Here Are The Cars That Are Best As Their Base Models

Sometimes the best driving experiences are the simplest ones.

2013 BMW 2 Series
2013 BMW 2 Series
Image: BMW

One of the best cars at its most basic is the BMW 2-Series coupe, specifically a 228i with no options that BMW weirdly didn’t have a picture of. Outside of the M cars, It’s probably the last way to experience BMW as the ultimate driving machine. No tech, no variable steering, nothing. Just a small RWD coupe and manual transmission and head for the twisties.

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We asked readers which cars they thought were the best in their most basic trims. These were their responses.

C8 Chevy Corvette Stingray 1LT

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Image: Chevrolet

1LT C8 Corvette Stingray — the extra stuff in the higher trims is cool but man (if you can) bag one of these for $60,000 ... anything beyond the LT2 behind you is superfluous.

Suggested by: MaxLat

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Nissan 370Z

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Image: Nissan

370z base. It has the exact same motor, but you can spend a few thousand on better brakes and an LSD and still come out under the price of the Sport trim.

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Suggested by: Jason Celi (Facebook)

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Ford F-150 Lightning Pro

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Image: Ford

I know it’s not out yet but the Lightning Pro is shaping up to be one of the best base EV models for just under $40k.

230ish mile range, which could be more unloaded as it sounds Ford tested it with 1,000lbs in the bed.

Four doors and 4WD. The Pros are going to be a hot commodity imo.

Suggested by: Shift24

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VW Golf SportWagen

2019 VW Golf SportWagen
2019 VW Golf SportWagen
Image: Volkswagen

I’m going to make the case for my current vehicle, a Golf SportWagen and I’m sure some people will disagree with me.

I think it’s a car that’s a practical choice vehicle. You don’t buy it expecting sports car performance. You don’t buy it expecting luxury comforts. You buy it for what you are getting for the money, and you get a lot at the base price point. The base trim comes with things you don’t expect, like heated side mirrors and rain sensing wipers with heated wiper fluid jets.

The base doesn’t come with leather heated, all-power seats with several adjustments or a heated steering wheel. It doesn’t come with a huge infotainment screen or the or the emergency braking and sensor suites. That’s okay, because if that kind of thing was really important to you, you’re probably looking at bigger or more expensive vehicles anyway.

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Suggested by: Mehphisto

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Most Hondas

2018 Honda Civic Hatchback
2018 Honda Civic Hatchback
Image: Honda

Most Hondas are great as base models. The essential goodness is baked in; the rest is just trim and features. You can go get the most basic Honda of any given model and not feel like you sacrificed anything for performance or safety.

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Suggested by: Jared Kamen (Facebook)

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Every Full-Size Truck

2021 Ram 1500 Tradesman Ecodiesel
2021 Ram 1500 Tradesman Ecodiesel
Image: Stellantis

Every full size truck.

You can get all the functional options (engine/trans/wheelbase/towing/etc.) on the base model, so all those higher trims are doing is converting it into a luxury sedan and making it more likely to break.

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Suggested by: FrankenCamry

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Hyundai/Kia

2020 Hyundai Sonata SE
2020 Hyundai Sonata SE
Image: Hyundai

I would say in terms of features and amenities Hyundai/Kia base models came with more technology and features like a base Camry vs a base Sonata. The Sonata has more features same for Civic/Elantra/Corolla the Elantra had more features available in their base model.

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Suggested by: Christopher Shim (Facebook)

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Subaru Impreza

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Image: Subaru

Subaru Impreza.

The only trim offering a manual is the base model.

Transmission notwithstanding, the Impreza is an entry-level car, and higher trims have a disproportionate effect on the MSRP, quickly overlapping with higher market segments.

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Suggested by: smalleyxb122

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A Base Toyota Tacoma

2021 Toyota Tacoma SR
2021 Toyota Tacoma SR
Screenshot: Jalopnik/Toyota

It ain’t sexy and it sure ain’t fast, but some say ... the Toyota Tacoma 2.7L 4-cylinder is the most reliable engine ... in the world.

Only available in SR trim, RWD, and apparently at the moment only in white. Access cab and six-foot bed, what else do me and the mutt need for a weekend of camping or household chores?

(Automatic is mandatory, sadly.)

Suggested by: Daddio

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Mazda Miata

2021 Mazda Miata Sport
2021 Mazda Miata Sport
Image: Mazda

I don’t want to be that guy but Miata is a damn fine vehicle in its base model trim. The whole modus operandi of the vehicle is simple and light. Therefore the best version is going to be the simplest and lightest.

Therefore, the base line Miata is the most Miata Miata.

Suggested by: Death_To_Rev_Hang

DISCUSSION

By
put-some-turbo-on-meeeee

This is a lazy-ass list that amounts to ‘every car.’

Base model trucks are garbage. If you’re going to drop that kind of coin on a vehicle, at least get some luxury features. It’s basically free, because you’ll make the money back when selling. Only cheap-skates go for base model trucks, so expect a constant stream of low-ballers. Nicely optioned, or rare packages, tend to attract people willing to drop some dough.

A base model truck is like a base model Camaro.  Penny wise, pound foolish.

Base Hondas are meh, mainly because the cheap seats and fabric in the base models feel cheap.

Corvette is debatable. I agree, but the Z51 is going to be a must-have for people on the used market.

370z. The sport gets Rays wheels, brembos, and an LSD for like $2500. That’s a good deal. Lightweight wheels alone are going to run you $2k (I guess you could try to find them used).

Miata. I think the TORSEN LSD is worth the upgrade. But if you get an automatic (no LSD), then I’d agree.