In recent years, shopping for an affordable new car, especially a compact sedan, always included the Honda Civic as a prime contender. However, for 2023 Honda dropped the LX trim from the Civic’s lineup, making the Sport model the new base and raising the price by $2,100 over the previous year’s base offering to $25,745 for the sedan and $25,845 for the Civic hatchback. So, like many people, you are probably looking for a few affordable Honda Civic alternatives. Fortunately, Car and Driver has a few suggestions.
Shopping for a cheap Honda Civic alternative?
The team at Car and Driver is quick to point out that although $2,100 is a significant price increase for a base model offering from one year to the next, the move from LX to Sport provides 2023 Honda Civic buyers with extra value. For example, the Sport features “18-inch wheels, proximity-key entry, and paddle shifters for the continuously variable automatic transmission” (CVT).
While that fact offers some consolation, the considerable gap in entry-level prices makes rival models such as the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, and Volkswagen Jetta all the more appealing for those looking for an economical compact sedan at a more affordable price point, reports Car and Driver.
The 2023 Hyundai Elantra is cheaper than a new Civic sedan
The 2023 Hyundai Elantra SE, including destination charges, starts at $21,595, making it $4,150 cheaper than a new Civic Sport sedan. According to Car and Driver, that also makes it a great affordable Honda Civic alternative. With its 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the entry-level Elantra has enough power to drive around town and merge onto highways but don’t expect exhilarating acceleration.
While the hybrid version doesn’t offer any more excitement when accelerating, it does save with estimated fuel economy ratings as high as 56 mpg compared to the base engine’s 35 mpg combined estimate. Although, the hybrid’s fuel economy fell short of that estimate during Car and Driver’s testing.
The 2023 Kia Forte is more affordable than the new Civic
The 2023 Kia Forte starts at $20,585, making it $5,160 cheaper than a new Civic Sport sedan. However, it comes with the same uninspiring 2.0-liter engine present in its base corporate stablemate Elantra. The good news is that, like the Elantra, the Forte possesses attractive styling inside and out and good fuel economy ratings.
Car and Driver calls the 2023 Kia Forte “thrifty, respectably capable, acceptably comfortable,” and “a really good deal.” The team at Car and Driver recommends choosing the Kia Forte GT over other models to take advantage of the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and turbocharged four-cylinder with 201 horsepower.
In addition to quicker acceleration, you’ll get “18-inch wheels, sport seats, ambient interior lighting, and a wireless smartphone charging pad” and still pay less than you will for the base Civic.
The 2023 VW Jetta is standard with a manual transmission
The 2023 VW Jetta S features a 158-horsepower turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 184 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful of our base model competitors. However, with its starting price of $21,510, the Jetta S is $4,235 cheaper than the Civic Sport sedan. The standard six-speed manual transmission serves the Jetta well, but if you’re opposed to shifting gears, you can upgrade to the eight-speed automatic transmission for “a few hundred bucks extra.”
Car and Driver recommends upgrading to the Jetta Sport for $900 more. The Sport trim offers “unique 17-inch wheels, black exterior and interior accents, and an electronically locking front differential for improved performance.” During testing, the team felt that Jetta’s light steering lacked precision but noted that those who desire “complacent transportation” will enjoy its “serene nature.”
Which affordable Honda Civic alternative provides the best value?
With fuel price volatility as it is, it’s hard not to look at the Hyundai Elantra Blue hybrid starting at a little over $25,000, still cheaper than the base Civic Sport. However, if we’re sticking with comparing base model offerings, the 2023 VW Jetta S gets the nod thanks to its more powerful engine, six-speed manual transmission, and “serene nature.” After all, serenity is a worthwhile goal when buying an affordable, economical compact sedan.