Kiplinger's Best in Class winners top the rankings in each of our 12 categories. The rankings are based on performance, value and safety, as well as driving impressions from our own road tests. The Best in Class winners are our top picks among models that have a track record of at least one year or redesigned vehicles with powertrains substantially the same as the previous generation.
All except two of our Best in Class winners also earn Top Safety Pick designations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (no sports cars or truck-based SUVs made the IIHS Top Safety Pick cut this year).
Cars under $20,000: Ford Focus
Sticker price: $16,995 (S, manual)
Invoice price: $16,064
TrueCar national average price: $16,672
Resale value: 3-year: 62%; 5-year: 45%
MPG: City: 26; Hwy: 36
Last year's Best New Car Under $20,000 proves it can go the distance, nabbing Best in Class and Best Resale plaudits. Its peppy 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine puts out 160 horses, and six airbags come standard. With the base model you'll pay an extra $1,095 for an automatic transmission and $295 for Ford's SYNC system to operate media devices hands-free.
Cars $20,000 - $25,000: Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Sticker price: $23,785 (manual)
Invoice price: $22,866
TrueCar national average price: $22,873
Resale value: 3-year: 59%; 5-year: 44%
MPG: City: 30; Hwy: 42
Volkswagen's compact sedan is firing on all four cylinders. It has generous interior room (38 inches of rear legroom) and cargo space (its 16 cubic feet rivals the space in midsize models), high resale values, and German driving dynamics. The TDI's 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine gets stellar fuel economy and produces 236 pound-feet of torque to get you off the line fast.
Cars $25,000 - $30,000: Toyota Camry Hybrid
Sticker price: $26,935 (LE)
Invoice price: $24,844
TrueCar national average price: $25,456
Resale value: 3-year: 57%; 5-year: 43%
MPG: City: 43; Hwy: 39
Getting 41 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving and priced less than $27,000, the Camry Hybrid gives other midsize cars a lesson in value. It has 200 horses under the hood, a roomy backseat that can be folded down (unlike in many hybrids), and ten airbags, including side airbags for the rear passengers and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger.
Cars $30,000 - $40,000: Lexus ES
Sticker price: $36,995 (350)
Invoice price: $34,710
TrueCar national average price: $35,678
Resale value: 3-year: 52%, 5-year: 40%
MPG: City: 21; Hwy: 31
A redesign gives this perennial Kiplinger favorite a bold new look for 2013. From the aggressive "spindle" grille to the dual exhaust, the exterior of the ES hints at the sportier character underneath. While it keeps the 3.5-liter V6, it gets suspension and steering changes as well as a stiffer body for better feel behind the wheel.
Cars $40,000 - $50,000: Audi A6
Sticker price: $47,395 (2.0T Premium Plus)
Invoice price: $44,141
TrueCar national average price: $45,544
Resale value: 3-year: 55%, 5-year: 39%
MPG: City: 25; Hwy: 33
With German engineering and high-tech touches, Audi's A6 edges out the competition. Walnut inlays and a sunroof are standard, and options include heated rear seats and adaptive cruise control, which will automatically stop the vehicle when it's traveling or below 19 miles per hour if a car stops short in front of you. The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine puts out 211 horses, helping the A6 to get the best mileage of any non-hybrid in its class.