New Cars Under 20
You can buy a lot of car for less than $20,000 - and we're not talking used, either. The new car market has exploded with a crop of affordable, high quality compact and subcompact automobiles that cram as many features as possible under the $20k cutoff. There has never been a better time to be shopping for an entry-level vehicle, and even buyers on a budget have an excellent list of potential candidates to choose from before spending their hard-earned dollars.
Let's take a look at 10 of the best new cars under $20,000.
New Cars Under 20K: 01. 2012 Chevrolet Cruze
It would be impossible to put together a list of the best new cars under $20k without mentioning the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze. The Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan has been an absolute home run for General Motors, as the good-looking and well-designed automobile has helped to erase the memory of decades of sub-par entry-level efforts from the company. The Chevrolet Cruze, like many affordable cars, also boasts excellent fuel mileage: its optional 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine returns 28-mpg in city driving and 42-mpg on the highway while producing 138 horsepower. Likewise, its 1.8-liter base engine offers the same output while providing fuel mileage that checks in at 25-mpg city and 36-mpg highway.
New Cars Under 20K: 02. 2012 Ford Focus
The 2012 Ford Focus brings European design into Detroit showrooms. When shopping for new cars under $20,000 that are available in both hatchback and sedan form, the Ford Focus stands out. The Focus delivers exceptional handling for its price point, along with the availability of features like the Ford SYNC vehicle interface. It also offers a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that develops 160 horses and 140 lb-ft of twist on its way to posting fuel mileage numbers of 28-mpg in stop and go driving and 40-mpg on the highway when equipped with the Super Fuel Economy (SFE) package.
New Cars Under 20K: 03. 2012 Honda Civic
The 2012 Honda Civic has been redesigned for the current model year, and this mainstay of the new cars under $20k category provides more of the same for loyal buyers. Conservatively styled, the Honda Civic is offered in sedan and coupe editions and features improved interior room for driver and passengers as well as new options for those who want to push the price tag higher. The Civic's base 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine provides 140 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque, and it also lists a fuel mileage rating of 29-mpg around town and 41-mpg on the highway when found in the special HF edition.
New Cars Under 20K: 04. 2012 Hyundai Elantra
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra echoes the rest of the Korean brand's extroverted styling language, providing those looking for new cars under $20,000 with beautifully-sculpted sheet metal at an equally attractive price. Not all of the Hyundai Elantra's development dollars went into its exterior design, of course - under the skin the Elantra provides a composed and quiet ride and features an Active Eco mode that helps the vehicle squeeze out as many miles per gallon as possible. The Hyundai's 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine generates 148 horsepower and 131 lb-ft of torque, and fuel mileage is listed at 29-mpg in city driving and 40-mpg on the highway.
New Cars Under 20K: 05. 2012 Ford Fiesta
The 2012 Ford Fiesta is a surprising subcompact in the sense that it imbues a sense of fun into what had previously been a dour segment for Ford. The Ford Fiesta, whether found in hatchback or sedan body styles, is intended to offer a level of handling and refinement that was previously unheard of from the automaker. The Fiesta is also ultra-efficient thanks to its lightweight design and the availability of the Super Fuel Economy (SFE) package. The latter, which is similar to the SFE package found with the Focus, makes aerodynamic improvements to the car and reduces mass wherever possible in order to help the Ford achieve 29-mpg in city driving and 40-mpg during highway cruising. All Fiestas are equipped with a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that is good for 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque.
New Cars Under 20K: 06. 2012 Subaru Impreza
The 2012 Subaru Impreza is unique on this list of the best new cars under $20,000 due to that fact that it features standard all-wheel drive. This means that those who live in harsher winter climates don't have to shell out a lot of cash in order to benefit from the added security - and traction - that the Subaru Impreza has to offer. The Impreza wagon and hatchback, each of which have been redesigned for 2012, are built around a new 148 horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers a substantial fuel mileage improvement over the previous year's mill. This unit is capable of achieving 27-mpg in stop and go driving and 36-mpg on the highway.
New Cars Under 20K: 07. 2012 Mazda MAZDA5
The 2012 Mazda MAZDA5 is the most affordable six-passenger vehicle on the market. There aren't many new cars under $20k that could be considered minivans, but the compact Mazda MAZDA5 comes the closest to fitting this description thanks to its three rows of seating and its copious amount of cargo space. The MAZDA5 is also quite spry as a result of its sporty suspension system and good steering feel, and its 157 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine offers a good amount of thrust even when fully laden. The Mazda's fuel economy checks in at 21-mpg city and 28-mpg highway.
New Cars Under 20K: 08. 2012 Volkswagen Jetta
The 2012 Volkswagen Jetta is intended to appeal to those shopping for new cars under $20,000 who are looking for as much comfort as they can get. The Volkswagen Jetta is large for a compact car, offers a reasonably supple ride, and can be optioned up past the $20k mark relatively quickly. The most affordable models can be matched with either a 115 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, or a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder unit that is good for 170 horses. Of the two, fuel mileage is better with the smaller model, although not by much: the 2.0-liter garners 24-mpg in city driving and 34-mpg on the highway, while the 2.5-liter is rated at 23-mpg city and 33-mpg during highway driving.
New Cars Under 20K: 09. 2012 Jeep Compass
The 2012 Jeep Compass isn't technically one of the best new cars under $20,000 - it's actually an SUV. That being said, the Jeep Compass is a definite winner when it comes to utility, thanks to its generous cargo hauling capabilities and its roomy interior. The Jeep Compass can also be matched with optional four-wheel drive in order to make it a legitimate off-road contender, which is unusual in its class. The Compass is provided with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that provides 158 horsepower, and fuel mileage for the crossover is reported as 23-mpg in stop and go driving and 29-mpg on the highway.
New Cars Under 20K: 10. 2012 Fiat 500
It's tiny, it turns heads, and it's not all that expensive. The 2012 FIAT 500 squeaks in well below the price limit of our best new cars under $20,000 list, and it provides perhaps the most recognizable profile of all the vehicles featured here. The Fiat 500 might be small inside, but for two passengers it represents a good mix of practicality (due to its folding rear seat) and economy. The Fiat 500 is powered by a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that puts out 101 horses, and fuel economy for the very light hatchback is rated at 30-mpg city and 38-mpg highway.