The Post and Courier

These top-notch autos are sporty, well-priced, safe and memorable to drive. As an aside, they all are available at Charleston area dealerships.

The few dozen cars and trucks are listed as “bests’ in the annual car buyer guide for 2013 from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. What’s more impressive is the sedans, SUVs and minvans were chosen from a record 1,693 vehicles in the magazine’s auto-shopping adviser.

Kiplinger’s found quality cars from all over: carmakers based in the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Germany are represented. The brands all sell domestically as well as build vehicles in North America.

“The U.S. auto industry is back. Production is booming and sales of new vehicles are up for the third straight year,” Kiplinger’s said in comments about the yearly guide. Titled “Deals on New Wheels,” the report is already available online and shows up on newsstands Tuesday.

“Carmakers are competing hard to gain customers and that translates into opportunities to get a great car at a good price,” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance pointed out.

According to the magazine, the huge selection of cars and trucks and “fierce competition for consumers’ attention” can make buying a new model a daunting prospect.

Kiplinger’s said it sorted the vehicles into 12 categories while basing winning picks on performance, value, safety and driving impressions. Each category lists “Best New” and “Best in Class” vehicles. The magazine said it named “Most Fuel-Efficient” and “Best Resale Value” in each category, but did not list them in its public release about the guide.

For this model year, there were no new minivans or truck-based SUVs to report, Kiplinger’s said. Meanwhile, the full results of the sports car and truck-based SUV categories only appear online.

What follows are top picks by class and new model in each category as well as brief remarks on what makes the best new vehicles special:

• Wagons — Best in class is the Lexus RX 450h. The best new wagon, meanwhile, is the Ford C-Max. “Families yearning for a stylish ‘green’ wagon have hit the jackpot,” the magazine said. “Ford’s C-Max hybrid boasts high mpg, plenty of space and a powerful engine.”

• Small crossovers — Best in class is the Honda CR-V. For top new vehicle, it’s the Ford Escape. “The redesigned Escape saves money at the pump with better fuel economy than the previous generation. Plus, it’s filled with clever details, such as easy fold-flat rear seats and optional parallel-park assist.”

• Midsize-large crossovers — Best in class is the Subaru Outback. The best new car? Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. “The 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection engine puts out 264 horses, but with the help of a six-speed transmission, the Santa Fe Sport gets 27 mpg on the highway.”

• Truck-based SUV — Best in class is the Toyota Sequoia.

• Minivan — Best in class is the Toyota Sienna.

• Cars under $20,000 — Best in class is the Ford Focus. Meanwhile the Hyundai Elantra GT took best new car honors. “The stylish five-door Elantra GT takes on the compact competition. No econobox here: Standard features include heated front seats, cooled glove box, seven airbags and an extra outlet for plugging in gear.”

• Cars $20,000-$25,000 — Best in class is the Volkswagen Jetta TDI. The best new car is the Ford Fusion, a “daring” redesign. “The Fusion gets an aggressive mug and a sleek new interior. It features generous passenger space and drives better than any competitor.”

• Cars $25,000-$30,000 — Best in class is the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Named best new car? The Nissan Altima. “The latest iteration of the Altima has both brains and brawn. Smart features include an ‘easy fill’ tire alert, hands-free text messaging and the ‘zero gravity’ front seats.”

• Cars $30,000-$40,000 — Best in class is the Lexus ES 350. Meanwhile, the best new car is the ninth-generation Honda Accord. “Honda shrank the exterior a little but expanded rear legroom and cargo space. Pandora Internet radio, text messaging and a rearview camera come standard.”

• Cars $40,000-$50,000 — Best in class is the Audi A6. For best new car, the choice is the Lexus GS 350. “Sporty outside and sleek inside, the all-new GS is changing the face of the luxurious but staid Lexus line. Crisp handling and 306 horsepower combine beautifully.”

• Cars $50,000 and over — Best in class is the Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec. And, the Cadillac XTS grabbed best new car honors. “Caddy’s XTS puts other luxury makers on notice with its combination of striking looks, superb ride and handling, and stellar safety.”

• Sports Cars — Best in class is the Chevrolet Camaro. The best new car, meanwhile, is a remodeled veteran: the BMW M5. “The fifth-generation M5 isn’t just a souped-up 5 series. A new twin turbo V-8 puts out a pin-you-to-your-seat 560 horsepower.”

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Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or