A basic, inexpensive car with good fuel economy is getting a little harder to find these days. But it’s not impossible for first-time buyers or for those who want to keep their transportation costs low. If they want a new car around $15,000 or less, the choices are, for the most part, cars in the subcompact class. We’ve researched five of the cheapest new cars from a list recently developed by Car and Driver. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of each car, as well as its price.
Mitsubishi Mirage G4 ES – $15,690
At first glance, the Mitsubishi Mirage G4 is an affordable sedan. Its fuel economy for a subcompact sedan is competitive at 35 mpg city and 41 mpg highway. For $1,000 more, this car is a step up from the base Mirage hatchback. In this version, power windows, cruise control, and a 7.0-inch infotainment display all come standard.
Some buyers won’t like the serious downsides of this car, though. The G4’s 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine that trickles out 78 hp is one of the most underpowered out there, making for poor acceleration. The ride is rough and noisy, and thhis five-seater’s reliability leaves a lot to be desired.
But maybe one of the best warranties around—a 5-year/60,000-mile limited warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile one for the powertrain—will help to make up for the G4’s shortcomings.
Ford Fiesta S Sedan – $15,135
If buyers want to get a Ford Fiesta they’ll need to hop to it this year. Ford won’t be offering it after 2019, along with almost all of its passenger cars. Driving can be fun in the base trim Fiesta since it handles well and has a fairly energetic 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 120 hp. Not bad for such a cheap new car.
Consumer Reports says that the subcompact feels solid for its size. But CR also warns that the Fiesta could do a bit better on fuel economy with 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. Some larger sedans are more fuel-efficient than this subcompact. And while there’s a good infotainment system in the car, it is a bit short on second-row and cargo space.
Mitsubishi Mirage ES – $14,690
This car is the base model for the Mitsubishi Mirage. It’s a four-door hatch that gets excellent fuel economy with 36 mpg city and 43 mpg highway, and it has the same solid warranty as its sibling the G4. This subcompact comes standard with a five-speed manual and shares the same underpowered 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine as the Mirage sedan.
And like the G4, this variant has feeble acceleration, substandard reliability, and a noisy ride. But consumer reviews on Edmunds rated the Mirage ES highly for its fuel economy and for providing basic transportation at a great price.
Chevrolet Spark LS – $14,095
The Chevy Spark has the distinction of being the tiniest car on this list. According to Consumer Reports, the Spark is 10 inches smaller and four inches narrower than the average subcompact and 30 inches smaller than the next Chevy up in size, the Sonic.
While its smallness gives the four-seater an edge for parking and maneuvering tight city streets, it’s no surprise that back seat and cargo area space come up short.
Even with a five-speed manual CVT transmission, the Spark accelerates sluggishly. It’s a bit disappointing since it has a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 98 hp. And the fuel economy is not quite as good as what buyers would expect for something this small, either: 30 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.
On the plus side, the Spark is strong on tech features for a car of its size, offering Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and WiFi capability. U.S. News & World Report calls this little Chevy “an OK car” which, like the Mirage, gives a buyer basic transportation for a low price.
Nissan Versa S Sedan – $13,255
The cheapest car on the list is the base model of the Nissan Versa, and there are a few reasons why it’s so cheap. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder 109 hp engine is both sleepy and noisy. Consumer Reports points out its low-quality interior and its poor scoring in the IIHS small-overlap crash test. It has no power windows or locks and is available only in a five-speed CVT transmission.
But this year’s Versa has an improved fuel economy of 31 mpg city and up to 39 mpg highway. Compared to other subcompacts listed here, it has roomy seats and an excellent predicted reliability rating, according to U.S. News & World Report.
And it’s available with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. So if buyers who want both basic transportation at a rock-bottom price and that new car smell, the Versa might just be the right choice.