An economic notion put forth back in the 1980s was the “Trickle Down” theory, and though its claims are still hotly debated, the general theory is consistently displayed, successfully, in the automotive sphere. New technologies typically debut in high-end luxury cars, then trickle down into more affordable models as economies of scale make them more affordable. As an example, the fuel-saving automatic stop/start technology we know today debuted on 2008 BMW models. This feature improves fuel efficiency by shutting the engine down at traffic signals, railroad crossings, fast food lines, or in any other situation during which an otherwise idling engine would waste fuel. Today, a broad array of cheap cars feature automatic stop/start technology. That is, cheap as in starting prices below $25,000.
Cheap Cars with Stop/Start Technology
The Chevrolet Cruze is the best compact car Chevrolet has ever offered. Its handsome exterior styling is complemented by an equally pleasant interior treatment. The trunk is spacious, the engines are fuel efficient, and the driving is entertaining. Compared to its competitors, the Cruze often is better equipped, making it more of a value among the best cheap cars with stop/start technology for 2016. Three engines are offered for the front-drive powertrain: a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel four with 151 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque; and two gasoline engines, a turbocharged 1.4-liter four with 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, and a 1.8-liter four with 138 horsepower and 125 lb-ft. Pricing starts at $16,170.
If you’re shopping for a cheap car with automatic start/stop technology, you really ought to take a look at the Chevrolet Malibu before you settle for one of the more obvious choices. The mid-size Malibu is comfortable, good looking, wonderfully outfitted, and has proven itself reliable. Two four-cylinder engines are available: A 2.5-liter makes 196 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.0-liter turbo puts out 259 horsepower and 205 lb-ft of torque. Both use six-speed automatic transmissions to feed the front wheels. Pricing starts at $22,465.
We are thoroughly enamored with the sleek styling of the Chrysler 200. The sharp-looking mid-size four-door practically glows with modernity. Perfectly sized for a growing family, the interior features a highly responsive touchscreen interface, excellent fit, finish, and materials choices, as well as the best in contemporary safety features. The engine choices are a 184-horsepower 2.4-liter inline four with 173 lb-ft of torque or a 295-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 with 262 lb-ft. Both employ automatic stop/start technology. A nine-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard—all-wheel drive is optional with the V6. Pricing starts at $21,995.
Photo Credit: FCA Media
Easily one of the best-looking cars in its class, credit the Dodge Dart’s Italian roots with its considerable style. The Dart also offers an engaging driving experience, a long roster of standard features, and a spacious interior. The Dodge also scores well in crash testing. Power comes from a choice of three engines for the front-drive powertrain. The 2.0-liter four makes 160 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. The turbo 1.4 also generates 160 horsepower, but 184 lb-ft of torque. The 2.4-liter four puts out 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft. Pricing starts at $16,995.
Photo Credit: Ford
If you’re looking for a cheap car capable of offering significant driving pleasure along with automatic stop/start technology, check out the Ford Focus. Offered in sedan and hatchback configurations, both are a lot of fun to drive and look more expensive than they are. What’s more, the level of tech you get for the money makes the Focus an even more compelling choice. Two engines are offered for the front-drive powertrain: a 2.0-liter four makes 160 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque, and a turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine winds out 123 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. Pricing starts at $17,170.
Even if it didn't have automatic stop/start technology, which it does, Ford’s Fusion would have emerged as one of the stars of the mid-size family sedan segment. Yes, it’s good-looking, which has certainly contributed to its success, but the other part of the equation is Ford's plan to give the Fusion near luxury status. Features like voice control, self-parking, and smart cruise control are standouts in this category. Further, Fusion is offered with no less than three four-cylinder engine choices as well as hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains with ranges from 175 to 240 horsepower. A six-speed transmission and front-drive are standard. All-wheel drive is offered as an option. Pricing starts at $22,600.
This four-door medium-sized family sedan with a strong reputation for value got facelifted for the 2015 model year. Already good looking, it’s now more handsome than ever, roomier, and even more competitive, as the Hyundai Sonata’s penchant for value has been enhanced with even more available equipment. Power comes from a choice of three four-cylinder engines ranging in output from 177 to 245 horsepower. All use front-wheel drive. The new 1.6-liter “Eco” engine gets a seven-speed automatic transmission; all the rest get a six-speed. Sonata is offered with a hybrid powertrain, too. Pricing starts at $21,750.
While the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is indeed one of our “cheap” cars with automatic stop/start technology, the word cheap doesn’t apply here except in terms of the price. This newest CX-5 gets refreshed exterior styling, a nicer interior treatment, an updated suspension system, more insulation for a quieter ride, and a revised user interface for the infotainment system. Options include LED headlights, smart cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, and lane departure warning. Power for the five-passenger compact crossover comes from a choice of two engines: base is a 155-horsepower 2.0-liter four with 150 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The upgrade is a 2.5-liter four with 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic. Pricing starts at $21,795.
Another Mazda on our list of the best cheap cars with automatic stop/start technology, the 2016 Mazda3 also ranks highly on our list of fun-to-drive models. The Mazda brand banks heavily on driving enjoyment, and the Mazda3 makes this readily apparent. The Mazda’s styling might give you cause to stop and ponder the confluence of its multitude of curved surfaces, but when you get it out on a similarly curvaceous road, you’ll find the Mazda a faithful companion. Power for the most affordable version of the front-wheel-drive Mazda3 comes from a 2.0-liter four good for 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. Offered in both sedan and hatchback formats, pricing starts at $17,845.
The mid-sized Mazda Mazda6 is endowed with a smooth engine capable of delivering admirable acceleration, a nicely crafted interior treatment, a handsome body style, and, of course, stop/start technology. Those desiring a measure of exclusivity can be assured that the average mainstream consumer hasn’t taken notice of the Mazda6 in any significant fashion. A 184-horsepower 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 185 lb-ft of torque resides behind the Mazda6’s front wheels, and buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing starts at $21,495.
VW's Golf is another affordable car that we can't call “cheap." It's highly refined, comfortable, and offers strong performance compared to its competitors with automatic start/stop technology. Further, the fit, finish, and materials exhibited in the Golf’s interior would be acceptable in cars costing twice as much. And then of course there’s the whole heritage thing. While the Golf wasn’t the first hatchback, it certainly brought the format into the mainstream. The front-drive powertrain is a 1.8-liter turbocharged four with 170 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque, matched to either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. For 2016, Volkswagen Golf pricing starts at $18,495.
With its crisp styling, handsome interior treatment, and just enough German attitude to make it one of the more engaging drivers among the best cheap cars with auto stop/start technology, the Volkswagen Jetta is also comfortable and spacious. For 2016, power for the most affordable Jetta model comes from a 1.4-liter turbocharged four with 150 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque (replacing the normally aspirated 2.0 liter from 2015). The upgrade is a turbocharged 1.8-liter four with 170 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a turbocharged diesel option with 150 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Jetta’s top gasoline engine is a 2.0-liter turbo four with 210 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. All Jettas are front-wheel drive. Pricing starts at $18,780.