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What didn’t make the cut

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Whittling through the list of new cars this year for our Best Car To Buy 2019 nominees was no easy task. Nearly every major automaker debuted at least one redesigned model, touting it for its safety, its performance, its spacious interior, or its innovative features.

Our staff spent weeks debating which cars deserved to make the final cut to be considered for our top award. We’ve already shown you the nominees, but what about the cars, crossovers, and SUVs that didn’t make it all the way through the nomination process?

MORE: Follow all our Best Car To Buy 2019 news as we name a winner

Here’s a look at what cars we considered, and why they sat on the sidelines. It’s not necessarily because they’re bad cars—truthfully, no new car is truly awful. But we were able to distill them down to a few common reasons why they didn’t earn a nomination.

2018 Tesla Model 3

2018 Tesla Model 3

Too expensive

To be a Best Car To Buy 2019 nominee, the version we recommend needs to cost less than $50,000. Some cars, such as the BMW X5, Jaguar I-Pace, and Porsche Cayenne didn’t even make it to the discussion.

Although it’s possible to find a Tesla Model 3 configured to our recommended specifications costing less than $50,000, buyers need to qualify for incentives that will expire by the time the calendar turns into 2019. Cheaper Model 3 sedans are on the way, though, so Tesla may qualify in the future.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Close, but not quite

There’s a lot to like about the redesigned VW Jetta with its gentle road manners, spacious interior, and good safety tech, but we kept coming back to one issue. Does it do anything better than the other cars on our list? Nope.

Volvo’s new S60 sedan and V60 wagon are stylish options worth shopping if you’re in the market for a compact luxury car. They narrowly missed out on our list because they reminded us too much of our experience last year with the runner-up Volvo XC60. Volvo’s XC40 represents more out-of-the-box thinking and it easily made our list, though.

Finally, the Genesis G70 delivers impressive handling and performance, but it doesn’t fix what’s holding back the brand. Consumers want crossover SUVs, and the G70 is yet another four-door sedan from a brand that’s in need of some utility-vehicle presence.

The Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio give buyers good reasons to stick with small cars. They’re as roomy inside as some mid-size cars were a few years ago, and the ones we recommend can be had for around $21,000. Against a wide range of cars that make better choices for families, however, the Accent and Rio lost out on our nomination.

2019 Nissan Altima

2019 Nissan Altima

This year’s letdowns

The redesigned Nissan Altima should have been a shoo-in, but it doesn’t feel like as much of a step forward from behind the wheel as it does on paper. The Altima’s turbo-4 engine is powerful, but should be mated to all-wheel drive. Meanwhile, its all-wheel-drive system may steal a buyer or two in wintry markets, but most of those shoppers are looking for crossover SUVs. Just ask Subaru.

We have similar issues with the Mazda 6. It’s not that Mazda’s four-door isn’t enjoyable to drive, but the turbo-4 engine that’s new for this year doesn’t move the needle far enough. We wish Mazda had put it in the model its dealers can barely keep in stock: the popular CX-5 crossover SUV.

We ran into the same issue with the Buick Regal TourX, a tall station wagon that we really wanted to like. It probably would have have earned a spot on our list had Buick not restricted active safety tech that we consider crucial on a new car to only the top trim levels.

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1.3M Ford Focus compact cars recalled over stall risk

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Ford on Wednesday said that it plans to recall nearly 1.3 million compact cars to address an emissions system component that can cause engines to stall.

The recall applies to 2012 through 2018 Ford Focus compact cars with a 2.0-liter inline-4 engine. Ford discontinued the Focus compact car in the U.S. after the 2018 model year.

At fault is an emissions system canister purge valve that Ford said in government filings can “stick open.” If the valve fails to close, it can cause excessive vacuum buildup that the automaker says could lead to the engine stalling. The fuel tank could also deform due to pressure.

MORE: Read our 2018 Ford Focus review

Symptoms of the issue include a check-engine light, an erratic or inaccurate fuel gauge, the loss of engine power, or even an engine stall. Ford recommended that Focus owners keep their vehicles’ fuel tanks at least half full until the recall is performed.

To fix the issue, Ford will install a software update to the cars’ internal computer system that will better detect the purge valve’s status. Ford said that its dealers will inspect the purge valve and, in some cases, replace the unit if it is found to be stuck open.

Ford said that the recall stemmed from complaints from Focus owners over power loss and inaccurate fuel gauges.

The recall will be performed at no cost to Focus owners and the automaker plans to begin alerting owners of affected vehicles by mid-December.

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US to allow brighter, self-dimming headlights on new cars

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With many new cars, trucks, and SUVs failing to meet more stringent headlight safety standards from the federal government and the IIHS, the NHTSA announced Thursday it plans to change regulations to help headlight development.

The agency said in its report that it plans to allow development of “adaptive driving beam” headlights on new cars, which essentially operate as high-beam headlights as default, and dim specific portions of the beam when an oncoming vehicle is detected by sensors.

MORE: Scientific study examines morality of self-driving car maneuvers involving pedestrians

The NHTSA said in a statement that the technology “has the potential to reduce the risk of crashes by increasing visibility without increasing glare,” and will offer safety benefits for pedestrians, cyclists, and even animals.

This move comes after many 2018 and 2019 model year vehicles have performed poorly in both government and independent headlight tests with new criteria. The tests have been particularly tough for anything less than top-of-the-line LED headlight units, which can be expensive and are not available on all models.

Audi, Toyota, and other automakers have been lobbying the NHTSA to update headlight standards for years, the former in an attempt to get its laser headlight technology approved for use on U.S. roads like it currently is in Europe and other markets.

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