Hooniverse Asks- What's the Best Cheap Car?

2011_Fiesta_06_lr

There will be a spate of new small cars launching from U.S. automakers’ cannons next year. The Fiesta from Ford, Cruze from Chevy, and some sort of Fiat 500 from Chrysler, if their diabolical schemes pan out. These diminutive domestics will be greeted by a a whole slew of existing immigrants already vying for the job of transporting Gen-X-ers and others of equally meager car-buying budgets to and fro.

With so many cars to chose from- Fit, Yaris, Versa, Mazda 2, etc, we want to know which is the best.

Now, best is a pretty subjective term, and even when you’re plunking down as little as fourteen grand, there are things you’re looking for that somebody else may not be. So, let’s consider overall value as the marker- meaning features and durability. With that in mind, which cheap car would you pop for without regret?

Image sources: [Ford Motor Company, Toyota]

50 Comments

  1. I've actually considered this a lot of late. My answer would have to be — and please understand I don't mean this to be snarky or smug in the least — "a used one." There is no such thing as a cheap new car anymore. Unless you are willing to hunt, or special order and wait forever, you are going to spend at least $16K on anything from your local dealer's lot. Thats enough to buy a much, much more impressive used car. I've seen a number of clean MR2 Spyders and a 40-thou-mile Z3 sell locally for less. Last year, we bought my wife a 11-month-old Chrysler 300 with the 250 HP 3.5L and 5 speed auto for $16,500. I can't see spending that sort of cash on a new Fit, Versa, or Soul.

        1. …which further exemplifies my point. 20K for the 2.3L is closer to new-car mileage and still has a hella stronger motor than an Aveo or Yaris, but yea, M-power. Mmmmmmm.

  2. Recently I saw a new Fiat 500 in the parking lot at my gym. It was straight from Mexico, and it looked pretty awesome. That said, it will be a Chrysler when it reached the US.
    Out of current offerings, I think the Fit offers the best value. Its a Honda, so it'll likely go to the moon and back. It is sporty, has curb appeal (for its class), can haul loads of stuff and passengers, can do the 1/4 mile in about 17 seconds and gets decent fuel economies (what sells this class).

    1. According to Sergio Marchionne's masterplan, the 500 will be marketed through select Chrysler dealers….as a Fiat. When the turbo 500 arrives stateside….and they do plan to bring it here……do not be surprised to see it retain it's Abarth scorpion logos.

  3. The first generation xB had a sweet clutch and shifter, and the handling was truly kart-like. No word on the current model.
    If Honda sold the Civic Type-R sedan in the US, it would be on my shortlist.
    A base Impreza is as close as I can come to answering the question as intended. Otherwise, ten to highteen grand will quickly be diverted to the used market, per my expensive taste.

    1. My younger brother (college kid) has a Toaster (5MT, of course). He shopped around a bunch in that subcompact range and it was far and away the best option. He got his used, as the 2nd gen ones were out, but they had no appeal.

  4. I simply wouldn't buy a new car. That's it. The Fit is excellent (though the first-gen was more so) and the newcomers mentioned above will most likely be on par. But they aren't exactly cheap.
    Cheap and cheerful in a new car has come and gone. The Aveo is hateful, the Versa and Accent mediocre, and nothing else can really be had for dirt cheap. The closest you can get is an end-of-model-year stripper Ranger, and those can be hard to come by.
    Actually, a two- or three-year-old Ranger is a great answer, and it's not even a car. Most of the depreciation's been taken care of, and it'll last for easily a decade, getting decent mileage and hauling your crap.

  5. I think we've gotta do this one in classes…almost like the reverse of racing.
    I propose "New", "Last 3 years" and "Unlimited"
    New:
    I have no idea. I'd consider the 2, Fiesta, Fit, Yaris5 and xD. It'd come down to how they feel from the driver's seat.
    Used, last 3 years
    Probably go with a 1st-gen xB or Fit. My younger brother has a Toaster and I was really impressed. Peppy around town and roomy like a TARDIS.
    Unlimited
    I already answered that question. I can buy a lot of gas and spare parts for the difference between my Falcon and $14k.

    1. New: Fiesta or Fit
      Last 3 years: Fit, or maybe a 1st Gen Canadian-market Yaris 5-door (is that within the past 3 years though?)
      Unlimited: 1991 Civic Wagon 4WD , 1989 Subaru Justy 4WD, 1977 VW Rabbit Diesel, 1988 Civic Si

  6. If I am going to buy a new, small, inexpensive car it will most likely be the Fiesta. The reviews have been great, and they come well loaded for the market segment. Plus, I can get the employee discount through my father-in-law, which would make it an even better deal.
    Now, if you want the best used, small, inexpensive car the only right answer is Yugo. Eastern European sensibilities from the Cold War. Where could you go wrong?

  7. If you absolutely have to buy new, then a stripped base model full size pick-up truck from Chevy or Dodge.
    Base Silverado $19.375, currently $2000 rebates = $17375
    Base Ram 1500 currently $18,920 after rebates
    They can get down closer to $15k with the bigger end of the year rebates. It can be difficult to find the very basic ones too.
    Used I believe that the proper answer is either Crown Vic or BMW E30.

  8. I thought the answer for best cheap car was always used P71.
    I think for now, the best subcompact is probably the Fit, although the 2/Fiesta/500 all stand a pretty good chance of taking that title. Then again, I find myself strangely drawn to the 3-door Accent, with a few performance bits tacked on.

  9. Don't worry… the "ricer alarms" would have been activated at the front door if you truly had ricer intentions.
    Hey look, that guy over there is giving away free VTEC and TypeR stickers….

  10. I think I would have to put in Transit Connect in the mix here. $20K is not "cheap" by any means, but it's as good a value at that price as the other econoboxes mentioned are at $14-16K. And, unlike most of those, the TC has a mix of functionality, maneuverability and economical operation you'd be hard-pressed to find from a readily-available used vehicle.

  11. I'd try to save up a little more and get a no-frills V6 Mustang. My local dealer routinely gets in unoptioned V6 'stangs and prices them in the 18-19k window. I await the 3.7L with bated breath though I doubt it'll be quite that cheap.

  12. If we're limiting it to new cars, my money would go to the Fit.
    If we're opening it up to used cars, I'm betting there are at least a dozen vehicles I'd choose over Honda's baby.

  13. If we are talking econo-box, I would have to say Ford Focus. But, that would be a biased reference because my wife and I have one, and the only things that we have had to do to it is the very basics (brakes, tires shocks and a set of stabilizer links). The only extensive work that we had to do was a head-gasket at 150,000 miles. The head-gasket was a blessing in disguise because along with it came new timing bits and some bitchin' street cams to go along with the dual outlet exhaust and cold air intake, and now that it's paid for it's easier to acquire the T3 turbo kit that it will have very soon. Just to put any theories to rest, I don't plan to go all "rice-boy" with it…I just want it to be a little quicker.

      1. Nice! Actually, I have stainless race mufflers on it, but rest assure, they have all applicable baffling installed within. Not to mention a silencer underneath that provides ample back-pressure, and assures that it won't sound like a bee that just got kneed in the balls. All that, combined with the fact that the only outer-shell mods that I plan on doing is maybe a slight suspension drop and some modest looking wheels should keep me out of the "rice" category(hopefully).

  14. I think I would have to put in Transit Connect in the mix here. $20K is not "cheap" by any means, but it's as good a value at that price as the other econoboxes mentioned are at $14-16K. And, unlike most of those, the TC has a mix of functionality, maneuverability and economical operation you'd be hard-pressed to find from a readily-available used vehicle.

  15. I harbour't driven umteen of the competing cars, and my mom owns an '07 5-speed Mount supporter. It's a large car: relatively speeding (on calculate of the joystick and low metric), edged control, superb brakes, and 40 MPG. You can fit a bundle of poppycock and actual-sized people in it, and it has a tiny turning circle.
    ……….
    jon.
    Luxury Cars

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  17. +1 for the Hyundai Accent SE. I've had mine for about a year now and it is amazing. You have to watch the AutomobileMag Youtube Review to see how stable it is sliding around. It's suspension is just about Sportscar-worthy. It tracks the curves like it's on rails when pushed. Perfect combination of close-together pedals, shifter, armrest, and Short-ratio tranny. Not a lot of power (110HP), but it can do sub-8 second 0-60's with a little tuning (oil/sparks/ShortRam/Grounding) and it has gobs of torque for the corners. Just an all-around great car that doesn't get the respect it would, if it was listed in the usual comparos along with the Fit, Yaris, and Versa.

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