2012 Volkswagen Passat

Looking for a way to maximize your purchasing power and still come away with a comfortable, stylish family sedan–one that knows how to get out of its own way on the road, one that saves a few bucks on fuel, and costs less than $20,000? We’ve checked out the new 2012 models and found several that fit the bill.

While you won’t get all the bells and whistles in these mostly base model cars, you will get solid value, great safety and a new set of wheels. It’s also worth mentioning that most of the 2012 family sedans under $20,000 are equipped with manual transmissions. The exceptions are the 2012 Chrysler 200 LX and Dodge Avenger SE, which come with a standard four-speed automatic. To get an automatic in the other models here, expect to tack on roughly $1,000 to the price.

2012 Volkswagen Passat

2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.5L

All-new for 2012, the Volkswagen Passat 2.5L five-passenger sedan carries a starting price of $19,995. It’s larger inside and out, but less expensive than the car it replaces. Part of the reason is that Volkswagen now builds the Passat at its new Chattanooga, Tennessee, manufacturing plant – and it’s the first VW built in the U.S. since the 1980s. Power comes from a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with five-speed manual transmission. Features include 16-inch steel wheels, automatic dual-zone climate control, power locks and windows, Bluetooth connectivity. A full complement of safety technology is standard, including six airbags, electronic stability control (ESC), anti-lock braking system (ABS), engine braking assist and hydraulic brake assist, hill-hold control, and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). See our complete review of the 2012 Volkswagen Passat here.

2012 Subaru Impreza

2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i

Subaru has held the line on pricing for the redesigned 2012 Impreza 2.0i compact four-door sedan, starting at $17,495. Power comes from the 148-horsepower 2.0-liter Subaru flat-four engine matched with standard five-speed manual transmission. With standard all-wheel drive, the EPA-estimated 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway make the 2012 Impreza 2.0i the most fuel-efficient all-wheel-drive car in America. Seven airbags, ESC, traction control, and four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist are standard. The 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i arrives in dealerships in November, as the launch of the new model was delayed by the March earthquake in Japan.

Looking for a mid-size Subaru? The 2012 Legacy, if it also keeps last year’s pricing, will start at $19,995. Subaru hasn’t yet released details, so we’re going with the Impreza for now as a 2012 family sedan under $20,000.

2012 Chrysler 200

2012 Chrysler 200 LX

The five-passenger mid-size 2012 Chrysler 200 LX, priced from $18,995, is powered by a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder engine paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. EPA-estimated fuel economy in the LX is 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway. Six airbags, ESC, traction control, brake assist and four-wheel disc ABS are standard, along with 17-inch steel wheels. The trunk, which has a compact spare tire, has a cargo capacity of 13.6 cubic feet.

2012 Dodge Avenger

2012 Dodge Avenger SE

With the same mechanical underpinnings at the Chrysler 200 LX, the 2012 Dodge Avenger SE five-passenger front-wheel drive sedan also carries the same starting price as $18,995. The look is different, and the Avenger SE has a “refined” suspension, premium cloth bucket seats and a few other differentiating details. Engine, transmission, fuel economy and safety features are the same as the Chrysler 200 LX.

2012 Hyundai Sonata

2012 Hyundai Sonata GLS

With a starting price of $19,695, the 2012 Hyundai Sonata GLS with manual transmission is no plain-Jane family sedan. The GLS is powered by a 198-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine matched with a six-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy is EPA-estimated at 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway/28 mpg combined. Six airbags, ESC, traction control, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, and ABS are standard, as are 16-inch steel wheels. Cargo volume in the Sonata’s trunk is 16.4 cubic feet.

2012 Ford Fusion

2012 Ford Fusion I4 S

Powered by a 2.5-liter in-line four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission, the 2012 Ford Fusion I4 S five-passenger sedan is reasonably priced starting from $19,850. It also achieves an EPA-rated 23 mpg city/34 mpg highway fuel economy. Six airbags, electronic stability control (ESC), traction control and ABS are standard, as are cloth bucket seats and 16-inch, 10-spoke aluminum wheels. Trunk cargo capacity is 16.5 cubic feet.

Other 2012 family sedans under $20,000 may also include the Kia Optima LX with manual transmission and the Suzuki Kizashi, although the respective automakers haven’t yet released pricing information, so we’ve left them out. The 2012 Mazda 6 ($20,240), Chevrolet Malibu LS ($21,995), Honda Accord LX ($21,380), Toyota Camry XLE ($24,725) and Nissan Altima 2.5 ($20,410) miss our base price target of $20,000, so they aren’t included either.

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This story originally appeared at Family Car Guide


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