Top 10 Cool Features on Cheap Cars in 2008

From Edmunds.com

If you're shopping for a budget-priced car, you'll benefit from having a true picture regarding available comfort and convenience features. There was a time not so long ago when those buying economy cars had to resign themselves to interiors that were bare as jail cells. These days, things are a lot more pleasant. Buyers shopping in this price range will find a host of useful amenities to choose from.

Here are 10 to consider. Some enhance utility, some add convenience and some are just plain luxurious. The one thing they have in common is that they're all available on vehicles that cost less than $20,000.

Presented with each feature is a short list of vehicles that offer this amenity. Note that these vehicle lists aren't meant to be comprehensive. Rather, they're intended to offer a sampling of the cars that can be equipped with these useful features.

  1. Satellite radio: If you're a frequent road tripper, satellite radio is a must. As your road trip drags on and on, you'll get bored with your iPod playlist (and the chatter of the passengers traveling with you, most likely). With satellite radio, your listening options will always be fresh. Satellite radio is standard on all trims of the Chevrolet Cobalt. It's offered as an option on the Mazda3 and is available as both an option and a standard feature across varying trims of the Hyundai Elantra.
  2. Heated front seats: A heated driver seat can be a godsend for both you and your hind parts if you're driving on a cold winter day. It also comes in pretty handy if you've got stiff back and shoulder muscles from a basketball game or a session at the gym. Find heated front seats on the options lists of cars such as the Mini Cooper. This feature is standard on some Volkswagen Jetta trims, and is offered as an option on base models.
  3. Navigation system: Who needs Google Maps? A good navigation system can save you from the inconvenience and embarrassment of getting lost. These systems are useful both on long road trips and in shorter travels around town. Navigation systems are optional on cars like the Dodge Caliber, Mazda3 and Scion xB.
  4. Auxiliary steering-wheel-mounted audio controls: You're very particular about the music that you listen to — particular as in needing to change your selection every 45 seconds. Diverting your eyes from the road to audio controls on the center stack can be dangerous. The solution? Auxiliary audio controls conveniently mounted on your car's steering wheel. Auxiliary steering-wheel-mounted controls are standard on some trims of the Mitsubishi Lancer, and are optional on the Nissan Versa.
  5. iPod integration: If you're addicted to your iPod, you'll love vehicles that offer iPod integration. With this feature, your player is seamlessly integrated into the car's sound system, allowing you to operate the iPod via your vehicle's audio controls. iPod integration is optional on vehicles like the Scion xB and Scion xD.
  6. Bluetooth connectivity: Voice-activated cell phone control can be yours with Bluetooth connectivity. This perk used to be limited to only the most elite luxury haulers, but things are now considerably more democratic. The list of economy cars offering optional Bluetooth includes the Nissan Versa; the feature is standard on certain trims of the Nissan Sentra and optional on others. Note that Ford offers a version of Bluetooth — called Sync — that requires fewer steps than other Bluetooth systems and allows you to control your portable MP3 player via smart voice recognition. Sync is available both as an option and a standard feature on varying trims of the Ford Focus.
  7. Air filtration system: If you suffer from allergies, an air filtration system can clean the air in your car, ridding it of pollen and helping you to avoid watery eyes and a runny nose. It's also useful in preventing unpleasant outside odors from making their way into the cabin. The Mini Cooper and the Scion xD offer an air filtration system as a standard feature.
  8. Keyless entry: Not having to fumble for keys when entering or exiting a vehicle adds a whole lot of value when it comes to convenience. Just think about what a hassle it is to search for your key fob while juggling a bag of groceries in each arm. With keyless entry, you gain access to your car without removing the fob from your pocket. Choose a car like the Mitsubishi Lancer or Nissan Versa and you'll only have to press a rubber button located on the door handle to enter your ride; this feature is optional on both cars.
  9. Chilled glovebox: Nothing hits the spot like a cool drink on a hot day. A chilled glovebox makes this a reality; air-conditioning is routed to a storage bin, providing a cool place for you to store drinks when you're on the road. The Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass are two vehicles that offer this feature; it's standard on certain trims and optional on others.
  10. Liftgate speakers: Liftgate speakers can help you take your next tailgate party to a whole new level. These flip-down speakers are mounted on the liftgate. When they're lowered, sound is directed outside the vehicle. Liftgate speakers are optional on the Jeep Compass. They're optional on the Dodge Caliber's midlevel trim, and standard on its top-of-the-line model.

Copyright Edmunds.com, Inc. All rights reserved. First published on www.edmunds.com and excerpted with permission.