By on November 26, 2010

It’s Black Friday, the national holiday of deal-getting, and to celebrate we’ve got a big question: What new car is the best value for money? It’s a big, open-ended, debate-sparking kind of question… the perfect way to debate your way out of your tryptophan coma. To get things started, we’ll begin by nominating the Subaru Impreza 2.5 Five-Door. For $18k you get Subaru’s fantastic AWD system, 170 HP, good storage space, and a package that’s ass comfortable cruising at freeway speeds as it quietly tootling around town or blasting up snowy roads to the mountain. Plus, you get the character and grunt of a boxer engine… and when it comes to new automobiles, uniqueness is priceless. OK, over to you, B&B. Which new car on the US market is the steal of all deals (before incentives, etc)?

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58 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: What New Car Is The Best Value For Money?...”

  • avatar
    Sam P

    The Impreza is a pretty killer deal for what you get.
    I’d also submit that the Outback (at $24.2k for the 2.5i 6-speed manual, yes, you can still get a mid-sized cheap station wagon with AWD and a manual box) is a pretty killer deal.
    Its size and interior space are comparable to a lot of crossovers, and even the largest and most ridiculous of the rear-facing child seats that are in vogue with the Gen X and Gen Y parents will fit in the rear seats of an Outback. Plus, it’s actually fun to drive (my wife and I have owned two Outbacks between us).


    • 0 avatar

      Plus the larger Outback actually gets better gas mileage than the Impreza.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d agree with you, and was about to buy a 6-spd Outback this weekend.  However, the Outback has a problem with a steering shimmy, and Subaru, after 4 TSB’s, still can’t figure out how to fix it.  Many have it right off the lot, other develop it after thousands of miles.  it leads me to think they ALL may eventually develop it.
      Consequently, I’m looking at the RAV4 instead.  Interior dimensions are about the same as the Outback, but taller, making loading bikes & stuff easier, it’s WAY more fun to drive, and the V6 is a way cheaper upgrade than in the Outback, and only gives up 1 mpg to the 4-cyl.
      So, I nominate the RAV4- especially the V6

    • 0 avatar

      I think the last generation was a better deal. The last one had 4 wheel disc brakes, aluminum wheels standard. It also featured an antenna built into the rear glass and painted door handles. The new one comes with steel wheels, rear drums, bare plastic door handles, and a roof mounted antenna.

    • 0 avatar

      But no 6-speed manual with the RAV4 …

    • 0 avatar

      I had a few Subarus circa 1979-1985, and like this steering shimmy, they all have had one or two dumb things wrong that made the whole ownership experience poor. Then 15 years later I tried Subaru again, and again, these niggling “problems” were even worse. I can’t believe that they rank as high as they do in reliability, and reputation; they aren’t that good.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      I must be the only poster on TTAC that has had good luck with Subarus. They’re worth it to me because they have a full-time AWD system as opposed to the “AWD” systems on most crossovers that kick in only when the front wheels start spinning.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I don’t know if too many cars are going to qualify with the “before incentives” provision.  My first thought seeing the pic above, was wow the Impreza would be a steal with $2000 on the hood.
    I was going to nominate the Suzuki SX4 Crossover MT/AWD because of its selectable AWD and underrated status but… I went to build and price one and without incentives or arguing with the dealer it was $17,874 which is dang near the price of the Impreza which I’m sure has more interior room.
    How bout the Kizashi?  The AWD/CVT model is $22,874 and has been well praised in reviews for handling and driving dynamics.
    Sorry guys I find it hard to call any new car a value without the incentives and dealer haggling.  I mean heck a Cobalt coupe can look attractive when you can walk out the door with one for $13,500 which is what my local Chevy dealer was selling them for very recently, that was a little over $3,000 of the sticker.

  • avatar

    This is a question with too many answers.  “best value” is different for everyone.  Some say cheapest A to B.  Others its speed/performance for the money.  Others is how much you can tow/haul for the money.  Do we calculate in fuel costs?  What about resale?
    Off the top of my head, I’d say the Hyundai Elantra comes to mind.  Cheap to buy, reliable, good fuel economy, nice features, drives smooth and quiet, big enough, 10 year warranty.  That’s my first thought.
    Performance?  Mazda Miata is a hoot all around and not too pricey.  I own a GTI, and I love its balance of speed, economy, power, and amenities for the price I paid.  I could also argue something like the Kia Sorento.  Sorta a roomier Elantra.

  • avatar

    This is a very open ended question that if there was some criteria to this beyond sheer bang for the buck, it might be easier to answer; bang for the buck is in the beholder.  If I need a snowbelt hauler, the Impreza above is definitely in the run for the bang for the buck winner.  If I’m buying for autocross and corner carving, I’m thinking the MX-5 becomes the winner.  If I need to haul a family of five and not have them kill each other after a few hours the Hyundai Sonata comes to mind.  If we’re talking luxury than Infiniti G37.

  • avatar

    “Ass comfortable”?

    Do you mean it has good seats?

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Tough question to answer.
    When it comes to new cars the out-the-door price means everything. I would say that if you’re looking at minimal operating cost and a semblance of sportiness (a.k.a. a commuter car), the Chevy Cobalt XFE would be the best choice.
    I saw $9995 specials on those several times this year. I would also throw in a Nissan Versa S in there as well. Both of these vehicles are at the tail end of their production and I don’t think we’ll see any quality cars in the low end range for a while. But then you have to deal with the bogus fees, sales tax, ad valorem tax, a higher insurance premium, etc.
    I guess the short answer is that new cars are a piss poor value in general. The best ‘used’ value is the one you like so much you would be happy to keep it for another ten years. For me that’s a 2001 Honda Insight.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Lemming

      Yup.  I wish Honda would come up with a modern update of the 1989-91 Civic tall wagon.  The Fit is too small; the CR-V too tall and heavy.  Meanwhile, the Toyota Matrix was too cramped and its mileage wasn’t so hot.  The Impreza’s AWD is an attractive idea for winter driving, but there’s the mileage penalty you carry around for the rest of the year (and the hatch is a weak substitute for a full wagon).
      Guess I’ll hang on to my old Civic a while longer. . . .

  • avatar

    Would have to nominate the Cruze

  • avatar

    I also agree that the “before incentives” thing is a limiting… the reason for this is that MSRP is often based on what the automaker thought a car was worth at the time of launch.

    This means you have some marketing and sales guys (and gals) bickering over things in a room trying to figure out what should go on the Monroney label on day one.  They want the net-of-incentives price to slot in against the expected competition net price.  This MSRP price has to be the same nationwide, but the net price will vary based on incentives.
    If these people get the MSRP wrong on day one, then you’ll have 6 years of inflated MSRP offset with higher incentives.   It doesn’t make sense to peg the notion of value against the ability of people to forecast MSRP/net-price positioning.
    Also consider that this means cars that are climate-sensitive all get the same MSRP regardless of which state it was shipped to.  There are definitely going to be differential incentives on the hood if the automaker needs to move the metal with customers when the weather turns south.
    Even the stalwart brands like BMW are not exempt to this.  In a month or two go to a snow-state and find a 2010 M3 Coupe in a new-car lot. I guarantee you’ll come away with a ridiculous deal (and presumably good value).

  • avatar

    Does best value for the money have to always be an eco-box that you wouldn’t want to show up to your high school reunion in?

    How about including a fun factor? For me it’s clearly a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (two-door or four-door). Get the dual-top package for a hardtop in the winter and the soft top for summer (which you can leave up or not, as the Jeep has drain plugs if it rains too much). It can take you to the mall, or places that 98% of the general public never goes with it’s low-range transfer case, front and rear lockers and solid axles. Even better, throw some larger tires under it with a mild lift. Big deal what the MPG is as Jeeps are just cool, clean or not… :)

  • avatar

    May I suggest that no automobile is a “good” value. Do the math.

    • 0 avatar

      engines degenerate; autos depreciate period. they are NOT investments. best ‘car’ ,per title of article ; a Matchbox -1 payment ,you own it with no restrictive upkeep. drive happy, y’all…

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on matchbox cars. They’re safe, too – my two-year-old son and I were in at least twenty accidents this evening and we’re both fine.

  • avatar

    Strippo Honda Accord, 4 cyl.  Strippo Honda Civic.  Strippo Toyota Camry.

    • 0 avatar

      A strippo 2011 Hyundai Sonata kicks all of the above into the ground.  A strippo Korte will kick the Civic into the ground.  Have you checked the Yen vs. the dollar lately (ya, I know, built here, the profits are still counted in Yen in mother Japan so it still matters).  You can’t change global macroeconomics and Toyota and Honda are no longer the value leaders; they haven’t been for a decade if not longer.

  • avatar

    This needs to be done within each class.
    A buyer needs to list all the options needed for “personal” satisfaction.
    Once that is established, THEN the value in each ategory can be searched for.

    Personally, I chose the MKS in the large car category after ALL my wants.
    When I added all this up PLUS the repair cost and even the availability of service, the more costly imports failed badly.

    Plus hidden future cost are a worry.
    Replacement of such items as run flats are killers.

    • 0 avatar

      And at the end of the day…you just overpaid for a mediocre Taurus.
      Not a good value at all…which is why their sales are down over 13% this year.

    • 0 avatar


      Who ARE you?

      You need to troll for small kids down the block.

      You’re so smart, then you take my challenge up.
      And try not to sound stupid.
      You tell me what car at 48K gives you what a totally loaded MKS does.

      And spend some time doing your damn homework. That means listing the comparable options…not just your lame opinions.

    • 0 avatar
      Ian Anderson

      Don’t feed the troll.
      I agree with you on the MKS being competitive feature-wise in its segment. I hate to say it but the Acura RL is probably a close second at the same price point.

    • 0 avatar

      Ian…one of my very favorie rock names /guys of all time.
      Did you know Ian Anderson today is a big fish farm guy?

      Actually, the first MKS was in competition with the TL. I liked the way the TL SHAWD drove.
      And am the one of the 6 people on earth that actually thinks its looks get better with age.

      The RL with some of the stuff I was getting (dual sun roof, etc.) was starting at more than I paid for the MKS with everything on the menu.

      That ecoboost engine is…to ME…one of the very best engines this decade.
      It would be awesome in a RWD cay and allowed to be all it can be. 

      I am tempted some days to fix it to 424 HP, 430 torque, but then it’s FWD AWD…not sure I want to take the chance.

    • 0 avatar

      You tell me what car at 48K gives you what a totally loaded MKS does.
      There’s a car that does it for $38K…it’s called the Taurus SHOW.
      And with the SHOW, you get 365HP…more than the mediocre Lincoln.
      There is nothing that Lincoln offers in their overpriced rebadge of the Taurus that justifies the $10,000 premium over the Taurus.
      But for my money…I’d take the Hyundai Genesis.  Proper V8, Proper RWD, it’s not overpriced, etc.  Sure it may not have ALL of the electronic gimmicks that the dull Lincoln has…but a car should be able to sell on it’s merits…not gimmicks…which is why the MKTaurus is down over 13% in sales this year.

    • 0 avatar

      Do Not Feed The TROLL…Back under the bridge with you!!

    • 0 avatar

      Do Not Feed The TROLL…Back under the bridge with you!!
      Too funny!
      I praise everything from Pagani to Toyota…..and everything in between including Ford and yet I am supposedly a troll.  Absolutely hysterical.
      You blind Ford cheerleaders have some crazy standards.  Anyone who doesn’t agree with your twisted point of view is automatically labeled a ‘troll’.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    RFTs? Ditch them ASAP with standard tires and throw a compact spare and a jack in the trunk. Lots of BMW E90 3-series and Z4 owners do this.

  • avatar

    I think Jerome10 had it right: there are too many “correct” answers because everybody’s needs/wants are different. Personally, I’d want a Chrysler 300 with the upgraded interior and the Pentastar V6. At my age, I don’t put a lot of mileage on a car, so economy isn’t that important. I make one or two long trips a year, so I’d want a good freeway car so I can ride in comfort and style.

    Though Steven Lang is right – used is a better choice – I tend to keep a car for 8-10 years, making depreciation a minor issue. My choice makes used a non-starter, since the Pentastar isn’t available on older models and the interiors are as good.

    The exclusion of incentives part of the question tends to make my choice less attractive than it really is, and that factor alone can really scramble anyone else’s choices. You might want to take the various choices here and apply the average incentives for those models, compared to similar classes of car types with their incentives. The result could be an eye-opener.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    Forget the Impreza. For one thing it’s a hatch , and for another it’s ugly as sin. You can’t choose a car purely on a value-for-money basis , if you’re going to have to come out of your front door everyday and look at the thing. They do make a 4-door Impreza but it still mings. The next Impreza is going to be better-looking.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      I can tell you that Subaru owners buy their cars for functionality over looks, and besides, looks are subjective. My wife’s Outback is not a good looking car, but it’s reliable, roomy, and has all wheel drive, and gets decent fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Yup my Subaru driving uncle doesn’t give a crap what it looks like on the outside, just if it gets him through the next snowdrift and runs 200,000+ miles with routine maintenance.

  • avatar

    Lorenzo is on the right track.

    If you must buy new, the car with the best value for money is the one you keep for 10+ years or 200,000+ miles, continuing to enjoy it long after it’s paid off and fully depreciated.   If you spend an extra few $K up front to get a car you love so much you won’t spend $25-$30K or whatever on a replacement for it after five years or so, you’ve gotten value for money.

    (I expect to break 200K miles on my 1998 LS400 in the next month or so)

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Not sure if this was your point, but I agree with your premise in terms of spend a bit more up front to get the ‘right’ car and drive the day lights out of it.
      LS400 is a nice car.  I can’t see driving a starter Suzuki/Hyundai/Kia for 200k.  They are nice but not that nice.

      To me a good value is a car that not only runs good, but looks good 10 years later.  Mercedes, Lexus, domestic pick up (diesel): they all run forever and require minimal upkeep + retain their resale value of something over $500 with 200k on the clock.

  • avatar

    Without incentives isn’t really a fair way to evaluate. Hyundai regularly has $1000 incentives even on new models. The best deal with incentives now is the 2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring / i30cw. Can pick up the auto transmission for $15k or the manual for $14k, with a full set of standard features. Better mileage and as much space as a SUV, top crash test ratings, drives like a sport sedan, looks great to boot. Like the Impreza without 4WD, but more room, better mpg, and better warranty.

  • avatar

    You can’t overlook the Scion xD:
    $16565 for an auto with destination, $15765 for a manual
    Side/curtain bags, VSC, Pioneer sound system w/ ipod integration, reclining rear seats, turn signal indicators on the o/s mirrors, and 2 years of free maintenance with road side assistance
    It’s also rated as the best car per JD Power!

  • avatar

    Tough to beat the Impreza on value but the new Mazda5 comes pretty close.

  • avatar

    There are obviously a whole host of reasons people need and sometimes even like their rides.  Given the diverse needs there can be no single “best value.”  The Impreza would be the pick for those looking for a sturdy, all-weather sedan or hatchback that gets decent gas mileage and wil probably still be running well over the next decade.  MSRP is also the correct metric to use when comparing cars as there are so many “deals” out there.  Does a 0 percent APR loan suddenly make a car a great value?  Maybe over the short term but not if you are looking for a ride that will still be chugging along for many years.

    Personally, the Outback or Forester seem like equally worthy contenders – a nicer ride, more space and more offroad capability for just a bit more money.

    Consumers vote with their dollars everyday and so we get “election results” (hard economic data) every month that tells us what ordinary people have decided is the vehicle that delivers the best value.  And it therefore should be no surprise that the best selling vehicles are often not the one’s that TTAC readers would likely consider purchasing.

  • avatar

    Mustang V6
    Price, power, RWD handling, quality, reliability, fuel economy, low cost maintenance, aftermarket support, service availability, safety, fun, & style.  

    Efficiently designed and manufactured with high USA content.

    The stars don’t align any better than that.

    • 0 avatar

      The base Mustang with the V6 performance package is only $25K.  That’s very hard to beat.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mustang V6 was the first car that came to my mind as well.  It is a lot of car for the money, perhaps only matched by the Genesis Coupe.  Resale value of V6 ponies has been historically weak, but this is the first time in recent memory that a V6 Mustang has been given a very good engine and an optional performance package.  The base Mustang is no longer a Hertz special, it’s a bona fide performance car.

      The GT is also a good value.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    As has been said, it depends on your needs….
    But for under $20k (in some cases well under….), there’s quite a few I’d consider….
    Scion xB
    Ford Focus
    Hyundai Elantra Touring

  • avatar

    I tend to agree with the value, but I’d like it a lot better with 15 or 20% better gas mileage.

    A big car with poor gas mileage is understandable; a small car with poor mileage is miserable.

    • 0 avatar
      Peugeot 504 - the Car for Nigeria

      I shopped for one recently and had the same reaction. Essentially the problem is that it still has a 4-speed auto (shopping for a manual wasn’t an option, for boring reasons) rather than everyone else’s 5 or 6 in the same class, and the engine is just too large. It’s not a car that needs 170hp – I wound up buying an Outback with exactly the same engine and power and it’s more than enough in a car that’s 400-500lb heavier. They should have put a 2.2 or even a 2.0 in it and put the resulting cost savings into a fifth gear. Then you’d still get 22-23 city / 30 hwy even with the AWD penalty. Which, if they’d kept the weight gain to a minimum and put at least some of the improvements in engine efficiency towards gas mileage instead of extra power, would be exactly the evolution you’d expect from the first AWD Impreza wagon in 1993…

  • avatar

    Ford Mustang GT with the 5.0 FTW…and don’t forget to get the RED KEY!!

    • 0 avatar

      and don’t forget to get the RED KEY!!
      Ah yes…the key you have to pay extra for to get the full performance of the car you just paid $40K+ for.
      That stupid “red key” is one of the most misguided, useless, pointless, gimmicky things ever produced by an automaker.
      And that silly “red key” is only available on the silly BOSS model of the Ford Donkey….not the GT.

  • avatar

    How about the mazda pickup (can’t remember the name…) based on the ranger, could be had around 11 000$ cdn in base form or the 10 000$ hyundai accent. That ‘s brand new and garanteed plus they have been around enough so that we know their durability. And that price on the impreza just piss me off, around here (Québec) it cost 21995$ plus 1200$ delivery, yeah talk about that dollar parity thing! Last time I purchased, could’nt even put it on my list, but at the american price I would have definitely considered it…Over here AWD is a big plus…

  • avatar

    definition of value really depends on your needs.
    the ford fiesta s sedan wins it for me: with automatic and convenience package, $15,560. this should satisfy the needs of most people. if they want something bigger, the base Sonata is good.
    for city cars, i would love to see a shootout between the Accent SE and the Fiat 500.
    if you need AWD and more cargo space, the Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage nail it. Jeep Patriot would only work if you are ok with a stick (auto option requires other options…argh), and lets face it, the overwhelming majority of american drivers are not.
    The Impreza’s build quality is disappointing in person, and the fuel economy is awful compared to its competition.
    the Suzuki SX4 would be on the list too if Suzuki wasn’t in a death spiral.
    I love the wrangler but the fuel economy is too low, especially given the slow acceleration. needs diesel, stat!
    for performance cars, i agree with the above posters on the mustang.

  • avatar

    The Suzuki SX4 deserves some value list love. The stick may be a little agricultural, the suspension “americanized” and the gearing a little long, but it’s a ridiculous (switchable) all wheel drive value.
    Other than that, I don’t really consider really cheap, brand new  cars to be great values. Instead, I’d say that in each class there’s 1 or 2 cars that can win on value vs. significant competitors, regardless of their price relative to others. Ex.) I’d call the Forte and the Mazda3s to be great fwd values in the same class, the Forte for providing more for less than Toyota and Honda, and the Mazda3S for doing the same to VW. The Jetta (2.5) should probably get a shot out here too.

  • avatar

    I had a Subaru Outback and I’d agree that it’s a wonderful vehicle but if you factor in how boring it was nobody would ever buy one.

  • avatar

    2011 V6 mustang
    2011 Fiesta Sedan w/ sync (much better deal than the not-that-spacey-hatchback
    4 door VW Golf (I know it’s not exactly the cheapest, but it has the best interior, and drives very well)
    2 fords, and a volkswagen… Me from 5 years ago would be howling.

  • avatar

    Maybe one day they’ll drop that timing belt, and opt for an option that doesn’t necessitate the owner to pull the engine out for maintenance. :)

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