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Best end-of-the-year deals on new cars

Ring in the new year with serious savings on good cars

Published: December 29, 2014 01:00 PM

As the year winds to a close, this can be a great time to score a deal on a new car. As you’ve seen through the holiday season, the airwaves are abuzz with promotions for deep discounts and low interest rates. Strike now, and you could save hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. The real trick is to get those savings, while also netting a great car.

The Consumer Reports analysts have scrutinized the available offers, comparing them to our test and reliability findings to identify the models that provide true savings, while being good vehicles worthy of recommendation. To earn such a distinction, a car has to perform well in Consumer Reports’ road tests, have average or better predicted reliability, and perform at least adequately, if included, in government or insurance-industry safety tests.

The vehicles that made the cut are almost all from American brands. We selected a variety of models, with mainstream sedans, upscale cars, SUVs, and even a plug-in extended-range hybrid. In all cases, there are similar discounts on other variations, but these struck us as being in a sweet spot. One car, the Cadillac CTS, is a 2014. When available, leftover inventory from the previous model year can be had at a major discount—and many automakers are directly advertising such offers.

We recently explored the current Cadillac incentives finding that regional discounts and special-interest rebates, such as offered for brand loyalty or military service, can further sweeten the deal. All such pricing is readily available through our model pages and factored into our free Build & Buy service.

Remember, in the final hours of the year, the dealership may be motivated to negotiate to reach both monthly and annual sales targets, which typically bring rewards from the automaker. Armed with all the available information, you can definitely get a great deal now—just make sure it is for a good car.

The cars are listed below in alphabetical order. Check out our complete lists of best deals on new and used cars.

Consumer Reports Build & Buy

When buying a car, in addition to research and reviews, Consumer Reports offers subscribers access to the Build & Buy Car Buying Service at no additional cost. Through this service, a nationwide network of more than 8,600 participating dealers provide upfront pricing information and a certificate to receive guaranteed savings off MSRP (in most states). The pricing information and guaranteed savings includes eligible incentives. Consumer Reports subscribers have saved an average of $2,919 off MSRP with the Build & Buy Car Buying Service.


Buick Enclave

The most luxurious of General Motors’ three-row crossovers, the Enclave is set apart from the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia by nicer interior finish, a quieter cabin, and a softer ride. The large Enclave feels more responsive in corners than some Buick sedans, with quick steering response and decent feedback through the steering wheel. The 288-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 engine often feels taxed by the Enclave's hefty 5,100-pound weight, but when pushed, it delivers good performance. A notable downside is that it returns just 15 mpg in mixed driving on regular fuel, although this may be offset by available savings. Forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems are available.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Available savings Expires
2015 Buick Enclave Leather AWD $46,375 $45,012 $3,364 1/5/15

Buick LaCrosse

The LaCrosse is a sophisticated and thoroughly modern sedan made more attractive by cash on the hood. Quiet, roomy, and luxurious, it offers responsive handling and a steady ride—qualities not normally associated with past Buicks. Aided by an electric motor to improve fuel mileage, the 182-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers good performance while returning an impressive 26 mpg. Called eAssist, this light hybrid system also shuts off and restarts the engine at stops. Most test drivers found the auto stop/start feature unobtrusive, and the six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. A 2014 freshening included an updated interior with simplified controls and new seats. There are also several electronic safety features such as forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. Reliability of the four-cylinder has improved to average.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Available savings Expires
2015 Buick LaCrosse Leather $36,650 $35,936 $2,072 1/5/15

Buick Regal

A well-honed and satisfying sports sedan with a European feel, the Regal is based on a design from Opel, GM's German subsidiary. Handling is agile, steering is quick, and the ride is taut and steady. The quiet and nicely furnished interior has firm, well-supporting seats and excellent fit and finish, but the rear seat is snug. A 2014 freshening brought a new 259-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which improved performance and fuel economy. Controls were simplified, the infotainment system upgraded, and all-wheel-drive was made available on all trim lines. Our tested Regal was quick, fairly quiet, and delivered 24 mpg overall. The optional eAssist mild hybrid enhancement could boost that to about 29 mpg. A standard built-in WiFi hotspot is new for 2015.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Available savings Expires
2015 Buick Regal Turbo $30,915 $30,315

$1,900

1/5/15

Cadillac CTS

The CTS delivers an inviting blend of comfort, quietness, and sporty driving performance. And if you can find a leftover 2014 model, it can provide massive discount. Nationwide, savings of nearly $10,000 are probable, and we found that even greater savings are possible. The version highlighted here combines the powerful V6 engine with AWD, for a luxurious winter-ready coach. We measured 21 mpg overall with that combo, which is about par for the class. In everyday cruising the CTS feels deft and light on its feet, and the steering is responsive and well-weighted. Inside is a world-class cabin with excellent fit and finish, acres of padding, and sumptuous genuine leather. The front seats are very comfortable, but the cabin is a little snug.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Available savings Expires
2014 Cadillac CTS 3.6L V6 Luxury AWD $56,625 $54,397 $9,671 1/5/15

Chevrolet Impala

Cast aside preconceptions about the Impala, a nameplate long associated with mediocrity. The latest example is an impressive, thoroughly modern car that shames more expensive models from some luxury brands. It is roomy, comfortable, quiet, and enjoyable to drive. Engine choices include a punchy 3.6-liter V6 and a decent 2.5-liter four-cylinder, both paired with a six-speed automatic. The V6 accelerates and brakes capably, with secure and responsive handling. It even rides like a bonafide luxury sedan, feeling cushy and controlled. The full-featured cabin stays very quiet, with a sumptuous backseat and a huge trunk. Controls are intuitive and easy to use, but rear visibility is restricted. Advanced electronic safety features are readily available.  Chevrolet is also offering up to 20-percent off leftover 2014 models; check the automaker’s website for available inventory.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Available savings Expires
2015 Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ $36,265 $35,025 $1,813 1/2/15

Chevrolet Malibu

The Chevrolet Malibu is among the segment leaders, thanks to its plush ride, serene cabin, and good all-around performance. Furthermore, it has straightforward controls and responsive handling. In a rather cookie-cutter segment, the Malibu styling benefits from some Camaro design cues, inside and out. Between two variations recently tested, the zippy Malibu LTZ turbo scored the highest. Both available powertrains fall short of rivals’ fuel economy, but the Malibu feels more substantial than most. Wide, flat-front bucket seats may lose support on long trips, and the rear seat remains relatively snug, despite updates to carve out more knee room. But for drivers seeking Buick-grade isolation for a Chevrolet price, the Malibu is the answer. Reliability has been average.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Available savings Expires
2015 Chevrolet Malibu 1LT $24,560 $23,967 $4,212 1/5/15

Chevrolet Volt

The Volt is an electric car for drivers who don't want to be limited by battery range. It has a backup engine to extend its typical 35-mile electric range. Once the lithium-ion battery is depleted, the 1.4-liter engine acts as a generator to extend the range by 315 miles. Recharging take 4 hours using a 240-volt supply and 10 hours with 120 volts. We averaged the equivalent of 99 mpg in electric mode and 32 mpg when it switched over to gasoline. It is quick, quiet, and responsive, with a taut ride. But the four-seat capacity limits practicality, the rear seat is cramped, and visibility is poor. For 2015, the battery storage capacity is increased from 16 to 17.1 kWh, likely leading to more EV-only miles. Reliability has been average.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Available savings Expires
2015 Chevrolet Volt $35,170 $34,483 $2,030 1/5/15

Dodge Durango

Spacious, quiet, and comfortable, the Durango blends civility and capability. It shares its platform with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but the Durango adds the benefit of an available third-row seat. Handling is responsive for such a large vehicle, and the ride is composed and comfortable. Skip the V8; the 290-hp, 3.6-liter V6 will satisfy most buyers. Fuel economy is 18 mpg overall. The midrange Limited trim should hit the sweet spot for most buyers. It includes lots of desirable features, including heated leather seats and steering wheel, and the impressive Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system. Limited visibility is a downside, but a rearview camera is available. Reliability has been average.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Available savings Expires
2015 Dodge Durango Limited AWD $40,390 $38,619 $1,932 1/5/15

Ford Fusion

The stylish Fusion is a delight to drive. All versions feel solid and upscale, with a supple ride, agile handling, and a quiet cabin. The cabin is nicely finished with comfortable seats. The main engines are 1.5- and 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinders, each mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. We averaged 24 and 22 mpg overall, respectively—not stellar. The 1.5-liter does the job, but the 2.0-liter is punchier. The Fusion can be optioned up quickly, with hybrid and AWD variations available. The real magic here is the overall goodness packaged into even the base model. We suggest getting the mid-trim SE with leather seating and optional 18-inch wheels. We'd skip the MyFord Touch control system whenever possible.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Available savings Expires
2015 Ford Fusion SE $24,270 $22,988 $2,703 1/5/15

Kia Optima

The Optima is Kia's counterpart to the highly rated, previous-generation Hyundai Sonata. Although it falls a little short of the latest Sonata in ride comfort, braking, and fuel economy, the Georgia-built Optima is still a good choice—especially at a discount. The base LX handles very securely, the engine and transmission perform well, and fuel economy is quite respectable. The 200-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers better than average acceleration and a respectable 25 mpg overall. The coupe-like styling detracts from rear visibility, though, and the rear seat is a bit low. 

Make/model MSRP Invoice Available savings Expires
2015 Kia Optima SX $26,500 $25,091 $2,271 1/5/15

Jeff Bartlett with Todd Young

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