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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Mark Solheim, Editor
| April 2016
After reaching an all-time high in 2015, new car sales have begun to plateau this year, and carmakers are scrambling to maintain market share by rolling out generous incentives—cash back and subsidized leases, in addition to the low-rate financing that has been a perk for car buyers for several years.
With low prices at the gas pump, trucks and crossovers—including compact and subcompact crossovers—continue to sell briskly. But fuel-efficient sedans are in a slump, meaning sweet deals for you. Buyers can save big now and later, especially if gas prices jump.
We asked Kelley Blue Book and TrueCar for help identifying sedans that are selling at bargain prices. All are 2016 models that get at least 35 miles per gallon on the highway; we start with the least fuel-efficient models and work our way toward electrics that deliver the equivalent of 100+ mpg. Take a look.
MSRP: $24,675 (SE)
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $22,012
Cash Incentive: $1,500
MPG (city/hwy): 25/35
Sales of America’s best-selling vehicle have slowed along with its family-sedan peers. That means you can lock in a decent discount, as well as take advantage of the cash-back incentive.
The Camry received a complete overhaul last year, including a reworked suspension that improves handling, and it still has one of the roomiest backseats in its class. The SE trim level offers 18-inch alloy wheels and a spiffier interior compared with the entry-level LE, but if you’re on a strict budget, consider the 36-month lease deal on the LE (sticker price: $23,905): $179 a month with $1,999 due at signing.
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KBB Fair Purchase Price: $25,188
Cash Incentive: NA
MPG (city/hwy): 25/36
Last year’s ILX was dismissed by some critics as a gussied-up, pricey version of its corporate cousin, the Honda Civic. So Acura went to work on the 2016 model and added a new drivetrain, an updated exterior and interior, and new technology.
Although discounts are running deep on the ILX, there’s no cash incentive. But that’s how luxury brands roll: They prefer to keep cash out of it and instead offer subsidized leases. You can get a 36-month lease on an ILX for $219 a month with $2,499 due at signing.
2016 Malibu. Inset: 2016 Malibu Limited. Courtesy Chevrolet
MSRP: $22,500 (L)
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $21,577
Cash Incentive: $500
MPG (city/hwy): 27/37
Chevy is hedging its bets with the midsize Malibu, offering two different versions.
The newly redesigned 2016 Malibu has garnered rave reviews for its looks, handling, fuel economy and tech features. The 2016 Malibu Limited (sticker price: $23,440 for the LS trim level) is a holdover from the 2015 model year. Chevy offers a $500 cash incentive on the redesigned Malibu and, on the Malibu 1LT trim level, a 39-month lease deal: $199 a month with $2,729 due at signing.
The 2016 Malibu Limited (that's the older design) is worth a look for bargain hunters, with generous discounts off the sticker price and a $1,500 cash incentive. But note that city fuel economy is only 24 mpg, and highway mpg is 34, plus the backseat is less roomy than in the new-generation Malibu (as well as most of its midsize peers).
SEE ALSO: How to Get the Best Deal on a New Car in 2016
MSRP: $24,560 (1.6L Eco)
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $22,695
Cash Incentive: $2,250
MPG (city/hwy): 28/38
The midsize Sonata is a solid alternative to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. And Hyundais come with a better warranty: five years or 60,000 miles (and 10 years or 100,000 miles for the powertrain).
The turbocharged 1.6L Eco was recently selling for thousands of dollars below its sticker price, before applying the cash incentive. The base SE trim has a sticker price of $22,585 and a $1,000 cash-back offer, but it lags the Eco in city fuel economy by 3 mpg. You can also lease a Sonata SE starting at $199 a month for 36 months with $2,399 due at signing.
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MSRP: $18,500 (1.4T S)
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $16,328
Cash Incentive: $1,000 (reward card)
MPG (city/hwy): 28/40 (manual transmission)
If you can overlook VW’s sketchy history with diesels—you’ll recall that it surreptitiously installed “defeat device” software designed to cheat on emissions tests in vehicles with its turbodiesel engines—you may want to give the gas-engine model a look.
It delivers snappy acceleration with the new 1.4-liter turbo, responsive handling and very good fuel economy with a solid (if staid) exterior and refined interior. Dealers may be willing to cut an extra-deep discount because there are no diesel models for them to sell, and you can spend the prepaid reward card on anything you’d like. There’s also a 36-month lease offer: $129 a month with $2,199 due at signing.
MSRP: $27,305 (SE)
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $24,640
Cash Incentive: $2,000
MPG (city/hwy): 44/41
All Fusions—and there are several powertrains to choose from—deliver a sporty driving experience and have a roomy and high-tech interior that seats five comfortably.
The hybrid version also offers stellar city fuel economy and even goes up to 62 miles per hour on electric power. You can get another $500 in cash if you qualify for Ford Credit financing. If you’d rather lease, there’s a $224-a-month, 36-month lease with $3,556 due at signing on the Fusion Hybrid SE with tech package. An updated Fusion arrives for 2017.
SEE ALSO -- QUIZ: Should You Buy or Lease Your Next Car?
MSRP: $25,035 (Two)
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $23,445
Cash Incentive: $500
MPG (city/hwy): 54/50
The Prius made its U.S. debut in 2001, and it has earned many fans for its outstanding fuel economy and reliability.
Toyota has made steady improvements to the Prius, too. The updated 2016 model is longer and lower, with improved cornering and steering, and it has a snazzier, roomier interior. And it still has the best fuel economy of any vehicle that you don’t plug in. You can lease the Prius Two for $229 a month for 36 months with $2,599 at signing.
MSRP: $29,860 (S)
KBB Fair Purchase Price: $26,243
Cash Incentive: $4,000 (with Nissan financing)
MPGe (city/hwy): 126/101
Think of the Leaf as an electric vehicle for the masses. By contrast, the Tesla Model S has a starting MSRP of about $80,000, and the wait for the new $35,000 Tesla Model 3 is at least 18 months. But plenty of Leafs are sitting on dealers’ lots, and the average discount on the entry-level S model was recently nearly 16%, bringing the price to around $25,000.
The Leaf gets even more appealing if you take advantage of the $4,000 cash offer (if you finance through Nissan’s NMAC auto finance division) and the $7,500 alternative-fuel-vehicle tax credit. This EV isn’t for everyone. The Leaf isn’t a road-trip car, but it can work nicely as a commuter car if you don’t have a long haul to work. The range is only 84 miles, and it takes five hours to charge with a 240-volt home charging dock. You can lease the S for $209 a month for 36 months with $2,399 due at signing.