The Annual Inquirer Cheap Car Survey (ICCS) has never been on the New York Times bestseller list, but it deserves to be.
Each year, for the last 31, it has shielded the huddled motoring masses from the ravages of automotive price inflation. At a moment when the average new car transaction price is hovering in the mid-$30,000s, I’ve assembled a seven-pack of small-budget beauties that start at a third of that — and then build on the low initial cost by limiting themselves to a small glass of gas before dinner and coming with new car warranties.
So, here is the Magnificently Inexpensive Seven with their prices and EPA mileage ratings in parentheses. Keep in mind that the prices for these 2018 models don’t include shipping and incentives, and that these are all four-cylinder, front-drive sedans and hatchbacks with manual gearboxes. An automatic typically tacks $1,000 to $1,200 on the sticker.
Nissan Versa Sedan ($11,990, EPAs of 27 city and 36 highway)
This car has been around awhile, which might explain why its price and gas mileage are lower than the other rides mentioned here. This is a reasonably roomy subcompact sedan powered by a 109-horsepower four. But since it weighs only 2,359 pounds, it’s a little livelier than you might expect. Standard gear includes air, ABS, and front-seat headrests.
Chevrolet Spark LS Hatchback ($13,050, EPAs of 29 city and 39 highway)
Built by Daewoo, GM’s Korean partner, this five-door minicar is only 143 inches long, qualifying it as an authentic munchkinmobile. It’s also the best-equipped car in this gathering. Redesigned for 2016, the Spark’s goodies include such welcome standard regalia as a parking camera, a seven-inch touchscreen, and a WiFi hot spot.
Obviously, the Spark’s size makes it an apt urban denizen, and its 98-horse engine gets its mere 2,246-pound body around quite handily.
Mitsubishi Mirage ES ($13,395, EPAs of 33 city and 41 highway)
The Mirage ES is a little more expensive than the Spark, and a little longer at 149.4 inches. They are equally stubby-cute, and equally urban maneuverable.
Engine performance is not a strong suit. The 1.2-liter four-banger delivers 78 horsepower, which isn’t going to huff and puff enough to blow anyone’s house down.
Ford Fiesta S sedan ($13,660, EPAs of 28 city and 36 highway)
Since the redesigned 2018 Fiesta won’t be sold in this country for a while, we’ll have to settle for a 2017, which isn’t too hard to take. A roomy subcompact sold as a sedan or hatch, the Fiesta furnishes a nice ride and good motivation from its 1.6-liter, 120-horse engine.
The Fiesta also provides a hefty litany of standard safety gear and available hedonism.
Kia Rio S ($13,990, EPAs of 29 city and 37 highway)
This nifty, redesigned entry-level Kia, due in showrooms next month, is available as a sedan or hatchback. The latter opens at $14,290, only $400 more than the sedan. The new car boasts better handling and fuel economy than its predecessor. It also offers a comfortable and reasonably quiet ride.
The 130-horsepower Rio, even with the six-speed manual, isn’t a dragster. But it accelerates decently, and tops out at a presentable 110 miles an hour.
Chevrolet Sonic LS ($15,295, EPAs of 26 city and 35 highway)
At 174 inches long, the Sonic is a small compact, and as such, bigger and roomier than the other cars in this roundup. It is nicely equipped, and gets adequate oomph from its 138-horse engine.
Toyota Yaris L Three-door Hatchback ($15,635, EPAs of 30 city and 36 highway)
This is a solid, perennially popular subcompact with good mileage, and decent standard gear and comfort levels. At 106 horsepower, it’s not speed crazed.