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REVIEW: Best 2012 family cars under $25,000

In addition to the trans-Pacific competition, the Japanese auto makers are also facing challenges the Koreans, whose Hyundai Elantra seeks a share of the small car, under $25,000 market.

hyundaielantra021912_optThe Elantra, priced in the middle at just over $22,000, is not just a means of getting around. It is the latest model out of a California design studio which takes its “fluidic” styling cues from the imprint of waves along the Pacific coast sands. In January, the Elantra was voted Car of the Year by jurors at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The win partly stems from the fact that even though it’s a small car, the Elantra is individually, stylistically beautiful. It does not resemble a truncated version of a larger model like the Genesis, which won the 2011 award, or the full sized Sonata, which is so popular its resale value after a year is higher than its original sticker price.

The Elantra continues the Hyundai practice of offering a lot for less. Under the hood is a typically small, four-cylinder engine producing just 148 horsepower. Unlike the Cruze, it is not turbocharged, and will not be mistaken for a racing car despite its sleek, flowing silhouette and 17-inch wheels.hyundai2elantra021912_opt

The Koreans put their efforts inside. The Elantra has two-tone leather seats, and both the front and rear seats can be heated. For entertainment, the Elantra has satellite radio as well as Bluetooth audio and connections for iPods, USB and MP3 players. The sound system is the largest of the bunch, with a 360-watt premium surround sound system with six speakers and rear amplifier designed for tailgate parties. The Elantra comes with a navigations system and seven-inch touch screen that is mated to the satellite radio to provide real time XM traffic and road condition updates.

All cars provide basic transportation. But aside from that function, they are generally the largest investment a family makes in utilitarian art. In the category of the car as mobile sculpture, it is the aesthetics which determine what attracts a buyer and keeps a car owner happy for several years. If one is seeking a $25,000 art project, there are a lot to choose from.

Roger Witherspoon writes Shifting Gears at www.RogerWitherspoon.com.

2012 Mazda 3

MSRP: 24,970

EPA Mileage: 28 MPG City, 40 MPG Highway

Performance / Safety:

2.0-Liter, 4-cylinder engine producing 155 horsepower and 148 pound/feet of torque; 6-speed automatic transmission with electronic manual mode; stability and traction controls; anti-lock and 4-wheel disc brakes; front wheel drive; rack and pinion steering; independent front & rear suspension; blind spot monitoring; automatic leveling, bi-xenon headlights.

Interior / Comfort:

AM/FM/XM satellite radio; 265-watt Bose audio system with 10 speakers; iPod, MP3, and USB connections; 6-disc CD player; Bluetooth phone and audio; powered sunroof; tilt and telescoping, leather wrapped steering wheel with fingertip audio, phone, cruise and entertainment controls; leather seats; heated front seats; powered driver’s seat; navigation system with 3-inch screen.

2012 Honda Civic HF

MSRP: 20,225

EPA Mileage: 29 MPG City, 41 MPG Highway

Performance / Safety:

1.8-Liter SOHC, aluminum alloy, 4- cylinder engine producing 140 horsepower and 128 pound/feet of torque; 5-speed automatic transmission; MacPherson strut front suspension; multi-link rear suspension; front wheel drive; 15-inch alloy wheels; rack and pinion steering; stability control; driver and front passenger dual stage and side airbags; side curtain airbags.

Interior / Comfort:

AM/FM radio; 160-watt audio system with 4 speakers; CD player; MP3, USB, and iPod connection; tilt and telescope steering wheel with fingertip audio and cruise controls;

2012 Chevrolet Cruze

MSRP: 21,455

EPA Mileage: 26 MPG City, 37 MPG Highway

As Tested Mileage: 23.7 MPG Mixed

Performance / Safety:

1.4-liter, DOHC, cast aluminum, turbo-charged engine producing 138 horsepower and148 pound/feet of torque; 6-speed automatic transmission with manual mode; traction and stability controls; independent, MacPherson strut, front suspension; torsion beam rear suspension; 17-inch wheels; 4-wheel, anti-lock brakes; driver and front passenger front, knee, side impact, and head curtain airbags; rear side impact and head curtain airbags.

Interior / Comfort:

AM/FM/XM Satellite radio; CD and MP3 player; USB and iPod ports; 6-speaker sound system; Bluetooth and OnStar communications; tilt & telescope steering wheel; leather wrapped steering wheel with fingertip audio, Bluetooth, and cruise controls.

2012 Hyundai Elantra

MSRP: $22,110

EPA Mileage: 29 MPG City, 40 MPG Highway

Performance / Safety:

1.8-Liter DOHC aluminum engine providing 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque; 6-speed manual transmission; independent MacPherson front suspension; torsion axel rear suspension; rack and pinion steering; ventilated front disc brakes; solid rear disc brakes; 17-inch alloy wheels; stability and traction control; fog lights; front, side impact, and rear curtain airbags.

Interior / Comfort:

AM/FM/XM satellite radio; CD and MP3 player; iPod and USB ports; 360-watt premium sound system with 6 speakers and amplifier; Bluetooth phone and audio; tilt and telescoping steering wheel with fingertip Bluetooth, audio, and cruise controls.



 

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