2015 Chevrolet Sonic Hatchback ・ Photo by Chevrolet
OK, let’s start with our definition of cheap awesome cars. For the purposes of this posting, cheap means models with a starting price below $20,000. Given that the average transaction price of a new car these days is hovering around $33,000, it’s quite remarkable to find so many good cars with starting prices in this range. Awesome cars are those, which, in our opinion, punch above their weight in some way. In other words, cheap awesome cars deliver more than one would expect to find for the money. And finally, the word cars means exactly what it implies. We’re only talking cars here, no trucks, no SUVs, no crossovers—just cars.
Among cheap awesome cars, Sonic bolsters Chevrolet’s credibility big time. Competent handling, good fuel economy, and a reasonably powerful engine mark the driving experience. For 2015, WiFi is a standard feature. 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 $14,245.
Photo by Chevrolet
Chevrolet’s Cruze is attractive to look it, enjoyable to drive, and—one of but two models in this category boasting a diesel option. In other words, the front-drive Cruze is a wholly competitive offering. For 2015, Cruze gets a mild styling update, Siri Eyes Free, and WiFi hotspot capability. Engine output ranges from 138 horsepower to 151. A six-speed manual transmission is offered with most trims, a six-speed automatic is optional. Pricing starts at $16,170
The Dodge Dart’s crisp lines reveal its Italian origins. The front-drive compact sedan also offers an attractively outfitted and spacious interior treatment. This cheap awesome car's engine offerings range from 160 horsepower to 184. Six-speed manual transmissions are standard in most cases; a six-speed automatic is optional across the board. The 2015 Dart gets Android capability, Bluetooth, USB, an optional CD player , and the 2.4-liter engine now meets California partial zero emissions criteria. Pricing starts at $16,495.
Photo by Dodge
Ford’s Fiesta offers sporty handling, capable engines, strong build quality, and surprisingly luxurious features, all of which make Fiesta a highly desirable proposition. There are two engine offerings for the Ford Fiesta range, 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 $13,965.
Photo by Ford Media
Handsome styling, enjoyable driving characteristics and a wealth of high tech give Focus a strong case among cheap awesome cars. Further, the front-drive model can claim 40 mpg with its 123-horsepower 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission. The other engine choice is a 160-horespower 2.0-liter four with a five-speed manual or a six-speed automated manual. For 2015, Focus has new exterior and interior styling, infotainment solutions, suspension calibration, safety features, and an optional heated steering wheel. Pricing starts at $17,170.
Photo by Ford Media
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. Available equipment for this cheap awesome car include a sunroof, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, and voice controls. 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 $13,990.
Photo by Kia Media
Kia’s Forte boasts good looks, a reasonable price, lively acceleration, and a quality interior treatment. With available features such as xenon headlights, keyless entry and ignition, and a ventilated driver’s seat, Forte works hard for the money. The front drive small sedan features 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. For the 2015 models, Uvo telematics are optional, and fuel economy is slightly improved. Pricing starts at $15,890.
Photo by Kia Media
The fluidly curvaceous Hyundai Accent is reliable, well constructed, and is an awesomely affordable car. A mild update for the 2015 model year brought Accent a redesigned grille, new headlights, and a new taillight treatment. Standard features include keyless entry, air conditioning, and full power accessories. Power 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. Pricing starts at $14,745.
Photo by Hyundai
Hyundai’s Elantra gained considerable beauty when its styling was redone a few years ago. More than just a pretty face, Hyundai’s small sedan features excellent value for its price point, remarkable build quality, and an outstanding warranty. Power comes from either a 145-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder, or a 173-horsepower 2.0-liter four. Transmissions are a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic. Pricing starts at $17,250.
Photo by Hyundai
Among Cheap awesome cars, Honda’s Civic is one of the most coveted models on the road. It is also endowed with a wealth of technological advantages. In addition to its conventional 143-horsepower gasoline powered engine, Civic is offered with hybrid, natural gas, and a high performance 205-horsepower powertrain. Five-speed automatic, continuously variable, and six-speed manual transmissions are employed. Civic also gets a new SE trim level for 2015. Pricing starts at $18,490.
Photo by Honda