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Real value.

While an exotic sports car may be an appealing vehicle to drive into work, a lumbering four-wheel-drive sport utility can tackle the worst weather and road conditions; and a luxury sedan can offer the plushest of rides. However, it's wise to have something more practical and economical for the family.

There is no better time than now to shop for a new car, and the economy car segment is an area where some of the best deals are being found. Prices are starting under the five-figure range, and aided by the recession, deep dealer discounts are being added to already attractive manufacturer rebates.

Savings can be found in a variety of areas, since the total cost of ownership in the economy segment is far lower. Getting a smaller car means better fuel economy, both at the pump and on the road. Insurance rates are also less. Maintenance costs are often lower and repair costs can be far less expensive. There is also a significant benefit in value retention. While luxury cars may lose a smaller percentage of their value, it's not difficult to see that losing 30% of a $10,000 investment is not nearly as bad as losing 20% of a $40,000 investment.

The surprise is that many of the cars are actually good. Unlike some of the cheap, flimsy cars of past decades, consumers can now get solid economical transportation with many of the luxury features found in more expensive vehicles--from sophisticated automatic transmissions to power windows and door locks.

Two key concerns when choosing a small economy car are safety and reliability. Since crash protection is partially a function of size and weight, tiny economy cars will never be on completely equal footing in that area. But, in other aspects of safety, smaller cars have certain advantages. They are often more nimble, making them capable of avoiding accidents. There is also an array of modern safety features that come as standard or optional equipment on small cars. Those most concerned with safety will seek out cars equipped with air bags and anti-lock braking systems. Relatively few cars in this category have both, but some are available.

Reliability is often equal to or better than many more expensive models. The brand name still means a lot. Those makers that have a good reputation for building safe and reliable larger cars tend to do a good job with smaller models. While some economy car companies have somewhat dismal records, there are plenty that stand out. Prices may be a bit higher, but the payoff in the long run is usually worthwhile. Good warranties help, although the best continue to be reserved for luxury cars.

Still, those who value performance can find it at bargain prices. Small cars are lightweight, the main ingredient of good handling and acceleration. Many small cars even offer rather potent engines. There are affordable small coupes and sedans that can accelerate and handle like more expensive machines, yet return better fuel economy and nearly match the same level of comfort at far lower prices.

One reason why there are good deals in the economy arena is due to government regulations. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements force manufacturers to sell a high volume of fuel-efficient cars to counter more profitable sales of big luxury cars. To get the numbers in the market, manufacturers often churn out economy cars at (well, almost) fire-sale prices to get the numbers up and avoid big fines. As a result, the consumer gets a good small car at a surprisingly affordable price.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Black Enterprise 1992 Auto Guide
Author:Koblenz, Jay
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Evaluation
Date:Apr 1, 1992
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