10 Cheapest High-Tech Cars To Make Commutes Less Stressful
Navigating high-traffic stop-and-go local roads or changing lanes on the highway can be pretty stressful, but fortunately, as we’re living in 2021, to-be car owners have an array of high-tech vehicles with various advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to make driving more bearable, even enjoyable and futuristic feeling in many cases. And what’s even better is now, these commuter-friendly techy features are increasingly common in more affordable vehicle models, many of which have recently become pretty much standard like adaptive cruise control and lane-centering steering.
In this car review article, we handpicked the 10 most reasonably priced sedans and SUVs with handy driver assistance systems that can make commuting safer and less stressful, all of which offer excellent value for money with satisfactory driving experience, ride quality, cabin comfort and fuel economy.
And since the world in general and the major car buying markets have been steadily moving towards larger SUVs and pickups, we’ll start the list with the most affordable techy SUVs, starting from models that offer the largest number of high-tech safety features as standard on the cheapest base model.
Most Affordable Techy Cars: SUVs
2021 Toyota C-HR
- FWD 5-seat subcompact SUV
- MSRP: LE $21,595; XLE $23,630, Nightshade $24,395, Limited $26,650
- Base trim’s standard features: adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering, road-sign assist
- New-for-2021 base trim standard features: forward collision warning, emergency steering assist, intersection warnings, daytime cyclist detection, low-light pedestrian detection, automatic high-beam headlights
- EPA: 29 MPG combined
- Engine: 144-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
Within the arena for affordable SUVs with high-tech safety features, Toyota definitely leads the pack with its 2021 C-HR, which is short for Coupe High-Rider. The name comes from the stylish design that is a cross between a coupe and an SUV, but this 5-seat subcompact SUV is more of a roomier four-door hatchback with the styling of a sporty two-door. It has a surprisingly spacious interior, including the cargo area. This, coupled with its surprisingly generous array of standard advanced driver-assist technology, makes for an excellent commuter vehicle.
This coupe-SUV crossover not only stands out for its aggressive exterior with fastback roofline and gaping lower grille, but also its features thanks to Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.5 suite that comes standard in the base LE trim. It includes lane-centering steering and adaptive cruise control that both work at highway speed down to a stop, plus road-sign assist.
If you’re looking for an SUV packed with the most used driver assisting feature at a bargain, the great news is the updated 2021 version of the base trim even adds on forward collision warning, emergency steering assist, intersection warnings, daytime cyclist detection, low-light pedestrian detection, automatic high-beam headlights. Moving up a trim level to the XLE and higher will add blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
2021 Nissan Rogue
- FWD 5-seat compact SUV (AWD available and dual-level cargo floor available)
- MSRP: Rouge S $25,850, Rouge SV $27,540, Rouge SL $32,200, Rouge Platinum $35,630
- Base trim’s standard features: lane departure warning, blind spot warning, pedestrian detection, reverse automatic emergency braking
- Standard features for SV trims and up: adaptive cruise control, hands-free lane-centering steering, rear cross-traffic alert, 360-degree camera system
- EPA: 30 MPG combined
- Engine: 181 horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, CVT automatic
Note that the Nissan Rouge is unrelated to the Rogue Sport, a separate model of SUV. The base model S offers lane departure warning, blind spot warning, pedestrian detection, and reverse automatic emergency braking. The redesigned 2021 Rogue adds much-needed driving refinement by way of the enhanced ProPilot Assist and Nissan Safety Shield 360. Both systems come as standard in the SV trim and higher trims.
For less than $30,000, the SV trim includes the features in the base model, plus adaptive cruise control, hands-free lane-centering steering, rear cross-traffic alert, and a 360-degree camera system for easier parking and maneuvering in tight spots.
With the SV trim and up, you can get a panoramic moonroof, tri-zone climate control, heated seats in both rows, power front seats, keyless access, hands-free power liftgate, and leather seats. Extra techy options include a $250 wireless phone charger for plug-free power and a Bose premium stereo.
2021 Subaru Crosstrek
- AWD 5-seat subcompact SUV
- MSRP: Base $22,245; Premium $23,295, ($27,690 with option package), new-for-2021 Sport $26,495, Limited $27,995
- Base trim’s standard features: adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering, lead-vehicle start alert, rear-seat reminder
- EPA: 25 MPG combined
- Engine: 152 horsepower, 2.0-liter or 182 horsepower, 2.5-liter
Subaru’s SUVs are particularly excellent for weekend camping trips, but this subcompact crossover is also ideal for the daily commute. One thing that makes it special is that the Crosstrek is a larger alternative to other competing entry-level subcompact SUVs.
An update for 2020 gave the Crosstrek a standard continuously variable automatic transmission. Standard safety features include advanced adaptive cruise control with lane centering steering, both down to a stop, as well as a lead-vehicle start alert and rear-seat reminder. However, the adaptive cruise control won’t automatically hold you at a stop for more than a few seconds before you have to step on the old-school mechanical handbrake, unlike most adaptive cruise control systems today which have electric parking brakes.
All CVT-equipped trims offer a rear-seat reminder feature as standard, which notifies the forgetful mom and dad if a child or pet is left in the backseat.
Upgrading from the Base to the Premium and adding on the $1,995 option package will gain you a power moonroof, blind spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert.
2021 Subaru Outback
- AWD 5-seat midsize crossover wagon with SUV-inspired styling
- MSRP: Base $26,795, Premium $29,045, Limited $33,595, Onyx Edition XT $35,145, Touring $37,495, Limited XT $37,995, Touring XT $39,945
- Base trim’s standard features: adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering, EyeSight Assist Monitor, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning
- EPA: 29 MPG combined
- Engine: 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter flat-four or 260-horsepower, turbo 2.4-liter flat-four
With more space than the Subaru Crosstrek, the 2021 Outback’s Base trim also boasts a healthy dose of standard safety and convenience features bundled in the automaker’s EyeSight suite. All trims come with standard adaptive cruise control with lane centering down to a stop, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and a standard EyeSight Assist Monitor, which projects warnings and system status onto the windshield for easier viewing.
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2021 Toyota RAV4
- FWD 5-seat SUV (New-for-2021 Prime plug-in hybrid model available)
- MSRP: LE $26,250 ($28,015 if adding blind spot warning system), XLE $27,545, XLE Premium $30,250; Adventure $33,355; Limited $34,780; TRD Offroad $35,980
- Base trim’s standard features: adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering, road-sign assist, rear child-safety lock
- Base trim’s options: blind spot warning system, rear cross traffic alert
- EPA: 28-30 MPG combined (Hybrid model 40 MPG combined)
- Engine: 203-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder (Hybrid model 219-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder)
Compared to the best selling Corolla or Prius and the CH-R above, the RAV4 offers more cabin and cargo space to fit all the gear for a weekend getaway or a childcare pickup. The base trim LE offers Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which comes with adaptive cruise control and lane-centering steering, both down to a stop, as well as road sign assist and rear child-safety lock, a handy feature for families with young kids.
The great news is, you won’t have to move up a trim level to add a blind spot warning system plus rear cross traffic alert, as they are bundled and offered as a standalone option for $590. Another standard feature on the XLE Premium and Limited trims is ABS And Driveline Traction Control.
Most Affordable Techy Cars: Passenger Cars
2021 Toyota Corolla
- FWD 5-seat sedan
- MSRP: L $20,025; LE $20,475; SE $20,715; XSE $23,665; XLE $24,425 ($27,135 with Connectivity Package); APEX SE $25,170; APEX XSE $28,310
- Standard features: adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering, road-sign assist, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking,
- EPA: 33 MPG combined
- Engine: 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
The best selling Corolla is Toyota’s cheapest car, yet you will be getting a lot of essential safety and convenience features as standard that make commuting bearable. The 2021 sedan comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite as standard across all trim levels. The suite includes two must-have features on models equipped with automatic transmissions: adaptive cruise control and lane-centering steering, both from highway speeds down to a stop, plus road-sign assist as well. Meanwhile, the SE and APEX SE offer manual transmissions without stop-and-go cruise control and lane centering.
Upgrading to the LE or XLE trims will add a blind spot warning system and a rear cross-traffic alert. These trims also offer an option for a connectivity package with multimedia upgrades like a premium stereo and wireless phone charging.
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2021 Toyota Prius
- FWD 5-seat hatchback (AWD available and prime plug-in hybrid version available)
- MSRP: Prius L Eco $25,520; Prius LE $26,730, LXE $28,575, 20th Anniversary Edition $29,875, Limited $32,650
- Standard features: adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering, road-sign assist, forward automatic braking
- EPA: 49-52 MPG combined (Eco model 56 MPG combined)
- Engine: 1.8-liter 4-cylinder
Jaw-dropping fuel efficiency, advancements in handling and interior quality are the main draws of the iconic Toyota Prius. The 2021 model added the option of AWD, and it remains one of the most fuel-efficient cars of its type, boasting an EPA rating of 52 MPG combined, 54 city and 50 highway (The Eco trim even tops it with 56 MPG combined, 58 city, 54 highway. Even better, it includes some handy techy features as standard to make long commutes more bearable.
Even the base L Eco trim offers lane-centering steering and adaptive cruise control, both from a stop up to highway speeds, forward automatic braking plus road-sign assist as part of the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of accident-avoidance tech. Moving up a trim to the Prius LE adds features like parking sensors with blind spot warning system, reverse automatic braking, and rear cross-traffic alert.
2021 Hyundai Elantra
- FWD 5-seat sedan
- MSRP: Elantra SEL: $21,905 ($22,855 with Convenience Package), Elantra Limited: $26,455
- Standard features: lane-centering steering, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning
- EPA: 37 MPG combined
- Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
The Elantra also has pretty decent gas mileage and just received tech upgrades for 2021, including dual-zone automatic climate control and keyless access with push-button start and additional new standard safety features as part of Hyundai’s SmartSense safety suite.
The Elantra’s SEL base trim has lane-centering steering that works down to a stop, blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning. This entry-level trim doesn’t include a standard adaptive cruise control down to a stop, but you can add this feature for an additional $950 convenience package, which also includes wireless phone charging. Other optional features include Highway Driving Assist, heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat with memory, and Bose premium audio.
On top of the base trim’s safety features, the Elantra’s Limited top trim level adds Highway Driving Assist, which can adjust speed for specific location and road, as well parking collision avoidance assist and a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen. Interestingly, the Limited trim doesn’t offer wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so you’ll have to bring a cable to connect your phone to the multimedia system.
2021 Hyundai Sonata
- FWD 5-seat mid-size sedan (Gas-electric hybrid version available with optional solar-charging roof)
- MSRP: Sonata SE $24,955; Sonata SEL $26,805 ($29,005 with Convenience Package), Sonata SEL Plus $28,300, Sonata Limited $33,950
- Standard features: adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering
- EPA: 32 MPG combined (hybrid version 52 MPG combined)
- Engine options: 191-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder or 180-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder or new-for-2021 290-hp, turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata is a sleek, tech-savvy sedan with many engine options to choose from, and the new-for-2021 turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine offers a decent 290 horsepower. Unlike the Hyundai Elantra, the 2021 Sonata’s base SE trim already comes with an adequate bundle of all the most heavily used safety features, that is adaptive cruise control and lane-centering steering, both of which work to a stop as standard.
Moving up to the SEL trim adds blind spot collision avoidance assist and rear cross-traffic collision alert, and you can add on top a convenience package for $2,200, which enables Hyundai’s digital key for access using a smartphone and wireless charging. Other available high-tech features for higher trims include a 360-degree camera system, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system, and Bose premium stereo.
2021 Subaru Legacy
- AWD 5-seat sedan
- MSRP: Legacy Base $23,820; Legacy Premium $26,070 ($28,665 with multimedia navigation package)
- Standard features: adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering
- EPA: 30 MPG combined
- Engine options: 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder (Limited XT and Touring XT turbocharged 260-horsepower, 2.4 liter 4-cylinder)
This sedan from Subaru comes with the EyeSight suite of standard driver-assist features, including adaptive cruise control with lane-centering steering in the base trim
The Legacy’s next trim up, called Premium, offers a $2,595 multimedia navigation package with blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and a larger 11.6-inch infotainment dual touchscreen. For another 259, you can add the optional wireless phone charging, bringing the Premium grand total to $28,924.
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Essential Hi-Tech Safety Features to Look For In a Car
Adaptive Cruise Control Down to a Stop
Adaptive cruise control is designed for long highway driving. It does this by controlling your vehicle’s speed and maintaining a safe preset distance from the car in front. Adaptive cruise control is available on most newer vehicle models as standard, or in rare instances as an option.
But note that not all such systems function at highway speed all the way down to a stop, and some do cut out below a minimum speed of 35 mph or so. Adaptive cruise control down to a stop is extra safe and handy, as it lets your vehicle brake in traffic down to a full stop, and usually these systems can hold you at a stand still until traffic resumes, but do double-check.
Lane Keeping Assist/Lane-Centering Steering
“Lane keeping assist” should not be confused with “lane departure warning”. Lane departure warning feature was introduced earlier and designed to keep the absent-minded or fatigued drivers from unintentionally leaving the lane. When the car is leaving its lane, there will be sound and/or visual alerts on the car’s side view mirrors to notify the driver.
Lane keeping assist is more advanced in the way that it doesn’t notify you when you are changing lanes intentionally, but you’ll only get notified while crossing lanes due to absentmindedness. The visual and/or audio signals only get activated if the vehicle is crossing over into another lane without the driver turning on the blinker.
Recent lane keeping assist systems these days are more advanced and can even self-correct the car’s steering to gently nudge the car back toward the centre of the lane. Most lane-centering systems now work from a stop up to highway speeds, though some systems work only within a certain speed range. A majority of this type of system will require you to keep your hands on the wheel, with only a handful of the latest cars now offer hands-free lane centering, but usually only available with premium trims.
All vehicles sold in the US market are required by law to have backup cameras. They operate like an extra pair of eyes that can look into a driver’s blind spots, thus are essential for backing into and out of a parking lot stress-free.
Backup cameras have evolved into the comprehensive 360-degree camera systems with superior visibility that will make navigating crowded parking lots daily a lot more manageable. Another nightmare of every driver, that is parallel parking, will be much more bearable too.
This technology can bear many names, like bird’s eye view, multi-angle view, or surround vision. The system, in a nutshell, employs several cameras, all displayed on a single dashboard screen, and allows the driver to have a 360-degree view of their surroundings.
Parking Assist, or Parking Guidance System
This feature bears various names, including parking guidance system, park assist, parking assistant, and active park assist, and it is useful in both reverse parking and parallel parking.
Park assist is an automated feature that uses computer processors, multiple sensors, plus camera-based solutions and other technologies to analyze the surroundings and accordingly direct the car to steer itself into a tight parking space with little input from the driver, usually with a push of a button at the right time.
The processor uses many special sensors to analyze the space and determine the steering angle, then displays this information on the touchscreen. As the vehicle shifts into reverse, the backup camera and the park assist function are engaged.
As for parallel parking, as the driver shifts into reverse and selects the parallel park button, the parking space will appear on the screen with a grid with lines and several adjustment arrows. You only need to adjust on the screen and once the alignment is ideal, all you need to do is press the OK button, let go of the steering wheel and press down on the brake pedals. As the car backs into the designated space, let go of the brake slowly.