There is absolutely nothing wrong with basic motoring. Sometimes it can provide a lot of fun for not much scratch.
It wasn’t many years ago that you could pick up a Mustang for under $10K. However, those days are long gone. There is no vehicle today that can be purchased for under $10,000 in the United States. But, there are a number of options that come very close.
[The original post can be found at shift+drive]
#10 – 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-door: $14,115
Toyota proudly proclaims “It’s A Car!” in their advertising of the diminutive hatch and the Yaris 3 door is just that. Styling has been evolutionary for the Yaris, sporting a more corporate facia, and the sedan bodystyle has been dropped from the line-up in the new generation. Carrying over is the 1.5L VVT-i DOHC 4-cylinder from the previous model, cranking out 106 hp. Connected with the standard 5-speed row-your-own transmission, the new Yaris will return 30 mpg city/38 mpg highway.
#9 – Kia Soul: $13,900
All the other vehicles on this list are sub-compacts at the bottom of their respective brand’s ranges. However, the Soul offers a lot more utility than many other vehicles here. It’s seen as a direct competitor to the Nissan Cube in the “quirky SUV thing” segment but offers a lot more drivetrain options. The base 1.6L 4-cylinder provides motion to the front wheels with 138 hp. Fuel economy doesn’t seem to be sacrificed due to the shape of the Soul either, returning 27 mpg city/35 mpg highway.
#8 – Chevrolet Sonic Sedan: $13,865
New for 2012, the Chevrolet Sonic replaces the outgoing and much unloved Aveo for sub-compact duties at the bowtie brand. Aggressiveness shows in the new design, looking like an angry Transformer after being zapped with a shrink ray. Between the front wheels is GM’s 1.8L ECOTEC 4-cylinder, producing 138 hp and returning 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway.
#7 – Suzuki SX4 Sedan: $13,699
Suzuki has been letting the SX4 die a slow and painful death, with only minor updates since the models introduction in 2006. Of the vehicles on the list, it is the only sub-compact with available all-wheel-drive (on the hatch only). It also has the largest standard engine size of the lot: a 2.0L 4-cylinder mill producing 150 hp when married to the 5-speed manual. Now, if Suzuki would just give the SX4 a little plastic surgery to bring people into showrooms.
#6 – Kia Rio 5-Door: $13,600
Forget your earlier opinions on the Kia Rio. The new Rio is one of the best looking subcompacts money can buy these days, thanks to Peter Schreyer, former lead designer for Audi. The new Kia Rio 5-Door offers up the corporate grille of many of its brand siblings, surrounded by some of the best sheet metal Kia has ever stamped. Also shared is the 1.6L inline 4-cylinder, which sees life in a number of Kia models, including the Soul above. The little 4-pot produces the same 138 hp as it does in the Soul and a 6-speed manual comes standard in the base model. Fuel economy rings in at 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway, which is the best on the list.
#5 – Kia Rio Sedan: $13,400
At this point you may be wondering, “Why is the Kia Rio on this list twice?” Well, it comes down to the fact that while the nameplate may be the same, a lot of manufacturers treat the two body styles as different models and it is not uncommon for the hatchback variants of models to be significantly more expensive than their sedan counterparts. Hatchback variants of the Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, Suzuki SX4, and Chevrolet Sonic don’t make the list for that very reason. While sedans can be had bare bones, auto manufacturers try to add standard features to the hatchbacks, driving the price up. So, it is worthy to note that the Rio Sedan and Hatchback base prices are only $200 apart. Take that, everyone else!
#4 – Ford Fiesta Sedan: $13,200
The Fiesta nameplate has been revived in North America to slot in below the ever growing Focus. And while the Fiesta hatch sports a nicely sculpted rear-end, the design doesn’t seem to transfer to the sedan in much the same way, looking a bit clumsy. A 1.6L Duratec I4 pulls the new, small car around with 120 hp, placing the Fiesta solidly in the middle of the pack for power output. But, if you are more interested in fuel economy, the base Fiesta gets 29 mpg city/38 mpg highway with the manual 5 cog on the EPA test cycle.
#3 – Hyundai Accent GLS (Sedan): $12,545
The kissing cousin to the Kia Rio, the Hyundai Accent provides a slightly less expensive option for car ownership. Again, forget what you thought you knew about the Accent, as the new model overshadows the faults made in the past. Other than exterior design, the Accent and Rio share almost everything, including the 1.6L 4-cylinder producing the same 138 hp. It also returns identical fuel economy at 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway.
#2 – smart fortwo pure coupe: $12,490
Since its introduction, the smart fortwo hasn’t changed all that much on the surface. A refresh in 2007 grew the city car and improved its crash worthiness. It is the least powerful vehicle on our list, milking 70 hp out of a 1-litre 3-cylinder engine. The fortwo is by far the smallest on the list as well, the only car limited to two seats. While it is rear wheel drive, don’t expect the fortwo to be a sports car, as it returns 34 mpg city/38 mpg highway.
#1 – Nissan Versa Sedan: $10,990
By a very considerable margin, the Nissan Versa Sedan is the cheapest car in America, sporting a base price of $10,990. In order to get the price so low, the Versa does away with almost every creature comfort a person could possibly want, providing a bare bones driving experience. The new design foregoes the sharp lines of the previous generation, instead looking bubbly and very awkwardly proportioned. The 1.6L 4-cylinder isn’t the worst on the list, generating 109 hp, good for 30 mpg city/38 mph highway. However, if the Versa is on your list of possible purchases, be prepared to pay for everything as an extra, excluding air conditioning.