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5 Most-Improved Car Models for 2014

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series after finishing last in their division in 2012, and the Chevrolet Impala has arguably made a similar "worst-to-first" move in the auto world this year.

"The new Impala is a really, really strong car that replaced a pretty badly outdated one," says Joe Wiesenfelder of auto-buying site Cars.com, which recently included the sedan on a list of the industry's Most Improved Cars of the Past 15 Years .

The editor says automakers often make only minor changes to a car from year to year, but sometimes vehicles undergo revolutionary transformations.

Wiesenfelder says that's because smart manufacturers know they've got to make redesigned vehicles really stand out from the crowd, as automakers only heavily revamp a given model every six years or so.

"They can't just redesign a car and make it competitive with other models," he says. "They need to leapfrog it ahead of the competition."

Still, standouts don't account for all of the models on Cars.com's rundown.

Wiesenfelder says that while he and other Cars.com experts called out some models from great redesigns, "some winners were just a case of the older car being terrible and the newer one being good."

Read on to check out the five vehicles at the top of Cars.com's rankings.

All price figures for used cars refer to Kelley Blue Book estimates for each vehicle's various trim lines. Used-car prices also assume you'll buy the vehicle from a dealer rather than from a private seller, and that the dealership will have "fully reconditioned" the auto before sale.

Price figures for new cars refer to manufacturer's suggested retail pricing for a range of models from the base version to the top trim line, excluding any extra options.

Fifth-most-improved car: 2011 Hyundai Elantra sedan
Estimated price:
$13,450 to $15,400

Wiesenfelder says this compact sedan has long been a good choice for consumers, but that Hyundai made it even better when the South Korean automaker rolled out the current generation in the 2011 model year.

"The 2010 Elantra was a good affordable car, but the 2011 was definitely a standout," he says. "It's got a high-quality interior, good fuel efficiency and good crash-test results. And I personally think it's one of the best-looking vehicles on the road."

In fact, Wiesenfelder and his colleagues liked the 2011 Elantra so much that they named the car as that year's best small sedan.

The Elantra comes standard with a 148-horsepower four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission the team up to produce an impressive 28 mpg/city and 38 mpg/highway. Automatic-transmission versions are also available.

Fourth-most-improved car: 2014 Chevrolet Impala
Estimated price:
$26,860 to $35,905 Completely redesigned for the current model year, the 2014 Impala recently took first place in a combined Cars.com/ USA Today /MotorWeek analysis of 2014's best full-sized sedan under $38,000.