While used cars might be the most financially prudent decision a buyer can make, there are plenty of people out there who'd rather fork out a few more dollars for a low-cost, no-frills new car with a warranty. Whether you're after that, or just want a set of seats that don't smell like somebody else, inexpensive new cars still exist, and there are plenty of 'em on offer.
This is the list for the value seekers. These cars have the lowest post-destination retail prices in the industry, and even fans of crossovers will now find something on our list. We're relying on the latest data for these cars, whether that covers the 2020 or 2021 model year. It's also worth noting that these prices were taken directly from each manufacturer's consumer site, and since haggling still exists, your final price will likely vary.
2020 Chevrolet Spark Hatchback: $14,395
The least expensive car on the list is the 2020 Chevrolet Spark Hatchback, which rings in at $14,395 including destination. Given that the average new-car transaction price is pushing north of $35,000, that means the Spark is one hell of a bargain.
Of course, some sacrifices need to be made to hit this price point. The engine is a diminutive 1.4-liter inline-4 that produces just 98 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable transmission is available, but it'll cost you. Standard equipment on this little guy includes USB ports, OnStar connectivity capability and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That little engine confers big fuel-economy benefits, reaching an EPA-estimated 29 miles per gallon city and 38 mpg highway.
2020 Mitsubishi Mirage Hatchback: $14,990
Mitsubishi's subcompact hatchback is almost always in the running for the cheapest car on sale, and it's in a solid second place as we enter 2020. Including destination, this little five-door runabout will set you back $14,990, which is a solid bargain.
Under the hood is a 1.2-liter inline-3 gas engine producing just 78 hp and 74 lb-ft, making the Spark seem like a hot rod. A five-speed manual is standard, as is front-wheel drive, but a CVT is also on offer for a little extra scratch. Standard equipment is sparse, but it includes a 7-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and a USB port, although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren't available until higher trims. It's a pretty efficient little thing, achieving an EPA-estimated 33 mpg city and 41 mpg highway with its five-speed stick (those numbers rise even higher with the CVT).
2020 Nissan Versa: $15,655
There was a time when the Versa was the least expensive car you could pick up. Its major overhaul in 2020 brought the price up a fair bit, though, now ringing in at $15,655 including destination. Thankfully, there's a reason for that price hike: higher quality.
Its 1.6-liter I4 puts out 122 hp and 114 lb-ft, making it the most powerful car on the list thus far. A five-speed manual is (yet again) standard, but a CVT is on offer for those willing to pony up the scratch. There's a surprising amount of standard kit in here, including automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and a 7-inch touchscreen with 3 USB ports. With the five-speed, the EPA rates the Versa at 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, but moving to the CVT bumps those numbers up to 32 and 40, respectively.
2020 Mitsubishi Mirage G4: $15,990
Does it have a peppier powertrain? Nope -- the G4 wields the same shaky three-cylinder as the hatchback, including the standard five-speed automatic transmission. A 7-inch screen is standard, but there's an optional upgrade to a 6.5-inch screen that packs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It, too, is mighty thrifty with regards to gas, reaching an EPA-estimated 33 mpg city and 40 mpg highway with the manual, or 35 mpg city and 41 mpg highway with the CVT.
2020 Hyundai Accent Sedan: $16,270
Hyundai's plucky little Accent is its smallest car in the US, and its price tag is suitably small, as well, ringing in at $16,270 including destination. It's not the least expensive car on the list, but its equipment and dynamics combine to make a promising vehicle.
All three trims of Accent utilize a new 1.6-liter I4 producing 120 hp and 113 lb-ft, which is routed through a standard six-speed manual on the base trim, although a CVT is available (and standard on higher trims). Standard equipment on the base Accent SE includes a 5-inch touchscreen with a USB port, power windows and steering wheel controls. It's solidly efficient, too, with an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 29 mpg city and 39 mpg highway (add 2 to each number with the CVT).
2020 Toyota Yaris Sedan: $16,605
The Toyota Yaris in the US is actually a thinly veiled Mazda2, but that doesn't mean Toyota's key values -- safety and a solid smattering of standard equipment -- aren't present. This latest iteration of Toyota's tiniest sedan rings in at $16,605 including destination.
It's not as sprightly as some of the other cars on this list, with its 1.5-liter I4 putting out just 106 hp and 103 lb-ft. A six-speed manual is standard on the lowest two trims, with an automatic only coming into the equation on the XLE trim. Standard equipment is solid, including a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and low-speed emergency braking. The base Yaris is pretty thrifty on the road, too, at 30 mpg city and 39 mpg highway.
2020 Kia Rio: $16,815
The Kia Rio is a slightly sharper version of the Accent, as the two share a vehicle platform (and a parent company). It's a little more expensive than the Hyundai, coming in at $16,815 including destination.
Its 1.6-liter I4 is a little stronger, putting out 130 hp and 119 lb-ft, and a six-speed automatic transmission is the only cog-swapper on offer. There's a decent amount of kit in there, too, including automatic headlights, the same 5-inch screen as the Accent, satellite radio and USB ports. It's also a little less efficient than the Accent, coming in at 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway in its sole powertrain configuration.
2020 Honda Fit: $17,145
Honda barely even made this list, but its plucky five-door hatchback still remains one of the most affordable new cars with an out-the-door price of $17,145 including destination. While Honda rolled out a new generation not too long ago, it's believed that it won't come to the US, so Honda fans' tiny-car days might be numbered.
Even though it's the smallest Honda that isn't an SUV, the Fit offers a bunch of promising kit. Under the hood is a 1.5-liter inline-4 that produces 130 hp and 114 lb-ft when mated to a six-speed manual, or 128 hp and 113 lb-ft when connected to a CVT. All CVT-equipped Fits come standard with Honda Sensing, the automaker's suite of driver aids that includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. The six-speed Fit is capable of 29 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, while CVT models bring that up to 33 city and 40 highway.
2020 Chevy Sonic Sedan: $17,595
The last spot on this list goes to the Chevy Sonic Sedan, which at $17,595 is a bit less expensive than its hatchback sibling.
The Sonic sedan packs a downsized 1.4-liter turbocharged I4, yet its output of 138 hp and 148 lb-ft gives it a decent amount of get-up-and-go. Alas, a six-speed automatic is the only transmission on offer, so row-your-own fanatics will be let down. Automatic headlights are standard, as is a bevy of in-car tech that includes 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot compatibility and a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Sonic Sedan will reach an EPA-estimated 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
2020 Hyundai Venue: $18,490
I understand that some buyers out there simply must have an SUV, for whatever reason, even if it's a small one. This one barely qualifies for this list considering it's about $1,000 more expensive than the formerly most expensive car, but the 2020 Hyundai Venue does stand as the least expensive new crossover you can buy.
Thankfully, its low price doesn't mean it scrimps on much. Its 1.6-liter inline-4 gas engine puts out 121 hp and 113 lb-ft, which in my experience is all the power you'll need for 95% of the scenarios in which a car is required. A manual is standard on the base trim, but a CVT is optional. The tech is where it's at, though. All Venue trims come with an 8-inch touchscreen that runs both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, in addition to standard safety systems that include automatic emergency braking.
Originally published Nov. 12, 2019.