The Strippers of 2012

Features such as air conditioning, power windows, locks, and mirrors were once considered luxury amenities; the idea of having a cool cabin with the windows rolled up came from the stories of tomorrow. But that was decades ago. Given how long these creature comforts have been around, one would think that most manufacturers have made such technological advances standard equipment across the board, but that's not the case quite yet.

One feature that carmakers can no longer charge extra for is stability control -- per U.S. law, it's standard as of the 2012 model year. But we were still surprised at the items left off some cars' standard-equipment lists. We looked at all of the non-commercial vehicles available to buy right now in the U.S. and found out that there are more than thirty cars that still don't offer air conditioning, power windows, power locks, or power mirrors as standard. But where's the fun if you don't have to crank your own window to keep from sweating in the summer?

Who is cutting back the creature comforts?

There are currently thirty-three models that you can buy from sixteen different brands that are missing at least one of those four amenities. Those brands are: Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ram, Smart, Suzuki, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

Of the sixteen, Nissan scrimps the most, with five models offering a stripper version: the Versa sedan, Sentra, Xterra, Frontier, and Titan. Toyota is running a close second with a total of four: the Yaris, the Camry, the Tacoma, and the FJ Cruiser. Tied for third place with three models each are Chevrolet (Sonic, Colorado, and Silverado), Ford (Fiesta, F-150, and Transit Connect), and Kia (Rio, Forte, and Soul).

Below are all thirty-three cars on our list, separated by class. For each car, we've indicated where the manufacturer is skimping (e.g., crank windows instead of power windows). Base prices include destination charges. Only three are missing the full quartet of creature comforts: the Jeep Wrangler, and the Nissan Frontier and Suzuki Equator pickup twins.

Work trucks are strippers...

It comes as little surprise that the base models of several pickup trucks are fairly well stripped. Most of the lower-level variants of pickups are aimed at - and even named for - those using their trucks less for people carrying and more for stuff carrying; these are work trucks, and heated leather seats might be nice but aren't needed to carry a load of drywall. It's no surprise then that GM's base trim pickups are designated "WT," for Work Truck.

  • Chevrolet Colorado - crank windows, manual mirrors; $18,285
  • Chevrolet Silverado - crank windows, manual mirrors; $23,190
  • Ford F-150 - crank windows, manual locks, manual mirrors; $23,795
  • GMC Canyon - crank windows, manual mirrors; $18,300
  • GMC Sierra - crank windows, manual mirrors; $23,190
  • Nissan Frontier - no a/c, crank windows, manual locks, manual mirrors; $19,565
  • Nissan Titan - crank windows, manual locks, manual mirrors; $29,155
  • Ram 1500 - crank windows, manual locks, manual mirrors; $22,815
  • Suzuki Equator - no a/c, crank windows, manual locks, manual mirrors; $20,114
  • Toyota Tacoma - crank windows, manual locks; $17,685

Though quite petite when compared to the pickup workhorses, the Ford Transit Connect comes with crank windows and manual locks as standard, for the same reason as the rest of the trucks. Its base price is $22,860.

...neither are subcompacts...

The subcompact segment in the U.S. has long been rife with penalty boxes and cars that have clearly been built to a certain -- very low -- price point. With the introduction of fun and frugal cars like the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic, and Hyundai Accent in the past few years, the idea that a cheap car means no frills is no longer the norm. Or is it? Seven subcompacts for sale today are missing at least one of the following: air conditioning or power windows, power locks, or power mirrors. When hunting in the depths of the bargain basement, buyers better be ready to make some concessions -- most notably, they better be ready to roll down their own windows.

  • Chevrolet Sonic - crank windows; $14,660
  • Ford Fiesta - crank windows; $13,995
  • Hyundai Accent - no a/c, crank windows, manual mirrors; $13,320
  • Kia Rio - crank windows, manual locks; $14,150
  • Nissan Versa - crank windows, manual locks, manual mirrors; $11,770
  • Smart ForTwo - no a/c, crank windows, manual mirrors; $13,240
  • Toyota Yaris - crank windows, manual mirrors; $14,875

Some of these subcompacts give up even more. Buyers of the base-level Nissan Versa 1.6S sedan don't get a tachometer. Luckily, the Versa comes standard with a continuously variable transmission, so there's no guessing about when to shift with a manual. The Smart ForTwo forgoes a radio as standard equipment as well as power steering, but does come in cheerful colors such as rally red and matte green.

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I once factory-ordered a new vehicle to get it with a manual transmission and without power windows, locks, or mirrors. I drove it for more than 200,000 miles, and when I finally sold it, EVERYTHING still worked. If you read about automobiles, you know that today it is not primarily mechanical failures that plague autos; it is electronic failures.
Why would anybody want or need power windows or doorlocks on a Jeep Wrangler. The thing is build to take the doors off. Unless you are talking about the new ones that really aren't Jeeps in my mind (4 doors and all that). I'd want the a/c but the rest of the stuff would be superfluous.
When I buy a car (never new and always small), I always look for a few things: manual windows, manual locks, and a manual transmission. More complex electrical items mean more to go wrong. How many window motors in electric windows go bad? How many older cars have you seen with the electric windows stuck up or down? What about older locking mechanisms that lock and unlock at will? I run cars to past 300,000 miles and appreciate simplicity. I will say that I like to have A/C . . . though it's not necessary. I much prefer to drive everywhere with the windows down. Air conditioning is great for getting rid of moisture (foggy windows) however.
The writer seems to have the opinion that it's a bad thing that all of these cars lack the features listed, but I think it's great that there are vehicles out there that aren't loaded with junk a person might not want or need. In a car as narrow as the Miata, what is the point of power locks? Just reach over and lift the button!

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