12 best in class car values, 2013

Kiplinger


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.


Cars $50,000 and Over: Mercedes Benz E-Class

Sticker price: $53,105 (E350 Sport BlueTec)

Invoice price: $49,451

TrueCar national average price: $49,521

Resale value: 3-year: 53%; 5-year: 36%

MPG: City: 22; Hwy: 32

The E-Class keeps its crown for the second year in a row, with high resale values, luxurious appointments and a diesel engine that puts out a hefty 400 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes is serious about safety -- Attention Assist (which monitors drivers for drowsiness) and the PRE-SAFE collision-preparation system (which tightens seat belts and rolls up windows if an impending accident is detected) are standard, along with nine airbags.


Sports Cars: Chevrolet Camaro

Sticker price: $33,535 (SS w/1SS)

Invoice price: $32,230

TrueCar national average price: $32,751

Resale value: 3-year: 61%, 5-year: 42%

MPG: City: 16; Hwy: 24

The venerable Camaro's reasonable price is matched by low service and insurance costs, high resale values, and not-too-shabby fuel economy -- all guaranteed to make your wallet happy. The 6.2-liter V8 that growls out 426 horses will keep the rest of you happy.


Wagons: Subaru Outback

Sticker price: $26,790 (2.5i Premium)

Invoice price: $25,267

TrueCar national average price: $25,203

Resale value: 3-year: 54%; 5-year: 38%

MPG: City: 24; Hwy: 30

Since its redesign in 2010, Subaru's Outback has taken top honors in Kiplinger's rankings every year. It blends surefooted handling, oodles of interior space and off-roading cred with plenty of power (170 horses). All-wheel drive is always standard, and Outback was named a Top Safety Pick + by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.


Minivans: Toyota Sienna

Sticker price: $27,280 (7-Passenger)

Invoice price: $25,298

TrueCar national average price: $26,008

Resale value: 3-year: 50%; 5-year: 39%

MPG: City: 18; Hwy: 25

Stealing the top spot back from the Honda Odyssey, the Sienna tips the Best in Class scales with a smidge more horsepower (266) and a knee airbag for the driver. (The Sienna, unlike the Odyssey, also comes in an all-wheel-drive model.) Families will love the second row captain's chairs (in seven-seat models) that slide 23 inches forward or aft to make room for long legs or to bring small children within easy reach of the driver.


Small Crossovers: Honda CR-V

Sticker price: $23,625 (LX)

Invoice price: $22,243

TrueCar national average price: $23,192

Resale value: 3-year: 51%, 5-year: 40%

MPG: City: 23; Hwy: 31

The steady Eddie of the small-crossover market earns top honors for 2013 (it was last year's Best New award winner). Standard features include a rearview camera, Pandora Internet radio and SMS text messaging for compatible smart phones, which reads aloud incoming texts and lets you respond with preset messages. The rear seats flip down with the touch of a lever when you want to increase cargo space from 37 to 71 cubic feet.


Midsize and Large Crossovers: Lexus RX

Sticker price: $46,805 (450h)

Invoice price: $44,050

TrueCar national average price: $45,251

Resale value: 3-year: 60%, 5-year: 44%

MPG: City: 32; Hwy: 28

An exterior refresh for 2013 gives the RX the bold new Lexus family fascia, complete with the signature "spindle" grille. The hybrid drivetrain not only boosts fuel economy to 30 mpg in combined city and highway driving (versus the gas-engine RX's 21) but also adds 25 horses. Ten airbags, stellar resale values and luxurious appointments are standard on both models.


Truck-based SUVs: Toyota Sequoia

Sticker price: $42,990 (SR5)

Invoice price: $39,174

TrueCar national average price: $40,655

Resale value: 3-year: 50%; 5-year: 39%

MPG: City: 13; Hwy: 18

From carpooling to soccer practice to heading to the lake with the boat, the Toyota Sequoia can handle all your family's automotive needs. It seats up to eight, tows up to 7,400 pounds and now offers Toyota's first Blu-ray rear-seat entertainment system ($1,920 on Limited and higher-trim models). With the Entune multimedia system ($1,345 with navigation on the SR5 model), you'll get apps such as Bing, OpenTable, MovieTickets.com and Pandora integrated with your smart phone.

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