As the new model year picks up speed, Kelley Blue Book is advising consumers on the 2015 best buys in cars, SUVs and pickups.
In its new awards released today, Kelley and its kbb.com website evaluated vehicles through extensive test driving, plus analysis of the best values, including the five-year total cost of ownership. The awards were announced to accompany the press preview of the Los Angeles Auto Show.
In addition to category winners, Kelley Blue Book analysts picked an overall winner -- Ford's completely new F-150 pickup (pictured above). "Our group of expert vehicle testers chose the Ford F-150 as the overall winner because of its breakthrough aluminum body structure, its smooth and fuel-efficient powertrains and its impressive collection of thoughtful features," said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and market analyst.
The aluminum body on the new pickup allows lighter weight and better fuel economy, although EPA ratings on the F-150 turbocharged engines have not yet been released. Prices for the new pickup range from $29,480 to $43,160.
Take a look at other Kelley Blue Book winners in six of the best-selling categories.
Small car: Honda Civic
Famously reliable and with a high resale value, the Civic is praised by reviewers for its comfortable ride, dependable handling and attractive cabin design. The Civic comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones and a rear view camera -- an important safety feature when backing up.
The four-cylinder engine is rated by the EPA for 28 MPG in city driving and 36 MPG on the highway. Civic prices range from $18,290 to $24,590.
Mid-size car: Honda Accord
Honda scores again in the highly competitive mid-size family sedan class. As with the Civic, strong reliability boosted its rating. The Kelley analysts describe the Accord as "supremely satisfying to drive and confidently stylish."
Test drivers say the base four-cylinder engine, rated at 27 MPG city, 36 highway, has plenty of passing power in highway driving. The Accord also comes standard with a rearview camera. Prices for the Accord range from $22,105 to $33,630.
Full-size car: Chevrolet Impala
The Kelley analysts praise the Impala for its comfortable ride achieved without sacrificing handling. Other reviewers have praised the upscale interior in the Impala as well as the large trunk that can handle plenty of luggage.
The standard four-cylinder engine is rated at 22 MPG city 31 highway. An optional V-6 also is available. The Kelley award especially cites good value for the Impala, noting "It's priced thousands less than the competition." Impala prices range from $27,060 to $40,660.
Luxury car: Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The Kelley award praises the redesigned C-Class for its "sumptuous interior, elegant exterior and high-tech features." Test drivers found that the standard turbocharged four-cylinder engine has plenty of power, although a turbo V-6 comes in the C400 model.
EPA mileage estimates for the base engine are 22 MPG in city driving 31 hghway. Like all luxury cars, the price mounts swiftly as you add options. The price range is from $38,400 to $62,750.
Small SUV: Honda CR-V
The CR-V, says Kelley, has "effortless driving manners, roomy interior, stellar efficiency and a reputation for reliability." The EPA ratings of 27 MPG in city driving and 34 on the highway are among the best in this class.
Test drivers say that the new automatic transmission is smooth and responsive and that updated suspension and steering improve handling. Prices on the CR-V range from $23,320 to $32,770.
Large SUV: Chevrolet Tahoe
Among the big SUVs that have been selling strongly as gas prices have fallen, the redesigned Tahoe places first. Kelley analysts describe it as having "an array of innovative features, a modern passenger cabin and crisp exterior styling." For large families or others who need to haul lots of passengers, the Tahoe has a V-8 engine rated at 16 MPG city 23 highway -- ranking well among these large vehicles.
List prices on the Tahoe range from $45,550 to $63.335.