Best Labor Day deals on cars

2015 GMC Acadia

2015 GMC Acadia  (GMC)

As summer winds down and nation prepares for a long weekend to celebrate the American worker, the airwaves are thick with promotions for Labor Day deals on cars. Many seem too good to be true, promising low monthly payments, often offset by significant upfront costs on leases and long terms on loans. As smart shoppers know, the real savings start with choosing a good all-around car, then negotiating a great deal.

To size up the buying opportunities for these Labor Day deals, our analysts have studied recent nationwide transactions, then layered in current available incentives to predict the average savings for this holiday shopping weekend. This is labeled as "Market average." Among the many discounted models, we narrowed our focus to those that meet Consumer Reports’ stringent criteria to be recommended, meaning they scored well in our testing, have average or better reliability in our latest subscriber survey, and performed well in government or insurance-industry safety tests, if evaluated.

The transaction prices on average for these models is 9 percent below MSRP, saving about $2,700 or more. (Of course, some greater deals can be found on non-recommended vehicles, including full-sized pickup trucks.) For this grouping, we ranked the models based on predicted dollar savings, with the GMC Acadia example showing that buyers are expected to save $5,300 off MSRP on average. Typically, the best Labor Day deals are found on the largest, priciest vehicles and often those that are late in their model cycle or due for imminent replacement.

You'll find specific savings for each model, including other trim variations, on the Consumer Reports car model pages.

Each vehicle featured below in our roundup of Labor Day deals on cars is a 2015 model and made in America.

GMC Acadia

Though it's starting to feel a little dated, the Acadia is still competitive among three-row SUVs. Like its twins, the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave, it has a spacious and quiet interior, with a third-row seat that's roomy enough for adults. Seating for eight is available. Handling is relatively agile and secure, with responsive steering, and the ride is comfortable and steady. Its 3.6-liter V6 is smooth and refined, but it has to work hard and it gets mediocre gas mileage. Upgraded touch-screen infotainment systems bring more capability. Rear visibility isn't great. Denali versions have more features but no better functionality or performance.

Make & model MSRP Invoice Market average
GMC Acadia AWD SLT1 $43,745 $42,460 $38,450

Cadillac CTS

The CTS is a luxury sedan with agile handling and a firm, absorbent ride that crowns it as one of the sportiest cars in the class. But as satisfying as it is to drive, the CTS can also be frustrating. Much of the blame goes to the overly complex Cue infotainment-system. The cabin is super-luxurious, with impressive material quality. But rear-seat room is snug and the trunk is relatively small. Neither the four-cylinder turbo nor the 3.6-liter V6 is as refined as the best in class. The high-end Vsport version is better, with effortless thrust. And 2015 marks the return of the CTS-V, which gets its engine from the Corvette Z06.

Make & model MSRP Invoice Market average
Cadillac CTS Sedan 3.6L AWD Luxury $55,965 $53,766 $51,310

Kia Cadenza

The Cadenza is a competent and credible competitor among large sedans. There's a lot here for the money, including a luxurious and quiet interior, a roomy backseat, responsive handling, and a comfortable ride. The 293-hp, 3.3-liter V6 engine and standard six-speed automatic combine to make a slick powertrain that delivers a competitive 22-mpg overall. Controls are refreshingly easy to use. A host of electronic safety aids are available, but some of the most useful ones are bundled into expensive options packages.

Make & model MSRP Invoice Market average
Kia Cadenza Limited
$44,625 $41,718 $39,777

Buick Enclave

Even after six years on the market, the large Enclave remains a competitive three-row SUV. We liked its firm, comfortable, and quiet ride and its agile, secure handling. But like its corporate cousins, the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia, it's beginning to show its age. The 3.6-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic are smooth and powerful enough, but at times they work hard in this large SUV, and its 15-mpg overall is paltry. A big plus is the ability to fit adults in the roomy third row. Fit and finish is impressive, and advanced safety systems including forward-collision and lane-departure warning are available.

Make & model MSRP Invoice Market average
Buick Enclave Leather AWD $46,375 $45,012 $42,476

Chevrolet Traverse

Although it dates back to 2008, the large Traverse is among the most competitive three-row SUVs. We liked its firm, comfortable, and quiet ride, and its relatively agile, secure handling. But like its corporate cousins, the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, it's beginning to show its age. The 3.6-liter V6 and six-speed automatic powertrain is smooth and powerful enough, but it works hard in this large SUV, and its 16-mpg overall is uncompetitive. A big plus is the ability to fit adults in the roomy third row. Fit and finish has improved, and for 2015 forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems are available.

Make & model MSRP Invoice Market average
Chevrolet Traverse 1LT AWD $36,670 $35,596 $33,198

Chevrolet Malibu

More than a humdrum midsized sedan, the Malibu has a comfortable ride and a well-finished and exceptionally quiet interior that set it apart. Handling is sound, if a little soggy at its limits. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder with an unobtrusive start/stop system, paired with a six-speed automatic, is standard. The uplevel 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder delivers plentiful power and gets 24-mpg. Controls are straightforward to use. The wide, soft front seats lack support on long trips, and the backseat is cramped. But trunk room is sufficient, even in the hybrid. Changes for 2015 include a standard built-in Wi-Fi hot spot with three months of complimentary data. A redesigned version goes on sale in the fall.

Make & model MSRP Invoice Market average
Chevrolet Malibu 2LTZ $31,305 $30,238 $28,522

Kia Optima

The Kia version of the older Hyundai Sonata falls a bit short of its cousin in ride comfort, braking, and fuel economy. It handles well, but the ride is borderline stiff and road noise is noticeable. The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder performs well. Top-level trims get a turbo four-cylinder that's economical and powerful, yet it trails competitors' V6 engines in terms of refinement. A hybrid is also available, but we weren't impressed in our tests of the similar Sonata Hybrid. The front seats are comfortable, but the rear seat is low. Reliability has been average. A redesigned 2016 model, coming out late in 2015, is longer and wider, and will have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Optima will be among the first vehicles on the market to feature both of these systems.

Make & model MSRP Invoice Market average
Kia Optima SX $26,615 $25,199 $23,554

Ford Fusion

The Fusion is a delight to drive, with a supple ride and agile handling rivaling that of a European sports sedan. All trim levels and powertrains feel solid and upscale, with a quiet and well-finished cabin. But the rear seat is somewhat snug, and the MyFord Touch interface is an annoyance. Most Fusions get either a 1.5- or 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder matched with a six-speed automatic. The 1.5-liter does the job, but the 2.0-liter packs more punch and better suits the car. We recorded 24- and 22-mpg overall, respectively, which is among the lower performers in the category. The Hybrid turned in an excellent 39-mpg overall.

Make & model MSRP Invoice Market average
Ford Fusion Titanium AWD $33,115 $31,326 $29,721

Chevrolet Impala

One of our top-rated sedans, the Impala is roomy, comfortable, quiet, and enjoyable to drive. It even rides like a luxury sedan, feeling cushy and controlled. Engine choices include a punchy 3.6-liter V6 and an adequate 2.5-liter four-cylinder, both paired with a six-speed automatic. The V6 accelerates and brakes capably, with secure and responsive handling. The full-featured cabin stays very quiet, with a sumptuous backseat and a huge trunk. Controls are intuitive and easy to use, but rear visibility is restricted. Advanced electronic safety features are readily available.

Make & model MSRP Invoice Market average
Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ
$36,265 $35,025 $33,173

Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Hyundai's five-passenger midsized SUV is roomy and comfortable, with a good ride and quiet interior. Power comes from a responsive 190-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder mated to a smooth and responsive six-speed automatic. We got a very good 23-mpg overall with this drivetrain. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is also available. Handling is sound but not exceptional, and the steering feels numb. The well-finished cabin is packed with a lot of standard features. Thankfully, the price of the optional backup camera has come down, because rear visibility leaves a lot to be desired.

Make & model MSRP Invoice Market average
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T
$33,895 $32,501 $30,975

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