Most and least improved cars of the year

Using Consumer Reports data, we've ranked the models that did best--and worst--following a redesign. These five are your biggest gainers and losers.

A full redesign is a understandably creates a sink-or-swim question around an automobile: Is it better or worse than it was before. Consumer Reports has ranked the models whose performance and quality increased (and decreased) most, following a redesign. These five are your biggest gainers and losers.

MOST IMPROVED: Chevrolet Sonic LT Sedan

STARTING PRICE: $16,185

AVG. FUEL ECONOMY: 7.7-5.6 L/100km

NEW SCORE: 65 OLD SCORE: 36

DIFFERENCE: 29

CONSUMER REPORTS SAYS: “With the Sonic, Chevrolet has gone from being a maker of inferior subcompacts to having one of the best in the class.”

BUZZ: With the Chevrolet Sonic, GM has proven it can create a stand-out subcompact car. The sporty looking Sonic zips along on the road even with the base model 1.8-liter engine, and handles spectacularly, even better than you’d expect from a car this size. Steering feels weighty and responsive, and when it needs to, the Sonic can stop on a dime. It has a surprising amount of interior room (seats 5) for a subcompact, and a trunk big enough that you can put your bike in it.

TOP COMPETITORS
Toyota Yaris | 2013 Ford Fiesta | 2013 Hyundai Accent



MOST IMPROVED: Kia Sorento EX (V6)

STARTING PRICE: $34,295

AVG. FUEL ECONOMY: 11.5-8.2 L/100km

NEW SCORE: 82 OLD SCORE: 58

DIFFERENCE: 24

CONSUMER REPORTS SAYS: “The Sorento's V6 delivers quick, smooth performance and very decent fuel economy.”

BUZZToeing the line between larger and smaller SUVs, the mid-size Sorento has mass appeal for families looking something right down the middle. The robust V6 engine gives the driver plenty of power to call upon, and performs flawlessly even with a car stuffed with passengers and cargo. Even more impressive is the Sorento’s safety capabilities, with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety giving the it a Top Safety Pick.

TOP COMPETITORS:
Toyota RAV4 | Dodge Journey



LEAST IMPROVED: Nissan Versa

STARTING PRICE: $14,198

AVG. FUEL ECONOMY: 7.5-5.4 L/100km

NEW SCORE: 53 OLD SCORE: 69

DIFFERENCE: -16

CONSUMER REPORTS SAYS: “Nissan's subcompact Versa sedan is redesigned for 2012, but it's disappointing.”

BUZZ: Sometimes, change isn’t for the better, as is the case with the Versa. Its main selling point is its low price, but unfortunately, you get what you pay for. The cheap-looking interior is distracting, and the 1.6-litre motor is sluggish and unresponsive. The Versa drives like a slightly overpowered go-kart, with almost zero passing power, making it one of the slowest sedans on the market. To top it off, the weak engine wheezes and groans loudly with even meager output.

TOP COMPETITORS
Toyota Yaris | Hyundai Accent | Ford Fiesta



2013 Toyota Sienna XLE2013 Toyota Sienna XLE

LEAST IMPROVED: 2013 Toyota Sienna

STARTING PRICE: $39,740 (US)

AVG. FUEL ECONOMY: 11.5-8.1 L/100km

NEW SCORE: 80 OLD SCORE: 93

DIFFERENCE: -13

CONSUMER REPORTS SAYS: “The Sienna is a sensible choice, but in some ways it isn't as nice as the last generation. It rides very comfortably, but handling is lackluster.”

BUZZ: While still a sound choice, the 2013 Sienna has dropped from great to good. Annoyances like increased cabin noise, clunky ergonomics, and the disappearance of last year’s powerful four-cylinder engine (which lowers overall fuel efficiency) detract from what is an overall solid package. Yes, it’s still an above-average van, but there are more things to nitpick, which is always a disappointment.

TOP COMPETITORS:
Honda Odyssey | Ford Flex



2013 Toyota 4Runner2013 Toyota 4Runner

LEAST IMPROVED: 2013 Toyota 4Runner

STARTING PRICE: $37,990 (US)

AVG. FUEL ECONOMY: 12.6-9.2-6.3 L/100km

NEW SCORE: 55 OLD SCORE: 66

DIFFERENCE: -11

CONSUMER REPORTS SAYS: “The 4Runner is a body-on-frame SUV, good for towing and off-roading but not much else. The ride is unsettled and handling is mediocre at best . . .”

BUZZ: You can praise the 4Runner for its stubborn refusal to change its ways – it appeals to the hardcore crowd and delivers a rough and tumble package. Unfortunately, its lack of refinement will turn off the majority of drivers who don’t enjoy the constant jostling and clumsy handling. The 4Runner handles like Flintsones mobile, leaving the driver feeling unsure about what’s coming next. Interior plastics look flimsy and cheap, which is disappointing considering the price. If you’re looking for raw power and nothing else, the 4Runner satisfies.

TOP COMPETITORS:
Nissan Pathfinder | Jeep Grand Cherokee