2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE ・ Photo by Toyota
You might think self-driving cars are decades away, or even mere science fiction. But many self-driving features are already so prevalent that you can find them on many of America’s least expensive cars.
Today, we’ve rounded up 10 affordable cars with self-driving features for 2021. No, they won’t drive themselves — but all of them have advanced driver-assistance technologies that can shoulder some of the burden and provide superior convenience and safety. All of these 10 cars are available with adaptive cruise control, which maintains a minimum distance from the car in front of you as it slows down and speeds back up; automatic emergency braking, which can autonomously slam the brakes to avoid or mitigate a collision; blind-spot monitoring, which looks over your shoulder to help prevent you from changing lanes into another vehicle; and a lane-departure warning that lets you know if you stray over the line. All but one of these cars also includes lane-keeping assistance, which automatically steers the car back into its lane if you stray over the edge. And all of them cost $25,000 or less. Let’s go over these cars and which features they offer.
Not surprisingly, America’s smallest and cheapest cars have the fewest self-driving features. Still, you can get a fair bit of technology in the 2021 Nissan Versa. Even at its base price of $14,980, this subcompact sedan includes front and rear automatic emergency braking and a lane-departure warning. Blind-spot monitoring joins the list if you spend $17,790, and adaptive cruise control arrives at $18,790 (each bundled with additional features as well). Unlike the other cars on our list, lane-keeping assistance isn’t offered.
Today’s Versa, which debuted as a 2020 model, is more stylish, agile, and powerful than earlier generations, which also lacked these advanced safety technologies. However, they were incredibly roomy for their size, while the current model is clearly a subcompact. If you’re looking at the Versa, also consider the Nissan Kicks — it’s a roomier crossover suv version of the Versa that has a lot more room for not a lot more money.
Photo by Nissan
The 2021 Mazda Mazda3 proves that small, cheap cars don’t have to feel cheap. This isn’t a roomy compact car, but the Mazda3 — sold as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback — is beautifully finished, rides smoothly, and handles with graceful agility.
Even at its base price of $20,500, Mazda provides adaptive cruise control, forward automatic emergency braking, and a lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist. There are even standard rain-sensing windshield wipers, which autonomously turn on and off as needed. Blind-spot monitoring is missing from the base models, but it’s standard equipment for as little as $22,700. In another rare perk, all-wheel drive is optional, in case you’d like to take the wheel in messy conditions. (The car won’t drive itself if snow or mud is covering its sensors, though.) Aside from its small rear seat, the main objection we’d flag is mediocre gas mileage for this class.
Photo by Mazda
You don’t need to get a small car to get self-driving features at an affordable price. Take the 2021 Hyundai Sonata, a spacious, quiet, and premium-grade mid-size sedan. The base model costs just $23,700 and includes adaptive cruise control, forward automatic emergency braking, and lane-keep assist, while blind-spot monitoring appears at $25,800.
If you’re ready to stretch the limits of the term “affordable,” the luxuriously appointed Limited model has additional self-driving technology. It has blind-spot cameras, rear automatic braking, and Smart Parking Assist. The latter actually does drive with no one in the car; you use the keyfob as a remote control to get the car in or out of a tight parking spot where you wouldn’t have room to open your door. The Sonata will perform automatic steering corrections and automatically brake before hitting an obstacle; it will also stop if you release a keyfob button.
Photo by Hyundai
Turning back to compact cars, the 2021 Honda Civic is a small but roomy four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. Whichever body style you choose, it includes a long list of self-driving features as standard equipment.
Under the standard Honda Sensing suite, the Civic — which is priced from $21,050 — includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keep assist. However, the current-generation Civic dates to 2016; while it continues to be a sporty yet comfortable and economical small car, its infotainment technology is behind the curve and it’s missing a few self-driving features. For example, its adaptive cruise control can’t automatically bring the vehicle to a complete stop, and its electronic blind-spot monitoring is limited to a single camera on the passenger’s side of the vehicle. A redesigned Civic will go on sale this year as a 2022 model, and we expect even more self-driving features.
Photo by Honda
At $25,045, the 2021 Toyota Camry mid-size sedan has the highest base price on our list of affordable cars with self-driving features. But to us, that says more about how cheaply you can get advanced safety technology than it does about the Camry.
In addition to a generous self-driving suite that includes adaptive cruise control, forward automatic emergency braking, and lane-keep assist, the Camry has a peppy yet economical engine, a smooth ride yet agile handling, and cushy seats. And unlike some high-tech cars, it doesn’t beat you over the head with a cutting-edge vibe; if you just want a pleasant, user-friendly vehicle that can step in for some driving tasks, the Camry delivers. Turning back to its safety gear, blind-spot monitoring is a $680 option on base models and standard on higher-end trim levels; these models, starting with the $29,870 XLE, also include reverse automatic braking and a more sophisticated adaptive cruise control system. All-wheel drive is optional, unusual for an affordable sedan.
Photo by Toyota
Another affordable mid-size sedan that’s packed with self-driving features is the 2021 Subaru Legacy. It’s not quite as quick, quiet, or agile as the competing Toyota Camry, but it has lots of technology and a standard all-wheel-drive system for less money — as little as $22,895.
Every Legacy includes Subaru’s EyeSight suite of driver aids: adaptive cruise control, forward automatic emergency braking, and lane-keep assist. All but the base model also offer blind-spot monitoring as an option or standard equipment, and most trim levels can also be had with rear automatic braking. The Legacy isn’t a flashy or exciting sedan, but it’s roomy, comfortable, safe, and affordable.
Photo by Subaru
The redesigned 2021 Hyundai Elantra compact sedan has gotten a lot of attention for its flashy design and excellent gas mileage. It also features many self-driving features at affordable prices.
Even at its base price of $19,650, the Elantra includes forward automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring. And stepping up just one trim level to the still-affordable SEL model ($20,900) adds adaptive cruise control and bicylist-detection capabilities. Despite its aesthetic pizzazz, the Elantra doesn’t have the fanciest interior or sportiest driving experience in its class, but it’s an economical, comfortable sedan that smoothly automates some driving tasks. A fuel-saving hybrid model is newly available this year.
Photo by Hyundai
Another affordable compact sedan with self-driving features and an available hybrid powertrain is the 2021 Toyota Corolla. Depending on which features you’re most interested in, it can be an even better buy than the Elantra.
Hyundai focused the Elantra on safety features, providing blind-spot monitoring as standard equipment while leaving adaptive cruise control for a slightly pricier model. Toyota focused on the self-driving technology; adaptive cruise control is standard equipment on the base $20,025 model, along with automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assist. Blind-spot monitoring is optional or standard on most trim levels, too. Except for the self-driving features, the Corolla doesn’t feel as high-tech as the Elantra, though. And its base engine is neither as peppy nor as fuel-efficient. However, unlike the Elantra, you can get the Corolla as a five-door hatchback.
Photo by Toyota
The 2021 Honda Accord is one of the best-driving mid-size sedans on the market, with zippy turbocharged engines, sporty handling, and a composed ride. But when you’re ready to let the car do some of the accelerating, braking, and steering for you, the Honda Sensing driver-assistance suite is standard equipment on all trim levels. That includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keep assist.
Upper-trim Accords also add blind-spot monitoring and low-speed braking control — the latter designed to automatically stop the car if it’s about to drive or back into a small obstacle at speeds of 1 to 6 mph. Accord prices start at $24,970.
Photo by Honda
Rounding out our list of 10 affordable cars with self-driving features for 2021 is the Subaru Impreza, a compact sedan and five-door hatchback. Like the larger Legacy, the Impreza includes all-wheel drive and a long list of advanced driver-assist tech as standard equipment. But with a base price of just $18,795, it’s even less expensive, even when you’ve added a $1,300 package that includes the EyeSight suite along with an automatic transmission.
The Impreza is roomy for a compact car and has a smooth ride, though it doesn’t have lively handling or extra-economical gas mileage. Like on the Honda Accord, it’s expensive to add blind-spot monitoring to the Impreza, and rear automatic braking is reserved for the top Limited trim level.
Photo by Subaru