I am a huge gearhead. What has given me great joy has been the fact that as the economy has begun to bounce back, so have car sales. With millennials entering the workforce en masse, many will be considering buying a new car for the first time. Many take pride in the idea of “buying American,” but are there any American cars that are actually worth buying? If it was 2005, my answer would have been a resounding “no,” but my how things change.
Say what you want about the auto bailout, but as of this moment, Detroit is thriving. This article will look at the best of the new American car models in five categories: SUV, pickup truck, muscle car, cheap car, and overall value. This being an article that is focused more toward Generation X, only cars that begin at less than $25,000 will be considered. If you don’t want to read this entire article, here’s a short summary: buy a Ford.
Best Pickup- Ford F-Series
There’s a reason that the Ford F-Series is not only the best-selling American vehicle, but is also the world’s second best-selling vehicle of all time. The cars are famous for how customizable they are, with numerous different combinations of engines, cabs, etc. The most popular of the pickups, the Ford F-150, comes with four different engine options, three with at least 350 ft.-lbs. of torque. If you don’t need enough torque to literally pull a train, two of the engines are 6-cylinders and offer good gas mileage (22-23 mpg on the highway). The interior is still somewhat cheap, but much improved, including more sturdy equipment than the previous plastic interiors and the option of high-tech equipment, including a touchscreen, Bluetooth, etc. The best news is that this brute can be had for as little as $23,000.
Best SUV- Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Grand Cherokee has been a staple of the American roadway for quite some time, and was one of the few decent cars to come out of the 90’s. Nowadays, it has a pretty luxurious interior compared to other American SUVs and can still fit five comfortably, with lots of room left for luggage. The ride is also very smooth and all but the biggest bumps will barely be noticed. Gas mileage and handling leave something to be desired, but you shouldn’t be looking to buy an SUV if you’re worried about the former, and the latter is only truly available in pricey SUVs like those offered by Audi and Mercedes. Of course, we also can’t forget that thing any decent SUV should be able to do: go off-road. Unless you’re in the market for a Land Rover, you can’t do any better than the Grand Cherokee.
Best Cheap Car- Ford Fiesta
Much to my dismay, many people don’t want to spend a lot on their cars, whether it is in the showroom or at the pump. Many would say a hybrid should then be your choice because of the money you save on gas, but in my opinion they would be wrong. If you want to buy a new car on the cheap and spend very little to fill it up, then the Ford Fiesta should be your car of choice. Obviously, the Prius gets better gas mileage, but the real difference is in starting price, with the Fiesta being anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 cheaper. Even when one accounts for the savings in gasoline, you would have to own the Prius for at least 10 years before it becomes cheaper to own than the Fiesta, and that doesn’t even take into account repairs. Unlike the Prius, the Fiesta is also decent-looking and fun to drive. If you’re living on a modest budget yet still want a new car, do yourself a favor and get the Fiesta.
Best Muscle Car- Ford Mustang
Nothing defines American automobiles more than the muscle car. If this was just about looks, my vote would be for the Dodge Challenger. In reality, however, the Pony leads the pack. The car looks every part of its muscle heritage and screams “cool.” The interior is not overwhelming, but is practical and nice enough. Handling is compromised a bit due to the live rear axle, but no muscle car is known for handling. What they are known for is speed, and the Mustang delivers in spades, with a 420hp v8 that will make your car fly. The v6 engine makes the car significantly cheaper (around $23,000, compared to $28,000 for the base v8 version), yet still delivers a fairly impressive 305hp. If you’re a speed freak, however, save up for the v8, as there is a noticeable difference between the two. Bottom line: if you’re looking to make a statement with the vehicle you drive, the Ford Mustang (or Dodge Challenger) is right up your alley.
Best Overall Value- Ford Focus
The Ford Focus is not just good for an American car; it’s a very good car, period. The Focus is surprisingly roomy for its size and buying the hatchback version offers the consumer a ton of space for luggage. The vehicle looks nice on both the inside and outside, and features such as the MyFord touchscreen are affordable and can make the car feel pricier than it is. For those looking for good gas mileage, look no further. The base model can get 36 mpg highway, an eco-package can get the car up to 40mpg highway, and Ford is offering an electric version as well. For those who want to have fun driving, the 160 horsepower offers a decent punch, but where the Focus excels is in the corners, providing a truly fun ride. The best part, however, is the affordability of the Focus. The base price is a little under $17,000, while the high-end version goes for a little over $25,000. This is a car that is truly the best of all worlds.
Photo Credits: Flickr/ Wikimedia Commons