Back in the day, when you bought an economy car, it was just that — an economy car. Lower safety standards and limited in-cabin technology helped keep prices down, while luxury vehicles enjoyed the full slate of power windows, air conditioning, premium audio, and so on. But my, how times have changed.
These days, even the most affordable of cars can be had with all the accouterments that you’d find in a high-end luxury barge just 10 or 15 years ago. GPS? Yep, on a decently sized screen, too. A/C, absolutely. Power everything and cruise control? Without a doubt. Only now there’s even more to be had — Bluetooth, iPhone connectivity, additional safety features — and like the technology before it, it’s trickling down to the entry-level models.
The Kelley Blue Book did some research to find out what the most tech-laden cars were that still fell under $20,000. While the results might not surprise you — it’s the usual suspects of affordable cars — what they come with just might.
“Entry-level has gone sci-fi. High-dollar tech continues to trickle down at an accelerating rate, and today’s mainstream compact cars now offer features unavailable at any price just a few years ago,” the Kelley Blue Book explained. “You might have to part with more than $20,000 to acquire some of the advancements highlighted on this list, but every model listed starts at a Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price of less than $20,000 as of August 2014.”
Read on to find what can be had for less than twenty grand.
10. Chevrolet Spark
It’s tiny and compact, but Chevrolet offers the full suite of tech goodies even for its smallest family members. “Chevy’s minicar is the most affordable entry on this list and was one of the first vehicles to offer enhanced iPhone integration via Siri Eyes Free,” the KBB explained. “You can also add on-screen navigation functionality via a $50 smartphone app, and GM’s OnStar telematics system just keeps getting more powerful.”
9. Hyundai Elantra
Hyundai has built its name on value. It may not be the cheapest car per se, but often, its vehicles will compensate by offering more for the money. Hyundai’s optional Blue Link can call for help in the event of a crash (like GM’s OnStar), and will even let you unlock the car with a smartphone app. There’s also an optional 7-inch, high-res navigation system, with one-shot voice entry. Bluetooth and USB capabilities are available as well.
8. Ford Fiesta
Ford’s Fiesta is the smallest model available here in the States, but it packs a powerful tech punch. Ford’s MyFord Touch will give the driver on-demand traffic alerts, sports, and movie, and will even read your text messages to you so you can keep your eyes forward. There’s also one-touch access to Pandora internet radio, as well as a 911 assist feature, a sort of answer to OnStar and Blue Link.
7. Kia Forte
Kia’s Forte sedan delivers on the aesthetic front with its sleek stylings, but its true strengths may lie within the cushy interior. The Forte comes with HID headlights, available heated rear seats, and even power-folding side mirrors, giving it a leg up on many other cars in its class. Kia’s UVO eservice system, which runs on a smooth, user-friendly, and intuitive interface, comes with a myriad of helpful programming options. Entertainment and navigation are only the beginning.
6. Toyota Corolla
Toyota’s vehicles are known for their inherent intuitiveness, which has made them some of the most popular consumer cars in the world. That reputation doesn’t falter in the Corolla, which comes brimming with the latest technology. The Entune system offers the most in terms of applications that you can find in any car, including traffic and weather tracking systems. It also can hook up with your mobile phone, reading text messages aloud (although that’s not always something you might want!)
5. Nissan Versa
Consumers would be surprised to learn that the Nissan Versa — a compact and extremely affordable car – also comes with a fairly impressive technology package. Highlights include Nissan’s Around View Monitor, which uses a system of cameras around the car to help drivers in the tightest of parking predicaments. You’ll also get to experiment with Bluetooth and the NissanConnect infotainment system. Mobile apps and navigation are among the chief components, but consumers really get the works when it comes to the Versa.
4. Dodge Dart
The Dodge Dart’s return didn’t just herald in a new age in design and aerodynamics, it also brought with it an uptick in the level of technology and comforts. Outfitted with Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system, drivers can bring up music playlists on demand, record travel and speed times and much more. The display is big too — 8.4 inches, to be exact — making it stand out among its competitors. A customizable and configurable cluster of gauges also sets the Dart apart.
3. Honda Civic
Add technology onto the list of things to love about the Honda Civic, one of the most popular cars to ever hit the streets. Although the Civic has a starting price that pushes the $20,000 limit more so than other entries on the list, consumers get a lot of bang for their buck. The Civic comes with Bluetooth and phone connectivity, the ability to have your text messages read aloud, a customizable interface and a rear-view camera. Not bad for the class of the economy segment, and at a very paltry price as well.
2. Honda Fit
Downsize a bit from the Civic, and Honda’s Fit offers the same technology perks in a more compact package. As Kelley Blue Book explains, the Fit gets the nod over the Civic in the rankings because it’s simply more affordable. Other features that the Fit employs are the LaneWatch passenger-side video camera, which keeps an eye out for vehicle’s in the driver’s blind spot. Of course, you still get the LCD screen and infotainment system, along with a rear-view camera for reversing. There are extras available, but it will tack on a little more to the sticker price.
The Mazda3 tops a lot of lists, and when it comes to technology, its strengths hold true. The Mazda3 has been an immense success for the Japanese auto maker, and a lot of it has to do with its relative low price tag and all the extras you get in return. Drivers can take advantage of the head-up display as well as an infotainment system that is loaded with features. The price of the Mazda3 can jump substantially when more extras are added on, but this car can essentially be outfitted with the same perks as many luxury cars while still staying below $30,000.