2010-2019 LACOTD

We ask what the LACOTD – Los Angeles Car Of The Decade – should be. A few of our contributors take on the challenge, this is their list.

We asked our contributors to each pick one car to be awarded LACOTD – LA Car Of The Decade. Responses are spread all across the board, with some saying that their daily driver was the best – hands down – while others chose cars that they might dream about owning. The rules were simple: “Machine must have been generally available for sale to the public in Los Angeles sometime during the decade (2010-2019)”… That was the only rule, we kept it really simple.

The editor did not tell any of the contributors what the others had chosen, nor were there many guidelines as to what we were looking for (as noted above: no rules). Interestingly, many gravitated towards Tesla. For various reasons our team (including the editor) are quite caught up in the magical world of Tesla.

There seems to be two ways to go about choosing a LACOTD: One is to figure out what vehicle has had the biggest impact on the automotive world. The other is to look at a specific car and how well it has done its job during the last decade. Both are great factors for determining an LACOTD, and leaving the choice open for our contributors made the list all that more interesting.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here is the LACar list of vehicles for 2010-2019 LACOTD:

Ford GT

Collin Morgan, Contributor

2017 Ford GT
Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

They say that seeing is believing. Well, when it comes to cars, all the senses must be tickled before you can genuinely believe. I’d seen the reveal, the videos, the reviews of the 2017 Ford GT and immediately fell in love. It’s honestly one of the most magnificently designed cars in history. But it didn’t truly register until a blue GT roared by me on I-355 outside of Chicago, and I just about had an aneurysm. The looks, the sound, the smell, it all clicked. And those flying buttresses… whew, those are wild. Why is this car the best vehicle of the decade? Because someone finally grew a pair in Detroit. Someone finally took a direct shot at Ferrari, McLaren, and Lamborghini. Hey look everyone, the stars and stripes can build a hypercar too. 647 American ponies, handling that’s stickier than a Tootsie-Pop in curly hair, and Hollywood looks. It’s more than a car. It’s a statement. And that’s why it’s the best car of the decade.

Toyota Yaris

Reed Berry, Contributor

The 2010 Toyota Yaris.
The 2010 Toyota Yaris. Photo by Reed Berry (yeah, this is his car)

It may not be sleek or sporty, and it certainly isn’t the powerful performance car that many drivers aspire to own, but the 2010 Toyota Yaris is a true superstar when it comes to fuel economy and practicality. Sure, it’s a very basic daily driver and feels, at times, like owning a rental car, but this dependable little three-door lift-back has transported me through an entire decade and right into the next. Yes, the Yaris is designed to be budget-priced basic transportation but, in my opinion, Toyota may have come up with one of the most cleverly designed automobiles ever. The egg-shaped body makes it look quite small from the outside but it is surprisingly roomy inside. Instead of arranging controls on a bulky center console as in many vehicles, they are mounted on a vertical panel below the radio, with a handy storage compartment on either side. Speaking of storage, because the Yaris has its speedometer and gauges uniquely mounted in the center of the dash rather than on the driver’s side, it allows for three glove compartments! Powering my Yaris is a peppy 106-horsepower 1.5-liter engine paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. At 29 mpg city and 35 highway, Yaris provides a very economical way to get around town. The Yaris cost under $15,000 brand new in 2010 and, to be honest, I have spent very little on the vehicle other than routine maintenance. Ten years and 221,000 miles later, it still drives beautifully and I have no plans to retire it anytime soon. I think it can safely be said that I have gotten my money’s worth – and then some – from my 2010 Toyota Yaris.

Kia Niro

Doug Stokes, Editor-At-Large

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors
Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

We have to wait until deep in the decade for my choice in this “…What rules?” LACar staff popularity contest, the 2017 Kia Niro.  But the accolade is really more for the brand than a single model. It started before the past decade, but flowered during it, so that’s why I’m picking KIA as best of the decade in general and (if you really need a focal point) the Rio, a solid little rascal of a small cross-over that simply does everything asked of it right and without any drama. If you don’t remember the first KIAs that’s OK, they were not at all that good. Not at all very well-received in the early 70’s when they first started appearing in dealer showrooms. And dealers, being dealers, resorted to some very – let’s call them “creative” – financing plans, many of which were taken on by people who had not been able to finance the ownership of a car previously. That led to large numbers of loan forfeitures and that had a bad effect on the brand, even though the cars were actually pretty good deals for the money.

Sales faltered and KIA’s reputation for being an entry-level car was tarnished. Deserved or not, the brand was wounded. And then, so the legend goes, some of the stateside KIA promotion people had an idea. They knew that the cars were solidly-built but since the cars came from Korea rather than Japan people did not trust the brand. And that, again, according to the stories I’ve heard, is where the astonishing 10-year 100,000-mile warranty was born. Not in Seoul, but in southern California. The tail wagged the dog, people bought KIAs with confidence, and the factory started turning out better and better models that lived up to those big numbers. The rest is history, er, present time.

Tesla Model S

Hector Cademartori, Contributor

Art by Hector Cademartori

I’m not into electric cars. I’m not into e-racing. I did an article for a European magazine about the General Motors EV-1 back in 1996 or ’97 and I realized that electric cars were not my cup of tea. I have nothing against them and nothing in favor of them. I’m just not interested in the same way that I’m not interested in many other products of the car universe. 

LACar’s Car of the Decade is a pretty open proposition. My choice is a car that became so ubiquitous that I had to pay attention even if I was not interested in it: the Tesla Model S. In fact, the marque became a household name and people who don’t know anything about cars now know what a Tesla is. 

…It was kind of a Ferrari. Most people don’t know the difference between a 488 and a California, but everybody knows what a Ferrari is. And that they’re expensive. Very few cars will qualify as COTD more than the Tesla Model S because, in fact, it started selling less than a decade ago, in 2012, and is already so well known.

Ford Flex

Harold Osmer, Contributor

Photo by Harold Osmer
Photo by Harold Osmer… Yeah, it’s his car.

What is a car? For me, a car is a tool. I need one to move the family around in safety and comfort. Throw in some styling, enough power and handling to make it fun, and we’re good. After fifteen years of performing car reviews, when it came time for me to actually purchase a vehicle, I chose the Ford Flex. We bought ours used as a 2014 two years ago with 60,000 miles on it. We will cross 100,000 next month.  We chose the Flex because it always comes up when asked about our favorite review cars. It is simple to operate, Ford does a tremendous job of logically laying out their interiors, and the Flex provides ample room for our full-size family of five.

Ford’s shared platform idea means that several body styles utilize very similar drivetrain, chassis, and components. This leads to confidence in operation, design, and repairs. It also means that by 2014, Flex had all the bugs worked out. Ours has been trouble free. One-touch rear seat folding is wonderful. The seats fold flat to give us more room than we’ve had to use. Three rows of seats are common, but the Flex has three useable rows of seats. At 6’3, I have ridden in decent comfort in the back row. The squared sides allow for shoulder and head room that other SUVs do not have.

There are flashier, faster, more rugged vehicles in production. I’ve driven a lot of them. But when it came time for me to put my money down, I went with the Ford Flex. The only people who don’t like the Flex are those who haven’t driven one. So that’s my vote. Ford Flex: COTD.

Acura NSX

Zoran Segina, Contributor

Photo by Zoran Segina
Photo by Zoran Segina

This worthy successor to the legendary NSX was designed as a racecar, with street friendly credentials. In addition to a centrally positioned six-cylinder-twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter engine, there is a hybrid-propulsion 70 HP electric motor to make crawling through traffic less ostentatious.  Getting in and out of Alcantara-clad interior is comfortable, and the trunk will swallow a set of golf clubs. A simple rotating control knob offers four driving modes, from a gentle Eco to a track-ready Sport +, instructing NSX’s computer systems to progressively tighten suspension and change the engine mapping.  Driving controls are intuitive, paddle shifters for the nine-speed dual-clutch transmission positioned just right, and the brakes can be upgraded to eyeballs-popping carbon-ceramic Brembo set. The 47-53% weight split between the axles, low profile 19-inch tires in front, and 20 in the rear practically glue the car to the road.  Functional body design elements provide better visibility and make the NSX wind neutral. A novice car enthusiast can enjoy the NXS without attending a performance-driving school, and get in and out of driveways while keeping the front carbon fiber splitters intact.   

The base price for this, 2.7 seconds from 0-60, and 191-mph top speed, bolide is $157,500, significantly less than its exotic competitors.  Most importantly, the NSX was designed in Los Angeles, and is built in Ohio.  Should you order one, Acura will invite you to Marysville, bring you to the factory floor, and hand you a wrench so you can actually help assemble your car.  Here is hoping that, after you happily return the tools, somebody in the shop double-check your work.

Tesla Model 3

Roy Nakano, Senior Editor

Tesla Model 3 (Timothy Artman for Tesla)
Tesla Model 3 (Timothy Artman for Tesla)

In the past decade, no car company has been in the news more than Tesla. And not all of the news was good: Production hell, cash shortages, wayward tweets from the CEO, threats made and carried out by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Tesla sold its cars with no dealerships and ran no ads or commercials. Plenty of pundits were quick to criticize the Tesla business plan. Short sellers plotted its demise.

The car that would make or break Tesla was the Model 3—the electric car company’s foray into affordability. Early examples of the Model 3 were fraught with frailties: Panels with paint issues, misaligned alignments, flickering flat screens, and much more. Consumer Reports dropped the Model 3 from its recommendations because members identified one too many problems with the cars. And yet, the same Consumer Reports came back and said the Model 3 holds the top spot on its list of cars that owners say they will buy again. It turns out Model 3 owners really love their cars. One look at a Tesla owners forum will reveal a level of smugness not seen since the early years of the Prius (without a doubt, that was the car of the previous decade).

Meanwhile, Tesla has been steadily upgrading the hardware and software of the Model 3, overcoming its production woes, and is finally offering a truly affordable version of its affordable car (i.e., the Standard Range Plus version). The Model 3 now outsells not just every other electric car (combined), but its internal combustion competitors from Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes as well—and does it without spending a dime on ads. As the decade came to a close, Tesla shares soared past Ford and General Motors to become America’s most valuable car company. Its stock market value now exceeds both Ford and GM combined. Whether Tesla can sustain this growth remains to be seen. In the meantime, the short sellers are having a bad year, Tesla is the car company of today’s generation, and its Model 3 is the car of the decade.

Rivian R1T 

Glenn Oyoung, Executive Editor

I’m going to have to bend  the rules a bit as the gents above have stolen my thunder. When J-F asked us to weigh in, my first question was “Has anyone picked the Model S?” Sure enough Hector beat me to the jump.  “OK, how about the Model 3?” Enter Roy Nakano. While the Tesla Roadster and countless other EVs paved the way towards electrification –  the Model S was the first car to really change the general populace’s perception of what an electric vehicle could be. For the first time it could be luxurious, stylish, and outperform supercars. The Model 3 brought that level of ROI to the masses with its less wallet-draining price-points, at least at the base trim.

I’m going to throw the Rivian R1T into our LACOTD mix, because a) it debuted in 2018* which meets our requirements,  and b) I believe it portends a coming wave of EV trucks and SUVs in this newly-minted decade. I will never forget the throng of people at the 2018 LA Auto Show swarming around the R1T and its SUV brother the R1S. What is a Rivian and where did it come from? *Keep in mind Rivian has been around since 2009, so I could claim they qualify for three decades of honors but that would be stretching it, I know that. 

Fast-forward a couple of years and Rivian is on quite the roll – collecting investor money like a kid in a candy store from big players like Ford and a hefty order for an all-new electric delivery vehicle fleet from Amazon. While Tesla can be lauded for paving the way, all eyes are on Rivian which has now spawned entrants into the truck market including everyone from Bollinger Motors to GMC which just announced the Hummer brand is coming back with a 1,000 hp EV truck. Sedans are nice and a personal favorite, but let’s keep in mind America’s continued love affair with trucks and SUVs to the tune of about 6 million units vs. 2 million for sedans. That’s a lot of runway for Rivian and its competition in the decade ahead.

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