The 10 coolest things about the new Ford Bronco


After years of speculation, numerous leaks, and an original launch date pushed back by the ongoing pandemic, Ford
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finally pulled the wraps off the revived Bronco.  And right away it’s looking like it’s going to turn the adventure vehicle segment on its head. A dedicated off-roader with heaps configurability and new features, the Bronco brings loads of excitement to an already red-hot off-road space, and here we’ll highlight 10 of our favorite things about it.

The original Ford Bronco made its debut back in 1966 as a competitor to the Jeep CJ-5. With its simplistic design, removable roof, and go-anywhere capability, it achieved an iconic status over the years, and the new one looks to pick up where that original Bronco left off. The design of the 2021 model is heavily influenced by the original, with a flat hood, flat doors, and an overall boxy shape, but with modern accouterments, like LED lighting, active safety tech, beadlock capable wheels, available 35-in off-road tires, and much, much more.

There’s a two-door version

The Ford Bronco 2-door.


Ford

This may not seem like that big of a deal, but don’t take a two-door SUV for granted here in 2020. These truncated off-roaders offer a better breakover angle and are considerably more maneuverable on the trail, making them the bodystyle of choice for serious off-road enthusiasts. While they were popular decades ago, two-door off-road vehicles are a rarity today, and virtually every one that has been attempted recently, outside of the venerable Jeep Wrangler of course, has been quietly discontinued within a few years. If any vehicle can buck the trend, it’s the Bronco. No pun intended, of course.

The roof and doors come off, but the mirrors stay on


Ford

Clearly targeted at the Jeep Wrangler, the Bronco features a removable roof and doors, just like its Toledo-built rival. Unlike Jeep though, Ford has gone to lengths to make the Bronco’s roof and doors easier to handle. Like the Wrangler, both two- and four-door Broncos are available with a three-piece hardtop with two removable panels over the driver’s and passenger’s seats.

But the Bronco also offers an optional four-piece hardtop that adds an additional removable panel over the second row, allowing for an open-top experience for all passengers without requiring the removal of the bulky rear piece.

Additionally, unlike the Wrangler which has a cross beam located just above the second row, the Bronco’s rear crossbeam is located over the cargo area, leaving nothing but open sky over the heads of second row passengers. As for the Bronco’s doors, they come without window frames, making them lighter, easier to carry, and perhaps most important of all, capable of being stored in the cargo area, which allows for impromptu door removal.

Also on MarketWatch: American muscle: We compare a Chevy Camaro to Dodge Challenger

Additionally, unlike the Wrangler, which sees its mirrors located on the front doors themselves, the Bronco’s mirrors come affixed to the A-pillars, meaning that you don’t lose them when you remove the doors

You can get it with a seven-speed manual transmission

The Bronco will launch with two available engines. The entry-level engine is the same 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder found in the Ranger, and makes the same 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque it does in Ford’s midsize pickup. This engine comes paired to either a ten-speed automatic, or a clever seven-speed manual, the lowest gear of which is a special ultralow crawler gear, meant for technical off-roading. Upper-level models get Ford’s 2.7-liter turbocharged V6, which will make 310 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes paired exclusively with the ten-speed auto.

It’ll launch with loads of accessories

Given the Bronco’s customizability, Ford has made it known that they’ll be introducing a whole line of accessories for the Bronco prior to it going on sale. Think lighting, wheels, tow hooks, winch mounts, roof racks, limb risers (those wires that run from the front corners up to a roof rack), doors with cutouts, fenders, lift kits, rock sliders, bumpers, and more. On top of that, the aftermarket is champing at the bit, with companies from Hennessey Performance to ARB certain to introduce a full line of Bronco products. Rest assured that there’ll be plenty of options for customization.

Base and Black Diamond trims come with steel wheels


Ford

Another seemingly minor point, but in the era of bigger and bigger wheel diameters, it’s nice to see an automaker embracing simplicity, especially in the form of subtle, utilitarian wheel designs. In the off-road space, it’s not uncommon to replace factory rims with smaller, more durable wheels, so it’s great to see Ford offering a set of simple, timeless steel wheels from the factory (for what it’s worth, Land Rover is doing something similar with the new Defender as well). Additionally, the Bronco is said to accept wheels as small as 16-in, which allows for more sidewall, and sidewall is your friend when venturing off-road.

There’s more off-road tech than you could dream of


Ford

In its most capable form, the Bronco will pack an unprecedented array of off-road tech; more than you can get on the Jeep Wrangler. Four-wheel drive is standard, and in addition to two-high, four-high, and four-low modes, the Bronco’s four-wheel drive system will come with an auto mode, capable of switching from two- to four-wheel drive on the fly whenever the system senses slippage.

The Bronco will be available with locking front and rear differentials, making it just one of three vehicles offered with independent front suspension and a front locker, the other two being the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Read: The best SUVs for less than $40k

Like it’s rival from Jeep, the Bronco will also offer an available disconnecting front sway bar, but the Bronco uses a much more sophisticated design than the Wrangler in that it can disconnect under full load. Additionally, the Bronco has an edge on the Wrangler when it comes to breakover and departure angles, ground clearance, and water fording capability (the Wrangler barely beats it out on approach angle). The Bronco is also said to have greater wheel travel than its chief rival, despite its use of an independent front suspension.

Finally, the Bronco will offer a ‘Trail Turn’ assist mode, and up to seven different traction modes, including Sand, Rock, and our favorite from the F-150 Raptor, Baja.

There’s something called the Sasquatch package

It’s fair to say that the most drool-worthy Bronco is any one that’s riding on 35-in tires. To get these, you’ll have to opt for what Ford is referring to as the ‘Sasquatch Package’, and it’s available on all trim levels. In addition to 35-in tires, the ’Squatch Pack gets you 17-in beadlock-capable wheels, Bilstein position-sensitive monotube shocks, a 4.7 final drive ratio, high-clearance fender flares, and every off-roader’s favorite – locking front and rear differentials. We can’t help but wonder if the name of this package isn’t a subtle reference to the legendary Ford F-150-based monster truck known as Bigfoot.

The software is as cool as the hardware

In addition to its killer mechanical features, the Bronco will pack a new fourth-generation version of Ford’s Sync infotainment system, which will include mainstream features like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, along with a unique trail mapping feature that allows drivers to plan, program, and follow off-road trail itineraries, and then share them via an integrated social feature. Through the system, you can also access a number of different mapping services, including Trails Offroad, AccuTerra, and FunTreks. Additionally, the Bronco is available with a massive 12-in infotainment screen, and a 360-degree camera system, great for everything from tight parking spots to navigating Hell’s Revenge in Moab.

There’s a crossover version

The Ford Bronco Sport


Ford

Ford seems to be setting up the Bronco nameplate to become its own subbrand of off-roaders within the company’s greater lineup, and has thus introduced a small crossover dubbed the Bronco Sport alongside the primary Bronco. While the flagship Bronco comes with a body-on-frame construction and a solid rear axle, the Bronco Sport rides on the same unibody platform as the Escape, and features a fully-independent suspension. Its closest rivals are the Jeep Compass and Cherokee.

Also see: Ford promises you can return your car within the first year if you lose your job—here’s how it works

While it won’t offer the configurability of the main Bronco, expect the Bronco Sport to offer decent fuel economy, more comfortable on-road driving manners, and a lower price, while being about the most capable body-on-frame crossover there is when it comes to venturing off-road.



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Tesla is like a SpaceX rocket to stock investors, but the car maker’s bond holders are down to earth


Tesla’s
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market capitalization is nearing $300 billion. It’s now the largest car maker in the world, even larger than Toyota Motor Corp.
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which produced almost 9 million cars in 2019 and has a market capitalization of around $175 billion.

Tesla stock is trading at 45 times very rosy — and improbable — 2024 earnings. Tesla’s market cap implies that investors believe that production will go up more than 20-fold from the 400,000 cars a year it currently produces to 10 million cars.

Bondholders take a decidedly different view of Tesla. As the stock-market valuation of Tesla races to the moon, its debt rating is earthbound. Tesla, the world’s largest automaker, gets a Caa1 rating from Moody’s Investors Service for its senior unsecured debt, while S&P Global gives Tesla a B- credit rating. Put simply, Tesla’s bonds are considered junk. (By comparison, Toyota is rated A+, GM
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is rated BBB).

Read: Tesla’s stock is forming a bubble and new buyers should buckle up for a crash

Plus: 7 risks for Tesla’s stock that Robinhood traders would be wise to heed

Red light, green light

When I wrote a 37-page series on Tesla I opened it with this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” An analysis of Tesla and the automotive industry today requires holding a lot of opposing ideas.

I have made the analogy that the transition from internal combustion engine (ICE) cars to electric motors is akin to the transition from dumbphones to smartphones. It’s a domain shift. So maybe this will bring higher margins for Tesla, as happened for Apple
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with the iPhone. Unlike other car makers, Tesla is vertically integrated: It manufactures most of the components that go into its cars (including seats); thus it gains from the economies of scale.

Also, software plays a bigger role in a Tesla than in a traditional car. There is self-driving, over-the-air updates, and an iPad-like interface that powers all the controls, for starters. So if advanced software helps Tesla get higher margins than traditional car companies, it in fact may not have to make as many cars to get to Toyota’s profitability. Bulls would even argue that self-driving alone may send Tesla’s margins soaring. I’ll pour cold water on that argument: Full autonomous driving is a good decade away.


It will take years, maybe even a decade, for Tesla to produce enough cars to justify its valuation.

Most importantly, going from 400,000 cars to many millions a year is neither easy nor cheap. The market confuses Tesla with Silicon Valley tech companies. Yes, Tesla is much more a technology company than your typical ICE car company is. It creates its own software and even the microprocessor that powers self-driving, but it still cannot escape the reality that it has to bend a lot of metal to produce its electric cars.

Unlike Facebook
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, which a decade ago could increase its user base 10- or- 20-fold by spending a few hundred million dollars on data centers, Tesla will require an incredible amount of capital to increase production many-fold. To produce fewer than half a million cars, as it does today, Tesla needed a $25 billion investment in property, plants, and equipment. This is where bits meet atoms and face financial gravity. Tesla is barely breaking even today and will need to raise and invest hundreds of billions of dollars to increase production enough to grow into its current valuation.

Then there is an element of time. Tesla has been stuck at producing 90,000 cars for the last eight quarters. It can only blame the coronavirus for a quarter or two. Getting to an annual production of even a few million cars will require time — a lot of time. A lot of dirt has to be moved, permits issued, equipment installed, people hired. It will take years, maybe even a decade, for Tesla to produce enough cars to justify its valuation. Today’s market valuation assumes Tesla is already there — that the capital has been raised and spent and that it cost nothing.

So, how does one invest in this overvalued market? Our strategy is spelled out in this fairly lengthy article.  

Vitaliy Katsenelson is chief investment officer at Investment Management Associates in Denver, which owns Tesla put options in client portfolios. Katsenelson is the author of “The Little Book of Sideways Markets” (Wiley). 

More: Longtime Elon Musk critic has a strong message for investors looking to bet against Tesla

Also read: Tesla’s earnings on tap: Will a loss end its blowout stock rally?



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Ford’s new Escape PHEV gets an eye-popping 100 MPGe


  • Rated at 100 miles per gallon equivalent
  • Starts just over $33,000
  • Eligible for federal tax credit
  • Up to 37 miles electric-only range

The latest powertrain offering in the recently revamped 2020 Ford
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Escape is also its most efficient, rated at an eye-popping 100 mpg. Technically the Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid earns 100 MPGe, with the last letter signaling “equivalent” by the EPA. That’s the rating the government agency gives vehicles such as this when they use an electrified powertrain.

Related: How to choose trim levels and options when buying a new car

The Ford Escape is all new for 2020, and it already offers a hybrid model along with standard gasoline-only powertrains. The regular 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid earns an impressive 41 mpg combined. But thanks to its larger battery pack, the Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid trounces that number for a class-leading 100 MPGe.

Power and efficiency

Like the standard Escape Hybrid, this plug-in model pairs a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor good for a total of 200 horsepower. But the larger battery pack means the plug-in model can travel a sizable distance on electricity alone – up to 37 miles. Between the electrification and gasoline engine, the Ford Escape PHEV’s total range is EPA-rated at 530 miles.

Ford says recharge times are 10-11 hours on a standard 110-volt outlet or under 3.5 hours on a Level 2, 240-volt line.

Choice of three trims

The 2020 Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid is on sale now and available in three trims: SE (starting at $33,040, plus destination fee), SEL ($35,620), and Titanium ($36,435). These prices are several thousand dollars higher than the standard hybrid, but the PHEV also has potential cost savings beyond its enhanced efficiency.

Check out: Dare to compare: The Corvette vs. the Lamborghini Huracán

Plug-in vehicles are eligible for federal tax credits. While the EPA has yet to announce the full tax credit incentive for the 2020 Escape PHEV, a similar sibling, the Ford Fusion Energi sedan, is eligible for a $4,609 credit.

All models include standard safety features such as forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring. Apple
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CarPlay and Android Auto integration is also included. Top-tier Titanium models boast amenities like adaptive cruise control, Bang & Olufsen premium audio, leather interior and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

New territory for SUVs

While hybrid SUVs have been around a while – in fact, the original first-gen Escape Hybrid was the world’s first hybrid sport-utility vehicle when it made its debut 15 years ago – plug-in hybrid SUVs relatively new. The Ford Escape PHEV recently went on sale, and what looks to be a formidable competitor is just around the corner.

Also see: These 3 EVs are the lowest cost to own over 5 years

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is a plug-in version of Toyota’s
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top-selling compact SUV, and it’s set to go on sale this summer. Unlike the Ford Escape PHEV that is front-wheel drive only, the Toyota RAV4 Prime is all-wheel drive. (The standard Ford Escape Hybrid also offers AWD.) The Toyota packs much more power – 302 hp — and Toyota says the RAV4 Prime will do 0-60 mph in just 5.7 seconds. Plus, the RAV4 Prime is estimated to go up 42 miles on electricity alone – 5 more than the Ford.

Don’t miss: What it’s like to drive a Tesla Model Y

But plug-in hybrid RAV4 will start several thousand higher than the Ford: $38,100.

In addition to its lower price, the Ford can boast that its 100 MPGe rating is 6 higher than what’s expected of the Toyota. The rivalry should be exciting, and it’s barely even begun.

Also see: This car could be Toyota’s best-kept secret

Already winning are car shoppers, who now live in a world where they can have the utility that comes with an SUV and fuel efficiency once thought impossible.



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Tesla stock surges past $1,000 amid Elon Musk’s push for Tesla Semi


Shares of Tesla Inc. rose more than 7% on Wednesday after Chief Executive Elon Musk urged the company “to go all out” on the production of the Tesla Semi, its electric freight truck, amid a surge in investor interest on an emerging competitor.

Tesla
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stock traded as high as $1,011.85, aiming for another record close after Monday’s $949.92.

The company’s market cap swelled to $186 billion, a stone’s throw from supplanting Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp.
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as the world’s highest valued car maker. Toyota’s market value hovers at $216 billion.

A memo from Musk, first reported by Electrek, an online publication mostly focused on the Silicon Valley car maker, said that it was “time to go all out and bring the Tesla Semi to volume production.”

Musk went on to say that the commercial truck’s batteries and powertrain would be made at Tesla’s Nevada battery factory with other work likely taking place “in other states.”

Musk’s memo comes amid a rally for the shares of Nikola Corp.
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an Arizona-based electric-truck startup that went public last week.

See also: Tesla’s Elon Musk gets performance-based payday worth nearly $800 million

Nikola is developing commercial and passenger vehicles using batteries and hydrogen fuel cell technology, and the stock has more than doubled since it began trading publicly.

Nikola shares traded as low as $66.35 on Wednesday.

Musk’s memo also left open the possibility that the parts of the Semi or its assembly work could take place in Tesla’s next U.S. factory. The company reportedly has picked Austin, Texas, and Tulsa, Okla., as finalists for its new U.S. assembly plant. No official decision has been made.

Musk last month defied local shelter-in-place orders to reopen its sole U.S. car-making factory in Fremont, Calif., after igniting Twitter and legal rants that included the threat to move out of the San Francisco Bay Area entirely.

Related:Elon Musk vs. Bay Area officials: These emails show what happened behind the scenes in the Tesla factory fight

The Tesla Semi had flown under the radar in recent months, when most of Tesla news was focused on the Model Y, the compact SUV that is the newest Tesla vehicle, sales of its Model 3 mass-market sedan in China, and speculation about the locations for the company’s next U.S. and European factories.

A concept Tesla Semi was unveiled in November 2017, with a base model expected to cost around $150,000. Tesla has been taking reservations for the truck, requiring $20,000 upfront, broken down as a $5,000 credit-car payment and $15,000 wire transfer.

The commercial truck was expected to be available in 2019, and several companies, including J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.
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Wal-Mart Inc.
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and United Parcel Service Inc.
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have placed orders.

Tesla shares have gained 140% this year, contrasting with losses of 1% and 5% for the S&P 500 index
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and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
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The 10 best affordable family compact cars


If you’ve looked at KBB’s 12 Best Family Cars for 2020, you’ve seen our top picks for minivans and compact, midsize, and full-size SUVs. However, we understand that not everyone is looking for a vehicle that size, or perhaps even in that price range. Here are our choices for the shoppers who are looking for something smaller. They offer plenty of cargo space, value, and safety features, and have MSRPs lower than $25,000.

2020 Volkswagen Golf

The Volkswagen Golf “is a practical, handsome hatchback with the athletic driving manners for which European cars are known, all at a digestible price.” This VW
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5-door hatchback boasts fuel economy as good as 37 mpg on the highway, plus nearly 53 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the front row of seats. Standard safety includes Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring (Front Assist), Blind Spot Monitor, and Rear Traffic Alert. 

2020 Mazda Mazda3 Hatchback

The Mazda3
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is one of the most fun-to-drive compact cars out there, but that doesn’t take away from the car’s practicality or its appeal as a family car. Not only is it the only non-hybrid compact car to earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating, but the class-above interior comes with lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot monitor, driver-attention monitor, and automatic high beams. The cargo area can accommodate more than 47 cubic feet of stuff with the second row folded, which is plenty of space for diapers, strollers, and any other goodies you want to tote. 

2020 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

The 2020 Toyota Corolla


Toyota

The Corolla Hatchback blends Toyota’s
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strong reputation for safety with the company’s recommitment to sporty cars in a model that starts at a budget-friendly $22,345 with a CVT. (Want to save more? Get the less-expensive version with a 6-speed manual.) Choosing the CVT also gets you excellent fuel economy, better than with the manual transmission. Whatever model you prefer, you’ll benefit from Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0, with a pre-collision warning system with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and assist, adaptive cruise control and auto high-beam headlights. 

2020 Nissan Rogue Sport

The Nissan Rogue


Nissan

Larger than the Nissan
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Kicks but smaller than the Rogue, the fuel-efficient Rogue Sport is a subcompact SUV that offers scaled-down Rogue styling and a bevy of standard safety features, including blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert, and the Safety Shield 360 suite with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, auto high beams, rear automatic braking plus lane-departure warning and intervention. 

2020 Mazda CX-30

The Mazda CX-30


Mazda

Mazda’s newest subcompact SUV is based on the same laudable platform as the company’s Mazda3 sedan and hatchback but adds ride height and value pricing to the recipe. With the CX-30, Mazda has placed a strong emphasis on value, as for its $23,000 base MSRP, you get adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and automatic high beams standard. The CX-30 is also projected to offer strong resale value. 

2020 Subaru Crosstrek

The Subaru Crosstrek.


Subaru

Subaru offers two compelling subcompact Family Car options: the Crosstrek and the Impreza. While they’re based on the same reliable foundation and come standard with all-wheel drive, the Crosstrek is the choice for those who anticipate adventures in the backcountry, as it comes with more body cladding and 8.7 inches of ground clearance. However, if you’re a die-hard city dweller, you can choose the Impreza 5-door, which costs a little less. 

Read:These 3 EVs are the lowest cost to own over 5 years

2020 Honda HR-V

Thanks to the Honda
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HR-V’s smart interior design and excellent fuel efficiency, this subcompact SUV packs a lot of punch. With its flip-up Magic Seat in the back, the HR-V can hold taller items like furniture for the nursery and offers almost 60 cubic feet of cargo space. Advanced driver-assist and safety features standard in all but the base model. Excellent resale and reliability data round out this smart small family-car choice. 

2020 Hyundai Kona

The Hyundai Kona


Hyundai

With the versatility of a hatchback and ride height of an SUV, the Hyundai Kona offers an appealing mix of fuel efficiency, safety systems, and helpful features. It’s our Subcompact SUV Best Buy of 2020. It combines practicality, efficiency, value, fun nature, and an excellent warranty. Better yet, every Hyundai
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Kona comes standard with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and a driver attention monitor. Blind-spot monitoring doesn’t cost much more. 

2020 Kia Soul

The Kia Soul


Kia

For the best bang-for-your-buck cargo volume, check out the Kia Soul. New for 2020, the 5-passenger Soul’s boxy hatchback layout provides a whopping 62 cubic feet of space behind the first row. A range of advanced driver-assist and safety features are offered. This IIHS Top Safety Pick boasts excellent 5-Year Cost to Own numbers. 

Also see: 8 affordable new cars priced well below $20k

2020 Honda Civic Hatchback

The 2020 Honda Civic.


Honda

The 5-passenger hatchback version of the Civic provides 26 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seats up, and more than 46 cubic feet with the second row down. That’s plenty of space for diapers and supplies from the local membership warehouse. This Best Resale Value, 5-Year Cost to Own, and Best Buy champ boasts highway fuel economy as high as 40 mpg. The range is more than 420 miles on a single tank. Available safety features include Honda’s excellent duo of the LaneWatch blind-spot camera and the Honda Sensing suite of safety features.



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