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.

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.

Compact cars can go either way

The compact car segment has gone upscale in the past couple years. Cars like the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, and Mazda 3 have added luxury equipment previously reserved for bigger cars. Cars in this class are creeping ever closer to the $30,000 mark and offering technology high-end luxury cars barely offered just ten years ago. Despite this upmarket trend, the compact class still ties pickup trucks for the largest number of offerings that lack air conditioning or power locks, mirrors, or windows. There are ten of them here. What gives?

One answer is the need to keep costs down on the price leader model. A price difference of just $500 can take a car in this class from one of the cheapest to one of the priciest (as what happened to the Volkswagen Jetta from 2011 to 2012). The compact cars on our list are:

The most interesting entry on this list is the Honda Civic. At $16,575, the base-level Civic DX comes in only two exterior colors (silver and blue), and air conditioning and power locks are not available. To add those creature comforts, buyers must step up to the Civic LX that costs $2050 more. However, Honda buyers have another option: forego the trunk and 23 hp and pick up a Honda Fit. The subcompact hatchback does not make our list (it has a/c and power windows, locks, and mirrors all as standard) and rings it at just $15,945 for a base model. Even with the seats up the Fit has almost double the cargo space as the Civic, despite its 15.7-inch shorter length.

Honda isn’t the only one looking to have the lowest-possible base price to advertise: Toyota is doing it too. While its Corolla compact sedan may have all four of the listed amenities as standard, its midsize best-selling Camry does not. Part of the reason Toyota can offer the Camry for the low starting price of $22,715 is due to the omission of power locks.

Pure-mission strippers

The remaining cars on our list have one thing in common: they are all fairly purpose-built, and they aim to provide some of the purest driving experiences in their segments. Mazda’s MX-5 Miata is the essence of a roadster and one of the most fun-to-drive cars on the road; so who cares that the $24,265 base model doesn’t come standard with power locks?

Similarly, the Jeep Wrangler is the ultimate off-roader. To traverse dunes and scramble over rocks, are air conditioning, power window, locks, or mirrors needed? We say no. In fact, the doors on the $22,945 Wrangler Sport can even come off. Talk about back to basics. The other two SUVs on this list are also hardcore off-roaders: the Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser. At $25,715 and $26,875, respectively, neither cars offer power mirrors.

The lack of power mirrors is actually the most surprising thing here: most people would expect crank windows to take the cake as the most common old-school amenity, but there are twenty-one different cars that come without power mirrors. However, the lack of power windows is a close second, with nineteen.
These stripper cars also span a fairly wide price range. The Nissan Titan is the most expensive, at almost $29,155; and at $11,770, the Nissan Versa is the cheapest.

Here is the full table of the 33 cars and which amenities their base models are lacking: