also leave you with enough cash left over for an impressive, multi-state itinerary.
Save money: 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV
MSRP: $18,495 after incentives
Miles per gallon equivalent: 128 city, 109 highway, 119 combined
Electric charge range: 82 miles
It's more formidable than the Fiat 500e at 140 horsepower, but it doesn't break $20,000 after incentives. In the subcompact EV world, that's almost a sports car.
The Spark looks like a spartan subcompact from the outside, and its EV version doesn't get a full charge for seven hours using even its most powerful charger. However, it has 23.4 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats down, a 7-inch diagonal high-resolution color touch-screen, Bluetooth wireless, Apple Siri Eyes Free texting and a standard three years of OnStar remote link access that lets owners check battery level, efficiency statistics and more on their smartphones. Oh, and it has mobile 4G Wi-Fi.
Spark EV users also get to use their smartphone as a key and remote starter and, once inside, can drive secure in the knowledge that they're surrounded by no fewer than ten airbags. The upcoming Chevrolet Bolt may make the Spark look a bit more thrifty by comparison, but right now this is GM's most electrifying -- and cost-efficient -- EV. Among electric cars, only two -- the Smart ForTwo and Mitsubishi MiEV -- cost less, but neither gives drivers this much range or space for their money.
Quit smoking (low emissions vehicle) 2015 BMW i3
Miles per gallon equivalent: 137 city, 111 highway, 124 combined
Electric charge range: 81 miles
It's incredibly efficient even without an available, on-board gas generator that doubles the vehicle's 81-mile range -- which we have to note is still well below the Tesla's 270 miles. Made with lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber, the i3 far lighter than most other EVs and requires a smaller battery consuming less energy. Thus, its 124 miles per gallon equivalent is actually far more efficient than the Model S's 100 mpge, even if the latter has greater range. The crew at Edmunds managed to get 96 miles worth of range out of the standard battery and 150 with the extender.
The i3 also packs 170 horsepower of performance and tons of interior space in an electric ride rivaled in speed by only the Tesla Model S. There is room for four full-size adults to fit comfortably, while the fold-flat makes the i3 surprisingly practical. With lots of luxury amenities that BMW customers have come to expect, the i3 beats the Model S in one big area: price. That $42,400 still isn't cheap, but it has some eco-friendly upside.
Enjoy life (road trip car). 2016 Ford Flex
Starting price: $29,600
Passenger volume: 155.8 cubic feet
Seating capacity: 7
Cargo volume: 18.6 cubic feet with seats up, 55 cubic feet with the third row down, 108.3 cubic feet with second and third rows down.
This vehicle regularly makes our list of family cars for one big reason: it has the room to appeal to people who can use the shuttling space.
Basically a minivan in a crossover's body, the Flex has room for seven, 44 inches of legroom in the second row (though Consumer Reports disputes this and says it's 31.5) and a power folding mechanism for getting into the 33.3 cubic feet (28 by the Consumer Reports measure) in the third row. Lofty headroom makes easy to transport a large crew or throw some gear in the back and take a long trip all while giving them enough room to maneuver regardless of height.
Options such as sliding second-row captain's seats, Microsoft Sync phone, entertainment and navigation systems in its MyFord Touch screen, DVD entertainment center for the back, a multipanel sunroof, a third-row seat that flips into a rear-facing tailgate bench and second-row fridge console for road sodas compensate somewhat for its roughly 20 combined miles per gallon.
Be kinder to others: 2016 Ford F-150
Miles per gallon: 18 city, 25 highway, 21.5 combined
A new aluminum body gives it more morderate mileage while new tech features for both entertainment and communication bring it into the 21st century. That said, the F-150 and its 3.6-liter V6 engine could have remained as basic as ever and still sold more vehicles in a year than certain vehicle categories. It's on four decades of leading the U.S. and the pickup truck category in sales, and it isn't slowing down anytime soon.
But what does it have to do with being kinder to others, you ask? Ask anyone who owns a pickup. It doesn't matter if you have a five-and-a-half-foot box or an eight-foot box: if it looks like it can hold furniture, boxes or a load of dirt, you're going to have a bunch of friends and family looking for your help on moving or gardening day. You might only get paid in pizzas or six-packs, but you'll be fairly popular and get a whole lot more face time with people you didn't see all that often last year. A pickup is just karma points waiting to happen... or a rolling favor, depending on your outlook.
Spend more time with family: 2016 Honda Odyssey
Starting price: $29,275
Passenger volume: 172.6 cubic feet
Seating capacity: 7 to 8
Cargo volume: 38.4 cubic feet with seats up, 93.1 cubic feet with the third row down, 148.5 cubic feet with second and third rows down.
Nothing says, “I'm trucking around the entire family,” quite like a minivan. If it's a comfortable ride however, the minivan can make that statement without attaching a belabored sigh to the end of it.
The Odyssey's versatile cabin seats up to eight, with second-row seats that can be configured to fit three child seats. The Odyssey's removable center console offers a useful flip-up trash-bag holder, and there's also a "cool box" beverage cooler to accommodate chilled refreshments. Available features include a blind-spot warning system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a 16-inch screen capable of simultaneously displaying two different program sources.
Best of all, an in-cabin vacuum is an available option for parents who just know that a healthy percentage of that trip's road snacks are going to end up on the floor. It also comes in handy for a vehicle that can carry up to eight people with enough room behind them for a small grill. More importantly, it can carry five family members; collapse the third row and you have 93.1 cubic feet for more storage.
Be a better person: 2015 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Convertible/Coupe
Miles per gallon equivalent: 122 city, 93 highway, 107 combined
Electric charge range: 68 miles
Want to take up less parking space, use less gas and be more modest about your choice of vehicle? There are few vehicles that accomplish all of those goals less smugly than the Smart.
For years, the combustion-engine version of this two-seater wasn't great on gas. However, the EV came as a power convertible top or as a coupe with a panoramic roof and threw in with power heated exterior mirrors, rain and light sensors, a radio app and automatic temperature control. It still takes up to four and a half hours to charge it from zero, but it doesn't burn through a lot of power.
All this said, we'll mention that the forthcoming 2016 version widens the wheelbase, gives drivers a smartphone dock for better access to the car's myriad apps that substitute for dashboard options and adds items you likely thought were standard: Bluetooth hands-free calling, cruise control, power steering, power windows and crosswind assist for its tiny frame. None of that will bulk up this vehicle's 47 horsepower, however, but it may make it a little easier to love.
Go back to school: 2016 Honda Fit
Starting price: $15,790
Miles per gallon equivalent: 33 city, 41 highway, 37 combined
We had a couple of candidates picked out, but Kelley Blue Book considered this spacious, efficient little hatchback its back-to-school car of the year, so who were we to argue?
One of the subcompacts that started the class's renaissance, the colorful and convenient Fit got a complete revamp that makes it an incredibly worthy tailgate vehicle despite its size. Its 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats down actually decreased from 57.3 cubic feet last year, but the seats get a little more modular, to the point that the from passenger seat folds back to serve as a footrest for a passenger in the back who wants to sleep for this leg of the trip.
Blind-spot cameras, a multi-angle rearview camera, touchscreen audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, an app suite, leather-trimmed and heated seats, a moonroof and satellite navigation all make for a pleasant, comfortable ride for both driver and passenger. Meanwhile, the Fit's compact footprint should make it easy to find a spot on campus.
Get a better job: 2015 Honda Civic
Starting price: $18,490
Miles per gallon: 30 city, 39 highway. 34.5 combined
Edmunds characterizes it as a “popular car for students and those on a budget,” but it's popular by just about any measure. The Civic routinely ranks among the Top 10 cars in the country in sales, but a $1,000 and $2,000 discount from dealers while making room for more efficient all-new 2016 models certainly doesn't hurt.
It's a bit snug for more than two, but the Civic's combined 35 miles per gallon and nearly 40 miles per gallon on the highway make it a great car to grow into. It seats five with a surprising amount of space left over, is coated in airbags and has a new 7-inch touchscreen display that shows fuel efficiency, music info and photos. The utilitarian small sedan also tends to hold up well over the years, making it a gem for used car buyers who aren't just waiting for a larger, far less efficient vehicle to get less expensive.
This is where the “better job” portion of the discussion comes in. Kelley Blue Book offered up the 2015 Civic as the best option for drivers considering turning their car into extra cash as UberX drivers. The 2015 Civic's estimated five-year cost to own comes to $30,863 including gas and maintenance. That, works out to $6,172 annually, or about $118 per week, which puts it ahead of competitors including the Hyundai Elantra, Dodge Dart, Kia Forte, Toyota Corolla and Chevy Cruze. The “better” part of this job description may vary by driver, but it's certainly one means of padding income in 2016.
Worry less: 2016 Acura RLX hybrid
Starting price: $59,950
Miles per gallon: 28 city, 32 highway, 30 combined
That 377 horsepower from the guts of Acura's NSX dream car shouldn't scare you. Not only did the 2016 RLX get a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and some of the highest ratings on all crashes for any sedan on the road, but Kelley Blue Book drivers also think incredibly highly of it.
That sedan frame means there's a ton of legroom in the back seats, the AcuraLink app for navigation and diagnostic information, GPS linked climate control (so the car knows which side is in the sun and, thus, which side to cool), a 14-speaker sound system, voice controls, voice texting, Bluetooth, leather heated and ventilated seats, adaptive cruise control and lane assistance. However, the NHTSA was most taken with the RLX's sear belts, air bags, braking systems, body design and, most importantly, the front crash mitigation system that uses radar to determine the distance of objects ahead, tightens the driver's seat belt to tell him or her when to brake and applies the brakes for him when a crash seems imminent. Combine that with improved hybrid mileage and an owner is left with precious little to fret about.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.