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Cars that missed the cut

Earlier this week we announced the nine finalists for The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2024 award. The finalists narrow down the dozens of redesigned, new, or significantly refreshed cars to help car shoppers navigate the convoluted if not confusing new car experience. With some 265 new car models on sale now, there are so many choices. 

With model years not aligned with calendar years, our list of Best Car To Buy 2024 finalists and the dozen that missed the cut are not necessarily 2024 model year cars. Finalists such as the Honda Accord and Honda Pilot were redesigned for the 2023 model year, but didn’t arrive in market by November of last year to qualify for our award. (Read more about how we rate cars.) So too with the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. So they’re considered for our 2024 award. 

Conversely, several vehicles that were recently announced did not qualify this year because not enough of our five editorial judges got seat time in the new car, or they won’t arrive on dealer lots before our Best Car To Buy 2024 winner is announced Jan. 3, 2024. Those models will be punted to next year’s award. They include the 2024 Toyota Tacoma, 2024 Ford Ranger, 2024 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, 2024 Lincoln Nautilus, 2024 Hyundai Kona, and a handful more.   

That left us with nine finalists and the following dozen that missed the cut for myriad reasons addressed below. They’re all good cars, but they weren’t good enough to be considered the best.  

Alfa Romeo Tonale

Alfa added another compact crossover to a segment overflowing with them, and the Alfa Romeo Tonale is a more luxurious offering than the related Dodge Hornet but it’s awash with compromises. It charms with Italian style, and it points Alfa forward with only a plug-in hybrid powertrain yet simultaneously points the luxury brand downmarket. Starting at $45,000, it’s a tweener, too expensive for the mainstream but a friendlier entry point than the Stelvio. It retains the brand’s sportiness in small crossover fashion, with a 1.3-liter turbo-4 and a motor on the rear axle that combine to make 285 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque, which is good for a quoted 0-60 mph run of 5.6 seconds. Steering and handling are sharp for the segment but it can ride rougher than its target audience may prefer and the 30 miles of electric range doesn’t seem like enough for a new car. 

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Chevrolet Colorado

Redesigned for 2023 but not arriving in time for our testing, the Colorado midsize pickup truck sports a new look, rides on a longer wheelbase, and comes with a 2.7-liter turbo-4 tuned three different ways. The base WT and LT grades are good for 237 hp and 260 lb-ft, while most models get the Turbo Plus that spins out 310 hp and 391 lb-ft, and has a tow rating of 7,700 pounds. The off-road ZR2 that arrived later in 2023 ratchets up 430 lb-ft, but towing capacity drops to 6,000 pounds. It’s a good truck, with a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic. Priced between $30,000 and $48,000, it’s a better value than its predecessor because it comes with standard features such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and wireless smartphone connectivity. It doesn’t make any big leaps in terms of refinement, efficiency, or space utilization, but it matures the midsize truck. 

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Dodge Hornet

Like the related Alfa Romeo Tonale, the 2024 Dodge Hornet is more important for the brand than it is for the marketplace. It’s the first new Dodge model in more than a decade and it’s not a muscle car—or muscle SUV—but the Hornet doesn’t break any new ground in the massive compact crossover segment. It’s offered in two powertrains with standard all-wheel drive: the Hornet GT taps a 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 268 hp and 295 lb-ft; the Hornet R/T plug-in hybrid uses a 1.3-liter turbo-4 with a 44-hp motor in front and a 121-hp motor in back to make 288 hp and 383 lb-ft. The latter leans into the premium class at about $43,000, while the GT starts at about $32,000. 

2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse

2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse

Ford Mustang

The redesigned 2024 Ford Mustang earns accolades for being the last muscle car standing, with the discontinuation (for now) of the Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro. It stands on its own as a great American car and will likely be the last two-door with a 500-hp V-8. The GT with the Performance Pack and the Mustang Dark Horse stand out as everyday drivers with track capability baked in, while the 315-hp turbo-4 makes for a friendlier Mustang that’s plenty of fun. The redesign adds more power and state-of-the-art interior technology, but the Mustang’s use-case remains limited. It is a Best Car To Buy finalist at our enthusiast and performance publication, Motor Authority. 

2024 GMC Canyon

2024 GMC Canyon

GMC Canyon

Much of what was said about the Colorado can be said here, except instead of the ZR2 the redesigned 2023 GMC Canyon comes with an AT4X off-road grade. It’s a good truck, offered with only the 310-hp 2.7-liter turbo-4, and better standard features than the Colorado, such as an 11.3-inch touchscreen. It’s also more expensive, ranging from $40,000 to $63,350 for the AT4X Edition 1. 

2024 Honda Passport TrailSport

2024 Honda Passport TrailSport

Honda Passport

Honda’s refreshed midsize crossover boasts the second iteration of its off-road adjacent Honda Passport TrailSport model. The soft-roader looks the part with a more assertive face and roof rails, as well as standard General Grabber A/TX 245/60R18 all-terrain tires on machined 18-inch wheels. The ground clearance of 8.1 inches remains the same across all three trims, but the wheels and tires boost the track widths front and rear by 0.3 inches. Honda reworked the suspension with softer springs front and rear, a stiffer anti-roll bar, and revised damper valving that balances the traction demands of the trail and the comforts expected on the road. It’s expensive, however, at $45,875, and the changes to the other Passports are minimal, mostly with a new center console. Changes to the Passport are not enough to get stamped entry into Best Car To Buy. 

2024 Hyundai Kona

2024 Hyundai Kona

Hyundai Kona

The redesigned 2024 Hyundai Kona small crossover is built on an electric vehicle platform, even though it can optioned with a 190-hp 1.6-liter turbo-4 or a 147-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 for about $26,000. The electric model will follow, with either a 48.6-kwh battery pack or a 64.8-kwh battery pack good for 261 miles of estimated range. The big difference from its predecessor is that it’s almost six inches longer than, with a wheelbase that’s 2.4 inches longer, with 3.0 inches more rear-seat legroom and 25.5 cubic feet of cargo volume. But we haven’t tested enough of its iterations, so it will be revisited for Best Car To Buy 2025. 

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Hyundai Sonata

The refreshed 2024 Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan shines from a makeover that tucks the hood down low and lines it with a light bar ruling over a lower, broader, more rakish face. But the three remaining powertrain options mostly carry over, including the punchy 290-hp 2.5-liter turbo-4 on N Line models. The excellent hybrid gets tweaked with more regen brake settings, perhaps to improve on its stellar 52 mpg combined once the EPA completes certifying it. Even with a new dash design and more tech-forward features such as the twin 12.3-inch digital displays under one pane of glass, the winning sedan doesn’t evolve enough to merit Best Car To Buy consideration. It’s still one of our highest-rated sedans, though.  

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Mazda CX-90

Mazda’s newest and largest vehicle leans into the luxury segment but its plug-in hybrid powertrain comes up confused. The CX-90 three-row crossover SUV replaces the CX-9 and introduces two new engine options, including a 3.3-liter inline-6 aided by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that can make 280 hp in Turbo models or 340 hp in Turbo S models. It’s a solid three-row SUV loaded with luxury touches, but the plug-in hybrid variant in the middle of the lineup can’t seem to recognize if it should be running on gas, electric, or both. A 189-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 with a 173-hp electric motor energized by a 17.8-kwh lithium-ion battery pack makes 323 hp and 369 lb-ft total, but the 8-speed automatic feels overly busy and the handoff in power between electric and gas sources can make it shudder. If not for the PHEV, the CX-90 could have been a finalist.  

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Mercedes GLC-Class

Redesigned in 2023, the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 set the table for AMG models that followed it, with the GLC 43 Coupe arriving as a 2024 model, and the GLC 63 Coupe plug-in hybrid as a 2025. While we await the U.S. arrival of the AMG Coupe models, the GLC 300 earned a high TCC Rating of 7.0 out of 10 and its an improvement over the outgoing GLC, but it didn’t move the needle enough to be considered one of the best. Powered by a 258-hp turbo-4 with a mild-hybrid setup for 295 lb-ft, the GLC is quick and spry, and loaded with Mercedes charm, as it should be for a starting price of about $50,000. 

 

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Subaru Crosstrek

The redesigned 2024 Subaru Crosstrek small crossover follows the redesign of the related Impreza hatchback with a sportier 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-4 option, new styling, a larger 11.6-inch touchscreen inside, more sound deadening materials for a quieter ride, and a new Wilderness edition geared for off-roading. The necessary generational improvements keep Subaru apace with the class, emphasizing safety and an adventuring attitude epitomized by the Wilderness model and its transmission and suspension upgrades, additional body cladding, raised ground clearance from 8.7 to 9.3 inches, as well as Yokohama Geolander All-Terrain 225/60R17 tires. The Wilderness is new for the Crosstrek, but the Crosstrek is nothing really new for the market. 

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Subaru Impreza

The redesigned 2024 Subaru Impreza marks the end of the sedan version and the end of the manual transmission option. With its body color elements instead of black cladding, it’s a sleeker, more urbane option than Subaru’s off-road-suggestive crossover SUVs, like the related Crosstrek. A 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-4 honors the return of the RS trim to the lineup, and new technology and the latest safety features uphold Subaru’s commitment to safety. It’s a good entry-level car, priced at about $25,000, but it’s not the best of the year.   

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