Top 10 Cars With Cool Tech for Under $20,000 --

Top 10 Cool Tech Cars for Under $20K

High-Tech Options for Low-Dollar Rides

In the past, the latest and greatest car technology — cruise control, CD players and navigation systems — debuted on high-end cars long before trickling down to the less expensive models in an automaker's line. But the last few years have seen a dramatic democratization of tech. Attractive bells and whistles are now found on a wider array of vehicles than ever before, and they're available at very accessible prices.

These days, buying an economy car doesn't mean foregoing the latest gadgets. The following 10 vehicles cost less than $20,000 and are outfitted with some of the best auto tech toys.

  1. 2009 Ford Focus

    1. 2009 Ford Focus:

    Ford made an important — and successful — strategic decision to include its Sync technology not just on high-end models, but on a broad range of its vehicles. It picked the entry-level Focus as a major player for the launch of Sync since Ford realized that it's the type of vehicle — and technology — that would appeal to the car's young target market. Sync proved not only popular, but also became a benchmark for the way drivers access music on portable media players via voice activation. Sync's Bluetooth feature also makes hands-free calls almost effortless, and the system can even receive and reply to text messages. The best part is that Sync is standard on the top-of-the-line Focus SEL and SES models. It may also be added as a $395 option on the SE trim level.

  2. 2009 Dodge Caliber

    2. 2009 Dodge Caliber:

    Dodge loaded its entry-level Caliber with gizmos when it was introduced three years ago, including a Chill Zone section of the glovebox to keep drinks cool; a rear cargo light that also serves as a removable LED flashlight; a part of the armrest that flips up to hold an iPod; and illuminated cupholders. Optional tech can also be added to the Caliber without breaking the bank. Chrysler's UConnect hands-free phone system is one of the best Bluetooth systems available at any price, and it's available starting on the $17,600 SXT trim level. Also offered is a $595 Premium Sound Group option that includes a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics audio system with an 8-inch subwoofer, and a Music Gate boombox-style speaker enclosure that swings down from the hatch for tailgate-style tunes.

  3. 2009 Honda Fit

    3. 2009 Honda Fit:

    Honda's subcompact shows you don't have to spend big bucks to get cool tech — or a cool car. The fully redesigned '09 Fit provides impressive tech features as well as respectable performance for not a lot of money. The Honda Fit Sport with Navigation, for example, starts at $18,110 with a manual transmission or $18,960 for the automatic and features Honda's hard-drive-based satellite-linked navigation system with voice activation. The car also comes with a USB input that allows you to connect an iPod to the stock stereo. Throw in the Fit's Magic Seat that can be configured in more positions than a contortionist and steering wheel paddle shifters on the model with an automatic transmission and you've got a high-tech ride for less than $20K.

  4. 2010 Kia Soul

    4. 2010 Kia Soul:

    The Kia Soul is the latest in the growing line of "box" cars that started with Scion's xB and will continue with the Nissan Cube when it becomes available later this spring. The Soul sets itself apart from hip-to-be-square competitors by providing a bit more performance, and it doesn't skimp on tech features. The $13,300 base model comes with an iPod-compatible USB input, and the Soul Plus (+) — $14,950 with a five-speed manual transmission — comes standard with Bluetooth hands-free phone capability and steering wheel audio controls. The next step up, the Soul Exclaim (!) — $16,950 with a five-speed manual — adds the audio Upgrade package that includes a center speaker, a 7.5-inch subwoofer and a 315-watt amplifier.

  5. 2009 Mini Cooper

    5. 2009 Mini Cooper:

    Starting at $18,550 for the base model, the Mini Cooper is one of the more expensive vehicles on our list. Still, you can choose from a couple of $500 tech options that will get you out the door for under $20,000. The first is the Bluetooth/USB adapter, which gets you hands-free phone capability that can be activated by voice commands and steering wheel controls. Also included are USB and aux inputs for plugging in an iPod or other portable media player; Mini supplies the necessary cables, and tunes are accessed via steering wheel controls. The second is the Mini HiFi sound system; this option gets you 10 upgraded speakers — including four woofers, two midrange speakers and two pairs of tweeters — powered by 310 watts.

  6. 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer

    6. 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer:

    The Mitsubishi Lancer ES Sport starts at $16,540, and is offered with some sweet options. The $1,999 Accessory Navigation package gets you a 30GB hard-drive nav system, with some of the disk space reserved for ripping tunes to an integrated music server. A slightly less expensive tech option is the $1,750 Sun & Sound package, which includes a nine-speaker /650-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system with a 10-inch subwoofer; Sirius Satellite Radio with a six-month trial subscription; a sunroof; and Mitsubishi's Fast-Key keyless entry system.

  7. 2009 Nissan Versa

    7. 2009 Nissan Versa:

    Like the Honda Fit, the Nissan Versa is changing the way people view subcompacts — this Nissan is hardly a no-frills econo-mobile. The $16,100 top-of-the-line Versa 1.8 SL comes standard with an audio system that includes a six-disc CD changer and aux-in jack, power windows and door locks, cruise control and remote keyless entry. Adding the $650 Convenience package gets you Nissan's Intelligent Key keyless entry and pushbutton-start system, Bluetooth hands-free capability and steering wheel audio controls. A full-function iPod interface for the stock stereo (which includes a charging setup that lets you keep your iPod out of sight in the glovebox) will set you back another $270.

  8. 2009 Scion xB

    8. 2009 Scion xB:

    Scion can be largely credited with causing car buyers to expect more from entry-level vehicles. When the brand launched in 2003, amenities such as CD changers and subwoofers were added to appeal to the cars' Gen X demographic — features no one previously demanded on low-priced cars. After setting the standard, the Scion xB has remained both on the cutting edge and cost-conscious. Starting at $15,750, the 2009 Scion xB offers such standard tech features as cruise, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, iPod integration and a Pioneer six-speaker sound system with a customizable display and steering-wheel controls. You can also add dealer-installed options like Bluetooth, remote start and the SNS 100 navigation system.

  9. 2009 Suzuki SX4

    9. 2009 Suzuki SX4:

    Suzuki was able to get the Tripp navigation system in its SX4 Sport sedan and SX4 crossover the way many consumers get a nav in their own cars: by using a portable, in this case a Garmin unit that pops out of the top of the dash. The Tripp nav system can also receive real-time traffic info and provide gas prices, weather reports, movie times and more via MSN Direct. Bluetooth hands-free phone capability is also provided with the Technology package, as well as text messaging and a built-in digital music player. And unlike in-dash nav systems, you can take this one with you and even use it in a different vehicle.

  10. 2009 Toyota Corolla

    10. 2009 Toyota Corolla:

    No other car on this list has the extensive history and solid reputation of the Toyota Corolla; it's the type of reliable and economical vehicle that has helped build Toyota into an auto industry powerhouse. But today's version of the Corolla is a far cry from the bare-bones econoboxes of the past. The $16,420 1.8-liter Corolla S is available with a host of appealing options, including heated power side mirrors, a six-speaker audio system with six months of Sirius Satellite Radio, keyless entry and cruise.

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