High-end luxury cars are over-represented as usual in this month’s list of 10 Best Lease Deals for four-door sedans, led by a real unicorn, the Polestar 2 electric vehicle.
If the name is unfamiliar, Polestar is a sub-brand that belongs to Sweden’s Volvo Cars and its China-based parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, or Geely for short. Its ambition is for Polestar to be regarded like Mercedes-Benz’s AMG or the high-performance BMW M sub-brand.
But consumers lease plenty of bread-and-butter, mass-market cars like the Honda Civic Sedan and the Toyota Corolla, too. As a result, they are also among the 10 Best Lease Deals for Sedans in July, as chosen by Market Scan.
Interest in sedans has picked up a bit in recent months, in large part because supplies are critically short of in-demand pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers. In turn, that’s because of an ongoing shortage of computer chips used to manufacture both cars and trucks.
“The gain in car sales is due, at least in part, to the fact that the availability of anything else is limited,” said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist for Cox Automotive, in a recent webinar.
At least until the chip shortage is resolved, maybe by the middle of next year, that’s probably going to work in favor of import brands, which have a much higher share of cars in their lineups.
The domestic brands from Ford, GM, and Stellantis, are more truck-heavy. The imports are doubling down and putting money into lease deals on cars–in industry-speak, cars here means sedans–as shown in the following 10 Best Lease Deals for four-door sedans. They’re ranked in order of best deal based on the lease price relative to the selling price.
Best Lease Deals for Sedans
1. 2021 Polestar 2
- $61,200 average suggested retail
- $633.78 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
That monthly payment isn’t bad, considering the $61K sticker price (see next entry, the 2020 Jaguar XF). The 2021 Polestar 2 is an EV from Volvo’s sporty Polestar sub-brand, analogous to Mercedes-Benz’s AMG or BMW’s M sub-brand. The electric powertrain and the upscale branding up the cool factor. The 2021 Polestar 2 shares Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture with Volvo XC40 and the Volvo XC40 Recharge EV. Volvo Cars says half of its global volume will be EVs by 2025, and the rest gasoline-electric hybrids. Click here to read our review of the Polestar 2.
- It’s a rarity. Sales in the first half of 2021 were just 259 units, including only 47 in the month of June, according to Motor Intelligence. Chances are, you’re not going to see yourself coming and going. U.S. sales began in August 2020.
- Tax breaks. Volvo Cars says the 2021 Polestar 2 qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax break, plus another $2,000 in certain states. Plus 30% up to $1,000 of the cost of buying and installing a home charger. See our review, Best Home EV Chargers For 2021.
- Giddyap. Two electric motors generate a total of 408 horsepower and 487 ft-lbs. of torque, the twisting power responsible for launching a car from a standing start.
- It’s pretty pricey–for a Volvo. Up to $9,500 in federal and state tax breaks certainly help in that regard. On top of Volvo’s traditional safety image, the brand has tried for decades to get on the same shopping list as German luxury brands. That’s part of the rationale for the Polestar sub-brand. Whether it’s succeeding is still a work in progress.
- Styling. It looks like a terrific Volvo sedan; nobody would call it boxy. But it’s recognizably a Volvo, cool sub-brand notwithstanding. Its appearance also doesn’t hit you over the head that it’s an EV, and some people want their cool, electric car to do just that.
2. 2020 Jaguar XF
- $62,110 average suggested retail
- $646.19 average best monthly lease payment (non-captive)
Why We Picked It
The 2020 Jaguar XF is great-looking, and the monthly lease payment is what one could expect for a car that costs more than $62,000 with options, taxes and fees. It could be that there are still some 2020s around because the 2020 Jaguar XF missed out on a repositioning for the 2021 model year, including a new, lower-priced entry-level trim and equipment package. Click here to read our review of the Jaguar XF.
- Warranty. Jaguar EliteCare warranty is 5 years, 60,000 miles, with scheduled maintenance included.
- Exclusivity. Year to date through June, Jaguar sold just 638 Jaguar XFs in the U.S. market, vs. more than 13,000 each for the Mercedes-Benz E Class or the BMW 5-Series, according to Motor Intelligence.
- Exterior styling
- Besides the lower-priced, entry-level model, the 2020 model missed out on some other improvements for 2021, like a new infotainment system and “over-the-air” software updates that don’t require a trip to the dealership.
- Some reviewers considered the turbodiesel engine option in the 2020 Jaguar XF underpowered. Jaguar dropped the diesel for 2021.
- Reliability. Jaguar ranks 30th of 33 brands on the 2021 J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey. But then if something goes wrong, it’s covered by EliteCare, not you.
3. 2021 Acura TLX
- $46,275 average suggested retail
- $495.56 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
Acura is also promoting and marketing the rest of its TLX lineup as it rolls out the 2021 TLX Type S, a new, more powerful, and more expensive variant that began hitting showrooms last month. Acura has been promoting the Type S since late last year, and it’s probably going to generate some shopping now that it’s landed. But since the Type S starts at $53,325 suggested retail, some shoppers may consider other TLX models—the ones with the good lease deals. That Type S sticker price includes a $1,025 destination charge but does not include tax, license, registration and options. Click here to read our report on the Acura TLX.
- It’s new. The 2021 Acura TLX is a redesigned model that was just launched last fall.
- Safety. It’s the first model in the Honda-Acura lineup to get a new, passenger-side airbag designed to mitigate potential brain injury in front-end, angled collisions. It uses three inflated chambers designed to “catch” the occupant’s head, like a catcher’s mitt.
- Value for the money. According to Acura, the 2021 TLX is the most affordable and the most powerful model in a competitive set that includes the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. (The affordability claim compares models equipped with optional all-wheel drive.)
- Like Volvo, Acura has a chip on its shoulder, desiring to prove it belongs in the same consideration set as the German luxury brands.
- Exterior styling. It’s a matter of personal taste. To some, the exterior styling is “dramatic,” to others, it’s “busy” especially at the front end. Acura has been through a lot of front ends in the last decade.
4. 2021 Honda Civic Sedan
- $25,515 average suggested retail
- $274.39 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
The 2021 Honda Civic Sedan is a perfectly desirable, reliable, but lame-duck model that’s being replaced by an all-new, redesigned 2022 Honda Civic Sedan beginning last month. So while the 2021s last, now’s the time to get a good deal. Note: Down the list, Market Scan also included the new, 2022 Honda Civic Sedan as one of its Best Lease Deals for the month: $25,515 average suggested retail; $286.32 average best monthly lease payment (non-captive). Click here to read our review of the 10th generation (2016-2021) Honda Civic Sedan and our first drive review of the enhanced 2022 Civic that is not covered by this special lease deal.
- Affordable. Passenger cars in the low- to mid-$20,000s range are getting scarce, as automakers switch to selling bigger and more profitable trucks and crossovers. And that monthly payment is a bargain.
- Safety. All Honda Civic sedans get the so-called Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assist technologies. Those include Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking System, with Forward Collision Warning, plus Lane Keeping Assist System and more. Blind Spot Warning is not in Honda Sensing, but is standard on higher trim lines.
- Tried and true. IHS Markit said in 2020 that the Honda Civic had the highest repurchase loyalty in the car segment.
- The 2021 model misses out on changes for the redesigned 2022 model, which include upscale, high performance Si and Type-R variants.
- The styling last got facelifted in 2018, and it’s getting a little dated.
- Most Hondas don’t come with a radio tuning knob, just a volume knob.
5. 2021 Audi A6
- $61,707.50 average suggested retail
- $669.89 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
The bigger Audi sedans, like the 2021 Audi A6, are fun to drive – maybe more fun to drive than they appear – comfortable, and attractive. Captive finance company VW Credit (VW is Audi’s parent) is also known in the industry for its lease deals. For a car over $60,000, like the this one, the Jaguar XF, and the Polestar 2, the going rate for a monthly lease payment is above $600. Click here to read our review of the 2020 Audi A6, effectively similar to the 2021 model, and our overview of the current generation A6.
- Power. The A6 is powered by a 248-horsepower, 2.0 liter turbo four, or an optional, 335-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbo V-6. Either one can prompt a smile. A discreet smile.
- Bargaining power. Analysts expect a facelifted A6 for the 2022 model year, so while they last, it’s time to make a deal on the 2021 model.
- Audi Quattro all-wheel drive is standard
- 2021 buyers miss out on new functions that come with the 2022 model, likely to include enhanced driver-assist features and some styling tweaks.
- Other than a big grille with a big Audi logo up front, the styling is relatively low-profile, which is fine with many people, but not for everybody. If you want in-your-face bigger-than-Audi grilles, that is possible, too, starting with Lexus.
6. 2021 Infiniti Q50
- $47,975 average suggested retail
- $522.50 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
Infiniti added the “Sensory” trim and equipment level to the Infiniti Q50 for the 2021 model year last fall. From least expensive to most expensive, the packages are Pure, Luxe, Sensory, and Red Sport 400. That last one gets a 400-horsepower, twin-turbo V-6. The others get a 300-horsepower version of the same engine. Features for “Sensory” include sportier front and rear exterior styling. Market Scan listed the 2020 Infiniti Q50 among its Best Lease Deals last month, but it’s not on the list this month, so maybe they’re getting scarce.
- Safety. For the 2021 model year, Infiniti made standard driver assist technologies that were previously from the Luxe grade and higher, like Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning and more. As they should be.
- Posh interiors, although many features are optional, or limited to this or that package.
- Wide range of choices. Not counting tax, title, license and options, but including $1,025 destination charge, suggested retail ranges from $37,625 for Pure, to $58,775 for Red Sport 400 with all-wheel drive.
- Pricey in the higher trims (model variants).
- Some reviewers criticize the ride and handling for being too stiff.
7. 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
- $31,958.33 average suggested retail
- $350.18 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
It’s a hit. Sales of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid were 7,696 in the first half of 2021, vs. 495 a year earlier, according to Motor Intelligence. Hyundai introduced a redesigned Hyundai Sonata for the 2020 model year, and it’s essentially unchanged for the 2021 model year. Last month, Market Scan’s list of Best Lease Deals also included the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, but not this month. It would be good news for Hyundai if they have sold down the 2020 models. Click here to read our review of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.
- Since it has its own gasoline engine, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid gets up 686 miles of range from gasoline and battery power, for an EPA-estimated 52 mpg combined city-highway fuel economy.
- Hyundai Digital Key, which works through an app on your smartphone. It allows secure sharing of virtual keys with family and friends, or valet drivers, and can be tailored for different drivers. For example, the phone can alert the owner if an inexperienced teenaged driver leaves a “geofenced” area where they have permission to operate. Lose the key, a replacement is about $20, not $250.
- Hyundai’s SmartSense advanced driver assistance systems include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, and Advanced Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go. Upper trim lines have highway self-driving although as with other brands, the driver must keeps lightly on the wheel.
- Some reviewers say the ride and handling experience is ho-hum, although they give high marks for the level or features for the money, a key part of the brand’s appeal.
- Front-drive only, no all-wheel drive option
8. 2021 Audi A8
- $94,811.67 average suggested retail
- $1,037.26 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It
The Audi A8 isn’t cheap. What Market Scan considers a Best Lease Deal is more than $1,000 per month, but that’s in proportion for a car nearing $100,000 suggested retail, with optional equipment, taxes and fees. It’s big and roomy, even in the back seat. In the “L” for long-wheelbase form, you’re tempted to play half-court basketball. Click here to read our overview of the Audi A8.
- The 2021 Audi A8 lineup has more standard equipment than the 2020 model. Starting suggested retail increased to $86,500, from $85,200 for the 2020. Those numbers don’t include $975 delivery, taxes, title, options, and dealer fees.
- Added features include 22-way ventilated front seats, plus a top-view camera system that provides a Virtual 360 view of the car’s immediate surroundings, in tight quarters.
- Engines. The base engine is a 335-horsepower 6-cylinder; the upgrade is a 453-horsepower V-8. There’s also a “mild” hybrid 6-cylinder paired with an electric motor that produces 443 horsepower.
- At close to $95,000, that’s pricey, even for an all-in price.
- If Audi’s image is stealthy, the Audi A8 is the stealthiest. Until you step on the gas.
9. 2021 Audi A7
- $76,455 average suggested retail
- $874.04 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
Automakers avoid the term “hatchback,” especially in the U.S. market. It’s OK for SUVs and crossover, but the hatchback body style has fallen out of favor for passenger cars. That makes the Audi A7 a “five-door,” that is, a hatchback. Even more improbably, it’s a four-door sedan with lines like a sexy, two-door coupe. Despite the word games, the A7 has an appealing shape. The downside is in the tight rear seat, in terms of head room and shoulder room. Click here to read our review of the (highly rated) Audi A7.
- Engine. The standard engine is a 3.0-liter, turbocharged, 335-horsepower V-6. (There’s also a plug-in hybrid version with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo, with an electric motor. Together they produce 362 horsepower.)
- Versatility. Despite the luxury sedan setup, with the rear seats folded down, you could easily lift the hatch and fit a bicycle in the back, with room left over for gear, and still close the hatch.
- Audi Quattro all-wheel drive standard
- Sloping roofline means less headroom in the rear. The middle position, in particular, is a non-starter for many adults.
- One of the lowest-selling of the large luxury European sedans/hatchbacks. Which makes it an exclusive model.
10. 2021 Toyota Corolla
- $24,629.09 average suggested retail
- $284.10 average best monthly lease payment (captive)
Why We Picked It:
The Toyota Corolla nameplate is now in its 12th product generation. While domestic manufacturers Ford, GM and Stellantis have largely abandoned passenger cars in favor of trucks, Toyota and other Asian-import brands are sticking with passenger cars. “We are still seeing a significant amount of buyers here,” said Jack Hollis, senior vice president, automotive operations Toyota Motor North America Inc., in a phone interview. The Corolla was all-new in 2019 for the 2020 model year. Click here to read our review of the Toyota Corolla.
- Affordable. As noted, there aren’t many cars – or trucks or crossovers – on the U.S. market any more in the mid-$20,000 range suggested retail.
- Warranty. ToyotaCare covers scheduled maintenance for 2 years, 25,000 miles.
- Safety. Standard safety features include Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Automatic High Beams, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and more.
- It’s pretty small, obviously, but the back seat in the sedan isn’t bad compared with many competitors.
- Econoboxes have styling, safety, standard convenience features, quality, and durability undreamed-of 30 years ago. But okay, it’s kind of an econobox.
Methodology: Best Lease Deals on Sedans for July 2021
Market Scan Information Systems Inc., Camarillo, Calif., identifies Best Lease Deals based on constantly scanning actual offers in the market, and comparing the best average monthly lease payment it can find, vs. an average suggested retail price for that model. Market Scan’s monthly payment is all-inclusive, including options, taxes and dealer fees. Therefore, it may not be as low as special lease deals advertised on dealer and manufacturer web sites, which typically don’t include taxes or fees, and may be for a stripped-down model that lacks popular options. All of those factors would serve to raise the real-world monthly payment. Market Scan also assumes: a 36-month lease term; a customer cash contribution of 5% of suggested retail; and a prime-rated credit score of 720. Deals may vary by region, and subject to change without notice. Market Scan doesn’t disclose which lender is making the offer, but it does say whether it’s the lender’s “captive” finance company.
I’m reading that sedans are making a comeback. If so, should I hang onto my Members Only jacket?
In June, trucks accounted for 75.7% of U.S. auto sales, down from 76.8% a year ago. That’s a lower number, but the consumer preference is still overwhelmingly towards trucks, and that’s a very long-term trend. In addition, some analysts feel at least some of the reversal is because some shoppers who intended to buy a truck couldn’t find their first choice in stock, because of the computer chip shortage, and settled for a car.
How is $600-plus per month a good deal?
For a car that costs more than $60,000, it’s a more-than-acceptable deal, unless you’re determined to own the vehicle outright. If you think about it, a 0% loan for 36 months, the length of the average loan, would cost you $1,666 per month on a $60,000 car. Even on a 72-month loan it would still be $833 per month. In leasing, the customer only finances the difference between the upfront cost and the estimated value at the end of the lease, the residual value.
How come leases always seem to be 36 months? Wouldn’t it be cheaper for the customer, if leases were longer?
Part of the reason leases are 36 months and no longer, is because the automakers and their captive finance companies, which dominate leasing, aren’t comfortable forecasting resale values beyond 36 months. It’s also because 36-month-old used cars are considered highly desirable as used cars. That’s important because if lenders get the residual value wrong and off-lease vehicles are worth substantially less than they expected, that costs them a lot of money when off-lease vehicles are sold at auction.
What about 24-month leases?
You sometimes see 24-month leases, or odd numbers like 38 months. That could be because an automaker knows they have a brand-new model coming out in 24 months, and they don’t want people to buy something else in the meantime. Or in the case of 38 months, they could be trying to stagger off-lease returns, so too many used vehicles don’t hit the auctions at the same time.