I should admit right up front that I’m not much of a car guy – which is a blessing if you’re trying to be a personal finance guy. Luxury cars with exotic Spanish or German brand names cost a mint upfront, a small fortune every time they need repairs, and overall they represent more of a status badge than a true exploration of engineering genius in my humble opinion.
Given that admission, it likely surprises no one that I’m a fan of small workhorse cars that get someone from A to B and that can run forever. For people like me that are looking for fuel-efficient rides that won’t break the budget, the last ten years or so have been a godsend. The world’s car makers have seriously competed to gain market share in the compact space and the results are great deals for a savvy consumers. The other good (if slightly confusing) news is that many of these cars are now so close in terms of performance and price points, that it really becomes a matter of taste when any attempt at rankings is considered. The boom line is that these three cars represent outstanding quality-per-dollar if you’re in the market for a new car. They all look great coming off the lot, won’t cost you half of your paycheque at the gas pump, and will ride fairly smoothly considering you’re still driving a small car and not the gas-guzzling boats of yesteryear.
The most impressive/unique thing about the Chevy Cruze is the connectivity the car boasts. You truly feel as if the future has arrived when you get behind the wheel and take in the technology at your fingertips. Of course Bluetooth capability is a given at this point, but the Cruze also offers new additions such as onboard Wifi, the my Chevrolet8 and OnStar RemoteLink9 mobile app connections. These nice little features allow you to start your car remotely, check your diagnostics, contact roadside assistance, track your maintenance schedule (after all, if you’re like me, you want your car to last as long as possible before having to spring for a new one), and even unlock your doors if you manage to leave your keys in. When it comes to less pragmatic pursuits, the Cruze allows you to tune into SmartRadioTM, catch your favorite Sirius XM stations, as well as catching a podcast (we recommend ours of course) on Stitcher. The Cruze’s display will even you your favorite album’s cover art as it plays! Finally, you can always play your own MP3s through a flash drive and/or MP3 player.
Related: Buying My First Car
In addition to the bells and whistles, the 2015 Cruze can reach fuel efficiency levels of up to 6.2 L/100 km on the highway, with the Eco version touching 5.6L/100km, and the Clean Turbo Diesel cutting your pump price even further as it gets 5.0L/100km (all numbers based on highway driving). With more torque than the Volkswagen Jetta TDI 6 and several different base models to choose from, the Chevy Cruze is a stellar jump forward for the North American carmaker.
Ford’s most recent offering of the classic Focus model includes a 160 –gp, 2.0L four cylinder model that offers smooth lines and an interior that compares well to luxury models of cars 3-5 years ago. It’s quite amazing how quickly standards and tastes that were once reserved for only the wealthiest of car enthusiasts can now be experienced by mainstream audiences. Loaded with standard features, this vehicle is a must-test if you’re shopping in the compact cars category.
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom! For my money the Mazda 3 is still the most fun to look at in this category (let’s be honest, we’re all a little vain underneath it all). There are a lot of reasons why this car is a mainstay on top five lists over the last several years. Mazda is known for its sporty handling, above-average acceleration, and overall driving experience in every market segment they compete in. With a 184-hp 2.5L option available, this is the car for you if you like to aggressively handle rush-hour traffic and don’t mind sacrificing a little comfort and external noise.