From Coupes to Wagons, Some Cars Less Than $50,000 Have an Extra-Large Sunroof
A panoramic sunroof is a larger-than-average sunroof able to open and let in light and some fresh air. Nomenclature varies, but sunroof, moonroof, and “Vista” roof are all talking about the same thing. The number of vehicles available with these plus-size, glass-covered holes easily approaches 100 models, so we narrowed the field with some criteria: less than $50,000 U.S. (MSRP including destination + cost of sunroof if not standard), model year 2015, and a panoramic sunroof either standard or optional on any trim level. You won’t see the beloved Nissan Pathfinder or a few other favorites on this list; the cheapest trim levels of many models come with limited options. First up: our lowest MSRP — but not the cheapest way to get a panoramic sunroof.
The Hyundai Veloster is a funky three-door hatchback that will have you rowing your own gears while enjoying some impressive fuel economy. The two-piece panoramic sunroof comes with the Style package, adding $2,100 to the $18,825 MSRP but including a 7-inch touchscreen, leather accents, a 450-watt stereo, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Generously equipped, the Hyundai Veloster is almost the cheapest way to get more light into your compact car, but the crown goes to the least funky member of a funky brand.
The Scion tC, perhaps the least controversially styled Scion model, takes the crown as the most inexpensive way to get a panoramic sunroof on your ride. The tC will make you shift your own gears and isn’t quite as generously optioned as the Veloster, but that sunroof is standard, so with an MSRP of $19,980, you save $945 dollars over the Hyundai. Next up: another two-door that’s one of the more fun cars to drive with a manual.
Mini Cooper Hardtop 2-door
The Mini Cooper Hardtop (this is the traditional Mini Cooper that comes to mind) comes with a six-speed manual, lots of style, and an MSRP of $21,550; the panoramic sunroof is a $1,000 option. Driving enjoyment is subjective, but the Mini Cooper has long been regarded as a leader in this category. If you like the cute styling, fun driving dynamics, and the extra light of a panoramic sunroof but think two doors are a little impractical, read on.
Mini Cooper Hardtop 4-door
We could say many of the same things about the new four-door Hardtop that we said about the two-door. An MSRP of $22,550 plus your $1,000 panoramic sunroof gets you two extra doors, of course, but compromises none of the things we love about the regular Mini Cooper. Need a bit more versatility but you’re a fan of the Mini look? Our next entry has you covered.
Mini Cooper Countryman
The Mini Cooper Countryman is called a “compact crossover,” but the important part is that this Mini is a bit more of everything that makes the Hardtop: more passenger space, more ride height, and more “Mini.” The Countryman sports a six-speed manual, $1,000 XL moonroof, and an MSRP of $23,600. Prefer your Crossover with more utility? Hyundai’s second entry might do the trick.
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is a two-row crossover that fits our medium-size SUV stereotype, with some kind of towing capacity, seating for five, room for everyone’s stuff, and a commanding view of the road.
What does the entry-level Audi A3 have in common with the Scion tC? A standard panoramic sunroof. Despite the $30,795 MSRP, the A3 is all Audi, with high-quality interior materials, handsome styling, a capable standard turbocharged engine, and a standard dual-clutch automatic. If you want German luxury and refinement, not to mention a big piece of glass overhead, the Audi A3 packs the most value; you don’t even have to feel like a cheapskate. Need to transport a lot of people? Keep reading.
Hyundai Santa Fe
The Hyundai Santa Fe (not to be confused with the two-row Santa Fe Sport) adds a third row, more towing capacity, about 4 inches to the wheelbase, and nearly 10 inches to the overall length. Like the Santa Fe Sport, the bigger crossover has a reasonable MSRP of $31,045 but the panoramic sunroof is buried in a set of options packages. The Ultimate package at $3,800 requires the selection of the Premium package for $3,750, for a total of $7,550. At $38,595 the Santa Fe is a supremely well-equipped crossover, but the price certainly does go for a walk. The next competitor comes in for much less and has gobs more style.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is a coupe-like sedan with a sloping roofline that mimics the sultry CLS. Not only is it better looking than the Santa Fe, but the $1,480 panoramic sunroof is also a standalone feature, only slightly raising the $32,425 MSRP. The CLA-Class clocks in about $2,000 more than the Audi A3, making it a reasonable option for those wanting entry-level luxury with a little more exterior character. Speaking of character, the next offering has a reputation that precedes it.
The Chrysler 300 has a larger than life reputation. Chances are you’ve seen one with questionable modifications and several thousand watts of all-bass music. (Oh, that’s just in L.A.?) The dual-pane panoramic sunroof is a $1,795 option on the Limited and 300S but is included as standard equipment on the 300C and 300C Platinum. At $32,565, the latest iteration of the big sedan isn’t much more than the entry-level compact German sedans but features rear-wheel drive, a sufficiently powerful V-6, and a high-quality interior (much better than years past). Like American-made but need more room? Read on.
Our second three-row crossover, the Ford Flex, is available with a veritable cornucopia of features and options (such as a drink-chiller armrest) but a four-panel vista roof is available on any trim level, including the $32,995 base model. The panel over the first row is powered and can open/vent. Second-row passengers get two smaller panels, and even the third row gets a view of the outside world. The vista roof is a $1,595 option and is one of the coolest offerings in the segment. The “way back” seats just got a little bit better.
The Audi Q3 is a compact crossover new to the U.S. market this year, but it was introduced several years ago in Europe. Like the better-than-expected A3, the Q3 pleasantly surprises despite the entry-level label. Heated leather front seats, xenon headlights, LED taillights, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a panoramic sunroof are all standard options on Audi’s smallest SUV. The $33,425 Q3 is fun to drive, and although it’s more tall hatchback than true sport/utility vehicle, it represents a reasonable value for people who don’t need to regularly take more than three people with them.
The Lincoln MKC, with more ground clearance, more utility than a sedan, and a nice panoramic sunroof Lincoln calls a vista roof, occupies a space similar to the Audi Q3 in the small crossover arena. The dual-panel roof features a powered front section and fixed rear, and it only adds $1,700 to the $33,995 MSRP. A power sunshade is included for those times you need to cool off and there’s too much sun.
The Kia Cadenza has been playing second fiddle now that the flagship K900 is on the scene, but that doesn’t mean the full-size sedan is no good — quite the opposite. The Cadenza is generously optioned for its $35,725 MSRP and makes a panoramic sunroof available for $1,500 as a standalone option. We think the Luxury package is a pretty good deal, though, as an extra $600 gets you Nappa leather, adaptive HID headlights, heated/ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, and more in addition to the panoramic sunroof.
The Lincoln MKZ has quite possibly the most panoramic of all the panoramic sunroofs. The $36,085 midsize sedan features a 15.2-square-foot full sliding panel for $2,995. The panel lifts up and slides back over the rear window. Lincoln says it’s the largest effective opening among sedans, a claim that we believe. Sure, it’s hard to see out of the back window while the top is fully retracted, but we have to make sacrifices for style, right?
The Lexus ES doesn’t carry the cachet of the range-topping LS flagship, but it does boast 40 inches of rear legroom, more than the long-wheelbase LS can claim. How does the comfortable entry-level people-mover upstage the flagship for space? The ES quietly moved from the Toyota Camry platform to the full-size Avalon platform, increasing the cabin size and cargo capacity. Although the ES starts at $38,625, getting some extra light requires selecting the $2,935 Ultra Luxury package. Yes, it makes the car quite a bit more luxurious.
The Hyundai Genesis (not to be confused with the Genesis Coupe, a much less luxurious vehicle) has been responsible for some lost sleep at the big luxury automakers (think the German Big Three and Lexus) by combining excellent fit and finish with a remarkable value. The new kid on the block starts at $38,950 and includes an extra-large roof opening with the $4,000 Signature package. The list of included features is long, but you won’t be disappointed with the active safety technology, nicer sound system, 8-inch infotainment screen, or head-up display. If the Genesis is too much luxury car for the money, read on.
With the introduction of the CLA-Class, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has moved upmarket, becoming much nicer and looking much like a small S-Class. With an MSRP of $39,325, the C-Class is a little less than half the price of an S-Class, and optioning it with a panoramic sunroof adds only $1,480. Although the big sunroof is the focus of our discussion, the available active safety technology really ratchets up the enjoyment factor when it comes to commuting. If you spend time in stop-and-go traffic, you owe it to yourself to check out Distronic in addition to your fresh-air-inviting sunroof.
The Lincoln MKX is the most affordable midsize luxury SUV within our criteria that can be outfitted with a panoramic sunroof. The vista roof makes an appearance as a $1,895 individual option on top of an MSRP of $39,795.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe gets a standard panoramic sunroof for its MSRP of $40,325 that fits well with its sleek looks and luxurious interior. The C-Class Coupe hasn’t yet received the styling changes that were visited upon the C-Class Sedan this year; if you liked the old styling or just don’t like the new styling, the Coupe might be your cup of tea. If you’ve got an extra $20,000 lying around, you can still get the C63 AMG Coupe with a big V-8, free of turbochargers. If you’re a fan of luxury coupes, take a look at our next entry.
Audi, no stranger to this list, makes the cut again for bestowing its handsome luxury A5 sports coupe with a panoramic sunroof as standard equipment included in the $40,925 MSRP. The Audi A5 is all about comfortable cruising, a natural fit for something with big sunlight-inviting glass panel in the roof, leaving the seriously sporty driving to the S5 and RS5. For the absolute lowest price, buyers will be changing all six gears by hand, a delightful exercise in this nicely trimmed coupe.
BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo
The BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo (aka the GT) is the 3 Series for people who think a wagon is too old-school and the X3’s lack of a panoramic sunroof is too stifling. The 3 Series GT includes a panoramic sunroof with the $42,800 MSRP as standard equipment, making this in-the-middle model a little more appealing. Although we might question the wisdom of such a niche product, no doubt there are a few people for whom the GT is the right combination of utility, economy, and airy panoramic goodness. As certified automotive journalists, however, we’d have to recommend the next entry, which sports a $100 higher MSRP.
BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon
Yes, it’s the first (but not the last) wagon to make our list, complete with a standard panoramic sunroof to go with its MSRP of $42,900. It drives well, looks good, is fairly economical, and has lots of cargo capacity. It’s the functional predecessor of the crossover, but more awesome. To really get the full experience, go for the 328d xDrive, which can be had in Sparkling Bronze Metallic (closest thing to brown), has an efficient turbodiesel engine, and is even all-wheel drive. Sorry, no manual transmission option, but it’s the closest thing we’ll get to the ideal enthusiast vehicle, and MSRP is only $44,400 — but add $550 for the nearly brown paint. Wagon fans, read on.
Despite some confusion on the subject (Audi seemed to shy away from the wagon label, calling the Allroad a crossover when it re-launched in 2013), the Audi Allroad is all wagony goodness. It has Quattro AWD, a high-quality interior, a turbocharged engine, $550 Dakota Gray metallic (almost brown) paint, and a standard panoramic sunroof. The high-riding Allroad sports a higher ride height than the average wagon, making it a reasonable choice for Subaru Outback buyers who want a nicer interior. MSRP is $43,325. (Remember, brown paint is extra.) We figure it’s fitting for a vehicle called the “Allroad” to have a nice big sunroof, helping you to see all that nature after you get there.
The Buick Enclave isn’t the cheapest three-row crossover to make rear-seat ambiance a possibility, but it is one of the nicest ones you can get for less than $50,000. In fact, the MSRP of $44,375 is only increased by $1,400 when the dual-glass option is selected. Although not advertised as having a panoramic sunroof, the Enclave gets two big pieces of glass that open the cabin up, letting in lots of light. The one over the front seats is powered and can vent or open, but the second row one is fixed. (It can be covered with a retractable screen).
The Cadillac CTS is one of our favorite vehicles. It has given rise to such greats as the CTS-V and CTS-V Wagon and was inspiration for the ATS-V Coupe and Sedan. The Cadillac CTS makes the Ultraview panoramic sunroof a $1,250 option on top of the $46,340 MSRP. With the refinement of the CTS, Cadillac has essentially become the new BMW, offering sporty, involved handling with its luxury sedans. Cadillac doesn’t have a convertible in the current lineup, so if you want the nearest thing to open-air motoring, the CTS with the massive panoramic sunroof straddling the front and back rows is the way to go.
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Coupe
Sales numbers paint an interesting picture of the Range Rover Evoque Coupe. It sells far fewer examples than the slightly more pragmatic four-door, but Land Rover isn’t pulling the plug. The Evoque Coupe is an attention-grabbing model for the brand, combining the style of a concept car rolled out of an auto show into the showroom with the capability of a Land Rover. The Evoque Coupe gets a fixed panoramic glass roof with a power sunshade that opens up the interior of the small SUV. The MSRP of $46,025 includes the panoramic glass and makes it the most expensive vehicle (in the sub-$50,000 range) to get a panoramic roof. Like so many other models, the four-door Evoque does not offer the panoramic roof on the base model, eliminating the offering from this list. Most well-equipped Evoque models will, however, come with the inviting glass roof.