Best used cars for the price of a 2022 Chevrolet Spark article highlights:
- A new Chevrolet Spark starts at $14,990; that’s enough to get you one of several used Hondas, including a Civic Si, Accord, Fit, or Acura TSX
- For the price of a Spark, you could buy a used Ford Fiesta ST or a Mk5 or Mk6 Volkswagen GTI
- A used Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 costs roughly the same as a new Chevrolet Spark, as does a BMW 128i and Lexus IS
Even before the pandemic drove the market bonkers, used cars have always been enticing alternatives to new ones. And now the temptation will likely get even stronger because the cheapest new car in the US, the Chevrolet Spark, is officially dead. With a $14,990 base price after destination, the Spark cost roughly half as much as the average used car. But you don’t have to spend the equivalent of 2 Sparks to get a good secondhand set of wheels. So, if you were saving up for a new Spark, these are some of the best used cars you can buy instead.
For the price of a Chevrolet Spark, you could get a used Honda Civic Si
As one of the best affordable new and used compact/subcompact cars, a Honda Civic is a ‘no-duh’ entry on this list. But you aren’t limited to regular Civics with a new Chevrolet Spark budget. For less than $15K, you could get into a used Civic Si.
Available—depending on the model year—as a sedan, coupe, and hatchback, the Si combines the reliability and practicality of a Civic with some extra performance. An eighth-gen Civic Si is over two seconds faster to 60 mph than the Chevrolet Spark. And it has about 100 more horsepower to boot as well as an excellent manual transmission.
While $15,000 won’t get you the previous-gen Civic Si, it can get you a 2013 model, part of the last naturally-aspirated generation. It followed the problematic 2012 model, the first year of the ninth-gen Civic. Faster than the 2012 and eighth-gen models, the 2013 Civic also got a better interior and more standard features, though it still has some rev-hang, MotorTrend notes. But regardless of which version you get, you’ll have more fun driving than in a Chevrolet Spark.
A Honda Accord is one of the best used cars you can buy for under $15K
The 2022 Chevrolet Spark might be fine for basic transportation, but other cars go above and beyond those basics. And one of the best used cars for under $15K, the Honda Accord, is a sterling example of this.
The Honda Accord has consistently earned accolades for how satisfyingly it serves the ordinary driver. It’s earned 36 Car and Driver 10Best trophies thanks to its compliant ride, comfortable and spacious interior, practical ergonomics, and enjoyable handling. And while the Accord has made the occasional reliability misstep, overall, it’s a solid and dependable sedan.
Admittedly, the Accord doesn’t have a hatchback trunk like the Spark. But for $15K, you can get a ninth-gen Accord, which introduced safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning on some trims, Autotrader says. And it’s the first Accord gen to offer a hybrid model.
Instead of a Chevrolet Spark, get a Honda Fit
We swear this list of best used car alternatives to the Chevrolet Spark isn’t going to be just Honda products. However, if you want a secondhand hatchback that can match the Spark, the Fit is a great option. And it’s not just us that think so—Consumer Reports and US News both rank it among the best affordable used cars.
Like the Chevrolet Spark, the Honda Fit is a solid city car. But it’s significantly more spacious than the Spark, and while it’s slightly less efficient, it’s noticeably quicker. And the last versions to make it to the US offered advanced driver-assistance safety features, including adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. Though if you want to have more fun in a Fit, the 2007-2014 models offer more of it, Car and Driver claims.
Yet no matter which used Fit you get, you’re buying into a reliable and practical car.
A used Ford Fiesta ST packs more spark than the Chevrolet hatchback
Despite its name, the Chevrolet Spark doesn’t exactly sparkle with performance vigor. But for the same price as a new Spark, you can get a hot hatch that does: the Ford Fiesta ST.
With a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes up to 197 hp during overboost, the Fiesta ST can go 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds. That’s over four seconds faster than the Spark. And in addition to numerous suspension upgrades over the standard Fiesta, the ST got better brakes and optional Recaro seats. Plus, while the regular Fiesta’s dual-clutch automatic was, um, not great, the ST came exclusively with a six-speed manual. So, not only is it faster, but it’s arguably more reliable.
If you’re buying a used Fiesta ST, the 2016-and-later models have several valuable quality-of-life upgrades. Ford tweaked the suspension to make it ride better and updated the infotainment system enough so it can support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay installation. And the hot hatch got a standard rearview camera in 2018.
All Fiesta STs, though, are joys to drive, including on winter rally stages. It’s not as powerful as the Focus ST, but it’s the better driver’s car in many ways. And you can find clean ones for less than $15,000.
The Mk5 and Mk6 Volkswagen Golf GTI balance fun and practicality well
There’s another used hot hatch you can get for Chevrolet Spark money if a Fiesta ST isn’t appealing: a Volkswagen Golf GTI. Less feisty than the Ford, the GTI is nevertheless a hot hatch icon for a reason. And while the last-gen Mk7 GTI is a bit outside our $15,000 budget, the earlier Mk5 and Mk6 models aren’t.
Fair warning, some Volkswagen GTI model years are rather problematic, in part thanks to some engine design changes. 2008 and 2009 Mk5s are solid, though, as are 2013 and 2014 Mk6s. The Mk6 is only slightly more powerful, but it has more luxury tech, including Bluetooth, touchscreens, and optional heated seats. Also, its optional DSG automatic transmission has far fewer long-term issues than the Mk5 version, Autotrader says.
Regardless, a used Volkswagen GTI brings speed you can enjoy on public roads with comfortable practicality and plenty of interior space.
Whether you go FR-S, BRZ, or 86, they’re one of the best used sports cars for $15,000
Admittedly, the average Chevrolet Spark buyer likely isn’t prioritizing performance. But a limited budget doesn’t mean you have to skimp on fun. Nor does buying a secondhand sports car mean dealing with impracticality. And the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 are some of the best used sports cars because they deliver on both counts.
While $15K won’t get you the second-gen BRZ/GR86, or even the last of the first-gen versions, it still gets you one of the best distillations of the sports car formula. You get a low center of gravity, RWD, and a chassis built to carve corners or drift around them. It’s not the fastest sports car out there, but as with the Miata, the humble power output forces you to sharpen your driving skills. Plus, it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.
However, unlike the Miata, the FR-S/BRZ/86 has back seats and usable trunk space. The back seats are a bit cramped, to be fair, but they do fold flat if you need more cargo space. But like the Miata, the Toyobaru triplets have a sizable community following. So, whether you need wrenching help or modification guidance, there’s a lot of helpful information available.
A used Acura TSX offers Accord-like space with RSX-like fun—and a wagon option
OK, so this next best used car alternative to the Chevrolet Spark is technically another Honda vehicle. However, it doesn’t bear the Honda badge, because it’s the Acura TSX.
The predecessor to the TLX, the Acura TSX eventually succeeded the RSX, née Integra, as the brand’s entry-level car. Although not quite as sharp as the RSX Type S, the TSX is nevertheless a fun FWD sports sedan, particularly the first-gen 2004-2008 cars. But that’s not surprising, given that under the skin, the TSX is basically a Euro-/Japan-market Accord. Also, not only is it more spacious and practical than the RSX, but Acura also offered it as a wagon.
Apart from the 2009 and 2012 model years, the Acura TSX lives up to the stereotypes surrounding Honda reliability. Plus, when you’re not carving corners, it’s a comfortable entry-level luxury car. By 2014, the TSX came standard with leather upholstery, heated front seats, keyless entry, Bluetooth, and heated mirrors, MotorTrend notes. And sub-100,000-mile examples still cost less than a new Chevrolet Spark.
Why buy a Chevrolet Spark when you can get a used BMW 128i?
That’s right, for the price of a new Chevrolet Spark, you can own a BMW. Yes, wading into the waters of used BMWs can be understandably nerve-wracking, but not all of them are ticking maintenance time-bombs. And when it comes to $15,000 used BMW cars, one of your best options is the E82 128i.
Although it’s not as powerful as the turbocharged 135i, the 2008-2013 128i arguably captures the BMW spirit better. For one, it has the classic BMW recipe of a smooth, naturally-aspirated inline-six engine driving the rear wheels. And that 230-hp N52 inline-six is less problematic than the turbocharged N54 and N55 the 135i used. Plus, a 5.7-second 0-60 mph time is nothing to sneeze at.
Also, with less weight over the front wheels, the 128i is even nimbler than the 135i, Car and Driver reports. Add in “perfectly weighted steering,” quality interior materials, strong brakes, and a smooth manual, and you have a stellar sports coupe, MotorTrend says. And while it had two recalls—safety-, not engine-related—the 128i appears to be fairly bulletproof by BMW standards, provided it’s well-maintained.
A $15,000 used Lexus IS offers reliability, luxury, and a genuine sports sedan experience
Last but not least is an alternative both to the BMW 128i and the Chevrolet Spark. The Lexus IS is more of a 3 Series rival than a 1 Series competitor, but it’s still a luxury sports sedan either way. And while you can’t get the V8-powered IS F for $15K, the other models are more affordable.
Some Lexus IS models, particularly the 2005-2007 ones, can suffer from melting dashboard plastics, CarComplaints claims. But overall, the IS lives up to the brand’s standards for reliability, not to mention luxury and comfort. The IS 250 does have a power deficit, but it’s the only model that retained a manual option into the car’s 2006-2013 second generation. And if you want a bit more sportiness, in 2008 Lexus updated the IS’s steering and suspension, and introduced the F Sport line in 2009.
Yet even if you don’t go for the sharper versions, a secondhand Lexus IS provides a more premium experience than a Spark. And that earns it a spot on this best used cars list.
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