The 2011 New York auto show had more than 20 brands vying for eyes, with fuel economy as top billing, clearly moving away from the show's luxury past. Here are some of the more notable competitors, sorted by category.
Lithium-ion batteries and start stop technology to replace the already outdated battery polymers are setting the stage. Suzuki Kizashi leveraged its Top 5 midsize car rating by Consumer Reports by debuting its EcoCharge Concept car, set with a 2.0 liter inline four engine, 144HP, low rolling resistance tires, for a good started 38 mpg, up from the 2011's 30 mpg. The car has not yet made production. Another notable was Nissan's unveiling of its Nismo RC, a Leaf upgrade built for speed with 107HP, a 30 minute 80% charge, and improved battery power. Lastly, luxury brands picked it up with the BMW's ActiveE and the 380HP Porsche Panamera S Hybrid, a $95,000 stunner with 6 second 0-to-60 power with an estimated 35 mpg.
Honda and Co. led the crowded compact car segment; also debuting were the latest Nissan Versa, the Mazda3 SkyActiv, the Kia Rio, and the Hyundai Accent. The $12,445 Hyundai Accent turned heads with similar features and design to the Sonata with its exaggerated curves and new interior for 138HP and 30/40 mpg. Rising Kia is also making sweeping changes, hitting 40 mpg for the first time on a compact sporting a new nose design and interior and idle stop technology that turns the engine off at traffic lights.
Of all, the Game Changer Award goes to the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid with six new versions, 44/44 (you read that right, city and highway are identical!) mpg, a larger gas engine, and the introduction of its lithium ion battery.
In a nod to Ford's MySYNC, GM introduced its new infotainment system, MyLInk (IntelliLInk in Buick and GMC models) that quickly turned heads. In addition to CD, iPod, voice activation, XM Satellite radio, MyLink lets you sync your phone to Pandora and Stitcher into the system to start with more apps coming later. Look for it in this year's Equinox and Volt and in the Malibu next year.
Finally, Honda also upgraded its cabin tech with new steering wheel controls and Bluetooth/voice command buttons. Its DVD navigation system has been converted to flash based for better graphics and speed and its screen has better UI, with an interface to select from up to 10 audio sources; all controlled using the "Source" button on the steering wheel.