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7 great lease and rebate deals on 2016 cars

GM

With July auto sales flat and dealers hoping to clear their lots for the 2017 models, automakers are boosting financial incentives with rebates, lease deals and zero percent financing.

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Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) both saw declining sales last month from July a year earlier, and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) was just barely positive. This came despite the highest promotional incentives of the year in July -- $3,410 per vehicle sold, according to Kelley Blue Book. That's $339 more than a year earlier.

After the flat July sales, a Ford executive predicted higher incentives in August and September. "Automakers are going to want to protect their share, and you get some escalation of incentives," Mark LaNeve, Ford sales and marketing vice president, told reporters.

Against that backdrop, we went looking for some of the best lease and cash-back deals at dealerships now. In addition to the seven deals we examine, various manufacturers are offering zero percent financing for up to six years for buyers with strong credit ratings.

We selected the most interesting deals from lists published by U.S. News and Kelley Blue Book. Two of our lease deals have the unusually good feature of requiring no down payment at signing. And two other deals combine cash back with zero percent financing, which is typically an either-or choice.

Read on to learn about seven great lease and rebate deals you can get now on 2016 cars.

Dodge Charger

Jay Bernard

Dodge is offering a Charger lease with no money down and payments of $309 per month for 36 months. Reviewers surveyed by U.S. News praised the Charger for combining a comfortable ride with crisp handling and above-average power for a large sedan.

The base engine, a 3.6-liter V-6 is rated for 19 MPG in city driving and 31 on the highway. The styling is also edgier than competitors like Toyota's (TM) Avalon. List price for the car offered with this lease is $30,990.

Mazda CX-5

Mike Ditz

Another no-down-payment lease is available for the Mazda CX-5, with payments of $269 per month for 36 months. In this increasingly popular small SUV category, the CX-5 ranks among the top three with reviewers surveyed by U.S. News. Those test drivers praise the CX-5 for being fun to drive with athletic handling and precise steering.

The base four-cylinder engine is rated at a thrifty 26 MPG in city driving and 35 on the highway. List price for the crossover offered with this lease is about $22,000.

Honda Civic

Wieck

This promotional lease for Honda's (HMC) Civic calls for $179 per month for 36 months with a $1,999 down payment. Among compact cars, the Civic is No. 1 both in sales and in rankings by reviewers surveyed by U.S. News. Test drivers said the redesigned 2016 Civic is much improved in its handling on winding roads and also offers extra room interior room.

The four-cylinder turbocharged engine in the Civic coupe (shown here) is rated for 31 MPG in city driving and 41 on the highway. The list price for this Civic is about $19,885.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Fiat Chrysler

The lease deal in most of the country for the Grand Cherokee is for $329 a month for 36 months with $2,999 due at signing. In the Southeast, where this SUV presumably is less popular, the same deal goes for $279 per month.

Test drivers praise the Grand Cherokee for a well-designed interior, comfortable seating and a smooth ride. The base 3-liter V-6 engine is rated for 22 MPG in city driving, 30 on the highway with the two-wheel drive model. List price for the midsize SUV in this lease is about $30,000.

Cadillac ATS

GM

The Cadillac ATS comes with the unusual combination for buyers of a $3,000 rebate plus zero percent financing, General Motors has aimed the ATS to compete with longtime small-car luxury leaders like the BMW 3-series.

Indeed, reviewers say the ATS is nimble through corners and has responsive steering. The standard four-cylinder engine is rated for 22 MPG in city driving and 32 on the highway. List price of the ATS is $34,210.

Buick Enclave

GM

Buick Enclave buyers have a choice of deals. You can take $1,500 cash back, or you can choose a $750 rebate plus zero percent financing for five years. Test drivers like the Enclave's spacious interior and smooth ride, as well as a wide array of tech features. It also has a capacious cargo area.

The standard six-cylinder engine in this midsize SUV is rated for 15 MPG in city driving, 22 on the highway. List price on the Enclave starts at about $39,100.

Ford Focus

Ford

In a summer when compact cars have sold poorly, the Ford Focus is this month's rebate champ with cash back of $3,450. Reviewers say the Focus has responsive steering and some of the crispest handling in this class. Inside, they like the attractive styling and quality materials.

The unusual three-cylinder turbocharged engine in the Focus is rated for a parsimonious 30 MPG in city driving and 42 on the highway. List prices start at $17,225.