If you’re shopping for a new car on a budget, and you haven’t been in the market for a while, you might be surprised at what your money can buy. Consider: Even if you set an MSRP limit of $20,000, you can still enjoy features like mobile Wi-Fi, advanced smartphone integration, premium infotainment systems, heated seats, and sophisticated driver-assistance technologies. What you won’t be able to get is a midsize car or larger, yet that’s actually another benefit for customers. Because today’s high-value choices are compacts or smaller, they also tend to have better fuel-economy ratings than their bigger, more expensive counterparts. Nor are those the only advantages here, as you’ll discover below.
10 Best New Cars Under $20,000
10 Best New Cars Under $20,000
Photo Credit: Subaru
2017 Subaru Impreza
The 2017 Subaru Impreza sedan sits near the top of our pricing spectrum, with an MSRP of $18,395 for models with a five-speed manual transmission — and that rises to $19,395 for a CVT. But it’s near the top of the value spectrum as well, because for that cost, you get a standard symmetrical all-wheel-drive system — which is a Subaru hallmark — plus the automaker’s STARLINK infotainment technology. And that setup comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming, and the new Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone-integration tech. As a further convenience, the Impreza’s infotainment screen acts as the display for a standard rearview camera. Meanwhile, Impreza hatchbacks squeeze in below $20K with pricing that opens at $18,895.
Photo Credit: Honda
2017 Honda Civic
It’s a close call, but all three body styles for the 2017 Honda Civic have MSRPs below $20,000. More specifically, the Honda shopping list shows the sedan at $18,740, the coupe at $19,250, and the five-door hatchback finishing things up at $19,700. This, however, is for models with a six-speed manual transmission, and the optional CVT is an extra $800. So yes, the Civic may be pricy for our purposes, but like the Subaru, you get what you pay for: The Civic supplies a standard multi-angle rearview camera system, LED brake lights, Bluetooth technology for hands-free calling and audio streaming, and standard EPA ratings of 28 mpg city/40 mpg highway/32 mpg combined.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2017 Chevrolet Cruze
The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze is another well-regarded high-value choice, and customers should keep in mind that two Cruze trims meet today’s financial criteria in the sedan body style, one with an automatic transmission. Chevy’s compact Cruze also provides standard technologies that aren’t even offered on more expensive rivals. The car’s standard MyLink infotainment system, for instance, is complemented by a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a seven-inch touchscreen, and a rearview camera. Families also can count on the Cruze for Chevy’s standard Teen Driver technologies, which allow owners to monitor and set limits on key vehicle systems, while also encouraging safer behavior when younger folks get behind the wheel.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
2017 Fiat 500
If you are more interested in premium cues, the 2017 FIAT 500 can check in with leather-trimmed seats, a heated front row, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, and a starting price below $20,000 with all of that. Yet what really helps the 500 stand out here is that you can get either convertible or a track-capable performance variant and still stay within our financial guidelines: The 500 Cabrio, with a power-retractable soft top, starts at $16,490. The high-performance 500 Abarth, with a sport suspension and 160-hp turbo engine, has an MSRP of $19,995. It’s also worth noting that some sub-$20K trims can serve up lux content like a Beats Audio sound system, and all boast a touchscreen-based infotainment system.
Photo Credit: Mazda
2017 Mazda Mazda3
Autobytel experts also like the strong value proposition — and nimble handling — of the 2017 Mazda Mazda3. Most customers will find the sedan is the best fit here, since that body style is available with a six-speed automatic transmission, a sticker price just south of $19,000, and some pretty nifty standard technologies. Among them: pushbutton start, a rearview camera, and a Mazda Connect infotainment system. With that setup, Mazda3 owners enjoy a seven-inch touchscreen, voice recognition, Bluetooth for handsfree calling and audio streaming, SMS text-messaging assistance, and six audio speakers. The fuel-efficient icing on the cake is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that combines 155 hp, 150 lb-ft of torque, and EPA ratings of 28 mpg city/37 mpg highway/32 mpg combined.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2017 Toyota Corolla
The difference-maker for the 2017 Toyota Corolla is the car’s “Safety Sense-P” bundle of driver-assistance technologies. This includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and automatic braking, along with lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams — and to be clear, this package is standard on all trims. Moreover, the Corolla’s MSRP of $18,500 also brings a standard rearview camera and an Entune infotainment system, the latter with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, voice recognition, and hands-free calling and audio streaming (courtesy of on-board Bluetooth technology). Toyota next broadens the car’s appeal by furnishing a standard continuously variable transmission for that cost. Or, for $18,750, shoppers can opt for the 2017 Toyota Corolla iM five-door hatchback.
Photo Credit: Honda
2018 Honda Fit
Customers have to be careful in the subcompact segment, as not all mainstream entries have 5-Star Overall Safety Scores from NHTSA. The Honda Fit does, and it’s about to offer a whole lot more for safety-conscious shoppers. To be exact, when the 2018 Honda Fit goes on sale later this year, it will be available with the automaker’s own bundle of driver-assistance technologies. The features are grouped under the “Honda Sensing” umbrella and they keep you covered with adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, lane-departure alert, lane-keeping assistance, and more. Customers can expect to pay $1,000 for the bundle — as they do on the Honda Civic — but a low starting point for the car will surely enhance affordability.
Photo Credit: Kia
2017 Kia Forte
Although there is much to like about the 2017 Kia Soul for shoppers on a budget, one of its stable mates — the 2017 Kia Forte — has notable advantages in terms of technology and fuel economy. The Forte S sedan, for example, is a mid-range trim that has an MSRP of $19,300. That price includes modern-day conveniences ranging from an automatic transmission to an up-level infotainment system. For this setup, Kia delivers a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, and cutting-edge smartphone integration with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Of course, the Forte’s infotainment display also doubles as the screen for a standard rearview camera system. Also standard: LED front positioning lights, heated exterior mirrors, a trunk-lid spoiler, and an EPA line of 29/39/32.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
2017 Volkswagen Jetta
For some customers, the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta provides the best of both worlds. After all, it blends of sophisticated German engineering with details designed specifically to appeal to U.S. drivers. Very appealing indeed is its ratio of price to technology: The Jetta’s jumping-off point — $17,895 — includes standard LED daytime running lights, a rearview camera, heated exterior mirrors, and an infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and MirrorLink smartphone integration. Unsurprisingly, the standard engine for the Jetta is a premium 1.4-liter turbo, and it kicks out 150 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque for a dynamic driving experience. For the same reason, a five-speed manual transmission is standard, while the Jetta’s optional six-speed automatic has Tiptronic manual shifting capability.
Photo Credit: Ford
2017 Ford Focus
Finally, for customers focused on efficiency, the Blue Oval offers an especially efficient Focus of its own. That would be the 2017 Ford Focus SE sedan, which has an exclusive three-cylinder EcoBoost engine under its hood. Despite displacing a mere 1.0 liter, this unit produces a peppy 123 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque. The real benefit, though, comes at the gas pumps. There, the Focus SE can achieve EPA ratings of 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway/34 mpg combined with its standard six-speed manual transmission. Moving up to Ford’s optional six-speed automatic adds $1,095 to the car’s $18,175 MSRP, even as it adjusts the EPA line to 27/38/31.
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- Subaru Impreza
- Honda Civic
- Chevrolet Cruze
- Fiat 500
- Mazda Mazda3
- Toyota Corolla
- Honda Fit
- Kia Forte
- Volkswagen Jetta
- Ford Focus