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Best new-car values

Which models give you the most bang for the buck?

Last updated: February 2014

Whether you’re paying $15,000 or $50,000 for a car, every buyer is looking for a good deal. But it’s hard to tell what you’re really getting for your money. Will the car hold up well or send you to the repair shop time and again? How much will it cost you to own? And down the road, will it continue to deliver the performance you expect?

That’s where our annual analysis of the best new-car values comes in. It can steer you to the keepers and help you avoid the disappointments.

Take the Toyota Prius, for example, which topped our value list for the second straight year. On paper, you might think the Honda Civic Hybrid would be a better buy, because its sticker price is about $4,000 less and it gets similar fuel economy: 40 mpg overall vs. the Prius’ 44.

But the Civic costs more to own in the long run, and it can’t match the Prius’ combination of fuel efficiency, versatility, roominess, and outstanding reliability. We think the Prius is worth the higher purchase price.

Just because a car is cheap to buy doesn’t mean it’s a good value. The Nissan Versa Sedan, for example, is one of the least expensive cars we’ve tested. But we found it to be noisy and uncomfortable, and no one on our staff liked driving it. For about $1,500 more, we’d go with a Honda Fit, which is fun to drive, cheaper to own, more reliable, and provides almost twice the value.

The same applies to SUVs. When shopping for a small SUV, you might think it would make sense to buy a Hyundai Tucson for its relatively low price of less than $25,000. But in our tests we found the Tucson to be noisy and hard-riding, with limited rear visibility and roominess. It also got an unimpressive 22 mpg overall. For about $2,000 more, the Subaru Forester, which is our top-rated small SUV, is more comfortable, provides great visibility and handling, gets an impressive 26 mpg, and has excellent reliability.

The bottom line is that real value comes from what you get for your money. To ­determine which models deliver the most, we analyzed more than 200 vehicles that we recently tested and are currently on sale, focusing on their road-test scores, predicted reliability, and five-year owner-cost estimates. In short, the better a car performs in our tests and reliability ratings, and the less it costs to own, the better its value.

 

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