Kelley Blue Book’s first-ever ‘Total Cost of Ownership Award Winners‘ considered factors like purchase price, fuel expenditures and expected maintenance and depreciation to come up with the cars it says have the lowest-projected overall cost of ownership.

The big winner in the brand category? South Korean automaker Kia.

While the Kia Soul was the only car from the manufacturer to win a category award (for best compact car), the fact that so many other Kias scored well in several other categories earned the company the ’2012 Total Cost of Ownership: Brand’ title.

Juan Flores, director of vehicle valuation for Kelley Blue Book, said KBB’s awards highlight the importance of looking beyond the sticker price of a car to determine how much it’ll actually cost to own it.

“Car shoppers should take the time to compare vehicles on their consideration lists to fully understand the financial implications involved with cost of ownership,” he said, adding, “While a vehicle might be less expensive up front, the cost of fuel for that model, insurance and other expenditures could make it the less appealing choice for their wallet in the long run.”

Who else fared well? Audi had the lowest cost of ownership among luxury brands, winning top honors in the luxury car and luxury sport utility categories. Among minivans, the Mazda 5 took the prize, although some critics point out that since it only seats six people, it’s smaller than the majority of minivans that seat seven — which could’ve influenced the lower ownership costs.

As with all lists, they can be subjective, so experts say to be sure to do your homework and read all you can before driving that new car off the lot.

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