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ROAD & TRAVEL Magazine: 2007 ICOTY Vehicle Nominees

by Martha Hindes

2007 Mazdaspeed3
Entry Level - Most Spirited Car of the Year - Mazda Speed3

Just the name MAZDASPEED3 engenders a bevy of mental pictures. Is it a race car? Is it turbocharged? Will it zoom with go-kart abandon almost anywhere someone wants to go? Will it knock the socks off that stuffy sedan owner down the street who always glares when something trendy drives by? In a way, this Mazda auto is all of the above. And on top of all that, like a rolling "high five," it has to be the epitome of fun.

Just the fun part would seem to be enough to have wooed RTM jurors into naming it best Entry Level - Most Spirited car for ICOTY 2007. We envision all smiles whenever someone gets behind the wheel. That said, it seems that Mazda accomplished what it set out to do with this design as the flagship of its "3" vehicles. A compact, lightweight body, a 250-plus horsepower turbocharged 2.3-liter four banger, and a thirst for running a little wild in the real world set it apart from anything mundane. Add the same six-speed manual transmission found on the big sibling MAZDASPEED6, and there's a wide torque curve to tap into for play.

Nimble front-drive performance in a given. Kicky, spoiler-anchored 5-door looks an expected plus. Stingy fuel use and low emissions are conscience pleasers.

This baby hunkers down like a racer at the starting line, aluminum accelerator pedal ready for action, well-bred functionality set aside for the moment. Here's the countdown: "Three. Two. One..."

(Find Your MazdaSpeed3 Now)

Honorable Mentions:

MINI Cooper
Is there room for maxi variations in a MINI world?

Apparently so. The spunky, self-proclaimed "go-kart" of the motoring world is diversifying in several directions. There's little doubt this distinctive cute-as-a-bug sub-compact auto will retain its bubbly shape. It wouldn't be MINI without it. Or that it will attract some of the pickiest vehicle owners who choose it for its driving heritage as much as for looks. A MINI Cooper and turbocharged MINI Cooper S anchor the lineup before adding a less aggressive MINI One version (95-HP, 1.4-liter four) during early 2007. Any auto that can reach 140 mph in 1.6-liter turbo mode has to be respected. And if someone actually took it to a go-kart track, it undoubtedly would remain secure thanks to its low center of gravity and widely spaced wheels.

Read RTM's Review of the 2007 MINI Cooper
(Find Your MINI Now)

Nissan Versa
American car buyers are proving that size does matter. Nissan is making sure their Versa, front-drive subcompact auto is one of the coveted ones. As vehicle choices in a gasoline cautious world continue to make a dent, it's the so-called "B" cars where Versa resides that are showing up to handle it. (It's a classification littler than the average sedan.) Nissan keeps space at a max by offering a 5- or a 4-door version and eliminating exterior overhangs. The body goes to the edge over the 1.8-liter four that powers it. For upmarket minded buyers, there are a lot of irresistible amenities such as Bluetooth communications, sunroof and an Intelligent Key that stays in the pocket during a drive. While those can push it beyond its entry level priced niche, with better gas mileage it's not a bad tradeoff.

Read RTM's Review of the 2007 Nissan Versa
(Find Your Nissan Versa Now)

Car of the Year
Lexus LS 460

Truck of the Year
Chevy Silverado

Most Sex Appeal/ Sports Car
Jaguar XK

Most Dependable/Sedan
Toyota Camry

Most Compatible/Minivan
Hyundai Entourage

Most Resourceful/SUV
GMC Yukon

2007 ICOTY Awards Links