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Shopping for the most affordable small cars doesn’t always mean looking on dealership backlots for run-down trade-ins destined for auction. In fact, in today’s market, it’s possible to find a gently used small car that’s only a year or two old for under $14,000. Bumping the budget to $16,750 provides four excellent options, including some brand-new models. 

A red 2023 Nissan Versa subcompact sedan model parked in front of a concrete wall
2023 Nissan Versa | Nissan Motor Corporation

Four most affordable small cars

iSeeCars ranked 25 small cars by affordability and found an average starting MSRP of $23,201. While 15 small cars fall under the average, we’ll look at the four most affordable small cars on the list and discuss price, standard base trim features, and safety scores for each. 

Chevrolet Spark

Kelley Blue Book (KBB) says the 2022 Chevrolet Spark is “not only Chevrolet’s cheapest new car, it’s one of the most affordable new cars on the market,” with an MSRP of $13,600. Unfortunately, Chevrolet discontinued the affordable subcompact hatchback after the 2022 model year, and leftover units on dealer lots are scarce. 

The base LS trim features seating for four and gets an EPA-estimated 33 mpg combined city and highway fuel economy rating. Unfortunately, that fuel economy comes at the expense of performance, as the 1.4-liter four-cylinder only makes 98 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque.

In addition, the low price includes a five-speed manual transmission, manual window cranks, door locks, and manual seat adjustments. Still, it comes with air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

The IIHS still needs to complete full testing of the newer Chevrolet Sparks, but it gives the 2022 model ‘Good’ ratings for the original moderate overlap front and side-impact crash tests. 

Nissan Versa

The 2023 Nissan Versa presents another affordable small car option with its $15,730 MSRP. The base model Versa S includes a 122-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a 5-speed manual transmission providing an EPA-estimated 30 mpg combined.

Interior amenities include air conditioning, power windows and locks, manual cloth seats, and a 7-inch color infotainment touchscreen system with hands-free voice recognition. 

Nissan says that every new Versa, regardless of trim level, comes with the following standard safety features:

  • Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Rear Automatic Braking
  • High Beam Assist 

Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi lists the MSRP for the base model 2023 Mirage ES CVT at $16,245, and it includes a 7-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity. Other standard features include automatic climate control, cruise control, power windows, power locks, a rearview camera, and steering wheel controls for audio, phone, and voice recognition. 

A 1.2-liter four-cylinder provides 76 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque and, paired with the standard Continuously Variable automatic Transmission (CVT), gets an EPA-estimated 39 mpg combined. 

Safety features include multiple airbags and a Forward Collision Mitigation system with Pedestrian Detection. The 2023 Mirage received Good ratings in all IIHS crash tests except for its ‘small overlap front: driver-side” crash test, which received a Marginal grade.

Kia Rio

The 2023 Kia Rio sedan is another affordable small car with its MSRP starting at around $16,750. The base model Rio LX features a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque paired with a standard CVT, which Kia calls an Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT).

That powertrain and its front-wheel drive system give the Rio an EPA-estimated 36 mpg combined fuel economy rating. Other notable features included in the base model are:

  • Air conditioning
  • An 8-inch touchscreen display with a rearview camera
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay
  • Wireless Android Auto
  • Bluetooth
  • Power windows and door locks
  • Power-adjustable heated outside mirrors. 

The IIHS has not thoroughly tested a Kia Rio since 2018 when the organization gave the Rio its highest Top Safety Pick+ award.


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