American subcompact and compact cars are cheaper and better than ever, and the Big Three from Detroit have even managed to hold the line on the price of base model pickup trucks and SUVs. This makes domestic cars more competitive against imports and also helps bring first-time buyers to the fold. Everybody’s got a different idea of “cheap,” so to clarify our priorities, we decided to focus on cars with an MSRP of $25,000 or less, with the list skewing more heavily toward entry-level vehicles. That way, prospective buyers get a wider range of bodystyles and a better idea of what’s out there in general. Let’s take a look at 10 cheap American cars that are great bargains for 2016.
10 Cheap American Cars Under $25,000
2016 Chevrolet Spark — MSRP $12,270
One of the cheapest American cars on the market also happens to be fully redesigned for this year. Chevrolet’s compact 2016 Spark, aimed at urban dwellers and young or first-time buyers, is even more efficient, practical and powerful than before. A 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine makes 98 horsepower, which doesn’t sound like much, but it moves the Spark just fine. A 5-speed manual transmission comes standard, but a continuously variable transmission is available, and will help squeeze out a couple extra miles per gallon. Standard equipment in the 2016 Spark includes a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, and General Motors’ OnStar communications technology.The 2016 Chevy Spark is available at a starting price of $12,270.
Photo Credit: Ford
2016 Ford Fiesta — $14,580
High-performance variants of the Ford Fiesta might get the most attention, which is totally understandable. But it’s the base model that lands on our list of 10 cheap American cars, because it accomplishes a lot at its price. This subcompact is sporty not just in terms of its style, but its actual performance. True, its 120-horsepower, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine doesn’t blow away the competition, but the Fiesta handles well, which makes it fun to drive anyway, and it has decent fuel economy, too. If you can avoid the temptation of the rally-style Fiesta ST, it’s possible to walk out of the Ford dealership with the keys to a new Fiesta for around $14,580.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
2016 Dodge Dart — MSRP $16,995
Dodge usually has a compact car or basic sedan in the lineup, but lately the company has been focusing on trucks, SUVs, and muscle cars, which leaves the Dodge Dart as the brand’s smallest and least expensive model. The compact sedan is a worthy addition to our list of 10 cheap American cars, transporting five passengers in basic yet affordable accommodations. The base Dart makes 160 horsepower from its 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, which comes with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Even though the Dart might be a little underpowered, it has great handling capabilities that help make it fun to drive. You can pick up a 2016 Dodge Dart starting at $16,995.
Photo Credit: Ford
2016 Ford Focus — MSRP $17,225
Not only is the Ford Focus one of our favorite cheap American cars, but consumers overwhelmingly agree, buying enough of this affordable compact car to make it one of the most popular options in its class. The 2016 Ford Focus is available as a sedan and a hatchback, with the sedan being the cheaper option. The base model Focus sedan comes powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 160 horsepower, with the choice of a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automated manual transmission. This year’s Ford Focus sedan has a starting MSRP of $17,225; unfortunately, the more stylish hatchback starts at quite a bit more, but still well within our self-imposed price limit of $25,000.
Photo Credit: Jeep
2016 Jeep Renegade — MSRP $17,995
When you’re compiling a list of the cheapest American cars, it’s a pleasant surprise to find a rugged subcompact SUV among the qualified contenders. The 2016 Jeep Renegade, which was introduced last year, fits the bill. This SUV, which seats five, makes 160 horsepower from its turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. Head-turning styling helps the Renegade differentiate itself from the rest of the subcompact SUV pack, too. The Renegade isn’t actually the cheapest vehicle in Jeep’s 2016 lineup; the Renegade costs a few hundred dollars more than the Patriot, but it’s a newer option and, at a slight price premium above the entry-level model, it’s much better for off-roading. The 2016 Jeep Renegade starts at $17,995.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2016 Chevrolet Colorado — MSRP $20,100
If you didn’t expect to find a truck on the list of cheap American cars, you’d be wrong—Detroit takes its trucks seriously, to the extent that buying a truck is practically an American rite of passage. While prices can quickly escalate on the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado, the base model is perfectly affordable for a compact pickup truck and one of the least expensive options on the market. The extended cab base Colorado seats five passengers and comes powered by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower. Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, a power driver’s seat, a rearview camera, and a 6-speaker audio system. The 2016 Chevy Colorado has a starting price of $20,100.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2016 Chevrolet Trax — MSRP $20,300
Chevrolet takes another spot on our list of cheap American cars with the Trax, a 5-passenger crossover that makes an excellent companion as an urban commuter car. The Trax is small and attractive, and boasts excellent safety scores as well as above-average fuel economy for its class, demonstrating that you don’t have to compromise to get an affordable car. However, the Trax’s drivetrain isn’t its most desirable quality—with just 138 horsepower from its turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder, it’s been known to struggle somewhat at highway speeds. It handles well, though, which makes up for a lot.
2016 Buick Verano — MSRP $21,065
Buick’s survival depends on attracting new and younger buyers to the brand, and the 2016 Verano is a strong part of its strategy to grow and thrive. This stylish small 5-passenger sedan offers an upscale look and feel along with quality construction, which results in a comfortable and quiet experience. Though there’s a fun turbocharged drivetrain available at higher price points, the cheaper Verano model comes with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 180 horsepower, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s enough to move the Buick Verano efficiently, delivering smooth power and competitive fuel economy for a small luxury car. Buick’s entry level model, one of our favorite 10 cheap American cars, starts at $21,065.
2016 Chrysler 200 — MSRP $21,995
The 2016 Chrysler 200 is a midsize sedan that slots in just below the larger 300, and brings many of the same characteristics to the table at a more appealing price. The 5-passenger Chrysler 200 offers plenty of room up front, but adults might be a little uncomfortable if they’re in the backseat for a while. The base 200 comes powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that yields 184 horsepower—not mind-blowing by any means, but competent—and paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Though the 2016 Chrysler 200 can be optioned out to premium levels, its entry price remains an affordable $21,995, earning a spot on our list of 10 cheap American cars.
Photo Credit: Dodge
2016 Dodge Grand Caravan — MSRP $22,595
The 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan is a bargain of a minivan if you’re comfortable with the base model. All 2016 Grand Caravans come with the same engine, which helps: a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 283 horsepower, plus a 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The desirable Stow ’N Go seating feature comes standard in the third row, too, although it costs extra to add it to the second row. The 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan is the most expensive vehicle on our list of 10 cheap American cars, coming in at a base MSRP of $22,595. However, we’d argue that it’s ten grand more useful than a subcompact hatchback as far as a family is concerned, and it’s within our $25,000 cutoff.