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The Least Expensive New Cars
Cars & Motorcycles
Looking for a set of wheels that won’t cost the earth? These are some of the least expensive cars that were produced in 2018. Some are great deals, others not so much. So, before you head to the dealerships, read our list, below.
Nissan Versa 1.6 S
Good value? Yes, great!
The Nissan Versa sedan has been the least-expensive new car for a number of years now, but it’s also the best value on this list. Cheap as it is, the Versa is a roomy four-door sedan with nearly as much interior space as a mid-size car like the Kia Optima—and for a little more than half the price. What are the downsides? Well, the styling is a bit homely and creature comforts on the base model are few and far between. The Versa does come with air conditioning and Bluetooth, but it lacks power windows and locks—the latter a must-have if you’re hauling kids. And if you want an automatic transmission, you’ll have to pay an extra $2,200. The good news is that the rest of the options are reasonably priced: Even a top-of-the-line Versa SL with power windows and locks, a fuel-efficient CVT automatic transmission, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, and navigation costs less than a basic Honda Civic.
Chevrolet Spark L
Good deal? Pretty good
Chevrolet has done a great job of keeping the Spark’s price in check since it was introduced in 2012. The 2018 five-speed manual hatchback now comes standard with alloy wheels and power windows and locks, which used to be options. You’ll also still get air conditioning, Bluetooth, a touch-screen stereo, 10 airbags, and OnStar, a subscription-based system that will automatically call for help if the car is in a crash. That makes it a great choice for teen drivers. The new Spark has traded its cute-and-cuddly styling for a more mature look, and with its high-quality interior and quiet ride, the Spark drives like a bigger and more expensive car. It helps that Chevrolet has fitted a bigger and more powerful engine, and yet the Spark’s EPA fuel economy estimates are slightly higher than the old car. There’s a long list of options, including pricey features like a lane-departure and collision warning systems, though such extravagances raise the price. Back seat and trunk space remain cramped, so the Chevrolet Spark is still best for singles and couples.
Mitsubishi Mirage ES
Good value? Yes, if you’re not picky.
The Mitsubishi Mirage ES is the very definition of cheap wheels. In addition to standard features like air conditioning, power windows, and power locks, Mitsubishi added a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth phone/audio streaming, a rearview camera, and steering wheels audio and Bluetooth controls for 2018. Even with all the optional goodies—alloy wheels, push-button ignition, and navigation—it’s still about $1,500 cheaper than a comparably equipped Nissan Versa. The Mirage won’t break any speed records, but its 3-cylinder engine delivers an honest 38 miles per gallon in day-to-day driving. The Mirage is covered by an epic warranty, with 5 years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and 10 years/100,000 miles on the powertrain. On the downside, the Mirage is noisy, slow, and an unpleasant companion on long road trips—but for inexpensive city motoring, this vehicle is hard to beat.
Ford Fiesta S
Good value? Yes, and getting better.
Of all the cars on this list, the Fiesta is by far the most fun to drive, with sharp steering and a responsive chassis. And while it’s not the least expensive on this list, Ford continues to up the ante by including power door locks, remote keyless entry, and a voice-activated touch-screen stereo with smartphone app integration as part of the base model’s standard equipment list, which also includes air conditioning and power-adjustable mirrors. It used to be that buyers could only choose between black, white, and silver, but now mint green, bright blue, red metallic, and neon green are also available. Even better, the Fiesta S is zippier than most automobiles in its class, with a 1.6L Ti-VCT I-4 engine that delivers 120 horsepower and 112 lb.-ft. of torque.
Kia Rio LX
Good value? Only the base model
One of the problems with cheap cars is that a lot of them look like cheap cars—and who needs a constant reminder that their income isn’t quite up to Mercedes levels? The Kia Rio’s smooth, modern styling belies its cheap price tag, and it has the same upscale look inside as it does on the outside. Unfortunately, when it comes to value-for-money, the Kia Rio stumbles. The basic four-door LX model comes with a fuel-efficient engine, air conditioning, and an AM/FM/CD/Satellite radio audio system, but the price just goes up as you add upgrades: $400 more for the five-door hatchback, $1,000 more for the automatic transmission, and a whopping $3,000 more for the EX, which features a slew of goodies like power windows and locks, alloy wheels, and a Bluetooth speakerphone. That said, if appearance is more important than value, the Rio is still a cheap car that doesn’t look cheap.
Nissan Versa Note S
Good value? Only if you value style over substance
While the Nissan Versa sedan is one of the best cars on this list, the Nissan Versa Note differs. The Note is definitely the more stylish of the two; it was designed with Western European buyers in mind, whereas the sedan was designed for emerging markets in Asia. The Versa Note has plenty of back seat and cargo space, but it also has the same flimsy interior fittings as the sedan, and for a higher price. With crank-down windows and manual door locks, the entry-level Versa Note isn’t much of a bargain compared to the other cars on this list, and the equation doesn’t get any better once you start piling on the options. If a hatchback is what you want, the Honda Fit offers similar space and better value—and the Kia Rio is just as good looking.
Chevrolet Sonic LS
Good value? Yes
The Chevrolet Sonic is yet another bright spot on this list, offering handsome styling, a reasonably powerful 1.8-liter engine, and a stylish interior built with parts that feel like they were pulled from General Motors’ more expensive cars. The base-model Sonic includes air conditioning, alloy wheels, and the protection of 10 airbags, which is more than many high-end luxury cars. Out on the road, the Sonic feels substantial and sporty, though it can’t quite match the fun-to-drive factor of the Ford Fiesta. In addition, the Sonic is an American car that is actually built in America—in fact, it’s the only car on this list to don the “Made in USA” label. However, rumor has it that Chevy is discontinuing the Sonic starting in 2019, with no plans to replace it. If that happens, it will mark the first time 40 years that Chevy has not released an inexpensive subcompact car.
Good value? For an all-electric car, yes
Introduced in 1998, the Smart ForTwo is now in its third generation, and completely electric. Which means it’s pretty much an urban ride. While not the least expensive car on this list—it retails for around $15,000 base—depending on how long you own it, you could save at least a couple thousand dollars in gas along by taking the financial hit up front. Smart Car designed the 2018 with a more powerful engine, a better transmission, and much better driving dynamics—no other car can make a U-turn as tightly or efficiently. It’s also better equipped: Air conditioning, power steering, and power windows are now standard. Unfortunately, some of the drawbacks remain: The Smart ForTwo has no back seat, and since parking sideways is illegal in most states, its super-small size isn’t quite as much of an advantage in the U.S. as it is in Europe.
Hyundai Accent GLS
Good value? Meh
A close relative of the Kia Rio, the Hyundai Accent is basically the same car with a different skin. It offers many of the same advantages including the fuel-efficient engine, generous back seat, and a lengthy warranty. So why is the Accent more expensive? Primarily because it’s slightly better equipped: Along with air conditioning and a USB-compatible stereo (both standard on the Rio), the Accent GLS comes with power windows and power locks with a keyless remote—Kia won’t give you that unless you buy a more expensive model. And while a hatchback Rio will cost you $400 more, Hyundai charges just $250 extra for that fifth door. The automatic transmission is also a better deal on the Hyundai. The Hyundai Accent isn’t the best value on this list, but it is a solid little car.
Good value? Not great, but better than it was
Besides its angry new face, the Toyota Yaris is much more pleasant to drive than in years past, with a better manual-trans shifter, an improved suspension, and nine airbags in case it all goes wrong. The Yaris is still saddled by its old-school 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmission, both of which rob it of power and fuel economy, which is why the automatic, which is reasonably priced, is the way to go if you have the extra money. Bear in mind that the Yaris is one of the few cars on this list that comes with two doors. Again, for extra money, you can get it as a hatchback or spring for the four-door model, which does include an automatic transmission.
Toyota Yaris iA
Good value? Only if you want a well-equipped car
Formerly the Scion iA, this car is well worth your attention if you love to drive because it rivals the Ford Fiesta for cheap thrills. The iA was actually engineered by Mazda—it’s basically a Mazda2 with a different grille—and that company’s “Zoom-Zoom” tagline is no joke. The Yaris iA does give you a lot for the money. Although it only offers one trim level, it comes standard with power windows, locks, and mirrors, keyless push-button ignition, a 7-inch touchscreen, a backup camera, and a low-speed forward collision warning system. And you can’t beat the fuel economy at 32 mpg in the city, 40 mpg on the highway.
Kia Soul Base
Good value? Only with a manual transmission
The Kia Soul has long been a favorite cheap car, thanks to its cutting-edge styling and a long list of standard equipment—A/C, power everything, cruise control alloy wheels, tinted side windows, and an iPod-compatible stereo with satellite radio. The 2014 redesign improved the ride and handling to the point that it drives like a much more expensive car. As with most bargain autos, you’ll pay more if you want an automatic transmission. But if you can drive a stick-shift, the Kia Soul gives you a lot of car— and a lot of style—for the money.
Honda Fit LX
Good value? Yes, definitely!
Plainly put, the Honda Fit is the most useful subcompact car you can buy. It’s a small car, but one that packs a surprisingly roomy back seat and a smartly shaped trunk that can be expanded to accommodate nearly as much cargo as a small SUV. It’s also zippy and mind-bogglingly fuel efficient, as it averages over 40 mpg in the highway. The lower-priced LX is the way to go, as it has a knob-and-button operated stereo that is simpler to use than the touch-screen unit in the EX. On the downside, the Fit is noisy and it’s expensive compared to other small cars, but its combination of durability and practicality make it a good value and one of the best small cars you can buy.
Kia Forte LX
Good value? Not bad
Like other Kia models, the Kia Forte is attractively styled, though the LX trim with its cheap plastic wheel covers certainly doesn’t cast this otherwise handsome car in its best light. The Forte EX looks much nicer, but it’s also priced higher. The LX model comes with power windows, mirrors and locks, satellite radio, and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The automatic transmission is of course pricier, but at least it comes bundled with cruise control and better-looking alloy wheels. That said, with a starting price much lower than most compact sedans, the Forte is a good deal on a decent-sized set of wheels.
Chevrolet Cruze Limited L
Good value? Yes, if you want to spend a bit more
The most expensive economy car on this list has its good points and its bad. On the plus side, the interior is roomy-looking and sporty, the gas mileage is good, you can choose from four trim levels, and it comes loaded with options. The base level alone gets you 15-inch steel wheels, Bluetooth, Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, a four-speaker audio system, a USB port, cloth upholstery, and a rearview camera. On the downside, interior components vary in build quality and if you get larger alloy wheels, they are noisy. Still, if you have a bit of extra money and need a fuel efficient car that looks sporty and handles decently, give this a test drive.