To win Kiplinger's Best Value Award among new models, a vehicle must be a new introduction or fully redesigned. There are lots to choose from this year.
As automakers battle for market share, consumers are the winners -- with more choices in every segment, and better ones, at that. High-end carmakers are luring buyers with new lower-priced models, and mainstream brands are loading their vehicles with new features that used to be found only on luxury models.
American cars are back in a big way, with General Motors and Chrysler introducing impressive new models in an attempt to play catch-up with Ford and the foreign competition. And nearly every carmaker is offering a menu of green powertrains, from hybrid to electric to diesel.
Winners are picked based on value factors (such as fuel economy and resale values), performance and safety, plus our own driving impressions.
Cars under $20,000: Mazda3
Sticker price: $19,740 (i Sport hatch, manual)
Invoice price: $18,916
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $18,950
Resale value: 3-year: 59%; 5-year: 44%
MPG: City: 29; Hwy: 40
From design to driving dynamics, the new Mazda3 takes the compact upscale. The 2.0-liter engine delivers performance as well as fuel economy, managing 40 miles per gallon on the highway. Optional safety features include forward collision warning.
Sticker price: $23,490 (i Sport)
Invoice price: $22,341
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $21,916
Resale value: 3-year: 52%; 5-year: 37%
MPG: City: 26; Hwy: 38
The sharply carved exterior of the Mazda6 beckons you inside, where you’ll find premium materials and features such as Pandora Internet radio and SMS text messaging that can read texts aloud. Sporty handling accompanies plenty of power and a thrifty 30 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
$25,000-$30,000: Chevrolet Impala
Sticker price: $29,920 (LT w/1LT pkg.)
Invoice price: $28,610
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $28,539
Resale value: 3-year: 51%; 5-year: 39%
MPG: City: 21; Hwy: 31
Looks and features befitting a Lexus put luxury carmakers on notice. The Impala's roomy and quiet interior is complemented by an easy-to-use voice-recognition system. Safety options include rear cross-traffic alert and forward collision warning, with automatic braking if a crash is imminent.
$30,000-$40,000: Mercedes-Benz CLA
Sticker price: $30,825 (CLA250)
Invoice price: $28,732
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $29,709
Resale value: 3-year: 57%; 5-year: 39%
MPG: City: 26; Hwy: 38
With taut lines and a muscular front end, the CLA looks both menacing and inviting. The turbocharged engine growls out 208 horses, but it gets 30 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Agile handling encourages your darker side, while active safety systems watch your back.
$40,000-$50,000: Cadillac CTS
Sticker price: $46,025 (2.0 Standard Sport RWD)
Invoice price: $43,545
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $43,999
Resale value: 3-year: 53%; 5-year: 38%
MPG: City: 20; Hwy: 30
Shedding weight along with some of its iconic edges, the CTS proves as dynamic as the foreign luxury rides in looks as well as behind the wheel. You can choose such features as automatic braking to avoid front and rear collisions and remote start that activates climate control.
$50,000 and over: Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Sticker price: $93,825 (S550 RWD)
Invoice price: $87,322
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $90,794
Resale value: 3-year: 54%; 5-year: 35%
MPG: City: 17; Hwy: 25
Beneath its traditional facade, the redesigned Mercedes flagship is a study in futuristic technology. It’s lit entirely by LEDs, boasts an elegant 12-inch dash display and features a smart suspension system that anticipates bumps in the road ahead to keep you comfortable.
Sports Cars: Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Sticker price: $51,995 (w/1LT pkg., manual)
Invoice price: $47,405
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $51,995
Resale value: 3-year: 66%; 5-year: 53%
MPG: City: 17; Hwy: 29
Though it hooks you with a modern design inspired by the ’63 Sting Ray and a deep, throaty growl from the 6.2-liter, 455-horsepower engine, the all-new Corvette has features that appeal to your head, not just your heart. The 21st-century Stingray features an aluminum frame, carbon fiber throughout, direct injection and active fuel management—all of which help boost fuel economy to a responsible 29 mpg on the highway without losing an ounce of the thrill.
Small Crossovers: Subaru Forester
Sticker price: $28,820 (2.0XT Premium)
Invoice price: $27,057
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $27,067
Resale value: 3-year: 63%; 5-year: 45%
MPG: City: 23; Hwy: 28
The fourth-generation Forester is more family-friendly than ever. It boasts the most legroom in the category, and has increased cargo space and a rearview camera on all but the base model. A driver’s knee airbag and suite of optional safety features complete the package.
Midsize Crossovers: Jeep Grand Cherokee
Sticker price: $36,790 (Limited)
Invoice price: $35,282
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $34,928
Resale value: 3-year: 57%; 5-year: 42%
MPG: City: 17; Hwy: 25
Whether you’re in the concrete jungle or off the beaten path, the Grand Cherokee will capably carry you in style. Leather and wood interior appointments meet rugged features such as the Selec-Terrain traction-control system, which allows you to choose settings for every situation.
Large Crossovers: Acura MDX
Sticker price: $43,185
Invoice price: $40,081
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $41,297
Resale value: 3-year: 58%; 5-year: 41%
MPG: City: 20; Hwy: 28
Acura’s cushy crossover boosts fuel economy for 2014—with help from a new powertrain and the first front-wheel-drive model in the vehicle’s lineup. LED lighting graces the MDX inside and out, acoustic glass keeps the cabin quiet, and a sliding second row of seats makes passenger space customizable. The MDX boasts more standard features than before, and it’s safe, too; when it’s equipped with the optional forward collision warning system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates it a Top Safety Pick +.
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