BOSTON (TheStreet) — If you love high-tech but have only a low budget for car buying, here's a look at five 2014 and '15 models that are perfect for you.
"These cars are all packed with the latest features and technology," says Zach Vlasuk of Kelley Blue Book, which recently named 2014's Tech-Savviest Cars Under $20,000.
Vlasuk says automakers are putting plenty of cutting-edge devices into even their entry-level models these days because technology has become so ubiquitous that consumers expect it in their cars. "Manufacturers who don't up their tech game will be digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole as time goes on," the expert says.
At the same time, he says, the rise of smartphones and tablets means companies can boost cars' capabilities inexpensively by tapping into devices that most consumers carry anyway. For instance, some low-cost vehicles don't have their own GPS systems but tie into those built into drivers' smart devices.
"A lot of people still think of nav systems as costing $1,000, but now you've got access to the best nav in your pocket, and it only costs the automaker around 60 bucks" for software that connects to it, Vlasuk says.
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Read on to check out the five sub-$20,000 models that Vlasuk and other KBB editors believe offer the best high-tech features as either standard equipment or relatively affordable options.
All dollar figures refer to Fair Purchase Price, KBB's calculation of what U.S. consumers are actually paying for given models based on recent sales.
Fifth-most-tech-savvy car under $20,000: 2014 Nissan Versa Note
Fair Purchase Price: $13,993
This budget hatchback has the lowest Fair Purchase Price of any vehicle on KBB's top-five list, which Vlasuk says leaves lots of room for adding some of the great optional tech features that Nissan offers on the subcompact.
"You can get a fully loaded Versa Note for thousands of dollars cheaper than what you'd pay for a larger car," he says.
KBB editors particularly like the Versa Note's optional Around View Monitor, which Vlasuk says is the only 360-degree-view camera available on a compact and subcompact.
Fourth-most-tech-savvy car under $20,000: 2014 Dodge Dart
Fair Purchase Price: $16,231
This compact sedan's tech abilities get KBB's thumbs up because of two great options.
First, a 7-inch liquid-crystal display can take the place of the Dart's traditional speedometer and other gauges while allowing drivers to choose what auxiliary information (outside temperature, miles to empty, etc.) will appear. Vlasuk says the Dart is the only compact or subcompact to offer such a feature.
KBB editors also like Dodge's well-regarded optional UConnect infotainment system, which features its own 8.4-inch touchscreen to control the car's audio and other devices. "UConnect is a very well-though-out system that minimizes driver distraction and doesn't require multiple inputs for a single command," Vlasuk says.