Following a recent trip to the Frankfurt Auto Show, I couldn't help but ask myself: "Why can't we buy those cars here in the U.S.?"
In some cases, the answer is simple. If a given automaker isn't set up to do business in America, then it really has no way to sell those cars here. But even if a certain brand already sells cars in the U.S., that given model might not be appealing enough to justify offering it to American shoppers.
Determining what American buyers want is no easy task. Sometimes automakers get it wrong. Both the Mazda5 and Honda Fit were cars that many assumed would not sell well in the U.S., yet the Fit is now key to helping Honda sell 6 million cars globally, and the Mazda5 makes up roughly 5 percent of the brand's U.S. sales.
With that in mind, here are five cars I think Americans would buy if given the chance:
The little Micra is so popular that it was the first car produced by a Japanese automaker to sell more than 1 million cars in Europe. With a recent update, the Micra now looks and feels exactly like a car Americans would love. Think of it as Nissan's spin on the MINI Cooper. Plus, it has cool features, like a parking space guide that will let you know if a prospective parking spot is big enough to accommodate your Micra. The car is fun to drive, handles well and can be had with appealing options, such as navigation with Google send-to-car, keyless entry, push-button start and good-looking 15-inch wheels. The base price for an American version of the Micra would be about $16,000. Fuel economy for a U.S. model could be better than 35 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving.
This is essentially a mini minivan. In places like Europe and Japan, our so-called minivans don't exactly feel very mini. The C4 Picasso (right, the name would have to change for U.S. buyers) is like a luxury version of Mazda5. Available in 5- or 7-passenger models, the Picasso has more than enough luxury options to keep the average American driver happy. The Exclusive+ version includes dual zone climate control with pollen filter, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry, airplane-style tray tables in the rear, power rear lift gate, rear parking camera and automatic wipers. It even comes with the option of a manual transmission. The U.S. price would be about $27,000 for a base model and up to $36,000 for a luxury version.
The new Mazda6 sedan is stunning, for sure, but the wagon looks even cooler. There was a Mazda6 wagon for U.S. buyers once, but it didn't sell well enough to justify bringing it back to America this time around. A Mazda rep explained it this way: "With the first generation Mazda6, we could get sedan and hatchback buyers to consider one version or the other based on price, equipment or color. With wagons, the customer had to come in looking for a wagon specifically -- sedan and hatchback shoppers would almost never consider a wagon." Still, we think that, given the new 6's striking exterior look and top-notch interior, the car would find some buyers -- maybe just not enough to make Mazda happy.
The Cascada is an upscale convertible with a back seat. This isn't a true luxury or performance convertible like, say, the BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G37 convertibles. For one thing, the Cascada is front-wheel drive. The Cascada is good looking, with nice materials inside. Think of the Cascada Convertible as the car we always hoped the Chrysler Sebring would be or a less expensive, not quite as luxurious Audi A5 Cabriolet. Since the Opel Cascada shares its underlying structure with the Buick Verano, it's possible this is a car Americans could buy soon. There are plenty of rumors saying basically the same thing. A nicely equipped Buick Convertible version of the Cascada would probably start at about $34,000.
I hear it all the time: new car shoppers who instinctively know that a minivan is the best car for their needs but are dead-set against owning a minivan. The reasons defy logic, but there are so many of them. In a world where minivans have a stigma for some and SUVs are seen as just too much, a car like the Chevy Cruze–based Orlando would work out really well. The Chevy Orlando gets three rows of seating, a tall roof and a variety of engine options. I think the 174 horsepower, 2.4-liter, inline 4-cylinder engine would work best for U.S. buyers. Think about it: Chevrolet no longer has a minivan and, as good as it is, the Chevy Traverse can be too big and expensive for some families. The Orlando perfectly fills the gap between the economy-minded Cruze and the family-friendly Traverse. The Chevy Traverse starts at about $30,000. A base U.S.-spec Orlando would start closer to $21,000.
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