Hot summer car deals

Big savings on Consumer Reports-recommended cars, SUVs & trucks

The countdown has begun to the traditional fall model-year changeover, bringing deep discounts on cars, SUVs, and trucks across the price spectrum. To steer you toward smart buys, analysts identified 10 Consumer Reports recommended models with potential savings of 14 percent to 22 percent off the sticker price.

Consumer Reports analyzed the latest nationwide offers on new vehicles and calculated the best deals after factoring in customer rebates, dealer incentives, and dealer holdbacks -- hidden incentives that the dealer receives from the manufacturer for each sale.

Consumer Reports then filtered the data against those models that have earned a CR recommendation, meaning they scored well in testing, have average or better reliability based on our latest survey, and performed well in government or insurance industry safety tests, if they've been evaluated.

Each vehicle highlighted here is a 2018 model, and they're ranked based on the percentage of potential savings off MSRP, starting at 22 percent for the Nissan Altima.

Below, we list the Bottom Line Price -- that’s the negotiation target and the best TrueCar price that a participating dealer will give through Consumer Reports’ Build & Buy program. The closer a shopper can get to that figure, the better the deal.  

Beyond these highlighted models, there are many others that can be had for well below the sticker price, including other trims of these vehicles. (See all current Best New Car Deals.)

When buying a car, in addition to research and reviews, Consumer Reports offers its members access to the Build & Buy Car Buying Service at no additional cost. Through this service, a nationwide network of about 15,000 participating dealers provide up-front pricing information and a certificate to receive guaranteed savings off MSRP (in most states) to customers.

The pricing information and guaranteed savings include eligible incentives. Consumer Reports members have saved an average of $2,853 off MSRP with the Build & Buy Car Buying Service.

2018 Nissan Altima: 22% off

This generic though roomy sedan uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that works well when driving around town but detracts from the driving experience under more demanding situations. In our tests, we got a decent 29 mpg overall with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and the 3.5-liter V6 returned 24 mpg overall. The handling feels mushy, with overly light steering. The ride is superficially soft, but over sharp bumps the suspension loses its absorbency. The controls are easy to use, but the infotainment system is fussy and limits phone interaction to voice commands. Blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems are available. For 2018, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking is standard.

2018 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
Incentives expire: July 31, 2018
MSRP: $26,795
Potential savings off MSRP: $5,762
Bottom line price: $21,033

2018 Kia Optima: 19% off

Kia's midsized sedan packs a lot of substance and value. It drives nicely, with a firm yet absorbent ride and responsive, secure handling. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is pleasant and returned 28 mpg overall in our tests; the uplevel 2.0-liter turbo-four packs more punch. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is also available. Both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions are available. The EX trim features comfortable leather seats, automatic climate control, a roomy rear seat, and heating for the seats and steering wheel. The controls are very intuitive to use, but the low-mounted dash vents tend to blow more air on your hands. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning are standard. But forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are optional and only on top trims.

2018 Kia Optima EX
Incentives expire: July 31, 2018
MSRP: $26,595
Potential savings off MSRP: $5,170
Bottom line price: $21,425

2018 Ram 1500: 18% off

This is the most comfortable-riding full-sized pickup on the market, yet the Ram is also plenty capable of grunt work. Its coil-spring rear suspension helps cushion the ride, and the spacious cab is luxury-car quiet. Our Big Horn Crew Cab, with its smooth 5.7-liter V8 engine, averaged 15 mpg. The base 3.6-liter V6 is no weakling, but it tows less. The 3.0-liter diesel V6 version is expensive but delivers effortless thrust and returns a class-leading 20 mpg overall. Rear-seat room is generous, and the Uconnect 8.4-inch touch-screen infotainment system is easy to use. The top trim Limited is lavishly furnished inside and benefits from air suspension that lends the Ram a comfortable ride. A redesigned Ram is now on sale.

2018 Ram 1500 Big Horn 4x4 Regular Cab
Incentives expire: July 31, 2018
MSRP: $37,540
Potential savings off MSRP: $6,594
Bottom line price: $30,946

2018 Hyundai Sonata: 17% off

This competitive sedan was freshened for 2018 and retains its excellent rear-seat room, a cabin that's easy to get into, and user-friendly controls. Its handling is taut and secure, but the ride is on the firm side and is no longer as comfortable as it used to be. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is coupled to a smooth six-speed automatic that returned 28 mpg overall in our tests. A more powerful 2.0-liter turbo mated to an eight-speed automatic is optional. The Eco uses a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder paired with a seven-speed automated manual. Outward visibility is a strong point. Blind-spot warning is standard, and forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are optional. Plug-in and hybrid versions are available; the latter returned an impressive 39 mpg overall in our tests. The generous interior helps make this a very pleasant sedan.

2018 Hyundai Sonata SE
Incentives expire:
July 31, 2018
MSRP: $22,935
Potential savings off MSRP: $3,909
Bottom line price: $19,026

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: 17% off

Hyundai's five-passenger midsized SUV received a number of updates, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning. It also improved from Marginal to Good in the IIHS small-overlap crash test. This roomy SUV has a comfortable ride and a quiet interior. Its power comes from a responsive 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a smooth six-speed automatic transmission. We got a decent 23 mpg overall with this drivetrain. A more powerful 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder is also available. Its handling is secure but not exceptional. The well-finished cabin is packed with a lot of standard features, but rear visibility is only so-so.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4L AWD
Incentives expire: July 31, 2018
MSRP: $27,480
Potential savings off MSRP: $4,676
Bottom line price: $22,804

2018 Ford Fusion: 16% off

The Fusion is a delight to drive, with a supple ride and nimble handling reminiscent of a European sports sedan. All trim levels and powertrains feel solid and upscale, with a well-finished and quiet cabin. We found the optional leather seats more supportive than the cloth ones, and the rear seat is somewhat snug. The 1.5- and 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engines are powerful enough, but neither has competitive fuel economy. A new high-end version, the Sport, is equipped with all-wheel drive and a 325-hp, 2.7-liter V6. It is quick, comfortable, and quiet, but it costs more than $40,000. The Hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid were updated with more efficient electric motors. A rotary shift dial and Ford's improved Sync 3 infotainment system highlight the interior updates.

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE
Incentives expire:
Oct. 1, 2018
MSRP: $27,235
Potential savings off MSRP: $4,449
Bottom line price: $22,786

2018 Hyundai Elantra: 16% off

The Elantra is relatively roomy, sparing with fuel, and features intuitive controls. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine returned an excellent 33 mpg overall in our tests but delivers leisurely acceleration and buzzes unpleasantly as revs increase. The Eco version feels more responsive but costs $3,000 more. Although its handling is secure, there isn't much driving excitement. The ride is mostly unobjectionable, but sharp bumps tend to come through noticeably. Road noise is elevated as well. Inside, the front seats in our tested SE were short on lumbar support, though the power seat in the Limited is better. Active safety features and a Sport version with a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder are available.

2018 Hyundai Elantra SEL 2.0L
Incentives expire: July 31, 2018
MSRP: $19,735
Potential savings off MSRP: $3,123
Bottom line price: $16,612

2018 Ford F-150: 15% off

Ford's popular pickup truck has an all-aluminum body, which saves about 700 pounds over its steel-bodied predecessor. Engine choices include a new 3.3-liter V6, 2.7- and 3.5-liter turbo V6s, and a 5.0-liter V8. For 2018, the 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter turbo V6s and the V8 are teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Both turbo V6s are quiet and effortless, lending themselves to towing. Fuel economy is commendable. In our tests, the 2.7 got 19 mpg overall. The 2.7 is also surprisingly quick from 0 to 60 mph. The cabin is very quiet, but the ride is stiff and jittery. Its handling is ponderous but secure. We recommend getting the optional Sync 3 infotainment system. The 2018 truck also gets pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control.

2018 Ford F-150 XLT 4WD SuperCab
Incentives expire:
Sept. 4, 2018
MSRP: $41,030
Potential savings off MSRP: $6,025
Bottom line price: $35,005

2018 Toyota Camry: 14% off

The redesigned Camry brings snazzier styling and slightly more nimble handling while retaining its comfortable, quiet demeanor. It stands as one of the best midsized sedans. Its lowered stance makes getting in a bit more difficult, and the rear seat has lost some roominess. The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine provides ample power and gets an impressive 32 mpg overall. A 3.5-liter V6 is also available. Both are paired to a new eight-speed automatic transmission that isn't supersmooth. A very frugal hybrid LE gets 47 mpg overall without any sacrifice in trunk space. The Entune infotainment system is capable but lacks Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatibility. Standard safety equipment includes forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, but blind-spot warning is optional.

2018 Toyota Camry LE
Incentives expire:
July 31, 2018
MSRP: $25,070
Potential savings off MSRP: $3,552
Bottom line price: $21,518

2018 Kia Soul: 14% off

There is more to the boxy Soul than quirky styling. It packs plenty of interior space, with chairlike seats and big windows providing an excellent view out. Though fundamentally a budget hatchback, the Soul can function as an SUV alternative. The driving experience isn't special: The ride is stiff, and its handling is sound but unexceptional. Power delivery from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine feels just adequate, and its 26 mpg overall is not outstanding. A more powerful 201-hp, 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder is available, as is a fully electric Soul. An extensive options list includes heated seats and touch-screen navigation. Available safety gear includes automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning, and lane-departure warning, but only on select trims.

2018 Kia Soul +
Incentives expire:
July 31, 2018
MSRP: $21,295
Potential savings off MSRP: $3,071
Bottom line price: $18,224

Click here to view the original article on