Washington, DC (January 22, 2014)— Kiplinger’s Personal Finance unveiled its annual car buyer’s guide: a comprehensive review of hundreds of vehicles that reveals the best values among the newest models. The annual buyer’s guide, “Let’s Make a Deal,” appears in the March issue, available on newsstands February 4 and online now at Kiplinger.com/fronts/channels/cars/.
The report finds that American cars are back in a big way, with GM and Chrysler introducing impressive new models in an attempt to play catch-up with Ford and the foreign competition. Across the board, high-end car makers are luring buyers with lower-priced models while mainstream brands are loading their vehicles with features that used to be found only on luxury models. Sales are at their highest levels in six years and automakers are fighting for market share, making the new 2014 models ripe for a deal.
With such a large selection of vehicles and fierce competition for consumers’ attention, buying a new car can be overwhelming. Kiplinger’sbuyer’s guide sorts the 2014 models by price and category and ranks them for performance, safety and value. In addition to Best Value Awards for Best In Class and Best New models, Kiplinger’s also names the Most Fuel-Efficient and Best Resale Value winners in each category.
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Best Value Awards for 2014:
Cars Under $20,000
- Best New Car: Mazda3. 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.
- Best In Class: Subaru Impreza. Precise handling, thanks to standard all-wheel drive, gives the Impreza an edge over the entry-level competition. It also boasts high resale values, a roomy interior and a choice between sedan and hatchback. And it wins the prized Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
- Best New Car: Mazda6. 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. Sporty handling accompanies plenty of power and a thrifty 38 mpg on the highway.
- Best In Class: Ford Fusion. Fusion keeps comfort and safety top of mind while providing a host of engine options for optimizing your power to economy ratio. Available features include cooled seats, a heated steering wheel and inflatable rear seatbelts in a collision, they distribute the force over a larger area, reducing the risk of injury. Equipped with standard forward collision warning, Fusion also receives a Top Safety Pick + designation from IIHS.
- Best New Car: Chevrolet Impala. Looks and features befitting a Lexus put luxury makers on notice. A 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.
- Best In Class: Honda Accord. A Best New Model winner in 2013, Accord tops its price category with stellar resale values, a roomy interior and a standard rearview camera. Standard features also include Pandora Internet radio and SMS text messaging. It gets a Top Safety Pick + from IIHS, too.
- Best New Car: Mercedes-Benz CLA. With taut lines and muscular front end, the CLA looks both menacing and inviting. The turbocharged engine growls out 208 horses, but it gets 38 mpg on the highway. Agile handling encourages your darker side, while active safety systems watch your back.
- Best In Class: BMW 3 series. As upscale brands vie for a near-mass-market price point and mainstream makes add bells and whistles, the entry-luxury space is getting crowded. But one constant remains: BMW’s 3 series is an unbeatable combination of power, precision and bang for the buck. We think the diesel is tops, compensating with mpg and torque what it lacks in horses.
- Best New Car: Cadillac CTS. Shedding weight along with some of its iconic edges, 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.
- Best In Class: Lexus GS. The GS won a nod last year for Best New Model, with its impressive blend of sportiness and luxury. For 2014, it adds refinements such as an eight-speed automatic transmission to improve fuel economy and Siri Eyes Free Mode, which works with an iPhone to call contacts, play music and more.
Cars $50,000 and Over
- Best New Car: Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Beneath its traditional façade, 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.
- Best In Class: Tesla Model S. Model S breathes the rarefied air of expensive European luxury sedans—and raises the bar. While the horsepower numbers are on the level with the competition, the acceleration is mind-boggling, thanks to instant torque typical of electric vehicles, and “fuel” economy beggars belief, too. It’s also eligible for a federal tax credit of $7,500.
- Best New Car: Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. 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.
- Best In Class: Ford Mustang GT. In its 50th year of production, the always affordable Mustang ups its game with features such as SelectShift automatic transmission with full manual mode and Hill Start Assist. Taking it to the track? In addition to 420 horses, you also get an in-dash LCD screen with apps to measure g-force, 0-60 and quarter-mile acceleration and braking times.
- Best In Class: Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen. Grippy handling—complements of German engineering—makes VW’s wagon more than just a grocery getter. Whether equipped with the 2.5-liter gasoline engine or the 2.0-liter turbodiesel, SportWagen boasts great fuel economy, loads of cargo space and six airbags–to keep your precious cargo safe.
- Best In Class: Honda Odyssey. Honda’s reputation for reliability pairs well with a penchant for safety to push the Odyssey head and shoulders above the competition. The only Top Safety Pick in the minivan brood includes a rearview camera as standard equipment. It also takes honors for most fuel-efficient.
- Best New Crossover: Subaru Forester. The fourth-generation Forester is more family-friendly than ever. It boosts legroom to a segment best, increases cargo space and adds a rearview camera to all but the base model. A driver knee airbag and suite of optional safety features complete the package.
- Best In Class: Mazda CX-5. Mazda was firing on all cylinders when it introduced the CX-5 last year. The base model has class-leading highway mileage of 35 mpg, resale values are strong across the board, and while you have the view from an SUV, it drives like a sport sedan. Plus, CX-5 is one of only four small crossovers to be named a Top Safety Pick + by the IIHS.
- Best New Crossover: Jeep Grand Cherokee. 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.
- Best In Class: Mercedes ML. With four models, you can pick your performance with Benz’s M-Class. We prefer the 350 BlueTEC’s combo of 240 horses and 28 mpg highway (plus more torque than the V8 ML 550). Attention Assist, which reminds you to take a break when it detects drowsiness, is standard, as is forward collision warning. When you add optional auto-braking, M-Class gets a Top Safety Pick + from IIHS.
- Best New Crossover: Acura MDX. 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 +.
- Best In Class: Ford Explorer. For 2014, Explorer adds improvements borrowed from the top-of-the-line Sport model. Bigger brakes improve stopping distance and towing performance, while an electric-assisted power steering rack gives more responsive handling. Available features include heated second-row seats and adaptive cruise control.
- Best In Class: Toyota Sequoia. From carpooling to heading to the lake with the boat, the Toyota Sequoia can handle all your family’s needs. It seats up to eight, tows up to 7,400 pounds and offers plenty of technology, including a Blu-ray entertainment system.
To search and sort complete data on over 1,000 2014 vehicles, visit Kiplinger.com. For the 2014 model year, Kiplinger’s categories for Sports Cars and Truck-based SUVs appear only online.
* No new vehicles in this category for the 2014 model year.