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The best of some limited features in cars

After several decades, the Ford Mustang remains the best bet if you’re looking for a muscle car.

Ford

After several decades, the Ford Mustang remains the best bet if you’re looking for a muscle car.

Most of us start the car-buying journey expecting a lot of choices. When it comes to some types of cars, though, you might be surprised by the lack of choices. Here's a look at the best of some rare breeds.

Bench seats

Your choices: With the Lincoln Town Car and Mercury Grand Marquis ending production, the Chevrolet Impala, Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS will be your only choices.

Best bet: The Buick Lucerne is a bargain. It's significantly less than the Cadillac DTS yet shares virtually all of its running gear and options.

Midsize wagons

Your choices: Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo offer midsize wagons. But if you want one that's affordable, there are two: the Kia Rondo and VW Passat.

Best bet: If you can afford to spend 40 percent more for the VW Passat, go for it. It offers great handling and good utility.

Midsize coupes

Your choices: Front-wheel drive midsize coupes used to be plentiful. Now there are two: the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. Both sacrifice some practicality for style.

Best bet: They're both good-looking and perform well, but the Honda Accord holds the edge in quality.

New under $10,000

Your choices: With the Accent hatchback, Hyundai has long been a part of this class. Nissan has joined the fray with the Versa, a car designed for the Chinese market. These cars are so stripped that even air-conditioning is an option.

Best bet: Go for the Nissan: Antilock brakes with brake assist are options that are unavailable on the Accent.

Petite vans

Your choices: If most minivans aren't mini enough, you can opt for one that's slightly smaller. Both the Mazda5 and Ford Transit Connect offer an impressive amount of space in a maneuverable package.

Best bet: For families, the Mazda5 is hard to beat. For small businesses, Ford is a good bet.

Compact pickups

Your choices: The Ford Ranger is the only true compact, but its design is ancient. Larger, newer designs include the Toyota Tacoma, the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon twins, the Nissan Frontier and the mechanically identical Suzuki Equator.

Best bet: Either the Nissan or Toyota offer refinement and utility, but a base model, full-size pickup may be a better buy.

Muscle cars

Your choices: Wait. Is it 1970? You can still buy a Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang. They are quite American, look great and offer gobs of power, even in base trim.

Best bet: The original is still the greatest. The 2011 Ford Mustang is the proper size, boasts high-tech options and comes as a convertible.

Larry Printz is automotive editor at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va.

The best of some limited features in cars 09/01/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 4:30am]
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