Next week, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance releases their annual auto guide and selects winners across 12 categories, based on performance, value, safety and driving impressions. I give you their top picks in advance.
Cars Under $20,000
Best New Car: Hyundai Elantra GT. The stylish five-door Elantra GT takes on the compact competition. No econobox here: Standard features include heated front seats, cooled glove box, seven airbags and an extra outlet for plugging in gear. The peppy 1.8-liter engine gets 37 mpg on the highway.
Best In Class: Ford Focus
Best New Car: Ford Fusion. With the most daring redesign in the midsize segment since the Hyundai Sonata, the Fusion gets an aggressive mug and a sleek new interior. It features generous passenger space and drives better than any competitor. Two optional EcoBoost engines give you the choice of more power or better fuel efficiency.
Best In Class: Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Best New Car: Nissan Altima. The latest iteration of the Altima has both brains and brawn. Smart features include an “easy fill” tire alert, hands-free text messaging and the ergonomically advanced, “zero gravity” front seats. The 3.5-liter V6 puts out 270 horses, but the Altima still gets 22 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway.
Best In Class: Toyota Camry Hybrid
Best New Car: Honda Accord. The ninth-generation Accord celebrates its 30th anniversary of being made in the U.S.A. with a new look that’s been compared to the BMW 3 series. Honda shrank the exterior a little but expanded rear legroom and cargo space. Pandora Internet radio, text messaging and a rearview camera come standard.
Best In Class: Lexus ES 350
Best New Car: Lexus GS 350. Sporty outside and sleek inside, the all-new GS is changing the face of the luxurious but staid Lexus line. Crisp handling and 306 horsepower combine beautifully. Ten airbags are standard, and options include a head-up display, night-vision system for the driver and “lane keep assist” to prevent straying.
Best In Class: Audi A6
Cars $50,000 and Over
Best New Car: Cadillac XTS. Caddy’s XTS puts other luxury makers on notice with its combination of striking looks, superb ride and handling, and stellar safety. The CUE touch-screen infotainment system is standard on all models, as is magnetic ride control and more trunk space than competitors from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Best In Class: Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec
Best New Car: BMW M5. The fifth-generation M5 isn’t just a souped-up 5 series. It features high-performance brakes, a seven-speed double-clutch transmission and an M-specific chassis with a suspension that can be adapted from comfort to two stiffer, sportier settings at the touch of a button. A new twin turbo V8 puts out a pin-you-to-your-seat 560 horsepower.
Best In Class: Chevrolet Camaro
Best New Car: Ford Escape. A small crossover has never made your life so easy. The redesigned Escape saves money at the pump with better fuel economy than the previous generation. Plus, it’s filled with clever details, such as easy fold-flat rear seats, a voice-activated SYNC system for digital devices and optional parallel-park assist.
Best In Class: Honda CR-V
Best New Car: Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Transport five in style with the Hyundai Santa Fe’s smaller sibling. The 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection engine puts out 264 horses, but with the help of a six-speed transmission, the Santa Fe Sport gets 27 mpg on the highway. Reclining rear seats keep the second row happy, and drivers get a knee airbag.
Best In Class: Lexus RX 450h
Best New Wagon: Ford C-Max. Families yearning for a stylish “green” wagon have hit the jackpot. Ford’s C-Max hybrid boasts high mpg, plenty of space and a powerful engine. Brake coaching tells you how much energy you recapture each time you brake. A hands-free lift gate is optional.
Best In Class: Subaru Outback
Best In Class Minivan: Toyota Sienna
Best In Class Truck-based SUV: Toyota Sequoia