Sometimes the best deals can be found in inexpensive packages -- at least according to our three auto contributors. Today we take a look at three vehicles priced below $30,000 that we believe have the potential to surprise consumers and analysts with better-than-expected sales in 2016.
SUV sales are booming all over the world -- in all size and price categories. Even tiny SUVs are posting big sales numbers.
Honda's HR-V, based on the subcompact Fit, has sold over 20,000 copies in the U.S. after just a few months on the market, while General Motors' (NYSE:GM) similarly sized Chevy Trax and Buick Encore have together sold about 70,000 so far in the U.S. in 2015. All three models are also posting big sales numbers in other parts of the world.
Doesn't it seem like Ford (NYSE:F) -- which has the platform underpinning the fun-to-drive Fiesta to draw on, and which sells lots of one-size-up Escapes and two-size-up Explorers -- should have an entry in this niche too?
Ford does have a subcompact SUV in its global product portfolio. It's called the EcoSport. It was originally developed for emerging markets -- it has been a hit in India -- but Ford recently started offering a plusher version in Europe as well.
America may be next. Sources in the industry suggest that it's likely to come to the U.S. within the next two years, likely with a different name. If Ford's U.S. product planners give the EcoSport the right kinds of tweaks -- and it's a safe bet that they will -- then the littlest Ford SUV should turn out to be another big seller for the Blue Oval.
Looking for a vehicle that could really surprise in the under-$30,000 category? Look no further than the second-generation Chevrolet Cruze, which will go on sale in spring of 2016 with a number of changes.
The Cruze, which is a General Motors product, has been Chevy's best-selling car around the globe since being introduced in 2008, with roughly 3.5 million cumulative vehicles sold. It's also been one of the primary allures of the Chevy brand, and a way to appeal to cost-conscious consumers and millennials.
With that in mind, the new Chevy Cruze comes with a number of features bound to excite consumers (and especially millennials). The second-generation Cruze will be lighter than previous models (though GM has yet to disclose a specific curb weight) and it'll pack a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine with direct injection to give consumers power when they need it, but 40 mpg highway potential when they don't. The new six-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission will also come standard with start/stop technology to further enhance fuel-efficiency.
Inside the cabin, it's clear millennials were the focus. The interior is substantially more upscale than in previous models, with a seven-inch touchscreen display and an updated MyLink infotainment system that should allow for easier connectivity and compatibility with consumers' smart devices.
Although GM has been pretty tight-lipped to this point about what price range to expect, Kelley Blue Book points to an MSRP range of $17,000-$26,485 for current models. Thus, consumers can likely expect a bump higher in MSRP considering the in-cabin upgrades, but should still expect prices to tip the scales at well under $30,000.
Following five straight years of sales growth in the U.S., a slowdown in Cruze sales in 2015 was expected in anticipation of the redesign. However, I believe that once it's launched, the all-new Cruze has the potential to make a run at 300,000 units within the U.S. by 2017. And that's great news for GM, as the company has suggested that the sale of each Cruze could add an extra $1,500 in profit to its pockets compared to the older model.
By no means will this be a cakewalk for the Cruze, with tough competition on the horizon in the form of the all-new Honda Civic, but I'd suggest GM has a highly competitive vehicle on its hands that could turn out to be an even bigger winner.
Muscle cars tore up American roads and won the hearts of car enthusiasts across the nation for decades. That trend hit a speed bump in the 2000s and essentially became an afterthought when the auto industry's sales tanked during the recession.
However, if you haven't noticed already, there's been a resurgence in muscle car enthusiasm over the last few years when engineers worked to combine high performance with much improved fuel economy. This year, sales of the Ford Mustang are up a whopping 51% through July, compared to last year, on the back of its new design and EcoBoost engine offering that hadn't previously been available. Next year, you can expect sales of General Motors' 2016 Chevrolet Camaro to blow away the market in similar fashion.
There are a couple reasons why I believe 2016 Camaro will do well -- and hey, I'm a Mustang owner, so no bias here.
The new 2016 Camaro will be really fresh, despite a less radical exterior redesign; the vehicle will only have two parts carry over from the previous generation. But the Camaro is following the Mustang's lead by making the ride two inches shorter and about an inch lower and narrower than its predecessor.
Also, the Camaro is offering a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated for 275 hp/295 lb-ft of torque, which will attract car buyers who are interested in the look and feel of the Camaro, but would prefer better fuel economy rather than V8 horsepower.
The sixth-generation Camaro is making a more unique move as well: It will actually use GM's Alpha architecture, which is out of the Cadillac CTS and ATS playbook; the latter two luxury cars have been praised for athletic handling and superior ride comfort. The 2016 Camaro will also be at least 200 pounds lighter than the fifth-generation Camaro with an increased use of aluminum in structural areas, which will only improve the car's handling and responsiveness.
The Camaro should be at dealerships this fall, with the four-cylinder starting around $25,000. Expect the 2016 Camaro to follow the ways of the 2015 Mustang with favorable critical acclaim and surging sales next year -- but what else would we expect from such a historic muscle car rivalry?