Most Affordable New Rides
The average purchase price of a new car in America is now more than $33,000, according to Kelley Blue Book. For many shoppers, prices in this range are simply too high, so often they’re forced to look for a used vehicle and take on the risk of purchasing someone else’s headaches. Granted, certified pre-owned vehicles are also an option, but what if you really want that new-car smell? There are advantages to buying new: a new-car warranty, the latest safety features, new convenience features and — in many cases — better performance and fuel economy. Luckily a number of quality new vehicles have prices that sticker for about half the average new-car transaction. What follows is a list of the 20 least expensive new cars on the market. Prices shown are Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Prices for the entry-level trim.
The Nissan Versa continues to hold the bouquet for being the least expensive new car available in America. For that low price you get much more than a bare-bones econobox. Versa comes standard with air-conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, an AM/FM/CD audio system and a trip computer. Also standard are traction and stability control as well as anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution. The 109-horsepower engine is teamed with a 5-speed manual transmission — although the Versa won’t win any races, it is rated at 36 mpg on the highway. And you can smile all the way to the bank.
The least-expensive new domestic car available in America, the Spark has been completely redesigned for the 2016 model year. Stylish and fun to drive, Spark can be had in a number of bright colors with fun names such as Splash, Salsa and Lime (sounds tasty). Standard safety features include a rearview camera, stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and 10 airbags. Spark also comes equipped with a built in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and access to GM’s OnStar communication service. Power comes from a 1.4-liter engine producing just under 100 horsepower with fuel economy ratings of 30 mpg city / 41 mpg highway.
This Korean automaker has made huge strides since first exporting cars to the U.S. Initially they were just inexpensive — now they’re inexpensive and good. Refreshed for the 2016 model year, the Rio is a fine example of a great entry small car with a stylish design and impressive list of standard features, including an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, a trip computer, air-conditioning, multiple airbags and traction/stability control. “The Rio signifies everything the Kia brand has evolved into since coming to the U.S. market more than 20 years ago,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning. The Rio’s 1.6-liter engine puts out 138 horsepower, which is strong for this class of car but still impresses with fuel economy ratings of 27 mpg city / 38 mpg highway.
Nissan Versa Note
Nissan recently added the Note to the popular Versa lineup, providing an economical 5-door hatchback for customers who need a bit more space. With more rear-seat legroom and cargo space than many of its compact competitors, the Versa Note offers an adjustable floor in the cargo area, providing a space below the floor to hide valuables. A 60/40 split-folding rear seat adds to the cargo-carrying versatility. With the same 109-horse powerplant as the standard Versa, the Note is also rated at 36 mpg on the highway. Opt for the Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission and fuel economy bumps up to 40 mpg on the highway.
It’s nice to see American brands delivering high-quality, economical small cars — the Sonic is an excellent example. Available as a sedan or 5-door hatchback, with the Sonic 5-door runs an additional $600. The sporty little sedan offers good performance with a fuel-efficient 1.8-liter engine putting out 138 horsepower and delivering up to 35 mpg on the highway. Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and six months free of OnStar Guidance Plan, which gets you Automatic Crash Response, Stolen Vehicle Assistance, Roadside Assistance and Turn-by-Turn Navigation.
Fiesta continues the trend of small, economical cars that are actually fun to drive. Available as a sedan or hatchback ($300 more), the Fiesta comes with a 120-horsepower 1.6-liter engine rated at 37 mpg on the highway. The updated Sync 3 communications and entertainment system is new for 2016 and features enhanced voice recognition, a 6.5-inch display screen with pinch-to-zoom capabilities and smartphone integration.
Not only is the smart car inexpensive, it is also the smallest production car in America. At 8.8 feet long, it’s about four feet shorter than the MINI Cooper. The fortwo has limited use given that it only seats two and doesn’t offer much cargo space, but for city dwellers the smart could be a perfect fit. The tiny car is easy to park given its impressive maneuverability — and the turning circle is a mere 22.8 feet. As expected, fuel economy is good with ratings of 33 mpg city / 39 mpg highway.
Hyundai vehicles are typically good values and the Accent is no exception. The base-level SE sedan has an attractive interior that doesn’t feel cheap. Features include a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, a split-folding rear seat, air-conditioning, power windows and locks and an AM/FM/MP3/CD audio system with six speakers. The Accent’s 1.6-liter engine puts out 137 horsepower, and when teamed with the standard 6-speed manual transmission it’s rated at 38 mpg on the highway.
Yaris is the least-expensive Toyota on the U.S. market and comes as either a 3-door or 5-door hatchback. The 3-door Yaris L is the entry-level version, powered by a 1.5-liter engine producing just 106 horsepower and 37 mpg on the highway when matched with a 5-speed manual transmission. Standard on all Yaris variants is the Entune audio system that includes a 6.1-in. touch-screen, an AM/FM CD player with MP3, six speakers, HD Radio, a USB port with iPod connectivity and control, hands-free phone capability, voice recognition, and Bluetooth music streaming.
The Soul is not your typical compact car — and that’s a good thing. The cute, boxy hatchback makes great use of space; it has a small footprint but a surprisingly roomy interior for passengers and cargo. The 1.6-liter engine puts out 130 horsepower and delivers up to 30 mpg on the highway. Soul comes standard with a number of high-value features, including an AM/FM/MP3 player, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, air-conditioning and a trip computer. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control and a Brake Assist system are also standard.
The iA is an all-new model and the first sedan offered by the Scion brand. Power comes from a 1.5-liter engine producing 106 horsepower teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission. While there may not be a lot of power, fuel economy is impressive — expect 42 mpg on the highway, 33 mpg in the city (slightly higher with the optional automatic transmission). The iA is also one of the least expensive vehicles to earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating, coming standard with a Low-Speed Pre-Collision System that uses an infrared laser sensor in the windshield to determine if a frontal collision is imminent, and then automatically applies the brakes in certain low-speed situations. In the IIHS Low-speed Autobrake test, the iA was able to avoid the collision entirely from 12 mph.
The Honda Fit excels at space management — the perfect example of a car that’s small on the outside but large on the inside. The rear seats are unique, able to be configured in a number of ways to allow for cargo storage of all shapes and sizes. Power comes from a 1.5-liter engine producing 130 horsepower and achieving up to 37 mpg with the standard 5-speed manual transmission. Standard equipment includes air-conditioning with air filtration, a 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio streaming and a number of active safety features.
One of three Kia models on this list of inexpensive new cars, the Forte offers attractive styling as well as an impressive list of standard features. The equipment list includes an AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM audio system, USB input jacks, Bluetooth connectivity, a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The Forte’s 1.8-liter engine puts out 145 horsepower and is rated as high as 37 mph on the highway when equipped with the standard 6-speed manual transmission.
MSRP: $16,170 (2015 price shown)
Cruze is one of the most successful small cars the Detroit-based automaker has ever delivered, and is currently one of the best-selling cars in America. The Cruze has been updated for the 2016 model year — now larger and lighter than the outgoing model. In addition to the fresh styling, Cruze gets all the latest safety technology as well as a new 1.4-liter turbocharged 153-horsepower engine that’s expected to achieve 40 mpg. The new Cruze goes on sale early next year.
Chrysler hasn’t had much in the way of success in the small car arena, but the 4-door Dart seems to have bucked that trend. The Dart offers more power than most competitors in its class, courtesy of its 2.0-liter Tigershark engine that produces 160 horsepower while still delivering an impressive 36 mpg on the highway. Standard features on the stylish Dart include 10 airbags, electronic brake assist, stability control, traction control, 6-way manually adjustable driver and front passenger seats, Uconnect AM/FM/CD, four speakers, a remote USB port and 16-inch steel wheels.
At just over 11 feet long, the Fiat 500 is one of the smallest cars on the road today. The little Italian model features an equally tiny 1.4-liter Multiair 4-cylinder engine producing just 101 horsepower. Despite the meager power, fuel economy is very good, rated at 31 mpg city / 40 mpg highway with the 5-speed manual transmission. The 500 Pop is the entry-level version and comes equipped with air-conditioning, a trip computer, remote-keyless entry, and Uconnect AM/FM stereo with 6-speakers and Bluetooth streaming.
One of the best-selling cars in America, the Focus is available as a sedan or hatchback; however, the entry-level S trim is only available as a sedan. The standard powerplant for the Focus S is a 2.0-liter 160-horsepower engine; fuel economy is rated at 26 mpg city / 36 mpg highway with the 5-speed manual transmission. Focus also comes standard with a rearview camera, an air-filtration system, multiple safety features and the SYNC voice-activated communications and entertainment system with hands-free calling.
According to Toyota, more than 40 million Corollas have been sold since its introduction, and it is the currently the best-selling compact car in America. Corolla gets power from an efficient 1.8-liter engine that achieves 132 horsepower while delivering 37 mpg on the highway when equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission. For 2016 Corolla features the Entune Audio system which includes a 6.1 in. touch-screen display, AM/FM CD player, six speakers, auxiliary audio jack, a USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, music streaming via Bluetooth and Siri Eyes Free.
The stylish Elantra is the best-selling model in the Hyundai lineup. Available as a sedan or hatchback, the value-priced Elantra offers an impressive list of standard equipment, good fuel economy and Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000 mile warranty with five years of complimentary roadside assistance. The Elantra SE is the lowest-priced version, powered by a 1.8-liter engine that produces 145 horsepower to provide peppy performance. Fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg city / 37 mpg hwy when equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission.
The lowest-priced crossover in America, the Patriot is available with front-wheel drive or multiple levels of 4WD capability. The Patriot Sport is the least expensive version in the lineup — adding 4WD bumps the price by about $2,000. A 2.0-liter 158-horsepower 4-cylinder engine is standard on all Patriots, teamed with a 5-speed manual transmission on 2WD versions. Standard features include fog lamps, stability control, electronic roll mitigation, traction control, multiple airbags, Bluetooth connectivity and an AM/FM/CD audio system.