13 Best in Class Car Values, 2014
Kiplinger's Best Value Award winners for Best in Class are tops in our 13 categories.
Kiplinger's Best Value Award winners for Best in Class are tops in our 13 categories. There's something here for every buyer and every budget.
The rankings are based on value factors (such as fuel economy and resale values), performance and safety, as well as driving impressions from our own road tests. Vehicles must have a track record of at least one year or, for vehicles that received a face-lift, have powertrains substantially the same as the previous generation.
Among the 13 honorees are one electric vehicle and three diesel models, reflecting the wider selection of powertrains now available from all carmakers.
Several of our winners have been named Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick + by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The criteria this year for a Top Safety Pick includes a good or acceptable rating in all crash tests the Institute conducts. If the vehicle is equipped with a front crash prevention system as well, it receives a Top Safety Pick +.
Because of the increase in crossover models, this year we split the large and midsize crossovers into separate categories. SOURCES: Kelley Blue Book (new vehicle data & ownership costs); Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (Top Safety Pick).KELLEY BLUE BOOK FAIR PURCHASE PRICE: The Kelley Blue Book® Fair Purchase Price for new cars is generally the midpoint of the Fair Market Range. It is Kelley Blue Book's estimate of what a consumer could reasonably expect to pay in during the period between December 19, 2014 through January 15, 2015 for a new vehicle with standard options, excluding taxes, title and fees. It's based on actual new-car transactions, plus data from other reliable third-party sources as well as market conditions.MSRP: The MSRP, or Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, is the price set by the manufacturer and does not necessarily reflect the price actually paid by consumers in your area. The MSRP shown here includes destination and freight charges but excludes services and handling fees and state and local tax, title and license fees.INVOICE PRICE: Dealer invoice represents the dealer’s cost for the vehicle only and doesn’t include any of the dealer’s costs for advertising, selling, preparing, displaying or financing the vehicle. ©2015 by Kelley Blue Book Co, Inc., ©2014, 12/19/14 – 1/15/15 Base Edition. All rights reserved. Kelley Blue Book assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions.
Cars Under $20,000: Subaru Impreza
- Sticker price: $19,190 (2.0i AWD hatchback, manual)
- Invoice price: $18,364
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $18,230
- Resale value: 3-year: 63%; 5-year: 48%
- MPG: City: 25; Hwy: 33
Precise handling, thanks to standard all-wheel drive, gives the Impreza an edge over the entry-level competition. It boasts high resale values, a roomy interior and a choice between sedan and hatchback. It also wins the prized Top Safety Pick designation from IIHS.
Cars $20,000-$25,000: Ford Fusion
- Sticker price: $24,650 (SE)
- Invoice price: $22,802
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $23,141
- Resale value: 3-year: 56%; 5-year: 43%
- MPG: City: 22; Hwy: 34
The Fusion keeps comfort and safety top of mind while providing a host of engine options for optimizing your power-to-economy ratio. Available features include cooled seats, a heated steering wheel and inflatable rear seat belts--in a collision, they distribute the force over a larger area, reducing the risk of injury. Equipped with optional forward collision warning with brake support, the Fusion also receives a Top Safety Pick + designation from IIHS. If the vehicle senses an impending collision the system precharges the brakes to give you more available stopping power.
Cars $25,000-$30,000: Honda Accord
- Sticker price: $29,060 (EX-L)
- Invoice price: $26,650
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $26,775
- Resale value: 3-year: 60%; 5-year: 46%
- MPG: City: 27; Hwy: 36
A Best New Model winner in 2013 (it has won Best in Class four of the last six years), the Accord tops its price category with stellar resale values, a roomy interior and a standard rearview camera. Standard features also include Pandora Internet radio and SMS text messaging. It gets a Top Safety Pick + from IIHS, too.
Cars $30,000-$40,000: BMW 3 series
- Sticker price: $39,525 (328d sedan RWD)
- Invoice price: $36,435
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $37,090
- Resale value: 3-year: 57%; 5-year: 35%
- MPG: City: 32; Hwy: 45
As upscale brands come with near-mass-market prices and mainstream makes add bells and whistles, the entry-luxury space is getting crowded. But one constant remains: BMW’s 3 series is an unbeatable combination of power, precision and bang for the buck. We think the diesel is tops, compensating with miles per gallon and torque what it lacks in horses.
Cars $40,000-$50,000: Lexus GS
- Sticker price: $48,610 (350 RWD)
- Invoice price: $45,271
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $46,957
- Resale value: 3-year: 58%; 5-year: 42%
- MPG: City: 19; Hwy: 29
The GS won a nod last year for Best New Model, with its impressive blend of sportiness and luxury. For 2014, it adds refinements such as an eight-speed automatic transmission to improve fuel economy and Siri Eyes Free Mode, which works with an iPhone to call contacts, play music and more.
Cars $50,000 and over: Tesla Model S
- Sticker price: $91,070 (P85)
- Invoice price: NA
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: NA
- Resale value: 3-year: NA; 5-year: NA
- MPG: City: 88 Hwy: 90
The Model S breathes the rarefied air of expensive European luxury sedans, and raises the bar. While the horsepower numbers are on the level with the competition, the acceleration is mind-boggling, thanks to instant torque from the electric motor, and “fuel” economy beggars belief, too. It’s also eligible for a federal tax credit of $7,500.
Sports Cars: Ford Mustang GT
- Sticker price: $31,695 (coupe, manual)
- Invoice price: $29,300
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $29,726
- Resale value: 3-year: 60%; 5-year: 45%
- MPG: City: 15; Hwy: 26
In its 50th year of production, the always affordable Mustang ups its game with features such as SelectShift automatic transmission with full manual mode and Hill Start Assist. Taking it to the track? In addition to 420 horses, you also get an in-dash LCD screen with apps to measure g-force, 0 to 60 miles per hour, and quarter-mile acceleration and braking times.
Wagons: Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
- Sticker price: $27,070 (TDI, manual)
- Invoice price: $26,021
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $26,257
- Resale value: 3-year: 59%; 5-year: 44%
- MPG: City: 30; Hwy: 42
Grippy handling—complements of German engineering—makes VW’s wagon more than just a grocery-getter. Whether equipped with the 2.5-liter gasoline engine or the 2.0-liter turbodiesel, the SportWagen boasts great fuel economy, loads of cargo space and six airbags to keep your precious cargo safe.
Minivans: Honda Odyssey
- Sticker price: $29,655 (LX)
- Invoice price: $28,290
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $27,128
- Resale value: 3-year: 55%; 5-year: 39%
- MPG: City: 19; Hwy: 28
Honda’s reputation for reliability pairs well with a penchant for safety to push the Odyssey head and shoulders above the competition. The only Top Safety Pick in the minivan brood includes a rearview camera as standard equipment. It also takes honors for most fuel-efficient.
Small Crossovers: Mazda CX-5
- Sticker price: $25,610 (Touring)
- Invoice price: $24,898
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $24,547
- Resale value: 3-year: 56%; 5-year: 37%
- MPG: City: 25; Hwy: 32
Mazda was firing on all cylinders when it introduced the CX-5 last year. The base model has class-leading highway mileage of 35 mpg. Resale values are strong across the board, and while you have the view from an SUV, it drives like a sport sedan. Plus, the CX-5 is one of only four small crossovers to be named a Top Safety Pick + by the IIHS.
Midsize Crossovers: Mercedes-Benz ML
- Sticker price: $52,715 (ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC AWD)
- Invoice price: $49,090
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $50,500
- Resale value: 3-year: 65%; 5-year: 44%
- MPG: City: 20; Hwy: 28
With four models, you can pick your performance with the Benz’s M-Class. We prefer the 350 BlueTEC’s combo of 240 horses and 28 mpg highway (plus more torque than the V8 ML 550). Attention Assist, which reminds you to take a break when it detects drowsiness, is standard, as is forward collision warning. When you add optional auto-braking, the M-Class gets a Top Safety Pick + from IIHS.
Large Crossovers: Ford Explorer
- Sticker price: $41,675 (Sport 4WD)
- Invoice price: $38,922
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $39,707
- Resale value: 3-year: 55%; 5-year: 39%
- MPG: City: 16; Hwy: 22
For 2014, the Explorer adds improvements borrowed from the top-of-the-line Sport model. Bigger brakes improve stopping distance and towing performance, while an electric-assisted power-steering rack gives more responsive handling. Available features include heated second-row seats and adaptive cruise control.
Truck-based SUVs: Toyota Sequoia
- Sticker price: $44,590 (SR5)
- Invoice price: $40,667
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $41,754
- Resale value: 3-year: 58%; 5-year: 46%
- MPG: City: 13; Hwy: 17
From carpooling to heading to the lake with a boat, the Toyota Sequoia can handle all of your family's needs. It seats up to eight, tows up to 7,400 pounds and offers plenty of technology, including a Blu-ray entertainment system and Entune multimedia, which gives you access to apps like Bing and OpenTable from your smartphone.