CARS.COM — Many car shoppers focus on price, and there is nothing illogical about that. Perhaps no other factor is so concrete in a shopper's consideration set as the bottom line he or she must pay for a new ride. Just because a new car has a low sticker price or great fuel economy, that doesn't mean it's truly the most affordable one for you.
We have calculated the most affordable cars across different body styles; this time we tackled the tried-and-true midsize sedan.
First, we select trim levels that have what we consider the bare minimum of features today's car shopper expects. For midsize sedans we selected cars with trims that included:
- Automatic transmission
- Power driver's seat
- Backup camera
- USB port
We were surprised to see how many models include this content on base and lower-level trims or with few option packages needed.
We also looked at five years of fuel costs and, for the first time, we have taken into account each car's residual value after five years, which was provided by ALG. This should give a clearer picture of a car's true cost to the consumer. Here are our results.
Some interesting facts about this year's list:
- All-wheel drive didn't ding the Subaru Legacy's fuel costs, meaning shoppers looking for that capability will spend just $668 more over five years versus the Sonata.
- The Legacy has lower fuel costs than seven of its front-wheel-drive competitors.
- The Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Chevrolet Malibu have significant redesigns going on sale later this year; however, we included only the model year that is currently on sale.
- Things are getting simpler for shoppers when it comes to content. Eleven of the contenders' trim levels do not require option packages to get the specific equipment we were looking for, like a power driver's seat.
- We did not take into account free maintenance programs, which Toyota and Volkswagen offer, because of variations in cost. However, the differences in cost among the competitors are so slim that in the case of the Camry, it would likely have finished a few spots spots higher if free maintenance had been a determining factor.
The option packages required on certain vehicles to meet our requirements were:
- 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 1 LT: Power Convenience Package, $1,425
- 2015 Chrysler 200 Limited: Convenience Group, $895
- 2015 Hyundai Sonata SE: Popular Equipment Group, $1,150
- 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid base: Hybrid Convenience Package, $1,400
- 2015 Kia Optima LX: Convenience Plus Package, $1,600
- 2015 Nissan Altima S: Power Driver's Seat Package and Display Audio Package, $660 total
Editor’s note: This story and list were updated on July 22 to reflect that the 2016 Ford Fusion and Fusion Hybrid SE are now listed as the least expensive trims to have power driver’s seats. Due to an automaker error, the base S model previously had been shown to include that feature.