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Ten Best Base Model Cars

No econoboxes, these.

by on Jun.13, 2013

The base Honda Civic LX offers some big surprises for a "base" car, including a rearview camera.

New car prices have been rising fast in recent years.  That’s priced a lot of potential buyers out of the market while others have been forced to downgrade their aspirations.

Not all that long ago, trying to find a nice new car, truck or crossover on a budget meant settling for some stripped-down econobox that offered little more than basic transportation.  But these days, makers seem intent on upgrading their base models to keep customers happy – betting that will increase loyalty and return sales when owners can afford to trade in on something more lavish.

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“Just because you might not be able to afford all of the bells and whistles in a car doesn’t mean you have to sing the base-model blues,” said Patrick Olsen, editor-in-chief of the website Cars.com. “Some automakers are packing even their base models full of features making them more valuable to shoppers looking for a good deal.”

No econobox this: the 2013 Chevy Spark.

The site has come up with a list of 10 models that do a good job of upgrading what we think of as a “base car.” They range in price and size from the little Chevy Spark, at just under $13,000, all the way up to the big Toyota Avalon and Volvo S60 models pushing above $30,000.

What they all seem to have in common is that they provide more content, styling and/or performance than you might expect of a vehicle in that segment for that price.  At the low end of the scale, that includes such desirable essentials as air conditioning and power windows, something you might not expect in the subcompact segment. At the high end, you’ll find such niceties as touch-screen displays and even rain-sensing wipers.

Here’s the Cars.com list of Top 10 Base Car Models:

  • 2013 Chevrolet Spark. At $12,995, this mini-car is one of the most affordable vehicles available on the U.S. market – and Chevy’s first subcompact in years. But unlike its past econoboxes, it features some nice touches, including air conditioning and power windows.
  • 2013 Scion xB. Toyota’s youth brand scored big with this little, $17,555 box-on-wheels. It’s great for hauling cargo as well as friends and family, and offers more upscale features like USB integration, cruise control and a 6-speaker stereo;
  • The Ford Fusion Hybrid.

    2013 Honda Civic LX sedan. Honda recently updated its compact mainstay and now, even the $18,995 base version adds some impressive features such as Bluetooth, USB integration, a rearview camera and the Pandora music service.

  • 2013 Subaru Impreza 2.0i sedan. Like almost all Subaru models, this $18,655 sedan includes all-wheel-drive, a real plus for those on a budget who need to cope with life in the Snowbelt. The Impreza also adds Bluetooth and a tilt/telescope steering wheel.
  • 2013 Mazda5 Sport. This $20,735 mini-minivan is the most affordable six-seater on the market and adds such useful features as automatic headlights, cruise control, satellite radio and more.
  • 2013 Hyundai Sonata GLS. At $21,240, this base model is one of the market’s most stylish midsize models – and is feature-packed with such standard equipment as cruise control, heated power mirrors, Blueetooth, USB integration and a tilt/telescope steering wheel.
  • 2013 Chevrolet Camaro 1 LS. Perhaps not a model you’d initially put on a base list, the $24,245 pony car features a peppy V-6, 18-inch wheels, Bluetooth, satellite radio and a 6-speak stereo.
  • Big things can come with little price tags: the newly updated 2013 Toyota Avalon is a good example.

    2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Who said high-mileage hybrids aren’t affordable? At $27,995 you can save on monthly payments and on gas, the base SE offering a range of features like heated, power front seats, keyless entry, cruise control, Bluetooth and Ford’s Sync infotainment system.

  • 2013 Toyota Avalon. Newly updated for 2013, the $31,785 base version of Toyota’s full-size sedan offers maximum room for a minimum price – along with luxury features like a 6.1-inch touch screen, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start.
  • 2013 Volvo S60. Volvo is well known for its safety features, but this $32,795 sedan should also be known as a bargain that has been seriously high-end touches including rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth, USB, satellite radio, a 7-inch information screen, heated power mirrors and more.

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2 Responses to “Ten Best Base Model Cars”

  1. Higheriq says:

    The Mazda MX-5 makes every 10-best list except yours (yes, it is available as a “base” model. Best of all, it’s a convertible.

  2. Jorge M. says:

    Try those back-up cameras in the pouring rain on a dark night and see how well they do not work…