Auto sales are on the rise in 2010, and that’s a good thing, especially since the last two years were such a complete disaster for the industry. But which models are the cream of the showroom crop? What makes them rise to the top of the heap? And why should they be on your short list when purchasing a new car, truck or SUV this year? To answer these questions, we compiled a list of America’s top sellers according to Automotive News data, and examined each machine’s strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully our evaluation will give you insight into what makes each model a winner, and why they appeal to more consumers than any other rides on the road today.
Sales YTD May 2010: 193,843
Change % vs. YTD 2009: +34.9
One has to ask, “Did we learn anything from the last gas crisis if a pickup — the Ford F-150 — is still the best-selling vehicle in America?” Answer: No, no we didn’t. Regardless, the F-150 (base price $21,820) is a fantastic machine. The Ford’s solid chassis, excellent build quality and diverse cab/bed configurations have been seamlessly married to a refined, highly interactive cabin. As a result, the F-150 can put in a full day’s work on the job site and carry you home in relative comfort.
Pros: Great payload/towing capability ● Innovative, stylish cabin ● Very powerful
Cons: No V6 option ● Options are expensive ● Base truck equipped like work truck
Sales YTD May 2010: 135,843
Change % vs. YTD 2009: +8.5
GM’s pickup offering, the Silverado (base price $20,850), lives by the “most dependable, longest lasting” credo and is seen as an enduring patriot to many Americans. The Chevy offers a V6 option and a hybrid version, adding fuel efficiency to the plus-side of its ledger. The Silverado’s durability claim to fame is backed by a five-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, which is tops in its class. However, the hearty pickup is a very narrowly focused product that may not work for all buyers.
Pros: Available V6 and hybrid powertrains ● Expertly balances comfort and capability in a rugged package ● Class best 5 yr/100k powertrain warranty
Cons: Typical poor GM interior treatment ● Base truck is work truck ● Desirable comfort options are pricey
Sales YTD May 2010: 125,804
Change % vs. YTD 2009: +1.6
The Camry (base price $19,995) is the best-selling car in America so far this year. But is that because the Camry is a good car, or a force-of-habit purchase? Unfortunately, we think the latter is the case. While the new-for-2010 Toyota Camry lacks spark, imagination and personality and takes the ‘automotive appliance’ to new levels, its competition is infusing midsize sedan offerings with bold designs, forward-thinking electronics and plenty of value at the bottom line. No doubt the Camry is family friendly, fuel efficient, roomy, and rides comfortably — but the competition does too.
Pros: 4-cylinder, hybrid stretch fuel dollar ● Big trunk, big cabin equals happy family ● Does a lot well, nothing exceptional
Cons: Appliance-like A-to-B transport ● Styling is boring ● Does a lot well, nothing exceptional
Sales YTD May 2010: 122,725
Change % vs. YTD 2009: +14.6
Honda’s Accord (base price $21,055) is on the move. It’s an eye-catcher with beauty that is more than just skin deep. Quality interior materials, fantastic fit-and-finish, and highly refined engines make this Honda a real threat in the midsize sedan segment, a segment that makes up half the Top 10 sellers in America. The Accord offers a palatable driving experience and the peace of mind of a commuter. We especially like Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management system that allows the hearty 271-horsepower V6 to realize fuel efficiency of 19 mpg city/ 29 mpg highway. If V6 power is on your criteria list, the Accord deserves a long look.
Pros: Styling with a soul, great proportions ● Room galore in coupe and sedan ● Versatile lineup, now has Crosstour
Cons: V6 only available in upscale EX trim ● No manual gearbox offered in EX sedan ● Would like a sport version
Sales YTD May 2010: 118,625
Change % vs. YTD 2009: +16.6
The Corolla (base price $15,450) is one of Toyota’s frontline troopers charged with setting the stage for future buyer loyalty. The car lives up to the subcompact mantra of low cost, low maintenance and high fuel economy … heck, it wrote the mantra, as the 2010 iteration is the 10th generation of this groundbreaking model. With that level of refinement and value, the Corolla makes a lot of sense to today’s buyers and is a must-test-drive in the compact division.
Pros: Miserly at the pump, easy on wallet ● Excellent outward visibility ● Nav system on options menu
Cons: Rigid flat bucket seats in base trim ● Option packages can really drive up price ● Sport trim woefully lacks substance
Sales YTD May 2010: 107,127
Change % vs. YTD 2009: +9.9
The Civic (base MSRP $15,455) is another Honda in pursuit mode, having outsold its cross-town rival, the Corolla, in May. This tightens the race, making for a big showdown for compact-sales supremacy. In a test of 2008 models, the Civic displayed superior driving dynamics, ride quality, comfort and convenience over the Corolla. It also offers an accomplished green alternative in the Civic hybrid, making it another must-test in the compact segment.
Pros: Well-delineated, well-priced trims ● Automatic transmission is a 5-speed ● Sporty Si delivers pure substance
Cons: Split gauge cluster upsets cabin balance ● Rear drum brakes in DX, LX trims ● Wide turning radius
Sales YTD May 2010: 96,195
Change % vs. YTD 2009: +20.1
At a glance, the Nissan Altima (base price $19,900) is a bit of a surprise coming in 7th on the sales ledger, but it truly delivers the goods. Buyers want a car equipped to their needs at a good price and that’s exactly what the Altima delivers. It is more cost-effective than both the segment leaders. If you want luxury in the form of leather seats, the Altima delivers it for $1,165 less than Camry and $1,200 less than Accord. If you want to add a little get-up-and-go to your mojo, a V6 engine can be had in the Altima for $1,684 less than Camry and $2,285 less than Accord. The Altima has to be a serious consideration in an already super-tough category.
Sales YTD May 2010: 92,763
Change % vs. YTD 2009: +39.3
Want to know why Ford didn’t need bailout money? Look no further than Fusion. This sedan (base price $19,695) has captured a good deal of high ground from its import and domestic competition by offering a highly fuel-efficient lineup, a highly connected, Sync-enhanced driving experience and a highly attractive pricing structure. The Blue Oval is even more of a value than the Altima, saving $805 for those with a lust for V6 thrust and $975 for those looking for leather. This is a quality car at a competitive price. While it still may have some ground to gain on the Accord and Camry, the writing is on the wall.
Pros: All-new for 2010 ● Available all-wheel drive and hybrid versions ● Tech-savvy, soothing interior
Cons: Massive snub-nose grille too bulky ● Braking system can use an update ● 7.1-sec 0-60 behind midsize sedan curve
Pros: Great price structure, value for dollar ● V6 adds verve to driving experience ● Crisp, not commuter, suspension settings
Cons: No manual transmission in sedan ● Tight rear seat, hard to fold down ● We miss the SE-R version
Sales YTD May 2010: 87,597
Change % vs. YTD 2009: +36.1
The Malibu (base price $21,605) is the silver lining in GM’s dark cloud. It offers good looks, a good interior, excellent fuel economy and competitive reliability. Plus, it’s available as a hybrid. Where it has trouble is price point. GM’s mazelike model/trim hierarchy is difficult to navigate. The base trim leaves all meaningful option packages off the table. Only the up-level LT opens the door to desirable options. Surprisingly, a spare tire is a $100 option on all trims. A tire sealant and inflation kit is “standard” instead. Bottom line, if you can configure a Malibu to your liking, you will be getting a solid car.
Pros: Quiet interior, sleek attractive exterior ● Nice mix of engines, including hybrid ● Good basic transport
Cons: 6-speed automatic only in upscale iterations ● Trunk opening small and tall ● Back seat cramped, doesn’t fold flat
Sales YTD May 2010: 83,440
Change % vs. YTD 2009: +36.7
It’s a case of Blue Oval bookends as Ford finishes off the list with America’s best-selling SUV, the Escape (base price $21,020). Like the F-Series atop the list, the Escape is an established sales leader in its class, holding the sales title since its inception in 2001. The F-Series comparisons continue as the Escape also features a rugged design and plush interior. The Escape’s strengths include room for five adults, loads of cargo space, exceptional fuel economy including a hybrid version, a high level of comfort, an extensive standard equipment list and great pricing. If you are looking for a crossover SUV, this should be your starting point.
Pros: Very fuel-efficient lineup, including a hybrid ● Plenty of room inside ● Competitive standard appointments
Cons: Chunky dash design, hard-to-read gauges ● 4-cylinder noisy under hard acceleration ● 4-cylinder only tows 1,500 pounds