The Top 10 Cheapest New Cars In The U.S. - 2012 Edition

A brand new Kia. Engine optional.
A brand new Kia. Engine optional.

Cheap New Cars Are Getting More Expensive

I remember a time not too long ago when you could buy several different new car models for under $10,000. Heck, before the local Daewoo dealership went out of business they were doing a buy-one-get-one free deal on brand new Daewoos selling for $9,500 (still a rip-off, if you ask me). Now there are no new cars in the United States with an MSRP under $10,000, but there are several under $15,000. In fact, all ten cars on this list fall under that price.

Let's get started, from most expensive cheap car (an oxymoron, I know) to least expensive:

10. Toyota Yaris 3-door - $14,115

This 4-cylinder car might be underpowered, but it offers excellent fuel economy for a non-hybrid car, averaging in the mid-30's mpg. They also have a reputation for lasting an unusually long time for a car that is sold for such a low price. I've seen decade-old examples of its predecessor, the Echo, reaching over 300,000 miles.

9. Kia Soul - $13,900

It's boxy and kind of a cheap and ugly version of the Mini Cooper, but hey, it's under 14 grand! It does get low 30's miles per gallon and competes reasonably well with the more expensive (and possibly uglier) Nissan Cube in the toy-SUV class.

8. Chevrolet Sonic Sedan - $13,865

This car is new for the 2012 model year and replaces the Aveo, which everyone hated anyway. It has the Ecotec engine, which isn't noticeably more powerful OR fuel efficient than the other cars on this list. I guess it looks better than the Aveo, so it's got that going for it.

7. Suzuki SX4 - $13,699

The hatch version of this car (which is more expensive than the price listed above, which is for the sedan) offers all wheel drive. With a 150 horsepower engine, it's one of the more powerful economy cars. Unfortunately it's about as dull as weekday afternoon CSPAN, although I suppose it makes a decent candidate for a sleeper, if anyone actually felt inclined to buy a cheap car just to spend a huge amount of money souping it up.

6. Kia Rio 5-door Hatchback - $13,600

I actually think this is one of the better looking cars on the list, although it would look a lot better without that Kia logo. The guy who designed the exterior used to design cars for Audi, which must be why I like it. This car also gets mid-to-high 30's fuel economy, making it one of the most fuel efficient cars to make the cheap cars list. I'd say this one looks like it might be a winner.

5. Kia Rio Sedan - $13,400

Knock two benjamins off the price of a Rio 5-door hatchback and you can still get a Kia Rio sedan.Frankly, if I'm going to be buying an economy car and the hatchback is only $200 more, I'm going with that option. These cars should be all about price and utility, and frankly this is a rare case where the sedan is uglier than the hatchback.

4. Ford Fiesta - $13,200

Aside from all the jokes that can be made about this rather boring car (OMG, did you realize Fiesta and Siesta rhyme, and siesta means nap in Spanish?) the Fiesta has a Duratec engine that can average around 34 mpg. It's underpowered, but its thousands cheaper than a Focus.

3. Hyundai Accent GLS - $12,545

These cars are actually related to the Kia Rio, except cheaper. That's right, there is a car out there that considers the Kia Rio its upscale sibling, and this is it. They've fixed a lot of problems with these cars, and I don't really see a reason not to buy this instead of the more expensive Rio sedan if you've got the choice.

2. Smart fortwo coupe - $12,490

This is probably my least favorite car on the list. Sure, it's cheap, but it's also underpowered and doesn't get nearly fuel economy you might think a 3-cylinder riding lawn mower minus-the-blades should (between 35 and 40 mpg). It's rear wheel drive, which might interest some people, but don't think you'll ever be able to pass one of these off as a sports car. They're best suited as fleet vehicles for Domino's pizza deliveries.

1. Nissan Versa Sedan - $10,990

The only car on this list that came in under $11,000, or $12,000 for that matter. This is an absolute bare bones car. You get four wheels, an engine, and all the safety equipment required by law, and that's just about it. Oh, they do include air conditioning, surprisingly. If you want any other luxury or automatic anything, you'll have to pay for it if it's an available option.

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What's your favorite economy car? 3 comments

jmckinny profile image

jmckinny 4 years ago from Santa Barbara, CA

Don't forget the Mazda 2, the Mazda website says it starts at $14,530


Al Shield profile image

Al Shield 4 years ago from Bendigo, Victoria

Even at the price, there's not a single car on the list with any kind of appeal. It'd be much more fun using that 15K for a used sport car bargain.

Yes I said 'fun', not 'sensible' :D


I am DB Cooper profile image

I am DB Cooper 4 years ago from Whereabouts unknown at this time Author

Indeed, I'd rather spend $15,000 on a much nicer used car than spending the money for an economy car with a new car premium. New car smell isn't worth it -- and it causes cancer.

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