As a new car shopper, you know you need to do careful research on the models that interest you. A good place to start is the Kelley Blue Book's 2017 Best Buys, which the automotive research firm released Tuesday.
Analysts and test drivers at Kelley and its website kbb.com have vetted over 300 2017 model cars, SUVs, pickups and minivans. Along with driving evaluations, they also looked at a wide range of data, including prices and the five-year cost to own the vehicles. That five-year figure, especially important for your automotive budgeting, includes not only average transaction prices but also financing, fuel economy, depreciation, insurance and maintenance.
"Vehicles in all segments are becoming better-equipped with more safety and tech features every year, so the competition is stiff," said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and market analyst for Kelley.
For the second year in a row, the Honda Civic was named as the Overall Best Buy as well as the best small car. Read on for a closer look at the winners in each category.
Small car: Honda Civic
The Kelley Blue Book editors said they honored the Civic as the Overall Best Buy for the second year "because of the Civic's unsurpassed all-around value."
"It turns in very high marks in objective measures like resale value and cost to own, yet it is a supremely satisfying car to drive and live with every day," they added.
With a wide range of versions including a sedan, coupe and hatchback (pictured above), the Civic list price ranges from $18,740 to$26,600. The base sedan's gas mileage is rated at 32 MPG in city driving, 42 on the highway.
Midsize car: Honda Accord
In this category of family cars, Kelley editors praised the Accord for its dependability, resale value and overall low ownership cost. Other reviewers liked the Civic for its comfortable ride, roomy seats and stylish interior. They also cite the car as having among the best fuel economy in the class, with EPA ratings for 27 MPG in city driving, 36 on the highway. List price ranges from $22,355 to $34,830.
Luxury car: Audi A4
Totally redesigned this year, the A4 wins Kelley Blue Book's praise for "an elevated mix of tastefully modern exterior and interior styling." The A4 also has relatively low ownership costs compared with its luxury competition. Other reviewers note that the A4 has plenty of advanced technology, including Apple Car Play and Android Auto to synch with whichever phone you have.
A4 mileage is rated for 25 MPG city, 33 highway. List prices range from $37,300 up to $45,900 for the top version.
Sports car: Porsche 718 Boxster
Long one of the most exhilarating cars to drive, the Boxster has been completely redesigned for 2017. Kelley editors praise the new version for better everyday usability, including improved fuel economy rated at 25 mpg in city driving, 33 on the highway. Other reviewers compliment the new Boxster for providing good leg and hip room even for tall drivers.
The Boxster 718 starts at $56,000 with standard manual transmission. Opting for a seven-speed automatic increases the list price to $59,200.
Electric/hybrid car: Toyota Prius Prime
The Prius is practically synonymous with the gas/electric hybrid class. Now the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid has been introduced with more distinctive, less stodgy styling than the original.
Kelley notes that the Prime has an EPA rating of 133 MPGe -- the gas mileage equivalent number used for electric and plug-in models -- the highest for any electric car on the market. The Prius Prime lists between $24,685 and $30,015.
Small SUV: Kia Sportage
The Sportage is completely revamped for 2017, and Kelley analysts praise the new exterior design for the bold-looking front end and sleek rear. Other reviewers like the roomy interior, especially the spacious rear seats.
Like all Kia models, the Sportage has a power-train warranty that runs for 10 years or 100,000 miles. The Sportage's fuel economy is rated at 22 MPG city, 30 highway. List price runs from $22,990 to $34,900.
Midsize SUV: Honda Pilot
Kelley editors call the Pilot, redesigned last year, "the roomiest, most practical SUV in the segment." Other reviewers like its comfortable ride and roomy interior for families with three rows of seats. The MPG ratings for the Pilot's standard six-cylinder engine are 20 MPG city, 27 highway. The 2017 model, having just gone on sale this month, has a list price running from $30,595 to $47,070.
Fullsize SUV: Chevrolet Tahoe
The best-selling vehicle in this class, the Chevy Tahoe is described by Kelley as having "an unmatched combination of style, comfort, economy and value." Other reviewers note that the Tahoe can easily tow a boat or large trailer and is comfortable for long trips.
At this size, however, the price of big SUVs is high and the fuel economy relatively low. The standard eight-cylinder engine is rated for 16 city, 23 highway. List price ranges from $47,215 to $65,030.
Luxury SUV: Mercedes-Benz GLC
Kelley editors praise the GLC, redesigned last year, as an example of the current strong lineup for Mercedes-Benz. Other reviewers note that for its class, the GLC is well-priced, with a MSRP ranging from $39,150 to $41,150.
In addition to elegant interior and exterior styling, the GLC comes with tech features that befit a luxury model. You can lock, unlock or start the car from your phone. And an optional wifi hot spot lets you stay connected even on the highway. The car's four-cylinder engine is rated at 21 MPG city, 28 highway.
Pickup truck: Ford-150
The perennially best-selling F-150 is named a Kelley Best Buy for the third year in a row. It has taken the award ever since Ford redesigned the truck with an aluminum body for lighter weight and better gas mileage. Other reviewers like the standard turbocharged V-6 engine, which is rated for 18 MPG city, 24 highway.
Like all pickups, the F-150 comes with an array of choices of cabs, engines and transmissions. The list price starts at $26,450 and can climb all the way to near $70,000.
Minivan: Chrysler Pacifica
Chrysler has a hit with its new Pacifica. Not only is it a major improvement on the Town & Country model it replaces, but Kelley said the Pacifica "blends luxury and practicality like no minivan before it."
The vehicle is also a pleasure to drive, Kelley editors said, citing the elegant dash design and comfortable, spacious rear compartment. The Pacifica's standard six-cylinder engine is rated for 18 MPG city, 28 highway. List price runs from $28,595 to $42,495.