Looking for a great all-rounder that won't break the bank? These are the cars most worthy of your consideration.
The CarBuzz People's Car Award is one of our most important, as this category shines a light on cars that are around or below the average new vehicle transaction price in the USA. In 2022, the average MSRP of a new car is over $48,000, but these are unique times in which prices are skyrocketing out of control, and we feel that the People's Car Award should go to something a little cheaper than that. In 2020, the average new car price was $10,000 lower, which is why we've tried to focus on cars that fall well below the $48,000 mark.
This year, our nominees included the Ford F-150 Lightning, the BMW X1, the Toyota Crown, the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, and the Kia EV6. But all of these were beaten out by our three finalists, which you'll see below in no particular order.
The 2023 Kia Sportage starts at $25,990, excluding $1,295 in destination charges. That makes it far cheaper than the average, but you wouldn't be skimping out. All models come with a 2.5-liter inline-four gasoline engine - producing 187 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque - and the choice of front-wheel drive or AWD. Alternatively, you can opt for the Sportage Hybrid, which offers up to 227 hp as a standard hybrid and 261 hp as a plug-in hybrid. Regardless, you get two 12.3-inch displays in a single curved unit and a host of standard safety features. There's also 39.6 cubic feet of volume in the rear, where you'll find a two-level floor, or up to 74.1 cubes with the rear seats folded.
It looks more expensive than it is, has loads of room, and provides a quiet and comfortable drive for not much money, with impressive fuel economy. What's not to love? We can't think of many cars in this price bracket that can do so much with such style.
Our next finalist is also Korean but starts a little higher. The 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5 has a base MSRP of $39,950 for 2022, but you get a lot for your cash. 19-inch alloy wheels are standard, and so is a pair of 12.3-inch displays. In base RWD format, you get a single electric motor producing 168 hp, but other trims get the option of 225 hp or, if you spec all-wheel drive, a dual motor setup with 320 hp. It's stylish, wonderfully made, and comfortable, not to mention quick to accelerate and quick to charge. Range varies from 220 miles in base form to 303 miles per charge on the larger battery variants, but our time with the EV left us wondering if the range estimates are a little conservative - this is one highly efficient machine. Hyundai says the Ioniq 5 will charge from 10-80% in just 18 minutes on a 350 kW charger, which means this electric vehicle is one of the best on the market.
Offering up to 59.3 ft3 with the rear seats folded, this is a stylish, practical, and quick EV with plenty of room for the whole family. It no longer qualifies for tax credits, but this may soon be rectified with a US plant in the pipeline.
Finally, we turn to the 2023 Honda HR-V, which recently earned the highest possible safety score in IIHS testing. Since the HR-V is based on the Civic's chassis, this is a pretty good crossover to drive, and thanks to a 2.0-liter i-VTEC four-pot, it's brisk, too, producing 158 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque. This budget-friendly family car starts at only $23,800 and delivers a refined driving experience, despite its continuously variable transmission (CVT). With a choice of FWD or AWD, up to 55.1 cubes of storage with the rear seats folded, and a simple but ergonomic infotainment setup that utilizes real buttons and knobs, this is the kind of vehicle that does everything you want it to at an affordable price in a stylish package.
This may be the cheapest of our finalists, but it's no cop-out. While the HR-V used to be the car to buy if you couldn't afford a CR-V, it's now a vehicle that is hard to ignore. And thanks to Honda's legendary reliability, the HR-V is the sort of vehicle you can keep for years. If you want something unassuming but capable, there aren't many options out there as good as this.