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Yes, price hikes on the models you know and love (and hate) are popping up everywhere. But it’s not all bad news. Think percentages and it’s unlikely to upset you. Spread out the increase over the five years you pay for the new car and you’ll not even notice the difference versus 2007 models. The personal transportation available to us as of August 31st/2007 is pretty impressive, so please abstain from anything that sounds like, “I remember when I first got my license, well…. MSRP’s sure didn’t look like that.”

Chevrolet’s compleeeeeeeeetely redesigned Malibu costs around $2,100 more than the old Malibu, the not-so-classy Malibu Classic. Hold your horses (Chevy is offering plenty more of those, speaking of equines), the base Malibu is a very-well equipped car. ABS, air-con, six airbags, XM satellite radio, and 169 horsepower. The optional V6 is one of the General’s better engines, too. 252 horses from a 3.6L paired to a 6-speed auto. Chevy’s new Malibu Hybrid is 2mpg better than the 4-cylinder on city roads and the highway, but costs more than two grand more than the basic Malibu.

How much should the price increase bother you? Bother-be-gone, the new Malibu is light years ahead of the last.

Some ’08 Nissan Frontier’s see a modest price increase; the rear-wheel drive King Cab might nab $1.60 more out of your wallet each month. Nissan’s Xterra sees a larger increase at $1,080 on the base model. In addition to the rising price comes rise in standard equipment.

Volvo’s Cross Country, aka XC70, is totally new for 2008. A new six-cylinder replaces the older, less powerful 5-cylinder in addition to a new six-speed automatic and, most obviously, a new look. Pay $405 extra bucks for the privilege. Right on, brother Gustaf. Take my money. Give me a better car.

When once a Maserati Coupe was available to you without a six-digit price tag, its achingly gorgeous replacement, the GranTurismo, demands $114,650 USD. Only recently a BMW M3 could be your’s for not-terribly-more than $50,000. Estimated base price in America for the new V8 M3? $63,000.

Then there’s the good news. Chrysler’s new minivans (Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country) are fairly innovative people carriers. Optional mid-row seats can do a full swivel, meeting around a pop-up table for Travel Scrabble with the third-row occupants. Add side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control, self-leveling shocks, standard V6 contrasting last year’s base 4-cylinder, bigger wheels, better handling and more modern looks cost….. less money than the old Grand Caravan.

Build configurations are down from 11,000 to 1,300 aiding Chrysler in its quest to create an even higher-value vehicle. $22,470 or $27375 for an SXT. Honda’s Odyssey may be better, but it’ll cost you.