If you’re looking for the ever more elusive $200 car payment, your choices are dwindling every year as the average transaction price of a new car steadily creeps higher. Before you despair, however, do know there still exists a number of very strong candidates for your dollar among the best new cars under $16,000 for 2016. You’ll find some all-new models from venerable brands, as well as some returning hits from industry upstarts. While their bottom lines may be on the smaller side, each of these cars has a heart as big as a whale.
The Best New Cars Under $16,000 for 2016
2016 Chevrolet Sonic
Driving Chevy’s Sonic, you really do feel in control of something substantial. Sonic bolsters Chevrolet’s small car credibility big time. Competent handling, good fuel economy, and a reasonably powerful engine mark the remarkably refined driving experience. The base powerplant is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 138 horsepower and 125 ft-lbs of torque. A five-speed manual is standard; a six speed automatic is optional. The upgrade is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four, also with 138 horsepower, but 148 ft-lbs of torque. The 1.4 gets a six-speed manual as standard, and shares the automatic. Sonic pricing starts at $14,345.
Photo Credit: Chevrolet Media
2016 Chevrolet Spark
An all-new version of Chevrolet’s spunky little Spark rolls onto the scene as one of the best new cars under $16,000 for 2016. While the playful attitude of the original is still evident, there is a more sophisticated edge to the new Spark as Chevrolet tries to bridge the perceptional gap between whimsy and refinement. Power comes from an all-new 1.4-liter inline-four with 98 horsepower. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual, and a continuously variable, both feeding the front wheels. Optional safety features include blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert. The 2016 Chevrolet Spark starts at $12,660, just a few hundred bucks more than the previous version.
Photo Credit: Ford
2016 Ford Fiesta
One of our all-time favorites, Ford’s Fiesta offers sporty handling, capable engines, strong build quality, and surprisingly luxurious features, all of which make Fiesta one of the best new cars under $16,000 for 2016. There are two engine offerings for the Fiesta’s front-drive powertrain: a 1.6-liter four with 120 horsepower and 112 ft-lbs of torque, and a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder good for 123 horsepower and 125 ft-lbs of torque. Five-speed manuals are standard with both, but the four gets a six-speed automated manual as an option. Pricing starts at $14,090.
2016 Hyundai Accent
A mild update for the 2015 model year brought Accent a redesigned grille, new headlights, and a new taillight treatment, so it goes into 2016 primarily unchanged. Standard features include keyless entry, air conditioning, and full power accessories. Power for the front-driver comes from a 1.6-liter direct fuel injected four-cylinder engine with 137 horsepower and 123 ft-lbs of torque. The front-drive powertrain is offered with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Further, the fluidly curvaceous Hyundai Accent is reliable, well constructed, and offers a whole lot of value for the dollar. Pricing starts at $14,745.
2016 Honda Fit
Easily one of best new cars under $16,000 for 2016, the Honda Fit slips into the new model year fresh out of the oven and piping hot after a full redesign for 2015. If this car had a middle name, it’d be “flexible”, as the interior can be reconfigured in a number of different ways to accommodate your lifestyle choices. Power comes from a 130-horsepower, 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 114 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual is standard; a continuously variable transmission is optional for the front-wheel drive 2016 Honda Fit. Pricing starts at $15,790.
Photo Credit: Kia
2016 Kia Forte
With available features such as xenon headlights, keyless entry and ignition, and a ventilated driver’s seat, the 2016 Kia Forte works hard for the money. It also boasts good looks, a reasonable price, lively acceleration, and a quality interior treatment to qualify for our list of the best new cars under $16,000 for 2016. The front drive powertrains feature a choice of three engines, ranging in output from 145 horsepower to 201. All can be had with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing starts at $15,990.
Photo Credit: Kia
2016 Kia Rio
One of three Kia models to make our list of best new cars under $16,000 for 2016, Kia’s Rio proves inexpensive compact sedans don’t have to look, drive, or feel cheap. Its styling belies its economical price tag, as does its dynamics and available features. Niceties such as a sunroof, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, and voice controls are all available. Power comes from a 1.6-liter four with 138 horsepower. The front-drive powertrain gets a six-speed manual as standard; a six-speed automatic is optional. Pricing starts at $14,165.
Photo Credit: Kia
2016 Kia Soul
The debate about the Kia Soul’s identity rages vigorously. Is it a hatchback? Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. Is it a station wagon? Well, sort of. Is it a compact crossover suv? Well, kinda. All we know for sure is the funky little Kia Soul delivers huge for the money and it’s one of the best new cars under $16,000 for 2016. For the record, the Kia website lists it under crossovers and minivans—so go figure. Power for the front-driver comes from a choice of two engines. The least expensive is the 1.6-liter four with 130 horsepower and 118 ft-lbs of torque. The upgrade is a 160-horsepower 2.0-liter with 152 ft-lbs of torque. Pricing starts at $15,690.
2015 Mitsubishi Mirage
Harshly maligned by virtually every automotive critic with a keyboard, the 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage finds a spot on our roster of the best new cars under $16,000 for 2016 because people who have actually bought the car really like it. Appreciated for its great fuel economy, low price of entry, and nice array of available equipment, the 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage is one of those cars the “experts” don’t get but consumers do—literally. The engine is a 1.2-liter three-cylinder with 74 horsepower and 74 ft-lbs of torque. The front-drive powertrain offers a choice of a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission. Though the Mirage is skipping the 2016 model year, the 2015 version should be available until the updated 2017 model is released. Pricing starts at $12,995.
Photo Credit: Nissan
2016 Nissan Versa
The least expensive car here, Nissan’s front-drive Versa compact sedan looks modern and refined, and offers the most spacious rear seat in its category. In our view, this definitely qualifies it as one of best new cars under $16,000 for 2016. For the 2015 Versa, exterior and interior styling was updated, plus Bluetooth was made standard for all trims. Thus Versa goes into the 2016 model year with mostly insignificant changes. Power comes from a 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter four. The front-wheel drive Versa is fitted with a five-speed manual transmission as standard equipment with the S package, or an optional four-speed automatic. Other trims get a continuously variable transmission. Pricing starts at $11,990.
Photo Credit: Megan Green
2016 Scion iA
The all-new for 2016 Scion iA marks the first time Toyota has marketed a four-door sedan with a Scion badge. We’ve driven it and can tell you it is absolutely one of the best new cars under $16,000 for 2016. We also like the fact Scion’s no-dicker deals eliminate the hassle of negotiating for hours just to save a few bucks. Further, there are very few options available for the iA because in typical Scion fashion, practically all of the car’s features are offered as standard equipment. These include keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, a rearview camera, voice recognition, air conditioning and full power accessories. Pricing starts at $15,700.
2016 smart fortwo
In addition to being one of the 10 cheapest new cars for 2016, the smart fortwo is the smallest. Clocking just under nine feet in overall length, the smart fortwo also offers one of the most spacious interior compartments of all of the cars on this list—for two people. Power comes from a turbocharged three-cylinder rear mounted engine capable of generating 89 horsepower and 100 ft-lbs of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is offered as standard equipment, along with rear-wheel drive. A six-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission is optional. Standard equipment includes Bluetooth, Crosswind Assist to help the tiny city car maintain its stability in strong winds, and smartphone integration. Pricing for the all-new version of America’s only micro car starts at $14,650.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2016 Toyota Yaris
Toyota’s Yaris is a perfect example of how being good overall can create a win, which renders the need to excel in any particular area rather moot. Truth be told, this really is the core strength of all of Toyota’s models. OK, well, it also helps they have a strong reputation for reliability, comfort, safety, and competence. Other points in Yaris’ favor include a standard touchscreen interface, reasonable agility, Bluetooth, good fuel economy, and a comfortably spacious interior. What’s more, fit, finish, and overall build quality are beyond reproach. Power for the Toyota front-driver comes from a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 103 ft-lbs of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard equipment, while a four-speed automatic is optional. Pricing starts at $14,845.