The American Heritage Dictionary defines cheap as; “Of poor quality; shoddy, not worthy of respect; worth relatively little.” However, the fact of the matter is every car on this list is worthy of considerable respect, is of sound quality, and is worth considerably more than its asking price.
A listing of the lowest-priced new cars available couldn’t always be lauded in such glowing terms as this. The nature of most inexpensive cars has changed considerably over the years, with the result that the concept of a basic car has expanded considerably.
As an example, least expensive model on this list of the top ten cheapest cars comes with air-conditioning, a height adjustable driver’s seat, stability control, traction control, and a trip computer. There was a time when the most inexpensive model didn’t come with carpeting on the floor—let alone air-conditioning or a radio.
To say these cars are “cheap” is a significant misnomer.
What they are is affordable.
And with that, here is our list of the top 10 most affordable cars.
The all-new 2012 Nissan Versa sedan is the lowest-priced model on our list of the top ten cheapest cars. With its tall-ish profile, the Versa offers plenty of headroom for four passengers, as well as decent legroom and a spacious trunk.
Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, a trip computer, and a two-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary input jack for portable audio devices.
A 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine producing 107 ft.-lbs. of torque powers the front-drive 2012 Nissan Versa sedan. A five-speed manual transmission is standard equipment, while a continuously variable automatic transmission is the optional choice.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 30 miles per gallon in the city, 38 miles per gallon on the highway, and 33 combined with the CVT. The five-speed manual transmission lowers those estimates to 27-city, 36-highway, and 30-combined.
If you just need something for getting around town, the Smart Fortwo is a pretty compelling proposition. Maneuvering, as well as parking it on a busy city street are a breeze. Places that are spaces between two typically sized cars are usually large enough to be parking spaces for the Smart Fotwo, one of the top ten cheapest cars.
Seemingly coined for the diminutive coupe; the phrase; “Small on the outside, but big on the inside.” fits (yes, pun intended) the Smart Fortwo readily. Standard features include keyless entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and two pre-wired speakers. Unfortunately though, if you want a radio and air-conditioning you’ll have to pony up a bit more dough—those are options.
A 70-horsepower rear-mounted 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that delivers 68 ft.-lbs. of torque generates power for the 2012 Smart fortwo. The output of the engine is sent to the rear wheels through a five-speed automated manual transmission. The EPA estimates fuel economy for the Smart Fortwo at 34 miles per gallon in the city, 38 on the highway and 36 combined—on its required diet of premium fuel.
All new for 2012, the Hyundai Accent sedan comes in at number three on our list of the top 10 cheapest cars.
Of course Hyundai is traditionally a constant presence on lists of this nature.
Standard equipment on the 2012 Hyundai Accent includes power door locks, a tilt steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, a trip computer and an audio prep package with four speakers. Yes, we know A/C and a radio are conspicuously absent from that list, but for a few dollars more, the Accent Sedan can be optioned up to include air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, and the rest of the sound system (including a CD player, satellite radio and iPod and auxiliary audio input jacks). However, all of those items are included if you choose to fit your Accent sedan with the optional automatic transmission.
The powertrain consists of a 1.6-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine with 138 horsepower and 123 ft.-lbs. of torque. The front-wheel-drive Accent sedan comes with a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment.
Fuel economy is estimated by the EPA at 30 MPG in the city and 40 on the highway with either transmission choice. The combined figure is 33 miles per gallon with the automatic and 34 with the manual transmission.
Ford’s Fiesta (which perhaps not so coincidentally is the Spanish word for a party) is tangible evidence one need not sacrifice fun for frugality. Even though it is number four on our list of the ten cheapest cars, the word sporty can be liberally applied to the Ford.
That the Ford can be had so affordably enhances its allure.
Standard features include a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a capless fuel filler, power mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a four-speaker AM/FM stereo—with an auxiliary audio input jack and a USB port for portable audio devices.
Its 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine generates 120 horsepower and 112 ft.-lbs. of torque to power the 2012 Ford Fiesta. The front-drive Ford uses a five-speed manual transmission as standard equipment—a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission is optional.
With the manual transmission, the EPA estimates the Fiesta’s fuel economy at 29 miles per gallon in the city, 38 miles per gallon on the highway and 33 miles per gallon combined. With the automated manual transmission the Ford returns 39 miles per gallon on the highway.
Its handsome angular styling language makes the Kia Rio sedan look so much more expensive than it actually is. Many people are surprised to learn a car that looks this substantive can be had at such a remarkably affordable price point. Another absolutely astonishing thing about the Kia is the amount of standard equipment included in that extremely reasonable price.
With features like heated power adjustable mirrors, air-conditioning, a trip computer, a tilt steering wheel, and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, the Kia is looking good. But wait, there’s more; the four-speaker sound system features a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface for portable audio devices.
In other words, the 2012 Kia Rio sedan comes stacked like anything but one of the top 10 cheapest cars. And yet it is number five on the list.
A direct injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower and 123 ft.-lbs. of torque powers the 2012 Kia Rio. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment, while a six-speed automatic transmission is optional.
Fuel economy for the front-wheel drive Kia is estimated by the EPA at 30 miles per gallon in the city, 40 miles per gallon on the highway, and 33 miles per gallon combined with the automatic transmission. With the manual, the Kia is estimated to return 30 miles per gallon in the city, 40 miles per gallon on the highway and 34 combined.
It never ceases to amaze us that the company that produces awe-inspiring motorcycles like the Suzuki Hayabusa hyper-bike just can’t seem to get its act together when it comes to producing equally inspiring cars. With that said however, if you take a look at the Suzuki SX4, you just might be surprised how much car you can get for the price.
Standard features include full power accessories, a trip computer, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks, and a tilt steering wheel. If you want a radio and air-conditioning, you’ll have to step up to the grade above the base model though.
However, the most muscular engine on our list can be found in the engine bay of the Suzuki—feeding its power to the SX4’s front wheels. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder is rated at 150 horsepower and 140 ft.-lbs. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is the only choice for the base model. If you want an automatic, you’ll have to step up to the level at which you’ll also find A/C and a radio.
Fuel economy is rated at 23 miles per gallon in the city/33 on the highway and 26 combined.
One of but two American cars on this list of the top ten cheapest cars, the Chevrolet Sonic is trying mightily to remake popular opinion about the American subcompacts. All new for 2012, the Sonic is a definite step forward for the genre.
Standard features include alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a four-way manually adjustable driver’s seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, a trip computer, OnStar, and a four-speaker AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary audio jack.
Power comes from a 1.8-liter inline-four cylinder engine with138 horsepower and 125 ft.-lbs. of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic transmission is the optional offering.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 26 in the city/35 highway and 29 miles per gallon combined for the 1.8-liter engine with the manual transmission. The automatic is quoted at 25/35/28.
How can a car called “Soul” not be funky?
Fortunately, that’s exactly what the Kia hatchback is.
When this entry on our list of the top 10 cheapest cars was introduced back in 2010, it signaled a new set of intentions from the Korean brand; to be known just as much for style as it has always been for value.
Standard features include power door locks and mirrors, air-conditioning, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a trip computer, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio input jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
If you get the optional automatic transmission, the Soul is also fitted with keyless entry, rear privacy glass, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, and Bluetooth phone connectivity.
The base Soul uses a 138 horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 123 ft.-lbs. of torque. The front-drive hatchback gets a six-speed manual transmission with a hill holder as standard equipment. A six-speed automatic is optional. The EPA estimates 27 miles per gallon in the city, 35 on the highway and 30 combined—regardless of the transmission choice.
Remade for model-year 2012, the Toyota Yaris offers a number of innovative features designed to keep it firmly in the running when shoppers are looking for not-so-basic basic transportation. One of the things Toyota’s product planners did to ensure this was to imbue the Yaris with a lot of standard features.
These include an intermittent mono front windshield wiper, a rear windshield wiper, power door locks, air-conditioning, four-way-adjustable front seats, a tilt steering wheel, a trip computer, a fold-down rear bench seat, a cargo cover, and a four-speaker CD player with an auxiliary audio input jack, a USB audio interface, and satellite radio.
The 2012 Toyota Yaris is powered by a 1.5-liter inline-4 engine with an output of 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard for the front-drive hatchback, which returns an estimated 30-city/38-highway/33 combined. The optional four-speed automatic delivers 30/35/32.
Like its Ford Fiesta corporate cousin, the Mazda2 is a lot of fun to drive. Small in size, but big otherwise, the Mazda2 delivers great handling, light weight, lots of agility and a low price of entry.
And, it’s cute too!
The front-drive Mazda’s standard feature set includes: air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary input jack for portable audio devices.
The 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine produces 100 horsepower and 98 ft.-lbs. of torque to power the 2012 Mazda2. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a four-speed automatic offered optionally.
The EPA says you can expect 29-city/35-highway and 32 combined with the Mazda2’s manual transmission. The numbers are 28/34/30 for the automatic.