Honda Accord

Base price: $21,995

The Accord might not offer the auto industry's most exciting look, but Clarke says the model's big windows make the Honda ( HMC) a great choice for shorter drivers.

"The whole greenhouse thing doesn't necessarily lend itself to a sexy-looking car, but it does create a highly functional one because you can see clearly out the windows," he says. "That's certainly true with the Accord."

The expert adds that the Accord also boasts a "super-roomy" cabin, good-quality finishes, quick acceleration and sharp handling.

The base Accord comes standard with a 185-horsepower four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission that produce a good 24 mpg/city and 34 mpg/highway or 27 mpg/city. (Automatics get 27 mpg/city and 36 mpg/highway.)

Environmentalists should also check out the plug-in hybrid Accord that Honda has already rolled out for 2014, or a traditional hybrid that's expected to reach showrooms shortly.

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