15 great cars that get overlooked

They may not be the sexiest rides on the street, but for value, reliability, and fun, these cars quietly blow the doors off the competition.

They've got great personalities
They've got great personalities
They don't get featured on the covers of car magazines or feted in Super Bowl commercials. At dealer lots, they get parked in the back while newer, glitzier models are showcased in the showroom. They won't get you many oohs and ahs from the car pool kids, or a thumbs-up from other drivers. Face it -- these are the wallflowers of the auto world.

But when it comes to value, you can't beat these cars. After you consider purchase price, operating costs (including depreciation and insurance), and resale value -- and then multiply by the fun-to-drive factor -- they're all aces.

A few generalizations: 1.) Asian makes beat domestic. Consumer Reports ranked 37 Asian cars among the best values in their class vs. just five American models -- two of them full-size pickups. 2.) Bigger is not better. Small and midsize cars and SUVs are much more likely to represent a good value than large and luxury sedans and SUVs because of lower purchase price and better mileage. 3.) Second-tier brands can outscore better-known ones. Kia, Subaru, Mazda, and Volkswagen combined placed more than twice as many cars on our list as General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler together.

This list, in no particular order, is based on analysis by Consumer Reports, and others including Edmunds.com, and leavened by my own personal experience. Herewith, some low-profile vehicles that score high in value:

By Alex Taylor III, senior editor-at-large @FortuneMagazine - Last updated February 02 2012: 11:41 AM ET
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