The auto industry may be in a tizzy, but that doesn't mean you can't get a great deal on a new vehicle. And who doesn't love a little holiday cheer in the form of a four-wheel gift? Here are 2008's best cars, trucks, minivans, SUVs and hybrids.
Best Green Car: Toyota Prius
The hybrid Prius is still the best such car out there, despite the introduction of several new hybrid models this year. Why? It's all about the numbers: the Prius' 44 mpg overall is still the best of any five-passenger car. Add reliability, versatility and a $24,000 price tag, and we'd go green, too.
Year after year, the Elantra makes its $18,000 price tag a better bang for the buck. This year, like always, that means good fuel economy, a comfortable ride and a well-equipped, roomy interior. With electronic stability control standard, it's not scrimping on safety, either.
2008's redesign of this perennial favorite means the Accord is even more well-rounded, with plenty of room on the inside and agile steering and smooth powertrain under the hood. Electronic stability control is standard regardless of what model Accord you choose, and it performs admirably in crash-test ratings, too. The Accord starts at $22,000.
The G35 was one of the first true vehicles to blend sportiness and luxury with such a refined demeanor behind the wheel. Available in rear- or all-wheel drive, it's got a lot of moxie under the hood, is more agile than readily apparent, and has an interior that's as smooth as butter. Its successor, the G37, starts at $33,000.
With balanced handling, crisp steering and a smooth six-speed manual transmission, this Miata easily steps out of the shadow of its counterpart in turn-of-the-millenium comedy classic Corky Romano. In all seriousness, though, this Miata can keep a Porsche Boxster on edge, but at roughly half the price, starting at $27,000. Plus, there's the manual drop-top, easily manipulated with one hand from the driver's seat.
The M3 is always a favorite of the sporty, refined crowd; think James Bond on a budget, with a Bavarian accent. Really, though, this car is the original iron fist in a velvet glove, with power under the hood and a drivetrain to make it worth your while.
The diminutive RAV4 has got a lot going for it: It's comfortable and roomy. Who knew? If you spring for the V6, you'll get Mazda Miata-like acceleration at the expense of a solid 22 mpg (the inline 4 will get you 23 mpg). The RAV4 starts at $23,000.
The Santa Fe has had a rough history, but after several redesigns, including the last in 2007, its improvements put it at the top of the pile. Inside, it's quiet and roomy; under the hood, it's smooth and strong. The added benefit of electronic stability control doesn't hurt, either. The Santa Fe starts at $22,000.
Quiet, spacious, and a nice interior that can take some pounding. Sound like the perfect minivan? We think so, too. Thankfully, its strong, fuel-sipping V6 engine seals the deal...and the all-wheel drive option is icing on the cake. The Sienna starts at $24,000.
Best Pickup Truck: Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab
Don't mess with this Silverado. Actually, pickups aren't the clunky workers that they used to be, and this truck no slouch, either, striking a nice balance between work and play: a solid payload rating, comfortable ride, quality interior, solid steering and, best of all, it's easy to get into. The Silverado comes with electronic stability control on all crew-cab models, and starts at $27,000 (GMC lovers, the Sierra shares underpinnings with the Silverado.)