Prices are manufacturer suggested retail prices without delivery charges. Because most drivers prefer automatic transmissions, the listed prices include the automatic transmission cost if optional. Every 2014 car on the list has power windows, outboard mirrors and door locks, as well as safety features like stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and at least six air bags.
Even if you don’t love that new job, you’ll love driving to it in one of Bankrate’s picks.
Although there is an Eco version of Cruze that gets better fuel economy and an all-new diesel that boasts even better gas mileage, Bankrate picked the 1LT with automatic transmission. Stylish, comfortable and nicely equipped, the Cruze 1LT offers competence, reliability and value. Consumer Reports put it on its list of “recommended” cars.
A 138-horsepower, 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine sends power to the front wheels by way of a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission. Acceleration is brisk, yet fuel economy is impressive.
There aren’t a ton of bells and whistles, but among the standard equipment are Bluetooth connectivity, OnStar telematics with six-month subscription, and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio capability and auxiliary input jack.
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Kia Forte EX Sedan
Gas mileage: 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway
Kia redesigned Forte for 2014. While still offering that great 100,000-mile/10-year powertrain warranty, the newest version looks great and is still brimming with standard equipment.
Features including Bluetooth connectivity and audio system with iPod interface are standard on the base Forte. EX is Forte’s pricier model that adds such goodies as Kia’s UVO voice-activated infotainment system, remote keyless entry, integrated turn-signal indicators in the outboard mirrors and a rearview camera to the list.
Roomy and comfortable, Forte is classified as a midsize car. It has a 166-horsepower, 2-liter engine turning the front wheels via a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission.
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Mazda3 i Grand Touring 5-Door
Gas mileage: 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway
The Mazda3 received a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Although there are more affordable models, i Grand Touring was the pick here because of its extensive list of standard features and high-end technology equipment. On that long list are the Mazda Connect voice-activated infotainment system, navigation system, rearview camera, 7-inch touch screen, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a nine-speaker surround-sound audio system with iPod interface. The five-door hatchback arrived in showrooms first to be followed by a more affordable sedan.
The i Grand Touring uses Mazda’s SkyActiv 155-horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder engine connected to a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission for power.
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Nissan Altima 2.5 S
Gas mileage: 27 mpg city/38 mpg highway
Even for younger people beginning a career, sometimes a compact car just isn’t large enough. The value-packed, midsize Altima can solve that space problem. Nissan redesigned Altima last year and it was for the better. Consumer Reports put it on its “recommended” list, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick.
Although residing on the low end of Altima’s seven-model lineup, the 2.5 S is nicely outfitted with Bluetooth connectivity, Advanced Drive-Assist Display with its 4-inch color screen with trip computer, six-speaker audio system and Easy-Fill Tire Alert that sounds the car horn when the appropriate pressure has been reached when airing up the tires.
A continuously variable automatic transmission ushers output from the 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine to the front wheels.
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Toyota Corolla LE Plus
Gas mileage: 29 mpg city/38 mpg highway
Getting a makeover for 2014, Toyota rolled the dice on the exterior styling that is quite a departure for this conservative carmaker, but loaded it with standard features. It’s in the hunt with the segment’s gas-mileage frontrunners. As priced here, it comes with a 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission.
Roomy and comfortable, the cabin offers automatic climate control, Toyota’s voice-activated Entune communications and infotainment integrated control, Bluetooth connectivity, backup camera, eight air bags and six-speaker audio system with iPod interface.
It also has power-door lock with automatic locking feature, power windows with driver-side one-touch up/down and Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, brake assist and Smart Stop Technology.
You can buy less-pricey versions of Ford’s Focus, but the Titanium is loaded with high-tech features. The Institute for Highway Safety named it as a 2014 Top Safety Pick.
Ford is at the front of the pack when it comes to voice-recognition technology integrating operating systems, as well as infotainment. Titanium includes just about everything Ford offers. If you want to dazzle co-workers on the way to lunch, a little demonstration of Ford’s Sync with MyFord Touch should do the trick. There is also dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, and a 10-speaker Sony audio system with iPod interface and HD radio.
Go comes from a 160-horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission.
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Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Gas mileage: 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway
If you are looking for excellent fuel economy in a fun-to-drive package, Jetta fits the bill, with a 140-horsepower, 2-liter turbo-diesel engine. You can get it with a slick-shifting, six-speed manual transmission, but Bankrate priced it here with the available six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic tranny.
Jetta has great handling as it takes corners with asphalt-grabbing tenacity. Still, Jetta is about more than brawn. Consumer Reports features it on its “recommended” list.
It has a few less frills than a couple other cars on this list, but still comes with a trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity, six-speaker audio system with satellite radio capability and iPod interface, as well as a six-month subscription to VW Car-Net, with connected safety, navigation and concierge services.