New car prices have increased in recent years, thanks to better-equipped models and more automakers discarding inexpensive small cars in favor of more profitable SUV models. That trend has seen names like the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Ford Fiesta discontinued in the US in the last couple of years. In December 2020, the average new car sold cost more than $40,000. On this list, no vehicle costs much more than $21,000. There are sedans, hatchbacks, and even models that look quite similar to SUVs. Some even offer smartphone connectivity and driver safety aids, proving it's still possible to get modern amenities for roughly half the market average price.
The cheapest car on sale new today, the 2021 Chevy Spark, rings in at under $15,000, including its destination fee. A 98-horsepower four-cylinder engine and standard five-speed manual transmission don't offer much in the way of driving excitement. Still, this small Chevy is best suited for crowded city spaces. A continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT, is optional.
The Spark's cabin space for four passengers and hatchback versatility make it useful for hauling people and cargo. Its tidy dimensions make parking a snap. And the controls inside are easy to use. Automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning are available on some models. General Motors' OnStar telematics system with emergency calls is standard, along with a WiFi hotspot.
With pricing from $15,290 MSRP, including destination, the 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage is not quite the cheapest new car on sale today, but it's close. It's also one of the smallest and most efficient gas cars, with an EPA-estimated 43 mpg on the highway. Compact packaging makes the Mirage most at home maneuvering down narrow streets.
The available hatchback's large cargo hold and split-folding rear seats add versatility. Beneath the Mirage's sheet metal, its 78-horsepower, three-cylinder engine is out of its depth in most highway situations. Still, the Mirage comes with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, as well as a new seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
Despite revised exterior styling for 2021, the Mirage is upfront about what it is. This inexpensive new car lessens anxiety over mechanical issues with a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
In just two years, the Nissan Versa went from being the least expensive new car on sale to a significantly more desirable car with a slightly higher price. However, the tradeoff was worth it because there is much to like about this improved Versa. High-quality details inside and out give the impression it costs more than it does. The interior is also spacious for a subcompact.
Standard safety amenities include automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and automatic headlights – all of which are rare at this price. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, too. One caveat is that the Versa S, with a $15,855 MSRP base price, comes with a five-speed manual transmission and no options other than exterior paint colors. Adding the more common CVT adds about $1,800. But that still leaves the 2021 Versa as a value-priced new car that doesn't lack essential features.
The Accent is Hyundai's least-expensive new car, a designation it has held for five generations. During that time, it has evolved into a modern and comfortable subcompact sedan. The 120-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is competent for this class, as is the 41 mpg highway fuel economy estimate from the EPA. A six-speed manual comes standard when even some more expensive cars on this list still employ five-speed transmissions (a CVT automatic is optional).
The $16,400 MSRP doesn't include many advanced features. Opting for a better-equipped SEL or Limited model with alloy wheels, smartphone connectivity, and forward-collision warning barely pushes the price past $20,000. Hyundai's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty is another selling point if keeping operating costs low is essential.
The Rio is the least-expensive Kia. At just over $17,000, it's more expensive than the Hyundai Accent. Yet, it shares that car's fuel efficiency and value for money. The two vehicles share the 120-horsepower four-cylinder engine, strong fuel economy, and a roomy interior for their size.
The Rio comes slightly better equipped, with the base model getting standard Bluetooth connectivity, an eight-inch touchscreen display, and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration. The fancier S trim offers an optional technology package, including LED headlights, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, auto on/off high beams, and automatic climate control. Even with that package, the Rio still costs under $20,000. A 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty is standard.
Take the Kia Rio and give it a different body with a tall roof, funky style, and hatchback versatility. That's the recipe behind the Kia Soul, and for more than ten years, it's been a successful one. Its versatility rivals that of more expensive crossover SUVs. It lacks all-wheel-drive, but the Soul is one of the most practical and least expensive cars on the market.
The base model starts at $19,110 MSRP, coming with a 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual transmission, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 16-inch wheels, and privacy glass. Moving up the trim lineup includes features such as alloy wheels, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and even a power driver's seat for less than $22,000. At the top of the line is the Soul Turbo with a 201-horsepower turbo-four and an extra shot of performance in this boxy, unusual vehicle.
Fewer compact sedans fall into the sub-$20,000 category than ever before as they get larger and include more standard equipment. The Kia Forte has grown more refined and well-equipped in recent years, yet it remains the least-expensive compact sedan.
That's not to say the Forte doesn't come with plenty of space and equipment, with a standard 147-horsepower four-cylinder powertrain, smartphone connectivity, and up to 40 mpg on the highway for under $19,000. The GT-Line model adds sportier exterior styling and more equipment for about $22,000. Simultaneously, the GT gets a 201-horsepower turbo-four to add more performance in an otherwise unassuming compact car.
Not everyone wants an inexpensive car to be a practical four-door vehicle. Enter the Hyundai Veloster. It offers four doors in a more unusual configuration, a hatchback providing one door on the driver's side and two on the passenger's side. It gives the tiny Hyundai hatchback a fun appeal without compromising ease-of-access to the rear seat.
The Veloster's unusual style is a welcome sight for its sub-$19,000 price because, under the exciting wrapper, it's a relatively sensible subcompact car. It's as easy to live with as a Hyundai Accent. Still, it offers a slightly sportier feel, hatchback versatility, and a more exciting personality. With 147 horsepower from its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission, the Veloster is reasonably fun to drive. A more expensive turbocharged engine is available. Standard 17-inch alloy wheels, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay take away any notion that the Veloster is a bargain-basement subcompact car.
At less than $20,000 to start, the Subaru Impreza is a great deal among compact cars. Available as a sedan or hatchback, the Impreza is relatively spacious inside, gets up to 36 mpg on the highway according to the EPA, and boasts several accolades from crash-safety agencies. Factor in that it's the least-expensive new car with all-wheel-drive, and the Impreza becomes a standout vehicle for those who may need added traction in harsh weather conditions.
Subaru makes all-wheel-drive standard on all Impreza models, an unusual feature among inexpensive cars. A five-speed manual comes standard on the base model; an automatic transmission is a $1,300 option. And driver-assistance features such as automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assist aren't available on models with the manual transmission. But the Impreza is still a robust, compact choice that deserves consideration even if all-wheel-drive isn't a top priority in a new car. Throw in Subaru's reputation for dependability and ease-of-use, and the Impreza's credentials as a daily driver are secure.
Hyundai might consider its Venue a tiny SUV. Still, it's more like an Accent hatchback wearing a slightly more muscular suit. It shares the Accent's small footprint and the four-cylinder engine, and it doesn't offer all-wheel-drive like most SUVs. But every Venue gets a flexible interior with tall windows to make it feel less claustrophobic and adequate space for four passengers.
All models come equipped with power windows and door locks, along with an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, an automatic transmission, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-keep assist. At just under $20,000, it offers a lot of features and practicality in a small package. But the Venue is also a tiny hatchback with a distinctive look that makes it useful for people looking for excellent value in a new car.
The VW Jetta is another one of the more substantial cars on this list, as it is one of the most spacious compact sedans for sale today. The small Volkswagen comes with a long list of standard features and sporty driving characteristics. Only the base Jetta S, with its six-speed manual transmission, comes in under $20,000. Still, it includes a 147-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder that's surprisingly energetic and returns up to 41 mpg, according to the EPA.
Automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring are widely available. More expensive trims add heated seats, larger wheels, and even a digital instrument panel. But every Jetta gets the fundamentals right, with a roomy interior and cargo area, along with a sophisticated design that easily conceals its low price.
The Nissan Sentra has traditionally offered a lot of car for a low starting price. A 2020 revision updated this compact sedan with more technology, advancements in refinement inside and under the hood, and far more distinctive styling. That styling isn't reserved for the most expensive Sentras, either, because the latest version has more grown-up styling befitting one of Nissan's larger sedans like the Altima and Maxima.
At just over $20,000, the 2021 Sentra comes with an automatic transmission, smartphone connectivity, and driver-assistance technologies like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic high beams. Not only does the Sentra look good and come responsibly equipped, but it's a bargain among new cars.
Minis have long been highly desirable and stylish vehicles. Still, its BMW roots have stopped it from being as inexpensive as its diminutive size would suggest. Now the British brand has corrected that and put the Mini Cooper hatchback models more in line with other compact cars. Introduced in 2019 for military members and recent graduates, the ultra-affordable Oxford Edition is now available for all buyers.
The two- and four-door hardtop versions of the Mini Cooper Oxford Edition comes with the 134-horsepower, turbocharged 1.5-liter engine from other Cooper trims. It also has a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission, 17-inch wheels, a panoramic moonroof, and other popular options for less than the standard model's price. The two-door Mini Cooper Oxford Edition starts at $20,600 MSRP, while the four-door version costs $1,000 more. While it doesn't have the same configuration options as other models, the Oxford Edition is well-equipped, providing the same zing as other Mini Cooper models.
Like the Venue, the Nissan Kicks is really a hatchback dressed up as an SUV. It shares many parts with the less expensive Nissan Versa, including the 122-horsepower engine, a CVT, and compact exterior dimensions. While the Kicks lacks an all-wheel-drive system, it can be better understood as a hatchback with an elevated seating position. It features a good 36 mpg on the highway and a surprisingly spacious interior.
The 2021 Kicks gets moderately revised exterior styling, improved cabin material quality, and standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity for its $20,650 MSRP. Upper models with two-tone exterior paint, a WiFi hotspot, and a Bose premium audio system only cost around $24,000. That's a relative bargain considering the space and amenities offered. The Kicks does a pretty good job of being one of the cheapest new cars on the market.