With the recent decades’ exponential growth in technology has come a new trend in automobiles: luxury features and technology are coming to economy cars more quickly. This trickling down has always been in effect, but in recent years, it has become more rapid as car companies strive to expand their businesses and attract a new sector of the auto market: economy car buyers.
Part of the reason car companies are able to deliver this better technology even in their economy models and trims is because technology is getting cheaper, faster. This is true of a great deal of technology today. Also, as they introduce these technologies in the beginning, they begin to stir up interest, increase demand and therefore lower costs that way as well.
So what are these technologies, and which are some of the best to hit the latest models?
Hybrid technology has actually been around since the early 20th century, but it didn’t become popular until the release of the Toyota Prius in 1997. Supplementing gasoline fuel with electric energy saves both the environment and gas money for the driver, and the technology grows in popularity with each passing year.
While the most expensive luxury model hybrids can cost upwards of $100,000, the cheapest hybrids now cost around $20,000. The most popular hybrid car on the market, the Toyota Prius, has a Prius c model that runs in the low $20,000s while still sporting some of the technologies once exclusively available on the more expensive models. The hybrid technology itself once carried a heftier price tag, but nowadays even the cheapest hybrids still come with some of the more-high tech devices and capabilities.
Better Camera Capabilities
Front and rearview cameras are becoming ever more standard on the latest models of economy cars. The safety features these cameras enable are numerous and include everything from automatic cruise control and vehicle stability management to backup assistance and automatic brake assist for when other cars or objects come too close to the vehicle. These types of safety features are becoming increasingly popular on both luxury and economy cars with the hopes of preventing accidents and keeping drivers, their passengers and pedestrians safe.
LED Headlights and Taillights
LED headlights and taillights are becoming more standardized on upcoming economy models, such as all versions of the new 2014 Toyota Corolla, and more models with the same technology are not far behind.
LEDs are brighter, more efficient and allow easier manipulation to create different shapes. The technology’s expansion to economy models is attributed to its drastic decline in cost over the years. Cars are tending to move toward better efficiency in general, for both cost and ecological reasons, so seeing this technology adapted to economy cars will continue.
Infotainment, Communication and Navigation Systems
Once only available on luxury models or the most expensive trims, built-in infotainment and navigation systems are quickly becoming popular additional features on economy cars. Drivers are all about being more connected as they drive, whether that’s to their favorite music, hands-free phone calls, podcast station or to an accurate GPS for navigating city streets. These systems now come complete with app integration, USB ports, advanced audio and GPS systems and large, 7” inch (on average) touchscreen displays.
These systems include Entune on certain base Toyota Prius models, Sync on the Ford Focus, Uvo on Kia Optima trims, UConnect on the Dodge Dart and Jeep Wrangler, MyLink on the Chevrolet Spark, OnStar and more.
Besides being convenient, these systems are also making vehicles safer by eliminating the need to look at another device, such as a smartphone or mp3 player, to access various apps, services and media. Many systems actually plug directly into the driver’s smartphone to allow easy access via dashboard and steering wheel controls.
Other less high-tech but still valued luxury features are coming to economy cars as well. The Kia Optima EX trim, with a sticker price in the low $20,000s, includes heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel, perfect for drivers faring the cold weather. Keyless entry, another handy luxury feature, is available on the Jeep Wrangler Sport, which uses UConnect to remotely unlock and start a car using a smartphone app. The Hyundai Veloster will even recognize the key and unlock itself as the driver approaches the car. The Ford Fusion features a tire-pressure monitoring system as a standard feature. These and other luxury accoutrements are finding their way to the feature sets of economy cars more quickly over the past decade.
While these are some of the best technologies coming to an economy car near you, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Do your research when looking at a new car, particularly if you are in the economy priced market, and you may be surprised at the results that you find.