While initial price is always a prime issue in any new-vehicle purchase decision, the ultimate "best deal" also entails factoring in a number of other significant elements that can have an equally meaningful impact on long-term out-of-pocket expenses. To help bring those big picture details into sharper focus, Kelley Blue Book, the world's most experienced and trusted automotive pricing organization, calculates and integrates data from eight different categories to come up with real-world bottom-line figure that allows for direct comparisons to be made over a five-year period. This year, we've decided to go one step beyond and formally recognize the best-in-class entries with our inaugural 5-Year Cost to Own Awards for 2012.
Related: Infographic reveals key ownership costs
Presented in conjunction with the Chicago Auto Show, the Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own Awards honored individual winners in 21 different market segments as well as two overall brand awards. The comprehensive valuation criteria used to determine the most deserving cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans included their fair purchase price (FPP), projected depreciation, financing costs, Insurance costs and state fees as well as the anticipated total cost of fuel, scheduled maintenance and repairs.
Best Brand: Kia
The overall brand winner of our 5-Year Cost to Own honors is a relative newcomer to the U.S., Kia. The quiet little Korean carmaker has been progressing steadily in quality and sales, and is now seen as a strong bargain when it comes to ownership as well. Such stylish and fun-to-drive Kia offerings as the Optima, Sorento and Soul specialize in delivering the practical blessings of excellent fuel economy and inspired resale value.
Best Luxury Brand: Audi
Anybody who thinks that the rich don't care about value has clearly never met the rich. Not wasting money is how they got there. Audi is a luxury brand that appreciates its audience and respects its audience's cash. From the most practical, fuel-friendly diesel to the most mouthwatering coupes and sedans, every Audi holds its cost-to-own value tight throughout the entire life cycle.
Subcompact Car: 2012 Nissan Versa , 5-Year Cost to Own: $29,252
Completely redesigned for 2012, the space-efficient Nissan Versa sedan complements a trio of trim levels with a new and far more fuel-efficient engine. The Versa garnered total cost supremacy honors in the Subcompact Car segment by combining the lowest fair purchase price and a superior residual value figure to narrowly edge out its closest rival, the Toyota Yaris, by a mere $38.
Compact Car: 2012 Kia Soul , 5-Year Cost to Own: $31,417
A mid-lifecycle upgrade program that brought new and more efficient engine/transmission combinations helped the Kia Soul take top honors in the Compact Car realm. Its lowest-in-category fair purchase price matched with outstanding fuel and insurance cost figures combined to give it nearly a $1,300 advantage over the Hyundai Elantra.
Mid Size Car: 2012 Hyundai Sonata , 5-Year Cost to Own: $38,476
Stylish and spirited, Hyundai's best-selling model added a new level of in-car connectivity for 2012 with the automaker's sophisticated Blue Link system en route to earning its prime rating in the Mid Size Car category. Although not the cheapest to buy, the Sonata's significant advantages in the areas of insurance and fuel costs moved it ahead of the Kia Optima, which shares the same basic platform architecture.
Full Size Car: 2012 Chevrolet Impala , 5-Year Cost to Own: $47,957
With its buyer appeal reinforced by a new and more-efficient V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission combo, Chevrolet's aging but still eminently capable and comfortable Impala captured top honors in the Full Size Car segment. The Impala's lowest comparative fair purchase price and depreciation numbers matched with above-average fuel economy gave it a slim edge over the Ford Taurus.
Sports Car: 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata , 5-Year Cost to Own: $42,602
America's - and the world's - most popular two-seater added standard stability control for 2012, but that extra measure of confidence was just icing on the cake as the MX-5 Miata easily blew away all challengers in the Sports Car category. This supremely engaging droptop dominated every individual assessment criterion, and ended besting its closest class rival, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, by nearly $4,200 in total ownership costs over a five-year period.
Entry Level Luxury Car: 2012 Volvo C30 , 5-Year Cost to Own: $42,367
Emerging victorious in the Entry Level Luxury Car category, Volvo's C30 hatchback richened its Swedish-modern character for 2012 with new Premier Plus and Platinum trim grades plus standard Bluetooth connectivity and a security alarm. In addition to having the lowest fair purchase price in its segment, the C30 enjoys exceptional advantages in maintenance costs and long-term depreciation over its closest rival, the Buick Regal.
Luxury Car: 2012 Audi A5 , 5-Year Cost to Own: $56,908
This elegantly styled two-door version of the Audi A4 offers both coupe and convertible body styles in addition to a wide range of powertrain choices and front or Quattro all-wheel drive. Although not the cheapest to purchase, the Audi A5 earned its laurels in the Luxury Car category on the strength of its outstanding resale value and best-in-segment insurance costs, which combine to give it nearly a $5,000 total advantage over the Volvo S80.
High End Luxury Car: 2012 Lexus LS 460 , 5-Year Cost to Own: $90,234
The ultimate strong, silent type, this impressively elegant alternative to traditional German sedans complements its huge roster of standards with a silky V8 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission and the choice of rear or all-wheel drive. The Lexus LS 460 used its lowest Fair Purchase Price and lowest depreciation plus significant advantages on insurance and repair costs to dominate the High End Luxury Car field, holding nearly a $15,000 five-year total cost advantage over the BMW 7 Series.
High Performance Car: 2012 Lexus IS F , 5-Year Cost to Own: $77,140
A powerful V8 engine, sport-tuned suspension and an aggressive sense of style coupled with four-door practicality endow the Lexus IS F with its own distinctive brand of enthusiast appeal. Matching lowest fair purchase price with outstanding resale value and significant savings in fuel costs, the Lexus IS F handily outpaced the Chevrolet Corvette to claim top honors in the High Performance Car segment.
Compact Crossover: 2012 Nissan Juke , 5-Year Cost to Own: $36,627
Boldly styled, the Nissan Juke appropriately reinforces its youthful yet practical personality with sporty handling and a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. While holding a slight edge in fair purchase price, the real keys to the Juke's conquest of the Compact Crossover class involve a significant advantage in long-term fuel cost as well as being slightly cheaper to insure than its closest rival, the Hyundai Tucson.
Crossover: 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe , 5-Year Cost to Own: $42,628
With generous room for five, multiple trim/powertrain configurations and an impressive roster of standard/optional equipment, the Hyundai Santa Fe can be personalized to suit the needs of a wide range of owners. This mid- size people mover outpaced the Kia Sorento to claim top honors in the Crossover class based on its combination of lowest fair purchase price and lowest long-term depreciation coupled with lower maintenance and insurance costs.
Luxury Crossover: 2012 Lexus RX 350 , 5-Year Cost to Own: $52,217
Perennial best-seller in the entire Lexus lineup, the RX 350 seamlessly combines a quiet, refined and decidedly car-like driving experience with the practicality and flexibility of a mid-size SUV. Although its closest rival, the Volvo XC60, claimed lowest fair purchase price, the Lexus RX 350 handily took top Luxury Crossover honors as the result of its huge advantage in retained value combined with substantially lower overall repair costs.
Mid Size Sport Utility: 2012 Jeep Wrangler , 5-Year Cost to Own: $41,764
Long an icon among the hard-core off-road set, the Jeep Wrangler adds to its already formidable appeal with a more powerful yet more economical V6 engine. Still capable of taking on any venue with surprisingly civility, the Jeep Wrangler bested the Toyota FJ Cruiser in the Mid Size Sport Utility category based on its significant long-term advantages in insurance, maintenance and fuel costs.
Full Size Sport Utility: 2012 Ford Expedition , 5-Year Cost to Own: $63,562
An acknowledged master of moving people, toting cargo and towing trailers, the Ford Expedition can seat up to eight in a smartly-styled cabin that's both comfortable and spacious. In addition to having the lowest fair purchase price and depreciation numbers, the Expedition's slightly better insurance and repair costs helped it edge out the Chevrolet Tahoe for Full Size Sport Utility honors.
Luxury Sport Utility: 2012 Audi Q7 , 5-Year Cost to Own: $67,630
Elegantly designed inside and out, the seven passenger Audi Q7 offers a choice of three efficient turbocharged gasoline/diesel V6 engines and adds a new S-line Plus styling package for 1012. Although the Infiniti QX56 boasts superior maintenance and repair numbers, the Audi Q7's lowest-in-class fair purchase price and best relative residual value coupled with lower fuel costs netted it a $7,200-plus five-year total cost of ownership advantage over the QX56 in the Luxury Sport Utility shootout.
Mid Size Pickup Truck: 2012 Toyota Tacoma Regular Cab , 5-Year Cost to Own: $36,655
Well-engineered and well-finished, the 2012 Toyota Tacoma Regular Cab pickup receives a number of minor cosmetic tweaks for the new year but remains as solid and capable as ever. This perennial favorite bested its Toyota Access Cab kin for top honors in the Mid Size Pickup Truck category by matching a lower fair purchase price and superior residual value with slight savings in maintenance, repair and fuel costs.
Full Size Pickup Truck: 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Regular , 5-Year Cost to Own: $49,371
Minor but meaningful updates add even more appeal to the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Regular Cab pickup which offers standard and long-bed configurations, V6/V8 engine choices and rear- or four-wheel drive. This versatile Chevy took the measure of its corporate cousin, the GMC Sierra 1500 Regular Cab, by a mere $157 margin in the Full Size Pickup Truck category thanks to its slight advantages in fair purchase price, financing and insurance costs and state fees.
Minivan: 2012 Mazda Mazda5 , 5-Year Cost to Own: $37,480
Restyled and re-engineered for the news year, the 2012 Mazda Mazda5 is a compact, capable and fuel efficient six-passenger alternative to a conventional minivan that offers the space and flexibility to serve most families well. Its lowest fair purchase price and depreciation figure coupled with nearly a $2,200 savings in fuel costs compared to the runner-up Dodge Grand Caravan allowed this maximum Mazda to easily dominate Minivan category.
Hybrid Car: 2012 Honda Insight , 5-Year Cost to Own: $32,884
An affordable and attractive entry point to the super-efficient gasoline-electric realm, the Honda Insight shares powertrain elements with the Honda Civic Hybrid and receives aerodynamic revisions for 2012 that further enhance its already stellar EPA ratings. The Insight's lower fair purchase price and subsequent lower depreciation figure helped this five-passenger five-door claim top spot in the Hybrid Car category over its sportier two-seat cousin, the Honda CR- Z.
Hybrid Utility: 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid , 5-Year Cost to Own: $45,051
America's most fuel-efficient SUV, the five-passenger 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid offers an impressive roster of standard and optional features to complement its clean, green powertrain and user-friendly persona. While the Toyota Highlander Hybrid holds advantages in long-term depreciation and repair costs, Ford's versatile Escape enjoys nearly a $6,200 total cost edge in the Hybrid Utility segment thanks to is lower costs in every other key evaluation category.
Electric Car: 2012 Chevrolet Volt , 5-Year Cost to Own: $40,629
Offering a usable 40-mile range on battery power and 350 more when its range-extender engine kicks in to make electricity on the fly, the revolutionary Chevrolet Volt rolls into 2012 largely unchanged. Even though the Nissan LEAF boasts a lower fair purchase price and racks up less in the way of depreciation, fuel cost and state fees, the Volt's slightly better maintenance figure and huge advantage in insurance costs make it number one in the Electric Car category.