A funny thing happened to the cheapest brand new cars a few years ago: they got really, really good. For the most part, electing to spend $15,000 or less on a new vehicle gets you a surprisingly high quality automobile compared to the same price point just 10 years ago. Gone are the badge-engineered jalopies sitting in the lineup to keep up appearances and to serve as loss-leaders, and in their place are a fleet of fuel-efficient, occasionally stylish, and almost universally competent entry-level rides. Sure, each of the automobiles on this list is on the small side, but that's what many budget-conscious buyers are looking for - a car that is cheap to buy, cheap to operate, and easy to drive in a city setting. Let's take a look at 10 of the cheapest brand new cars currently available in the United States.
Photo Credit: Nissan
1) 2016 Nissan Versa - MSRP $11,990
The 2016 Nissan Versa sedan has long held the title of the cheapest brand new car in America, for a time even dropping under the $10k threshold in a bid to attract new customers. The current edition of the Nissan Versa sedan offers a CD player, an AUX input, a trip computer, air conditioning, and steel wheels in its least expensive form. It also comes with a 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that can be counted on to deliver 27 mpg in stop and go driving and 36 mpg on the highway when matched with its standard five-speed manual transmission. In addition, the Versa features a significant amount of interior room, especially for rear seat passengers, when compared against other subcompacts.
Photo Credit: Chevrolet Media
2) 2016 Chevrolet Spark - MSRP $12,660
The totally redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Spark in some ways attempts to out-Versa the Versa, albeit in a smaller hatchback package. The Chevrolet Spark is intended to be an urban car, and with its additional set of rear doors, it can provide transportation for up to four passengers in a pinch as well as offer 27.2 cubic feet of total cargo capacity. Air conditioning, tilt steering, OnStar, and a radio with an AUX input are included free of charge on the bare-bones base Spark, and this model also comes with a five-speed manual transmission. The Chevrolet's 98-horsepower, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine redeems itself with expected fuel mileage of up to 41 mpg on the highway when equipped with the optional continuously variable transmission.
3) 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage - MSRP $12,995
Though the Mitsubishi Mirage was introduced fairly recently, for the 2014 model year, the model is already on hiatus and awaiting the launch of the redesigned 2017 model. In the meantime, there are still some new 2015 Mirages available. The Mirage is a hatchback that offers seating for five, although not much in the way of enjoyment for the driver. It’s powered by a modest 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine that puts out just 74 horsepower, but on the upside, the Mirage rewards thrifty buyers with EPA ratings of up to 37 mpg city, 44 mpg highway. The standard transmission is a five-speed manual, but a continuously variable automatic is available as an option, and provides better fuel economy. The list of standard equipment on the 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage is brief, but it features keyless entry, automatic climate control, and a USB port.
Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz Media
4) 2016 smart fortwo - MSRP $14,650
Though redesigned for this year, the 2016 smart fortwo is still somewhat of a polarizing car. While there are some who find charm in the smart fortwo's ultra-tiny dimensions and ability to park at the curb facing out into traffic, there are others who are concerned by its two-passenger capacity and limited - although not non-existent - cargo capacity. Configured correctly, the hatchback fortwo can carry about 12 cubic feet of cargo, although this requires that the front passenger seat be empty and folded forward. A five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission put power to the rear wheels from the vehicle's 89-horsepower, turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine, and fuel economy checks in at 34 mpg in city driving and 39 mpg during highway cruising.
5) 2016 Kia Rio - MSRP $14,165
The 2016 Kia Rio is another attractive subcompact car that can be had in both sedan and hatchback body styles. The Kia Rio hatchback brings 50 cubic feet of total cargo space to the table, which is enough to challenge larger hatches without forcing buyers to spend all that much money, and its list of standard gear includes a trip computer, a CD player, satellite radio, a USB audio interface, air conditioning, and heated mirrors with power adjustment. The 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine found under the hood of the Rio generates 138 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed manual transmission, and it provides fuel economy figures of 27 mpg in city driving and 37 mpg on the highway.
6) 2016 Chevrolet Sonic - MSRP $14,345
The 2016 Chevrolet Sonic is an interesting alternative to the Spark for Bowtie-fans who need more interior room. The Chevrolet Sonic is one of the most pleasant-looking subcompacts around, and it comes with a motorcycle-inspired gauge pod on the inside that helps set it apart from its rivals. The Sonic sedan provides power locks with keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, a stereo with an AUX jack, tilt and telescoping steering, air conditioning, and automatic headlights - better than average gear for its price point. The vehicle's 138-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, which is matched with a five-speed manual transmission, turns in fuel economy figures of 26 mpg around town and 35 mpg on the highway.
Photo Credit: Ford
7) 2016 Ford Fiesta Sedan - MSRP $14,580
The 2016 Ford Fiesta sedan represents the least expensive way to get into the Ford lineup, and it's also one of the better-handling of the cheapest brand new cars available. The Ford Fiesta comes with attractive, extroverted styling both inside and out, as well as very similar equipment when compared to the base Spark: AUX-in stereo system, air conditioning, and power windows and door locks. It also provides outstanding fuel economy in entry-level trim (28 mpg city and 36 mpg highway) thanks to its 120-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and its five-speed manual transmission.
8) 2016 Hyundai Accent - MSRP $14,745
The 2016 Hyundai Accent continues the Korean brand's trend of over-delivering on style and quality, especially when examining the materials used to make up the subcompact's passenger compartment. Comfortable seats and an elegant presentation await the Hyundai Accent's driver and front passenger, and rear seat passengers will be more than content with their lot while being transported inside the small hatchback. Almost 50 cubic feet of total cargo space is also on offer with the Accent's rear seats folded, and items such as power windows and door locks, a CD player, USB audio, air conditioning, and 14-inch steel wheels are included free of charge with the entry-level edition of the car. Power for the Hyundai comes from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder mill rated at 138 horses, and a six-speed manual is standard equipment. Fuel mileage for the frugal ride is listed at 27 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway.
9) 2016 Toyota Yaris - MSRP $14,895
The 2016 Toyota Yaris has long been a player in the battle of the cheapest brand new cars, and this status holds true for the current model year. The Toyota Yaris subcompact hatchback is predictable but not dull to drive, and the base L trim comes with Bluetooth connectivity, a relatively loud CD-capable stereo system (with a USB port), power door locks, a trip computer, and air conditioning. The Yaris makes do with a 1.5-liter, 106-horsepower four-cylinder engine, and a five-speed manual is also along for the ride in L edition of the car. Fuel economy is respectable (30 mpg in stop and go driving and 37 mpg on the highway), and cargo space can be expanded in the two-door model to 15.3 cubic feet.
10) 2016 Kia Soul - MSRP $15,800
Though the 2016 Kia Soul edges over our desired $15,000 price point, it may still be worth the splurge. The Soul is the only crossover vehicle on this list, a tall wagon that provides a funky break from the hatchbacks that typically clamor for attention as the cheapest brand new cars. The Kia Soul's roomy passenger compartment (up to 61.3 cubic feet of total cargo space) also comes with features such as air conditioning, power windows and door locks, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, and a USB audio interface. The crossover squeezes 130 horsepower out of its 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine, and a six-speed manual transmission is charged with corralling that output and sending it to the Soul's front wheels. Fuel mileage for the Kia is listed at 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.