WHEELS AT A STEAL
The days of the econobox are over, as even inexpensive cars tend to have a whole lot of perks built into their budget-friendly frames. The coming model year is no exception, with plenty of entry-level vehicles providing good amenities and mileage for little money down. After patrolling Kelley Blue Book, Car and Driver, Edmunds, Autotrader, TrueCar, and other sources, we came up with the least expensive 2019 models for just about every category. These manufacturer's suggested retail prices as listed in December aren't necessarily what you'll see from a dealer — but are well below the $37,007 that Kelley Blue Book says is the average cost of a new car.
For all of $12,360, you can own the least expensive new car in the United States. Granted, you'll get a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, 109 horsepower, a five-speed manual transmission, a four-speaker sound system, manual windows, manual locks, and cloth upholstery for that price. But you'll also get a surprising amount of cargo and passenger room.
At just $13,220, the Spark is small, efficient, and tech-savvy — but built for the city. Its 98-horsepower, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission is underpowered for highway driving but averages 33.5 mpg combined and has a tiny turning radius for parallel parking. The rear seats don't fold flat, and it has just 27 cubic feet of maximum cargo space as a result. But it comes with a standard 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Siri Eyes Free, Android Auto, a rearview camera, a USB port, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.
It's one of the last of the true econoboxes, which means you're getting your $13,795worth. A 78-horsepower, 1.2-liter, three-cylinder engine is one of the least powerful you can buy, and the base model forces you into a manual transmission. While it has Bluetooth, a rearview camera, and a 7-inch touchscreen standard, using it means wedging into just 86 cubic feet of passenger space, much of which is better used by putting the back seats down and freeing up 47 cubic inches of cargo. There is one tremendous upside to the Mirage: That stripped-down interior helps it get to nearly 40 mpg combined.
The Accent was once one of the ugliest, most uncomfortable econoboxes on the road, but a 2018 redesign cleared all of that up. A 130-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is surprisingly powerful for a car this size, though that strength and a six-speed manual transmission limit it to a not-so-subcompact 31 mpg. With 90 cubic feet of passenger volume and nearly 14 cubic feet of cargo volume, it's built more like a small car. The standard 5-inch touchscreen, rearview camera, Bluetooth, a USB port, and four-speaker audio system also give it outsized personality for just $13,995.
It looks as if 2019 will be the Fiesta's last year, at least until the next fuel crisis. Ford is scrapping most of its cars as buyers flock to SUVs. Even the $14,260 price, 120 horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission (fetching a combined 31 mpg), keyless entry, six-speaker audio system, a 4.2-inch display, Bluetooth, and rearview camera couldn't make up for the car's tight quarters and cloth seats.
A subcompact isn't a popular choice in the U.S. auto market, but it's the most frugal one you can make. At $15,300, the Rio packs a 130-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, six-speed manual transmission, 5-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, a four-speaker sound system, USB port, air conditioning, and power door locks into its tiny package and gets a combined 32 mpg. It's also the entry point to Hyundai/Kia's standard five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
You may have heard about General Motors' plans to kill off a bunch of its cars, including the Chevrolet Sonic. That's true, but the $15,420 rolls into 2019 with a 1.4-liter, 138-horsepower, four-cylinder engine, a five-speed manual transmission, a combined 30 mpg, and 47.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats down. The last Sonic buyers are getting a steal, as a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a four-speaker stereo, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a USB port, a Wi-Fi hot spot, keyless entry, and a rearview camera all come standard.
Why would you buy this tiny subcompact, beside its$15,450 price? Because this self-proclaimed city car gets 36 mpg combined out of its 106-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. Since Toyota is marketing the Yaris to young, cash-strapped urban drivers, it's loaded with technology, including a six-speaker stereo, 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a USB port, Bluetooth, pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, and a rearview camera — all standard. Just don't look for cruise control.
A car doesn't have to be a subcompact to have a $16,100 price tag. Hyundai's small offering has a 147-horsepower, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine that gets a combined 32 mpg when paired with a six-speed manual transmission. Its 14 cubic feet of trunk volume is impressive for a vehicle this size, though a USB port, six-speaker audio system, and Bluetooth are the greatest comforts the passenger space has to offer.
For $16,190 you get about 10 cup holders, modular seating, and as much as 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats down. That said, the manual transmission provides about 31 mpg combined (the optional automatic bumps that to 36) and the four-cylinder engine's 130 horsepower isn't all that brawny. Fortunately, Honda throws a rearview camera, USB port, Bluetooth, a 5-inch display screen, and a four-speaker sound system in the base model.
For $16,245, you aren't getting a “Fix It Again, Tony” wreck like your parents and grandparents despised. You're getting a 1.4-liter, 145-horsepower engine with a sport-tuned suspension, performance brakes, a backup camera, and Uconnect with a 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and streaming audio. Yes, 85 cubic inches of interior volume is tiny, but 30 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the seats down comes in handy, as does roughly 30.5 mpg.
We'd say this is the first SUV to make the list, but the $16,490 Soul has always been more of a wagon. With more than 61.3 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume that's more like 50 if you don't count the tray under the floor, the Soul is a surf wagon that morphed into a grocery getter. With a 130-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder, six-speed manual transmission, Bluetooth, a USB port, satellite radio, and a six-speaker sound system, it’s built more for running errands around the city than for hitting the highway to the coast on weekends.
At $17,690, the Forte is priced low enough that Kia hopes you'll overlook some of this small sedan's lesser traits. The 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine gets a combined 34 mpg, but doesn't really have enough pickup to let you fly through that six-speed manual transmission. Standard safety features such as lane assist, collision avoidance, and an 8-inch rearview monitor with parking guidance complement a quiet interior equipped with Bluetooth, a four-speaker stereo, satellite radio, and a USB port.
The 2019 Nissan Sentra, even at $17,790, has some miles on the tires. Its 124-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine still manages just 30 mpg combined with a standard six-speed manual transmission. It rides smoothly over rough roads and is easy to steer. Although dated, the Sentra’s cabin is filled with quality materials, with spacious and comfortable seats that’ll accommodate tall passengers easily in the rear seat. A 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, a four-speaker audio system, and a rearview camera come standard in the base model, and the Sentra offers generous cargo space.
The $17,950 Focus makes it into the year as a leftover. Buyers largely didn't want its 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, and five-speed manual transmission, despite the fact it came with a 4.2-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth, a four-speaker sound system, rearview camera, and two USB ports. A tight 90 cubic feet of passenger volume and just 3.2 cubic feet of trunk volume didn't bode well with drivers switching to SUVs.
The Cruze is eminently affordable at $17,995, but a combined 33 mpg of efficiency isn't what's catching the consumer's eye. Nor is a 153-horsepower, turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine; a six-speed manual transmission; a 7-inch touchscreen; Apple CarPlay; Android Auto; Bluetooth; a USB port; a four-speaker audio system; or a rearview camera. Drivers see a sedan and 14 feet of trunk volume and go sprinting to the nearest SUV.
The last small Mazda3 starts at just $18,095 already updated with Mazda Connect infotainment, a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, two USB ports, voice texting, and a combined 29 mpg. The new Mazda3 just debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show and is the first update since 2014. It'll get a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, expanded passenger room, a nearly 9-inch touchscreen and a new safety system. Pricing hasn't been announced, but it should be in line with earlier releases.
Meet the growing subcompact SUV segment. The Nissan Kicks was all-new in 2018 and carries a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine, and 125 horsepower in 2019. Its 33.5 mpg combined are impressive for a compact SUV, while standard forward collision warning, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, push-button start, a 7-inch touchscreen, Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto make for a lot of perks for $18,290. Though 92 cubic feet of passenger space isn't a lot for an SUV, 32.3 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats down give buyers what they're looking for.
Where can you get standard all-wheel drive for less than $20,000? Right here. Also with rearview cameras, Starlink infotainment, and a five-speed manual transmission, the $18,595Impreza is snow country's most frugal choice.
At $18,700, the Corolla provides a 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder, 132-horsepower engine, and a combined 32 mpg when paired with a six-speed manual transmission. The 97.5 cubic feet of passenger space and 13 cubic feet of trunk space are fine; tech offerings including Toyota's entire Safety Sense package of driver assistance technology and its Entune multimedia system with 7-inch touchscreen display come standard as well.
You may get four-wheel drive for $18,750, but it comes with a 1.4-liter turbo-four engine with 160 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission. Higher trims will have more off-road toys, but even a basic Renegade comes with a backup camera, Uconnect infotainment, a 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and 51 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the first row of seats.
With a starting price of $18,990 for a two-wheel drive king cab, the Frontier gives drivers a 2.5-liter, 152-horsepower, four-cylinder engine hitched to a five-speed manual transmission. What it gives up in brawn, it makes up in tech features such as a 7-inch touchscreen, rearview monitor, Bluetooth, hand-free text, and Siri Eyes Free. Cruise control, four cup holders, and 9 inches of ground clearance aren't such shabby throw-ins, especially with a payload capacity of all of 900 pounds. You may not haul gravel in it, but it'll come in handy on moving day.
At $19,990, it's definitely a subcompact SUV, but the Kona is loaded. A 147-horsepower, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission are standard, but so is 46 cubic inches of cargo volume with the rear seats down. The standard 7-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are nice; standard lane assist, collision avoidance, and driver attention systems are more impressive.
It's basically a Jeep Renegade that looks a little more Italian. Starting at $19,995, the 500X has the Renegade’s 1.4-liter 160-horsepower turbo, four-cylinder engine, and a six-speed manual transmission. The Uconnect touchscreen and tech features remain the same, like the 51 cubic feet of cargo space. So what's extra? Fiat styling, a backup camera, and heated exterior mirrors with turn signals.
The $19,995 EcoSport is based on the outgoing Fiesta, which means the base model has the same 1-liter turbocharged three-cylinder with a six-speed automatic transmission. Though it gets only 28 mpg combined, it has 91 cubic feet of passenger room and more than 50 feet of cargo space with the back seats down. It's also teeming with tech such as the Microsoft SYNC infotainment system with tablet-style touchscreen (featuring swipe and pinch-to-zoom operation), Apple CarPlay, Android Auto interfaces, and Amazon Alexa.
At $20,390, there's a reason the CX-3 has been so successful in the subcompact SUV sector. The front-wheel drive model with the 2-liter, 146-horsepower, four-cylinder engine is one of the quickest on the market, even with a standard six-speed automatic transmission. Though there's only 44 cubic inches of maximum cargo space, features such as a Mazda Connect infotainment system with 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, 60/40 rear seats, power outlets, and USB inputs make it feel less like a subcompact and more like an SUV.
FIAT 500 ABARTH
At $20,495, the 500's Abarth version — with a 1.4-liter, 160-horsepower, turbo engine, five-speed manual transmission, black aluminum wheels, leather steering wheel, and bucket racing seats — is one of the least-expensive sports cars on the market. That said, it's still the size of a Fiat 500, so choose wisely.
In its original incarnation, the $20,500 Colorado was an Isuzu with Chevrolet badges. Designed by the automakers jointly, it is still sold as the Isuzu D-Max abroad and once sold as many as 935,470 vehicles combined in the U.S. before the recession. After Ford dropped its Ranger line of small pickups a few years ago, General Motors began to rethink the little pickup and gave it a more fuel-efficient engine with a combined 22 mpg. It's aimed at the U.S. truck buyer who long ago switched to smaller trucks from Japanese automakers.
At $20,520, the HR-V toes the line of affordability for a subcompact, but you're getting a lot of room for that money. There's more than 100 cubic feet of passenger volume and nearly 59 cubic feet of total cargo space with the seats down. Meanwhile, a 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder, 141-horsepower engine and automatic transmission are available standard, as are a 60/40 split second-row seat, multi-angle rearview camera, 5-inch LCD screen, USB audio link, and halogen headlights. It may be built like an SUV, but its 30 mpg are as efficient as a small car.
MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER SPORT
The $20,945 Outlander Sport sells at a basic price, but comes with automatic climate control, a rearview camera with 7-inch screen, keyless entry, push-button start, 21 cubic feet of storage behind the second row, and 49.5 behind the first. Combined with the multi-information display, 60/40 rear seats, Bluetooth, and combined 27 mpg, the Outlander Sport is nobody's generic SUV.
Redesigned for 2017, the $21,095 Jeep Compass got a 2.4-liter 180 horsepower four-cylinder engine and either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, and Jeep's standard rearview camera and Uconnect infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Most importantly, it has 127 cubic feet of passenger volume and 60 cubic feet of cargo volume with the seat down. That's a considerable amount of SUV at a subcompact SUV price.
It looked like the Chevy Sonic subcompact when it debuted, but the $21,300 Trax got a superficial overhaul in 2017 that gave it Corvette-inspired design cues. The interior got a new dashboard and center instrument panel, part of an effort to sell the Trax with more than just its fuel-sipping 1.4-liter engine. The OnStar communication system comes standard and turns the Trax into a rolling 4G hotspot, while Chevrolet MyLink gives drivers access to apps via a 7-inch touchscreen. Features include Siri Eyes Free voice texting, Apple CarPlay, Android Audio, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, rear camera, rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot assist, and 48.4 cubic feet of storage with the seats down. That and a combined 29 mpg make Trax the subcompact SUV that beleaguered General Motors desperately needs.
It's functionally the same vehicle as the Chevy Colorado, but with body styling more like the GMC Sierra. At $22,395, other key differences are perks such as LED lighting, bumpers with corner steps, rearview cameras, and available Wi-Fi. With 7,700 pounds of towing capacity and 308 horsepower, it still well outperforms its price.
Ford's getting rid of this Prius look-alike along with its other cars, which makes it possible that this hybrid's $24,120 starting price could go a lot lower in 2019. The shame is that the 40 mpg-combined C-Max has a lot going for it: The 2-liter hybrid engine produces 188 horsepower, there's dual-zone automatic climate control, Microsoft SYNC infotainment, a rearview camera, and a suite of safety features. If you can get this hybrid before it goes, you'll get a steal.
Ford's iconic midsize pickup is coming back after a few years on the shelf. It's returning as a beast, with 270 horsepower, 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, up to 7,500 pounds of towing capacity, and up to 1,860 pounds of payload. It's also starting at $24,300, which makes it the cheapest pickup Ford offers.
SMART EQ FORTWO
Parent brand Mercedes-Benz abandoned the gas-powered ForTwo in the U.S. back in 2017, which means the electric version is all that remains. Its $25,390 isn't cheap, but Smart points out that a $7,500 federal tax credit can reduce that cost to $17,890. For that, you're getting a two-seater with a three-hour charge time that gets the equivalent of 108 mpg combined. With an electric range of 58 miles and just 80 horsepower, tech features such as a Bluetooth audio system, smartphone voice recognition, and a rearview camera do a lot of heavy lifting.
At $25,550, it was already king of the small pickups. But with Toyota's Safety Sense suite of safety features, Entune infotainment with 6-inch touchscreen, hill start, 1,500 pounds of payload capacity, and 3,500 pounds of towing capacity, Tacoma is a lot of truck for the price.
The 181 horsepower from a 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine isn't why anybody buys this car. Nor is the Mazda Connect infotainment system, the climate control, or the 4.5 cubic feet of trunk space. It's the fact that it's a little, often red two-seater convertible that you can buy for$25,730 miata with similar customer satisfaction as a Porsche Boxster, which costs $59,000, and the same quality rating from Consumer Reports (90 for Porsche, 89 for Mazda).
How do you get a Mustang for $26,120? Well, you have to take the 2.3-liter V6 engine — which still produces 310 horsepower — but otherwise aren't missing much. You still get the LED lights, leather steering wheel, Microsoft SYNC, racing apps, a six-speaker stereo, USB ports, and a surprising 25 mpg. It isn't the most fearsome of Mustangs, but it's a Mustang.
DODGE GRAND CARAVAN
Starting at $26,650, Dodge's classic minivan is also one of the cheapest on the road. It includes more than 83 cubic feet of cargo space with the third-row seats down, a whopping 143.8 cubic feet with the third- and second-row seats down, a flip-back option for that third row, a Blu Ray/DVD system with second- and third-row screens for pre-game entertainment, and USB and aux ports for hooking up audio and computers. Its combined 21 mpg aren't great, but that 3.6-liter engine generates 283 horsepower for towing.
At $26,990, close counts for Kia. Second-row Slide-N-Stow seats, a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, Apple Siri Eyes Free, rearview camera, power outlets, 60/40 third-row seats, and up to 142 cubic feet of cargo volume make Kia competitive with the Caravan on features. A 276-horsepower V6 also gives it 3,500 pounds of towing capacity.