With high gas prices, a credit crunch and an economy in the doldrums, the last thing you may be thinking about is buying a new car. But if you really need a new ride, you're in luck: Car sales are slow, so dealers may be willing to cut deals on new models. Also, many new cars are more fuel-efficient than ever. That means a new car could be just what you need to loosen Exxon's hold on your wallet.
Just because there are deals to be had doesn't mean there aren't still a lot of lemons out there -- after all, there's a reason some car companies are in serious trouble. That's where the U.S. News car rankings come in. They go beyond car buff bias to give consumers objective insight into the automotive market. U.S. News editors gather credible published reviews on every major model and translate the consensus of America's top automotive experts into rankings. You can check out the full rankings to see how your favorites fare. In the meantime, here are some highlights:
1. Honda Fit
2. Audi A3
3. Volkswagen GTI
This summer's U.S. News car rankings are the first to rank hatchbacks, and the results are a little surprising. While Honda dominates the small car class, the German-made Audi A3 and Volkswagen GTI nab the number two and three spots in hatchbacks (the Honda Fit is number one). Other surprises are the Kia Rio5 and Spectra5, which take the number five and six spots in the new class.
Hatchbacks are gaining popularity with gas-conscious buyers who still want utility. That means deals on the most popular ones, like the Fit, GTI or MINI Cooper, will be hard to come by. Kia, on the other hand, is often overlooked. Choosing either one of the Kias is one way you can get a quality hatch at a bargain-basement price.
1. Honda CR-V
2. GMC Acadia
3. Buick Enclave
Many car buyers are looking for the space and utility of an SUV along with the gas mileage of a car. If that's you, you should be shopping the new crossover rankings. Crossovers don't have hybrid powertrains, but they are hybrids of the best features that cars and SUVs have to offer: SUV-like functionality as well as car-like comfort and fuel economy.
The Honda CR-V is the top-ranked affordable crossover, followed by the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. Each one offers SUV cargo and seating with a car-like driving experience. Test drivers are particulary happy that Buick is no longer your granny's brand. A sleek exterior and good performance make the Enclave an SUV that's for more than just bingo night.
Best Luxury Crossovers
1. Infiniti FX
2. Acura RDX
3. Infiniti EX
Luxury carmakers are also getting into the crossover market. Here, Infiniti dominates the class, with the FX taking the top spot and the EX coming in at number three. Second place goes to the Acura RDX, which boasts legendary Honda build quality, futuristic styling, and more hi-tech features than you can shake an iPhone 3G at.
Best Midsize Sedans
1. Honda Accord
2. Toyota Camry
3. Toyota Camry Hybrid
Families who don't quite need the seating or cargo space of a crossover may want to consider a midsize sedan. All of the U.S. News top-ranked midsize sedans have plenty to offer: comfortable seating, good fuel economy and lots of available options.
The Honda Accord is the number one-ranked midsize sedan, and it's no wonder. Reviewers love its stand-out styling, long reliability history and fun-to-drive performance. The Toyota Camry and Camry hybrid are close on the Accord's heels and tie for the second spot. Reviewers like both Camry models for their roomy and upscale interiors. The hybrid gets points for its fuel economy, while the conventional Camry gets points for being less expensive than the hybrid.
Best Muscle Cars
1. Ford Mustang
2. Pontiac G8
3. Dodge Charger
Four-dollar gas has most people thinking about economizing, but enthusiasts are still drooling over power, and some automakers are happy to oblige. The new U.S. News Muscle Car rankings grade the best of the beasts. The Ford Mustang leads the class, while the number-two ranked Pontiac G8 may surprise some buyers. It's the only car in the class without a historic nameplate and retro style. It's also the most powerful car available in the U.S. for under $30,000 and has a spacious enough interior to take the whole family drag racing. If you care more about burning rubber than burning gas, this is the class for you. Stay tuned as U.S. News gathers more data and ranks the highly-anticipated Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger.
Check Out the Full Rankings
The car-buying spree that Americans have been on for the last few years has slowed, and that means researching a new car purchase is more important than ever. The U.S. News car rankings show that there is a great option available for every need and every budget -- even from brands you may not have previously considered. Check out the full rankings to find the best car for you.