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5 Best Presidents Day Auto Deals Are in 'Midcycle' Models

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Last month's "Polar Vortex" sent auto sales plunging along with the mercury across much of America, but Edmunds.com predicts that automakers will offer plenty of hot deals this Presidents Day weekend to make up for lost ground.

"I think Presidents Day 2014 is going to be a good one [for car shoppers]," says market analyst Jeremy Acevedo of Edmunds, a top car-information site. "January wasn't the strongest of starts for manufacturers, so they're going to be looking for a rebound."

The expert says that should mean consumers will find lots of rebates and other special offers over the long weekend, which traditionally marks the beginning of the spring auto-buying season.

Acevedo says shoppers can expect the best deals on "midcycle" vehicles, or those in the middle of the roughly five-year period most cars go through in between complete redesigns.

"Cars [with the biggest incentives] are those that are often behind the curve for their segments," he says. "It doesn't necessarily mean that they're bad vehicles, just that they're a little bit further along in their life cycles."

Consider the Ram 1500 pickup truck, which hasn't seen a complete revamp since 2011. Chrysler is offering $1,500 cash back or low-interest loans on the vehicle in some markets to keep the truck competitive with the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which General Motors has just overhauled.

Read on to check out five models Acevedo expects will offer some of this Presidents Day weekend's best deals, listed in order of how much each carried in incentives during January relative to manufacturers' suggested retail price.

All price figures below reflect MSRPs for typically equipped versions of each vehicle, while discounts refer to the estimated value of all rebates, lease deals and special loans automakers offered on a given model last month.

That doesn't necessarily translate into what you can expect a dealer to knock off a car's price, as models don't always carry all incentives at once. For instance, a vehicle with $5,000 of incentives might only offer a $2,000 rebate, with the difference reflecting the automaker's costs for special leases or low-interest loans.

Lexus CT200h
Incentives as a percentage of MSRP:
19.63%

This luxury hybrid hatchback lists for $39,702 as typically equipped, but Toyota has added some $5,533 of incentives to the model.

Much of that reflects generous lease deals that the Japanese automaker is offering on the CT200h, which gets an impressive 43 mpg/city and 40 mpg/highway. For instance, well-qualified drivers can lease leftover 2013 models for a relatively modest $309 a month or less in many states -- with the first month's lease payment thrown in for free.

Toyota has knocked down the CT200h's lease price partly to attract less-well-heeled buyers to the entry-level vehicle, Acevedo says.

He adds that the CT200h has also faced weak demand due to a combination of moderate gas prices and the car's unusual mix of luxury trim, a rear hatch and a hybrid power plant. "The CT200h has its fans, but some consumers prefer a more-traditional car," the analyst says.

Ford Focus
Incentives as a percentage of MSRP:
19.29%

Ford is offering select Focus buyers in many locales their choice of $2,000 or more in rebates, zero-percent five-year financing or 1.9% six-year loans.

Acevedo calls the small Focus "a fantastic car," but says the competing Toyota Corolla and Civic from Honda have undergone major redesigns since Ford last reworked the Focus two years ago.

"There's a new Corolla and a new-ish Civic out there, so Ford is trying to maintain Focus sales and make sure the car stays on compact-car buyers' short lists," he says.

A typically equipped Focus lists for $20,212, but Acevedo says Ford put $3,043 of incentives on the model during January even though the vehicle boasts good looks, impressive performance and solid fuel efficiency.

The Focus features a 160-horsepower four-cylinder engine rated at a respectable 27 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg/highway when outfitted with automatic transmission. For those who want even better fuel efficiency, Ford also offers a "Super Fuel Economy" Focus and a rechargeable electric version.

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