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L.A. Auto Show: Toyota RAV4, fast Ford Fiesta, sleek Jaguar are hits

November 29, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Toyota RAV4
Toyota RAV4 (Chris Carlson / Associated…)

The new Toyota RAV4, a hot-rodded Ford Fiesta and graceful looking Jaguars and Range Rovers were among the standouts at the Los Angeles Auto Show, according to the auto experts at Consumer Reports magazine and Edmunds.com.

Consumer Reports automotive tester Jake Fisher said Toyota’s new RAV4 sport-utility vehicle, the first full redesign of the vehicle in seven years, “looks really promising. It is a significant mainstream vehicle and has become the new family car.”

He said the new RAV4 shows that Toyota is aware of its “traditional shortcomings” and has worked to make the new model more stylish and fun to drive.

Fisher also wants a chance to drive the new Fiesta.  While the version with the three-cylinder engine has grabbed a lot of attention at the show, it's the 197-horsepower, turbocharged Fiesta ST “that I am dying to drive,” he said. “With almost 200 horsepower on board that thing should be a blast.”

Fisher was less enthusiastic about another Ford product, the seven-passenger Transit Connect Wagon, an ungainly vehicle based on a model sold in Europe. “The Transit Connect wagon is very functional, but not many people will buy it because of the way it looks,” he said.

Ford thinks its fuel efficiency -- it is expected to get as much as 30 mpg highway driving -- will make it an attractive vehicle, especially for young families.

Fisher disagreed. “It's not quite to the point where gas prices will get people into vehicles they don’t want to be seen in,” he said. “If gas was $10 a gallon it would be a popular car.”

Meanwhile Jessica Caldwell, the senior analyst at Edmunds.com, said she was impressed with the looks of the new Jaguar F-type convertible and the new Land Rover Range Rover introduced at the show, and both would be popular in Southern California, one of the largest global markets for the brands.

Caldwell also liked the RAV4. "The RAV4 almost literally removed a monkey off its back by doing away with the spare tire hanging off its rear," she said.

Caldwell also said she was impressed with the general high quality of the vehicles the industry is producing and displaying at the show. Consumers will benefit from the rising competition, Caldwell said.

"You just can't assume that your customers will come back," she said. "Assume now that every car will have good quality, and that puts the automakers on a level playing field."

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Toyota roars back

Panorama: 2012 L.A. Auto Show

Full coverage: 2012 L.A. Auto Show

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