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Sweet year-end deals available on some popular cars

Ford / Wieck

2012 Ford Mustang models are being offered with cash-back rebates or zero percent financing.

Looking for a bargain on a new car? Buying an outgoing 2012 model may be the way to save money.

With most of the 2013 model-year cars rolling onto the lots, dealers are anxious to clear their stock of this year's models by offering great 2012 car deals. Still, even with the discounts, not every deal may be the wisest financial choice.

Here are Bankrate's choices of cars that have steep enough discounts to make the 2012 models strong contenders for your auto dollar. Check the manufacturer's website to confirm availability of any rebate or incentive listed here, as manufacturers can change these offers at any time.

2012 Chevrolet Malibu

  • Price: $22,110
  • Gas mileage: 22 city/33 highway mpg

With a starting price of $22,110, the Chevrolet Malibu is already a very affordable 2012 car. Currently, Chevrolet is offering a $3,000 cash-back rebate or zero percent financing for 60 months for well-qualified buyers.

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The 2012 Chevy Malibu is powered by either a 169-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 22 city mpg and 33 highway mpg or a 252-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine that gets 17 city mpg and 26 highway mpg.

Standard features on all models include climate control, cruise control, stability control, remote keyless entry, tilt-and-telescopic steering column, 60-40-split folding rear seat and an audio system with AM/FM radio, CD player and MP3 capability.

Ford Mustang

  • Price: $22,310
  • Gas mileage: 19 city/29 highway mpg

Always wanted to own the iconic pony car? While the starting price of the 2012 Ford Mustang is $22,310, Ford is upping the ante to move its muscle car with a $3,000 cash-back rebate or zero percent financing for up to 60 months on its GT, GT Convertible and V-6 models. Current and retired U.S. military members and members of police associations can get an additional $500 off, bringing the total discount to $3,500.

The discounted 2012 car models are powered by either a 305-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6 engine that gets 19 city mpg and 29 highway mpg for manual transmissions and 19 city mpg and 31 highway mpg for automatics, or a 402-horsepower 5-liter V-8 engine that gets 17 city mpg and 26 highway mpg for manual transmissions and 18 city mpg and 25 highway mpg for automatics.

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Standard features on GT, GT Convertible and V-6 models include remote keyless entry, power door locks and windows with one-touch function, LED tail lamps, capless fuel tank, premium audio with a CD player, stability control and the MyKey system, which allows top speed and audio system volume to be set at specific levels.

GMC Acadia

  • Price: $32,835
  • Gas mileage: 17 city/24 highway mpg

With gas remaining at about $4 per gallon, sales of larger crossover utility vehicles and full-size pickups are slower than expected.

There are many great 2012 car deals to be had in this segment, and one of them is the 2012 GMC Acadia, which has a starting price of $32,835. The crossover currently has a $2,000 cash-back rebate or zero percent financing for up to 72 months for well-qualified buyers.

All Acadia models are powered by a 288-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine that gets 17 city mpg and 24 highway mpg for front-wheel drive models and 16 city mpg and 23 highway mpg for all-wheel drive models.

Standard features include daytime running lights and automatic on-off headlamps, power door locks, mirrors and windows with a one-touch button for the driver, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, concealed storage for personal electronics, fold-flat second- and third-row seats, and the SmartSlide seat for easy access to the third row.

Nissan Sentra

  • Price: $16,430
  • Gas mileage: 21 city/28 highway mpg

When you want to buy a 2012 car for less than $20,000, the Nissan Sentra is a serious contender. Its starting price is just $16,430. Buyers of the 2012 Sentra can save up to $2,500 with the following: a $1,000 cash-back rebate, a free special edition package valued at $1,000 and an additional $500 if the buyer finances through Nissan. Alternatively, buyers can get the $500 financing bonus and zero percent on a car loan for 36 months through Nissan.

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The Nissan Sentra has a choice of three four-cylinder engines: a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, a 177-horsepower 2.5-liter and a 200-horsepower 2.5-liter. Fuel economy estimates range from 21 to 27 city mpg and 28 to 34 highway mpg, depending on the Sentra model and the transmission.

Standard features include a tilt-steering column, a 60-40-split rear seat that folds flat, height-adjustable seat belts, a four-speaker audio system with CD and auxiliary audio input jack, power door locks and windows with a driver's one-touch button with auto reverse, an auxiliary 12-volt outlet, and stability and traction control.

Kia Sedona

  • Price: $24,900
  • Gas mileage: 18 city/25 highway mpg

Sometimes a minivan is the perfect choice to tote a group of passengers and their cargo, and the 2012 Kia Sedona is one of the most affordable minivans, with a starting price of $24,900. Kia is ready to make that purchase even easier, thanks to a host of rebates. All models of the 2012 Kia Sedona have a $2,500 cash rebate, which can be combined with 1.9 percent financing for 36 months for well-qualified buyers of this 2012 car.

Current Kia Sedona owners or owners of competing models can get an additional $1,500 rebate, bringing the total savings to $4,000. Recent college grads can get an additional $750 off, and U.S. military members can get an additional $500 discount. All Sedonas are powered by a 271-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine that gets 18 city mpg and 25 highway mpg.

Standard features include a keyless entry, front and rear air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering, front-row folding extendable side table with cup holders, an audio system with CD, MP3 and satellite radio capabilities, stability and traction control, a so-called conversation mirror for the driver to view rear-seat passengers and a backup warning system.