CARS.COM — In recent years, automakers have sprinkled compact sedans with a grab bag of premium features to add some pizzazz to their otherwise basic duds. More than ever, that's the case in 2017. We tested eight affordable compact cars that all stickered in the low $20,000s — so no leather seats or navigation systems — but still found more than a few features that evoke the stuff in luxury cars.
Here are five that stood out:
1. Let there be light. LED lights used to come only on luxury cars, and they were just as secondary daytime running lights at that. But the 2017 Toyota Corolla has standard LEDs for the running lights and headlights, to snazzy effect.
2. Stay in your lane. Many cars have lane departure warning systems, and some of them apply counter-steering to help you out. But true lane-centering steering can help keep you in the middle of your lane given the right conditions. It's a feature many luxury cars still don't have, yet the Kia Forte and Honda Civic both offer it.
3. Power to the people. Not horsepower. We're talking power-folding side mirrors and a power-releasing trunk that opens when you're close enough, no hands required. The Hyundai Elantra offers the power-releasing trunk, while the Kia Forte offers both features.
4. Knob meets screen. Multimedia systems with knob-based controllers are the stuff of German luxury cars. But the Mazda3's Mazda Connect system takes a play from their book with a tablet-like touchscreen high on the dash and a control knob down at your fingertips.
5. Gee-whiz gauges. Many luxury cars ditch analog gauges in favor of configurable, high-resolution displays that blend submenus with a digital representation of traditional instruments. The Honda Civic does just that with a display that's both attractive and useful.