These days even economy cars have gotten into the premium act, offering high end trim levels that push price - and luxury - to a higher point than was available in the past. The most comfortable economy cars sometimes carry a window sticker that is on par with larger automobiles, but they still offer the fuel mileage advantage associated with their entry-level companions. In fact, these comfort-oriented editions of economy cars are often blessed with the best combination of power and efficiency under the hood, boasting technologies that aren't available on base models.
Let's take a quick look at 10 of the most comfortable economy cars available for 2015 and see what they have to offer.
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf SEL represents the top trim level for the completely-redesigned compact hatchback. Available in both two-door and four-door editions, the Volkswagen Golf SEL comes with features such as dual automatic climate control, power adjustable front seats, a navigation system, 18-inch rims, keyless entry and ignition, an upgraded audio system, and heaters for the front two buckets (which are wrapped in 'leatherette' upholstery). As with every other gas-powered Golf, the SEL is equipped with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder motor that is turbocharged to produce 170 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. Fuel mileage for the Golf SEL, which comes exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission, is listed at 26-mpg city and 37-mpg highway.
The most comfortable trim level for the 2015 Hyundai Elantra sedan is the Limited, which avoids the stiff suspension system of the Sport model and adds features such as heated seats front and rear and the Blue Link telematics system. The Hyundai Elantra Limited also offers 17-inch rims, power adjustments for the driver's seat, and leather upholstery throughout the car. If you want to go whole-hog, you can install dual automatic climate control, a navigation system, a seven-inch touchscreen interface, and keyless ignition by way of the Ultimate package. The Elantra Limited is motivated by a 145 horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that also delivers 130 lb-ft of torque. Shifted through a six-speed automatic transmission, the Limited's four-cylinder delivers 28-mph in city driving and 38-mpg on the highway.
The 2015 Buick Verano was designed from the get-go to marry economy car affordability with entry-level luxury. Although it's priced at a higher level than most other small front-wheel drive sedans, ordering the Buick Verano with the Leather group (essentially its best-equipped trim level) gives you dual automatic climate control, the IntelliLink infotainment interface with voice control over Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices, heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, a Bose audio system, keyless entry and ignition. and a raft of advanced safety equipment (including a forward collision warning system). Sticking with the Leather group nets you a relaxed suspension and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which generates 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque (matched with a six-speed automatic transmission), and fuel economy is listed as 21-mpg around town and 30-mpg on the highway.
The 2015 Kia Forte EX can be had in sedan, coupe, and hatchback body styles, and each of these economy cars offers a comfortable and stylish take on what compact car should provide discerning buyers. The Kia Forte EX avoids the sportier elements of the next-level SX trim and instead focuses on niceties such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, nicer interior trim, Bluetooth connectivity, 16-inch rims, power windows and door locks, and air conditioning.
If you really want to unlock the car's available high end gear, however, you need to opt for the Premium package, which introduces keyless entry and ignition, heated leather seats front and rear, a heated steering wheel, a sunroof, and ventilation and memory functions for the driver's seat. If you crave even more, then the Technology package installs dual automatic climate control, a navigation system, and the Uvo vehicle interface. A 173 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that also generates 154 lb-ft of torque is standard with the Forte EX, as is a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel efficiency figures for the Kia show as 25-mpg city and 36-mpg highway.
The 2015 Honda Fit EX-L is one of the most practical subcompact hatchbacks on the market thanks to its Magic Seat cargo management system. The range-topping Honda Fit EX-L is the best-equipped edition of the car, providing buyers with heated leather seats, a sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, a blind spot monitoring system, the HondaLink mobile device integration system, Bluetooth connectivity, and 16-inch rims. You can also add navigation to the EX-L package, which brings with it satellite and HD radio. All versions of the Fit - EX-L or not - come with the same 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque, but the EX-L model constrains you to the hatchback's continuously-variable automatic transmission. This unit offers exceptional fuel mileage of 32-mpg in stop and go driving and 38-mpg on the highway.
The 2015 Dodge Dart Limited leaves sporty handling to the GT trim level and instead works to satisfy those seeking a comfortable economy car. The Dodge Dart Limited sedan is loaded to the brim with gear, including perforated and heated leather seats, a sunroof, a remote starter, additional chrome trim, a navigation system, power adjustments for the driver's bucket, nicer plastics on the dashboard, dual automatic climate control, ambient lights throughout the cabin, keyless entry and ignition, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The Dart Limited also enjoys a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that has been tuned to provide 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. This motor is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission, and fuel economy for the Limited are listed as 23-mpg around town and 35-mpg during highway cruising.
The 2015 Mazda Mazda3 3s Grand Touring, which comes in hatchback and sedan editions, sits at the apex of the Japanese compact car's trim pyramid. The most comfortable Mazda Mazda3 available, the 3s Grand Touring's leather upholstery and automatic wipers can be complemented by the Technology package, which installs a long list of advanced safety features as well as the unique i-ELOOP braking system, which recaptures energy for later use. You also get a head-up display, 18-inch rims, a surround sound audio system, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual automatic climate control, and keyless entry and ignition (a navigation system and a sunroof are additionally available).
A 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine is standard with the Mazda3 3s Grand Touring, and it provides 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque along with the choice between either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy for the frugal Mazda shows as 28-mpg city and 39-mpg highway.
The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ stuffs the compact sedan with a high standard of comfort gear, including feature such as automatic climate control, nicer interior materials than any other Cruze model, heated leather seats, power adjustments for the driver, the MyLink touchscreen interface, Bluetooth connectivity, 18-inch rims, and an automatically-dimming rearview mirror. The Chevrolet Cruze LTZ also upgrades to the car's most powerful gas engine, a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that grinds out 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. As with the Mazda, the Cruze LTZ offers the choice between manual and automatic gearboxes (each with six forward gears), and the car returns fuel mileage of 26-mpg in city driving and 38-mpg on the highway.
Refreshed for the current model year, the 2015 Ford Focus Titanium combines many of Ford's different options packages for the compact sedan and hatchback. The Ford Focus Titanium comes with leather seats (with power adjustments for the driver), satellite radio, the MyFord Touch and SYNC infotainment and communications systems, distinctive trim, keyless entry and ignition, parking assistance, heaters for the front two buckets, dual automatic climate control, and a 10-speaker sound system.
You can also order the Titanium Technology package, which includes extra safety gear, as well as the option of a sunroof, a navigation system, and even an automatic parking feature. The Focus Titanium's engine is the same 2.0-liter, four-cylinder mill found with the base model, which means 160 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque, and buyers can choose between either a five-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox. Fuel economy for the Titanium is listed at 27-mpg city and 37-mpg highway.
The 2015 Acura ILX is a compact economy car with definite luxury leanings, which means that even entry-level editions are quite well-equipped. The Acura ILX 2.4 Premium Package has been thoroughly soaked in the brand's options list, providing buyers with features such as a climate control system that uses GPS technology to track the position of the sun, a surround sound audio system, a navigation system, satellite radio, a sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, heated leather seats (with eight power adjustments for the driver), dual automatic climate control, active sound canceling to keep the cabin quiet, and Bluetooth connectivity.
The 2.4 Premium Package includes a 201 horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is also good for 170 lb-ft of torque. Unusual in its class, this top-shelf Acura is only offered with a six-speed manual transmission, and fuel efficiency checks in at 22-mpg around town and 31-mpg during highway cruising.