In addition to safety features such as adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring, buyers are seeking comfort and convenience.
Northerners want a heated steering wheel. Push-button start eliminates the need to take a key out of a purse. A cooled front seat brings comfort faster on a hot July afternoon. Not that long ago, a buyer had to move upmarket to Audi, Cadillac, Infiniti and Lexus for such luxuries.
"Almost all the features that we see debut in the luxury segment will trickle down to the mainstream models," said Jeremy Acevedo, Edmunds.com supervisor of pricing and analysis. "New technology always starts as a costly venture but decreases in price sharply as the experience curve makes production at a larger scale an economically sound decision."
For example, Ford has added a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, front seats with a cooling feature and a 180-degree, front-mounted camera with washer to the options list of the redesigned 2015 Ford Edge SUV.
The top-of-the-line 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited sedan features standard retractable window shades in the rear doors, while a heated steering wheel is optional.
"The 2015 Sonata embodies Hyundai's Modern Premium brand direction by providing convenient technology formerly reserved for luxury sedans in the midsize segment without the premium price tag," said Hyundai Motor America in a statement.
The 2015 Hyundai Elantra GT hatchback gets standard heated front seats and optional ventilated front seats.
Push-button start is quickly becoming standard on many cars as vehicles are redesigned or updated, even at the lower end of the market. The feature is standard on the 2015 Dodge Dart Limited and GT and the 2015 Honda Civic EX and EX-L small cars.
The redesigned 2016 Kia Optima adds dynamic bending headlights, a feature shared with the brand's luxury model, the 2015 Kia K900. The lights are optional on the 2016 Optima SX 2.0T and standard on the Optima SXL 2.0T. The headlights adjust to the left or right as the steering wheel angle changes through a highway curve.
"It's not at all far-fetched to think that any of the features limited to the luxury arena today will eventually make their way across the entire automotive landscape," Acevedo said.
Edmunds says: Car shoppers seeking an affordable vehicle don't always have to skimp on amenities.