All of our nominees start at well under $38,000.
As new vehicles add more standard technology and safety features, average transaction prices creep up year-over-year. In 2019, consumers in the United States spent a little over $37,000 (on average) for their new vehicles, and this year, the average transaction price has risen to over $38,000. Our People's Car Award is reserved for the best all-around vehicle that sells for less than the average new car transaction price.
In the inaugural year of the award, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 emerged as the winner with its attractive styling, excellent driving dynamics, and $24,350 base MSRP. We had a tough time selecting the three finalists for 2020, with models that just missed this year's cut including the Hyundai Venue, Honda CR-V, and Kia Seltos.
The winner of the CarBuzz People's Car 2020 will be announced on December 21.
The 2020 Nissan Sentra is an all-new model and the eighth-generation for the compact sedan. Nissan started with a clean sheet of paper, changing virtually everything about the Sentra to make it the ultimate value in the compact sedan segment. Some of the Sentra's highlights include a radical exterior redesign, a handsome cabin, and shockingly fun driving dynamics courtesy of a new independent rear suspension setup and revised steering.
Nissan only offers the Sentra with a single engine option, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 149 horsepower. At a base price of only $19,410, the Sentra offers tremendous value in its class. Even the top SR trim level costs just $21,650, and with every option box ticked, it barely crests over $25,000. The Sentra is a new addition to the People's Car finalists, and Nissan will be looking for its first win in the Carbuzz awards.
The sedan market may be dwindling, but no one seems to have told Kia. The 2021 Kia K5 replaces the Optima, offering a new name and a lot to love in the midsize sedan class. Along with outrageous styling, the K5 packs class-leading interior design, outstanding technology, and solid drivetrain options. The K5 launches with only a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 180 hp, but a sporty K5 GT will arrive next year with a 2.5-liter engine producing 290 hp. Kia also offers the K5 with all-wheel-drive, catering to cold weather climates.
The 2021 K5 starts at a reasonable $23,490 for the base LX trim and tops out at $27,990 for the EX trim without stepping up to the GT. When the GT does arrive on the market, it will still qualify for the People's Car award with a $30,490 starting price. Last year, the Kia Soul was a top-three contender for People's Car, and this year the K5 is hoping to emerge victorious.
The 2020 Mazda CX-30 looks to follow in the CX-5's tracks, providing a near-luxury experience on a mainstream budget. The CX-30 squeezes into Mazda's lineup, sitting above the subcompact CX-3 but below the compact CX-5, offering a small footprint with a surprising amount of space inside. Like most Mazdas, it offers beautiful styling, a premium interior, and a pleasurable driving experience. Under the hood, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine produces 186 hp going out to front- or all-wheel-drive. A turbo version will be offered in 2021, but it did not arrive in time to warrant inclusion in this year's awards.
The base CX-30 starts at $21,900, putting it well below the threshold for People's Car. Even the Premium Package undercuts the average new car by around $10,000 with a $28,200 MSRP. As the winner of last year's People's Car award, Mazda has a great chance of defending its title.