Each year, new and redesigned models breathe fresh life into the auto market. For our 2013 model year rankings, Kiplinger's includes a record number of vehicles -- 1,693 to be exact -- thanks to a plethora of new vehicle introductions and new trim levels of existing vehicles.
Automakers expanded their line-ups as the economy recovered and more buyers made their way back into showrooms. The midsize-vehicle class is one of the hottest categories, with an outsize share of redesigns and more hybrids and plug-ins joining their gas-engine siblings.
Winners are chosen based on performance, value and safety, plus our own driving impressions. NOTE: There were no new truck-based SUVs or minivans this year.
Cars Under $20,000: Hyundai Elantra GT
Sticker price: $19,170 (manual)
Invoice price: $18,515
TrueCar national average price: $18,726
Resale value: 3-year: 45%; 5-year: 31%
MPG: City: 26; Hwy: 37
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 has stellar fuel economy.
Cars $20,000-$25,000: Ford Fusion
Sticker price: $22,495 (S)
Invoice price: $21,030
TrueCar national average price: $20,962
Resale value: 3-year: 58%; 5-year: 40%
MPG: City: 22; Hwy: 34
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 superb handling. Two optional EcoBoost engines give you the choice of more power or better fuel efficiency.
Cars $25,000-$30,000: Nissan Altima
Sticker price: $26,490 (3.5 S)
Invoice price: $24,286
TrueCar national average price: $25,520
Resale value: 3-year: 52%; 5-year: 38%
MPG: City: 22; Hwy: 31
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, comfortable and supportive "zero gravity" front seats. The 3.5-liter V6 puts out 270 horses, but fuel economy is still respectable.
Cars $30,000-$40,000: Honda Accord
Sticker price: $30,860 (EX-L V6)
Invoice price: $28,292
TrueCar national average price: $30,031
Resale value: 3-year: 51%; 5-year: 40%
MPG: City: 21; Hwy: 34
The ninth-generation Accord celebrates its 30th anniversary of being made in the U.S.A. with a new look that's been compared with 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.
Cars $40,000-$50,000: Lexus GS 350
Sticker price: $47,795 (RWD)
Invoice price: $44,512
TrueCar national average price: $45,874
Resale value: 3-year: 53%; 5-year: 38%
MPG: City: 19; Hwy: 28
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 (transparent type displayed on the windshield ), night-vision system for the driver and "lane keep assist" to prevent straying.
Cars $50,000 and Over: Cadillac XTS
Sticker price: $54,505 (Premium FWD)
Invoice price: $51,558
TrueCar national average price: $53,552
Resale value: 3-year: 46%; 5-year: 31%
MPG: City: 17; Hwy: 28
Caddy's XTS puts other luxury carmakers 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 for a more responsive suspension and more trunk space than competitors from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Sports Cars: BMW M5
Sticker price: $92,095
Invoice price: $84,905
TrueCar national average price: $90,676
Resale value: 3-year: 45%; 5-year: 30%
MPG: City: 14; Hwy: 20
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.
Wagons: Ford C-Max
Sticker price: $25,995 (SE)
Invoice price: $24,294
TrueCar national average price: $24,362
Resale value: 3-year: 61%; 5-year: 44%
MPG: City: 47; Hwy: 47
Families yearning for a stylish "green" wagon have hit the jackpot. Ford's C-Max hybrid boasts high mpg, plenty of space and a peppy engine. Brake coaching tells you how much energy you recapture each time you brake. A hands-free liftgate -- just kick your foot under the bumper -- is optional.
Small Crossovers: Ford Escape
Sticker price: $25,895 (SE FWD)
Invoice price: $24,203
TrueCar national average price: $25,096
Resale value: 3-year: 50%; 5-year: 36%
MPG: City: 23; Hwy: 33
This small crossover makes your life 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.
Midsize and Large Crossovers: Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Sticker price: $28,525 (2.0T FWD)
Invoice price: $27,127
TrueCar national average price: $27,434
Resale value: 3-year: 43%; 5-year: 31%
MPG: City: 20; Hwy: 27
Transport five in style with the slightly downsized sibling of the Hyundai Santa Fe, which is being redesigned for 2013. 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 is one of the most fuel-efficient midsize SUVs on the road. Reclining rear seats keep the second row happy, and drivers get a knee airbag.
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