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 (adjusted for inflation, of course) of 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.
The 2013 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.
Cheapest Brand New Cars - 02 - 2013 Chevrolet Spark - MSRP $12,245
The 2013 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 31.2 cubic feet of total cargo capacity. Air conditioning, tilt steering, OnStar, and a radio with an AUX in are included free of charge on the barebones base Spark, and this model also comes with a five-speed manual transmission. The Chevrolet's 84 horsepower, 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine redeems itself with fuel mileage of 32-mpg around town and 38-mpg on the highway.
Cheapest Brand New Cars - 03 - 2013 Smart Fortwo Pure - MSRP $12,490
The 2013 Smart fortwo is 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 more than eight cubic feet of cargo, although this requires that the front passenger seat be empty and folded forward. A somewhat balky automated manual transmission provides five forward speeds for the vehicle's 70 horsepower, 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine, and fuel economy checks in at 34-mpg in city driving and 38-mpg during highway cruising.
Cheapest Brand New Cars - 04 - 2013 Ford Fiesta Sedan - MSRP $13,200
The 2013 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, power windows and door locks. It also provides outstanding fuel economy in entry-level trim (29-mpg city and 39-mpg highway) thanks to its 120 horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and its five-speed manual transmission.
Cheapest Brand New Cars - 05 - 2013 Kia Rio - MSRP $13,600
The 2013 Kia Rio is another attractive subcompact car that can be had in both sedan and hatchback body styles (although the latter tacks an additional $200 to the vehicle's base price). The Kia Rio hatchback - or Rio5 - 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 29-mpg in city driving and 37-mpg on the highway.
Cheapest Brand New Cars - 06 - 2013 Chevrolet Sonic - MSRP $14,185
The 2013 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.
Cheapest Brand New Cars - 07 - 2013 Toyota Yaris - MSRP $14,370
The 2013 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.
Cheapest Brand New Cars - 08 - 2013 Kia Soul - MSRP $14,400
The 2013 Kia 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 70 cubic feet of total cargo space) also comes with features such as air conditioning, power windows and door locks, Bluetooth connectivity, a CD player, and a USB audio interface. The crossover squeezes 138 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 25-mpg city and 30-mpg highway.
Cheapest Brand New Cars - 09 - 2013 Hyundai Accent - MSRP $14,545
The 2013 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 28-mpg in city driving and 37-mpg on the highway.
Cheapest Brand New Cars - 10 - 2013 Mazda MAZDA2- MSRP $14,720
The 2013 Mazda Mazda2 rounds out our list of the cheapest brand new cars with its sub-$15k purchase price. The Mazda MAZDA2 is a subcompact hatchback that is reasonably fun to drive when taking a corner, although its 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine doesn't deliver much in the way of acceleration due to its 100 horsepower rating. That's ok, however, as the four-door MAZDA2 (with a five-speed manual transmission) provides fuel mileage of 29-mpg city and 35-mpg highway, and it also pitches in with 27.8 cubic feet of total interior storage space for carrying luggage and other gear. The base Sport trim additionally provides features such as air conditioning, keyless entry, power windows and door locks, a CD player, and 15-inch steel wheels.