Toyota Camry — Mostly the same, but better

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

If you like the styling of the last-generation Toyota Camry you will probably adore the looks of the all-new 2012 model. It has been updated with small changes — a few new creases here and squarer edges there — but the current Camry’s styling remains for the most part unchanged. You might need to see the old and the new side by side to readily tell the difference.

2012 Hyundai Azera

LAS VEGAS — There’s a hit song by the Eurythmics called "Sweet Dreams" that has a line, “Sweet dreams are made of these.” After test-driving the all-new 2012 Hyundai Azera it sounds like lead singer Annie Lennox must have just driven one, too.

Hyundai Genesis — Updated with more power, luxury

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Hyundai’s first foray into the premium sedan market was the 2009 Genesis, proving that the South Korean maker of low-budget economy cars could build a premium sedan. It was received favorably as a true luxury car at a price that undercut virtually all competition.

It no longer sits atop the Hyundai family tree, replaced in 2010 with an even more upscale model, the Equus.

The original Genesis is still very competitive against such stalwarts as the Lexus ES 350, Acura TL, Mercedes E-Class and Cadillac CTS. But Hyundai decided not to wait until the next complete remake before seriously upgrading the sedan. And for 2012 the Genesis gets more powerful engines, an eight-speed transmission, and exterior and interior styling updates.

2012 Toyota Prius c

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Let’s play a game of word association. Say “hybrid” and what’s the first word that comes to mind? That’s right, Toyota Prius. The Prius family just welcomed its fourth member and the gateway into the Prius world, the five-door subcompact Prius c. The “c” signifying “city.”

Toyota Camry Hybrid — For people who hate gas stations

By Al Vinikour

Trick question: What do you get when you cross a 2012 Toyota Camry with a hybrid engine? You don’t need a Cray SuperComputer to tell you the answer is one of the world’s best-selling mid-size automobiles that will get 40 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg highway.

Toyota recently introduced its all-new seventh-generation Camry, American’s best-selling car for nine years running and 13 of the past 14 years. Among the various models is the all-new Hybrid that debuts with a highly-revised version of the brand’s Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain, which includes a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

Mazda3 SkyActiv — More performance, better gas mileage

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Mazda is bringing a new technology to its lineup for 2012 called SkyActiv. When fully implemented it will involve revised engine and transmission designs, weight reduction, and chassis tuning.

Simply put, the goal of SkyActiv is to dramatically increase gas mileage without the use of turbocharging or supercharging, and without losing the performance that Mazda has become known for over the past decade with its “Zoom Zoom” persona.

Kia Rio hatchback — An amiable companion

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We tested the 2012 Kia Rio hatchback during the hectic holiday season and we soon realized it was just the right vehicle; something to jump into and out of without a second thought. The Rio was always ready to negotiate the traffic snarls of holiday suburbia, running here and there.

2012 BMW 3-Series

MONTEREY, Calif. — Arguably the benchmark by which all sport sedans are measured, BMW has introduced the sixth generation of its iconic 3-Series sport sedan. If BMW had it right the first time, which seems to be the general consensus, then imagine what the 2012 version — five generations removed from the original — must be like.

Audi A6 — Impeccable

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Audi’s reputation for building some of the most desirable cars in the world will surely continue to grow with the remake of its mid-sized A6 sedan. Like its next of kin, the stylish fastback A7, it stands out with its automotive sophistication, its delightful interior and its impeccable driving demeanor.
The A7 was released several months ahead of the A6, and other than exterior appearances, both cars are nearly identical in all areas including the drivetrain. The big difference between the two platform mates is passenger space. The more traditionally styled A6 will seat up to five passengers while the sleek A7 is designed as a 2 + 2 vehicle.

Volkswagen Beetle turbo — No flower but plenty of power

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

For those owners who thought the bud vase was just the cutest thing in the last-generation Volkswagen Beetle (1998-2011), you may be saddened to learn that the vase has been eliminated with the remake of the iconic car for the 2012 model year. The problem with the vase, auto wags say, is that it branded the Beetle as a “chick” car, and once a car gets associated with a specific demography, it can be difficult to change perception.