The Car Connection reviews more than 250 new vehicles each year, and we rate and rank each of them to arrive at a total score. After all that driving, we know well which cars are the best cars to buy -- the ones with the best styling,performance, comfort and utility, safety, features, and fuel economy.
What about the worst cars? Some cars do extremely well in our evaluation process. Inevitably, there are the cars (including trucks, SUVs and minivans) that fare poorly in our ratings.
A low score doesn't always mean a vehicle should be avoided at all costs. Some simply aren't up to the class standard; some are designed with good intentions, but lack in execution. Others do very well in some ways, but have an obvious Achilles heel.
Often, a low score means a vehicle just doesn't meet the stringent new crash-test standards set in just the past few years.
You've met the winners--now it's time for the also-rans. When we tally the results of all our driving, reviewing, and scoring, these emerge as the lowest-rated vehicles for the 2015 model year:
With a overall TCC Rating of 62, the Tacoma has low scores across the board. The cabin is packaged poorly, even for a pickup truck. The Tacoma's fuel economy is nothing special, and on-road ride and handling are a low in the mid-size truck segment. GM's new mid-sizers, the Canyon and Colorado, are much better choices in virtually every dimension.
The Mirage ties the Tacoma with our lowest numeric rating, but does it primarily through its performance score. There's just not much of it: you won't find any joy rowing the Mirage's gearbox or throttling its four-cylinder for all it's worth. Lower scores in styling and interior comfort are offset somewhat by reasonable safety ratings and a strong fuel-economy score.
The two-plus-seater iQ scores higher than two vehicles in our rankings, mostly because it's styled with some attention to detail and has fair crash-test scores, especially for its size. What it doesn't have is acceleration or grip in any sizable measure. It's also not as efficient as cars a size class larger. Its chief selling point is easy parking--a selling point that's critical to very few buyers. For about the same money, Scion's own xD is a much better vehicle--which could explain why the iQ is being discontinued.
Our rather dim assessment of the Versa applies more to the sedan than to the Versa Note hatchback, a better-looking and better-handling vehicle tagged with the same nameplate. The sedan sports excellent interior space, but ungainly styling, awkward handling, and unfortunately low crash-test scores.
A Mazda minivan? It's full of the contradictions you might expect--good handling, decent styling, smaller-than-average interior space (though still quite usable). What it doesn't have: good safety ratings. A minivan simply has to have excellent scores across the board to make it a sensible family choice, and the Mazda 5's poor small-overlap crash test scores put it near the bottom of the family-hauler rankings.
Some cars with low ratings deserve a look, under limited circumstances. Chevy's Spark is a cute little hatchback that has lots of virtue as a second or third car, particularly for city use--and particularly in its battery-powered Spark EV form, currently on amazing lease deals in three states. The Spark loses its charm outside of that realm; for most drivers, the bigger, quieter Chevy Cruze offers so much more, for not much extra cash.
We might actually enjoy driving the Toyota Yaris more than the larger Corolla; it has a certain wringable, flingable driving feel that's easier to nail in small cars. At best, though, the Yaris is relentlessly average, even where it tries to reach for higher ground in styling.
The Juke crossover SUV is divisive, and it doesn't need to be. It's Nissan's only small ute, but it's styled too aggressively for mainstream success. That by itself might be fine, but the Juke's also tuned as more of a performance vehicle--it has a thrilling but peaky drivetrain and a relentlessly brittle ride. Safety scores and equipment are lacking. It's neither a competitive, mainstream crossover nor the finely honed MINI alternative it seems to want to be.
The Prius C wears the enviable family name, but like the Scion iQ, the chief logic behind buying a C is for its size. If you truly need a vehicle that will fit into certain spaces, it's an excellent choice, with decent interior space and features to boot. If you can stretch out a bit more, and stretch your spending, the hallmark Prius liftback is a better choice, and gets better fuel economy as well.
Fiat's European-sized hatchback is a family of vehicles, and a couple of them have our undivided attention. The 500e is one of the most entertaining electric vehicles you can buy (or lease)--provided you live in a place where they're available. The Abarth variants turn the 500 into a snarling Hellrat, full of guttural noises and sharp-edged thrust that's almost unbelievable in its niche. The rest of the lineup lacks those charms, and is compromised by a very small interior with an awkward driving position, good but not great fuel economy, and very poor safety ratings.