The word 'value' means different things to different people, especially when it comes to shopping for a new vehicle. The best value cars aren't always those with the lowest prices - although cost is usually at least a factor - but often instead buyers are looking for an automobile that can give them what they need in a daily driver, or track toy, or people mover, without asking them to pay for extras that they don't want. In this kind of calculation, value strongly associates the price paid with what is delivered by the vehicle in question.
Let's take a look at 10 of the best value cars currently on the market.
Best Value Cars - 01 - 2013 Mazda MAZDA5
The 2013 Mazda MAZDA5 is remarkable for several reasons. First, it offers legitimate six-passenger seating for under $20,000, which is far less than any other crossover or minivan sold in the United States. Second, the Mazda MAZDA5 can also be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission, which is unheard of in a minivan. Throw in exceptional handling, the ability to swallow up to 97.7 cubic feet of cargo, and a 157 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 28-mpg on the highway, and it's easy to see the value offered by the MAZDA5 to young family shoppers.
Best Value Cars - 02 - 2013 Chevrolet Sonic LT Hatchback
The 2013 Chevrolet Sonic LT hatchback is one step up from the base model version of the entry-level subcompact, which gives it access to the vehicle's optional 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This particular motor not only provides 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, but it also delivers a stout 29-mpg in city driving and 40-mpg on the highway. Transmission choices with the Chevrolet Sonic LT hatchback include a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic, and folding down the vehicle's rear seat reveals 30.9 cubic feet of storage space.
Best Value Cars - 03 - 2013 Dodge Durango
The 2013 Dodge Durango - which his nearing the end of its existence in the Dodge lineup - is noteworthy from a value perspective due to the utility it provides at a respectable price point. When equipped with its 5.7-liter, 360 horsepower Hemi V-8 engine, the Dodge Durango can tow up to 7,400 lbs, and it offers up to seven passenger seating and can carry 84.5 cubic feet of gear with the rear rows out of the picture. The Durango can also be loaded with luxury items and still check in at under $50,000, which is a rarity when examining premium-style SUVs, and its independent rear suspension and rear-wheel drive layout give it appealing driving dynamics that surpass many of its competitors.
Best Value Cars - 04 - 2013 Honda Fit
The 2013 Honda Fit is the Swiss Army knife of subcompact hatchbacks. For less than $16,000, the Honda Fit offers its 'Magic Seat' feature, a design element that allows buyers to dramatically re-shape the Fit's interior to accommodate a wide range of different-sized cargo. All told, the tiny hatch can provide as much as 57.3 cubic feet of storage space, which is far and away at the top of its class, and it can make up to eight linear feet of room available to slide in ultra-long items. Fuel mileage for the Honda, which checks in at 28-mpg city and 35-mpg highway from its 117 horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, is also quite good.
Best Value Cars - 05 - 2013 Subaru Impreza
The 2013 Subaru Impreza - which is offered in both hatchback and sedan body styles - earns a spot on our list of the best value cars thanks to its inclusion of all-wheel drive as standard equipment. No other compact can make this claim, and the Subaru Impreza is now also capable of providing buyers on a budget with the fuel mileage they crave, too, as the vehicle posts a rating of 27-mpg city and 36-mpg highway when ordered with its optional continuously-variable automatic transmission. 148 horsepower are squeezed out of the Impreza's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine.
Best Value Cars - 06 - 2013 Scion FR-S
The 2013 Scion FR-S is in all likelihood the best-handling car that can be had for less than $25,000. This rear-wheel drive, lightweight coupe doesn't blow anyone away when it comes to horsepower, as its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces just 200 ponies and 151 lb-ft of torque, but when it comes time to take a corner the Scion FR-S really shines. Designed for the track - or for twisty mountain roads - the Scion's high-revving engine is well matched with its base six-speed manual transmission, and its sleek looks help to sell a package that is unquestionably the most affordable sports car deal available in America.
Best Value Cars - 07 - 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee presents several revisions over last year's model and the overall effect is the creation of a luxury SUV that sells at non-luxury prices. The decision to go with a new eight-speed automatic transmission across the board, revamp the interior of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and tweak its overall styling has created a challenger to the SUVs on offer from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. This is especially true when comparing similarly-equipped models, where price gaps between the Jeep and its rivals can reach $20,000. The Grand Cherokee strives to reach past its humble origins, and with the addition of a new, 30-mpg highway EcoDiesel mill on top of its gas-powered V-6 and V-8 options, it just make noise in the premium segment.
Best Value Cars - 08 - 2013 Ford Taurus
The 2013 Ford Taurus presents domestic full-size sedan shoppers with a sub-$30k sticker, a ton of interior room, and the option of swapping its base V-6 for a frugal turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The Ford Taurus EcoBoost model includes a 2.0-liter mill that is good for 240 horses and 270 lb-ft of torque, but of greater interest is its EPA line: 22-mpg city and 32-mpg highway, which is a roughly 10 percent increase over the more robust base six-cylinder. The re-styled Ford Taurus is also much sportier looking for the 2013 model year, and it can be had with all-wheel drive as well as a performance-oriented SHO edition for those looking to spend bigger bucks.
Best Value Cars - 09 - 2013 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI
The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI isn't the cheapest compact car right out of the box, as it commands $25,540 as its MSRP. Where the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI provides the best value, however, is at the fuel pump. The vehicle's 2.0-liter, turbodiesel four-cylinder engine offers 30-mpg in city driving and 42-mpg on the highway, and it can be matched with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Either way, acceleration is better than average thanks to the VW's 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Even better: the SportWagen's 67 cubic feet of total cargo space rivals that of many larger crossovers and SUVs while blowing most of the vehicles in those classes out of the water in terms of efficiency.
Best Value Cars - 10 - 2013 Chevrolet Corvette
The 2013 Chevrolet Corvette might seem like an odd addition to a list about the best value cars on the market, but the reality is that the coupe edition of this performance car provides exceptional return on the dollar. There are no other cars under $50,000 that can deliver the same kind of acceleration, handling, and style that are provided by the Chevrolet Corvette, making it a bargain sports car that is reasonably accessible to the average buyer. The base Corvette's 6.2-liter V-8 engine generates 430 horsepower and 424 lb-ft of torque, and thanks to a launch control feature the coupe can reach 60-mph in just 4.5 seconds. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but a six-speed automatic can also be ordered with the Chevrolet.