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New Cars Under $15,000 for the 2012 Model Year

Tuner Tom
by Tuner Tom
June 7, 2012
10 min. Reading Time

When the economy takes a nose dive, the interest in used automobiles goes up. Thankfully there are a bunch of new cars that can be purchased for less than $15,000. Why would you buy a $15,000 new vehicle over a higher-end used automobile? There are 4 major advantages to buying a new car over a used car.

- You never have to worry about what kind of hijinks the previous owner got into. Buying new from the dealer or ordering straight from the factory will eliminate all of those worries.

- These new cars under $15,000 come with a nice factory warranty that ranges from 60,000 miles to 100,000 miles.

- New cars also are equipped with the latest safety technology. In fact there are a handful of vehicles under $15,000 that were chosen as Top Safety Pick’s by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

 – These affordable new cars are also mostly subcompact cars with small displacement engines meaning they are light and their power output is low. These 2 factors result in great fuel economy figures.

Who Should Buy a New Car Under $15,000

A new car under $15,000 is a perfect choice for a broad range of car buyers.

- Besides being fuel efficient the repair costs are low. The reality is most teens and new drivers get into a fender bender at some point. Repair costs are low for two reasons: the car is cheaper overall and there are literally thousands of the same model driving around. So the cost of replacement parts is low. To a parent, the most important thing a new car under $15,000 can offer is peace of mind. A smaller engine means less power. Moreover these vehicles for the most part come packing multiple airbags, Anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control systems.

 - These cars are lightweight and have smaller engines so they get much better fuel economy. Buying a low price new car for daily driving chores means you can afford to own a great weekend car.

 – Those on a fixed income can purchase a great little new car to get them from point A to point B. The new cars on this list all come with an excellent warranty which means no need to be concerned about costly powertrain repairs.


11) 2012 Nissan Cube - $14,980

With a price just under $15,000 the 2012 Nissan cube just squeaks onto our list. The Cube is not a subcompact car but rather a micro van and this little vehicle has been available in Japan for years. 2009 was the first model year the Cube was available here in the U.S. and the micro van has continued to make a bold statement. How would you describe the direction that Nissan designers choose to take with the Cube? Out back, the rear wraparound window is unlike anything currently on the road today. The driver and passenger window are oval, the rear opens like a door instead of a hatch, and the lights look like something out of a Star Wars movie. Yes, the Cube is indeed unique which makes it stand out from the crowd. The base model comes with a 1.8 liter 4-cylinder engine making 122 horsepower and 127 lb-ft. of torque. This is a big and powerful engine for a vehicle that costs less than $15k. Power is transferred through a 6-speed manual transmission on the base model. Fuel economy is pretty good at 25 MPG in the city and 30 MPG on the highway. For 2012 the Nissan Cube comes equipped with air conditioning, power widows and doors, a CD stereo system, 6 airbags, Anti-Lock Brakes, and a 60k mile warranty. The Cube may be the most unique vehicle you can buy for under $15,000 and it provides more room than a compact car. The 2012 Nissan Cube is an IIHS Top Safety Pick too!

10) 2012 Mazda2 - $14,530

The Mazda2 is fairly new to the U.S. market having first appeared in 2011. However, overseas the small Mazda car has been around since the mid 90’s as the Demio. Mazda aimed to cash in on the subcompact craze and they have not had a small car here in the U.S. since the Mazda 323. The 2012 Mazda2 may be the cutest new car under $15,000 with that huge grin up front. The Mazda2 is a 4-door hatchback which means it can seat up to 5 passengers while offering great utility thanks to the versatile cargo area. Thankfully the Mazda2 is not just about utility and practicality; instead the Mazda2 offers razor-sharp handling and an enjoyable driving experience thanks to the 1.5 liter 4-cylinder MZR engine that puts out 100 horsepower and 98 lb-ft. of torque. The 5-speed manual transmission adds a bit more fun to the mix. The curb weight is just a hair over 2300 lbs. giving the Mazda2 a good power to weight ratio. With a lower weight comes better performance and fuel economy. The Mazda2 averages 29 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway. With a 60 month/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, six airbags, stability control, and traction control, this new car is an easy sell. The Mazda2 provides zoom zoom fun into one inviting package for just under $15k.

9) 2012 Toyota Yaris - $14,115

The Toyota Yaris is one of the first subcompact cars to hit the American mainstream when it debuted in 2007. The 2012 Toyota Yaris comes in a 3-door and 5-door body style. Only the 3-door is available for under $15,000. On the bright side you can get either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. The 2012 Toyota Yaris is powered by a 1.5 liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft. of torque. Fuel economy with the manual transmission is 30 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway making it one of the most fuel efficient new cars under $15k. The Yaris does not come standard with very many options but you do get a nice sound system with the base model that includes a USB port and iPod connectivity. Where the subcompact does excel is in the safety department. The 2012 Toyota Yaris is equipped with 9 airbags, whiplash protection seats, anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, and more. These systems work together as one unit called the Star Safety System. In fact the 2012 Toyota Yaris made it to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety list of the Top Safety Picks. The Yaris is a great new car under $15,000 thanks to its excellent fuel economy and wonderful safety features.

8) 2012 Kia Soul - $13,900

The Kia Soul is aimed at the youth of America. Simply refer to the Kia Hamster commercials that have millions of views on Youtube. The exterior design of the 2012 Kia Soul is unique and does add to the overall style of this micro van. All the bumpers and mirrors are color matched to the rest of the body. The interior is a nice place to be with the black on black cloth trim. There are plenty of storage bins for your 5 passengers and the stereo unit features a CD player, MP3 hookup, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Under the hood lives a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft. of torque. The only transmission available on the under $15,000 trim is a 6-speed manual. Fuel economy is great for a vehicle of this size with the Soul averaging 27 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway. The 2012 Kia Soul is a Top Safety Pick thanks to a bunch of great features like: airbags (front, side, and curtain), active headrests, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and vehicle stability management. Heck, the Soul even comes with a hill-start assist control system. The 2012 Kia Soul takes the crown as the new car under $15,000 with the best warranty. The 120 month/100,000 miles powertrain warranty may just be the best in the business.

7) 2012 Chevrolet Sonic - $13,865

2012 represents the inaugural year for the Sonic. You may have recently seen the Sonic doing a 360 degree kick flip, bungee jump, or skydiving. Chevrolet is making sure this car is going to appeal to a specific target audience with lots of great advertising stunts. The 2012 Chevy Sonic replaces the aging Aveo platform while still keeping a low base price that is well under $15,000. In fact there are 3 different trim level that beat this price point. The Chevrolet Sonic comes in two body styles: a 4-door sedan or a 5-door hatchback. This little car has some guts thanks to a 1.8 liter ECOTEC 4-cylinder engine that makes 138 horsepower and 125 lb-ft. of torque. These are huge power figures for a subcompact car. Transmission choices are a 5-speed automatic or 5-speed manual. Fuel economy figures are also near the top of the heap at 26 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway. Chevrolet offers tons of good stuff even on the very base model car. The Sonic comes with loads of features and standard equipment that are above and beyond the other competing new cars under $15,000. Power door locks with remote entry are standard as are: OnStar, AM/FM stereo, air conditioning, 15-inch aluminum wheels, and power steering just to name a few. The 2012 Chevy Sonic is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick thanks to a combination of 10 airbags, traction control, stability control, and ABS. A 60-month/100k mile powertrain warranty is standard on the base model.

6) 2012 Suzuki SX4 - $13,849

What could the 2012 Suzuki SX4 possibly have that the other new cars under $15,000 do not? How about 150 horsepower! The SX4 is the most powerful car under that $15k mark thanks to a 2.0 liter direct injected 4-cylinder engine that makes 150 horsepower and 140 lb-ft. of torque. A 6-speed transmission is standard on the base model sedan. Fuel economy is a bit lower than the rest of the pack at 23 MPG in the city and 33 MPG on the highway but you are getting more horsepower and torque. Safety features include 8 airbags, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, a tire pressure monitoring system, and daytime running lights. Interior features are what you would hope for on a new car: power windows, doors, mirrors, tilt steering, and adjustable seats to name a few. The powertrain warranty on the 2012 Suzuki SX4 sedan is pretty great with coverage lasting 84 months or 100,000 miles. The Suzuki SX4 is a good choice for under $15,000 giving you the most power in the subcompact car class.

5) 2012 Kia Rio - $13,400

The Kia Rio for the 2012 model year brings a totally redesigned and refreshed platform to the compact car table. This new design direction can be seen on many vehicles in the Kia line-up. There are 2 different Rio models under $15k: the first is a 4 door-sedan, while the second (dubbed the Kia Rio5) is a 4-door hatchback. The Rio comes packing a 1.6 liter GDI 4-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft. of torque. The base LX model comes with a 6-speed transmission and you can get the optional 6-speed automatic for $1000 more. In either case the 2012 Kia Rio manages to net 30 MPG in the city and 40 MPG on the highway making it one of the most fuel efficient new cars under $15,000. The Rio has much of the same safety equipment as mentioned previously with the Soul. Also the Rio sports that amazing 10 year/100,000 mile warranty. Kia has been one of the most popular vehicle manufacturers over the last few years and the combination of a good looking exterior and fuel efficient engine is enough to make the 2012 Rio a great buy for under $15,000.

4) 2012 Ford Fiesta - $13,200

The Ford Fiesta is the oldest and one of the newest cars on the list. You may remember the Fiesta was discontinued in the U.S way back in 1980. Well, the car lived on in other countries and last year Ford decided to redesign and relaunch the Fiesta here in America. Available in both 4-door hatchback and sedan body styles, the Fiesta is the most affordable vehicle in the stable of Ford vehicles. The exterior of this compact car is sleek and clean with the dragon eye headlights and slash down the side of the vehicle. This aerodynamic look is called Kinetic and can be seen on other Ford vehicles. The 2012 Ford Fiesta S is powered by a 1.6 liter Duratec 4-cylinder engine that makes 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft. of torque while averaging 29 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway. Transmission choices are a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic with auto-shift. Something unique about the Fiesta is the Electronic Power Assisted Steering that gives the driver great steering feedback. Ford’s AdvanceTrac electronic skid system helps maintain control when driving conditions are bad. This system is one of the main reasons the 2012 Ford Fiesta is an IIHS Top Safety Pick. A new Fiesta carries with it a 60 month/60,000 mile warranty.

3) 2012 Hyundai Accent - $12,545

The Hyundai Accent is yet another car under $15,000 that was redesigned for the 2012 model year. Both the 4-door sedan and hatchback offer a stylish design that is in line with the rest of the innovative direction that Hyundai is taking their vehicle line-up. In fact, this sleek design helps the sedan get an ultra low 0.30 drag coefficient rating which is the same as a Lamborghini Diablo. The base model sedan comes with a 6-speed manual transmission and an efficient 1.6 liter Gama GDI 4-cylinder engine making 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft. of torque. Fuel economy ties the Kia Rio for second best in class with 30 MPG in the city and 40 MPG on the highway. On the inside, the 2012 Hyundai Accent offers tons of storage space, power door locks, front bucket seats, and more. In terms of safety, the Accent sports an array of airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, and ABS with electronic brake force distribution. The warranty on the 2012 Hyundai Accent is a best in class for new cars under $15,000 with the powertrain coverage lasting 120 months/100,000 miles. The Accent is a very affordable new car from an up and coming car manufacturer.


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