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23 Cheapest Cars of 2009

Thinking about buying a new cheap car? We haven’t just assembled a list of 2009′s cheapest cars, we’re going out of our way to review them first hand. There’s one thing we can say so far; the cheapest cars of our time have come a long way from the days of the Pinto, Vega, Gremlin, and Yugo.

Although we’ve only had the chance to put less then half of cars on the list through an exhaustive week-long test drive (so far), we aim to have most (if not all) of the cheapest cars reviewed by mid-2009. Properly reviewing cars – while producing video reports – is a rather time-intensive process (no matter whether the cars are cheap or not). Our goal isn’t to shower you with flowery words and the personal preferences of the reviewer … we’d rather put you in the driver’s seat with a real-world perspective of what it’s like to live with each car.


Chevy Aveo

Starting MSRP Aveo Sedan $12,625
Starting MSRP Aveo5 Hatchback $12,625
Manual 27 / 34 MPG
Automatic 25 / 34 MPG
106 HP, 1.6-liter VVT engine
While it’s not made in America, the Aveo is the least expensive car sold by an American automaker.
Built in South Korea
Reference: Chevy Aveo5 Review

Chevy Cobalt

Starting MSRP Coupe $16,330
Starting MSRP Sedan $16,330
Manual XFE 25 / 37 MPG
Automatic 24 / 33
155 HP 2.2-liter DOHC Ecotech
The XFE delivers class topping highway mileage.
Built in America

Dodge Caliber

Starting MSRP $16,840
148 HP, 1.8-liter (manual)
158 HP, 2.0 liter (automatic)
Manual 24 / 30 MPG
Automatic 23 / 27 MPG
The Caliber can be fitted with four different engines, from the base 1.8 liter though the SVT 2.4 Turbo, which puts out 285 HP.
Built in America

Ford Focus

Starting MSRP $14,995
Manual 24 / 35 MPG
Automatic 24 / 33 MPG
140 HP, 2-liter Duratec engine
Microsoft Sync audio system and ambient interior lighting sets the Focus apart.
Built in America
Reference: Ford Focus Review

Honda Civic

Starting MSRP Civic Coupe $15,205
Starting MSRP Civic DX Sedan $15,405
140 HP, 1.8-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine
Manual 26 / 34 MPG
Automatic 25 / 36 MPG
The Civic is both an icon and an inspiration.
Built in America

Honda Fit

Starting MSRP Base Fit $14,550
Starting MSRP Fit Sport $16,060
Manual 27 / 33 MPG
Automatic 28 / 35 MPG
117 HP, 1.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine
Sport includes 16-inch alloys, USB audio interface, aero-package, and paddle shifters (automatic).
Built in Japan
Reference: Honda Fit Sport Review

Hyundai Accent

Starting MSRP Accent GS 3-door $11,070 $9,970
Starting MSRP Accent SE 3-door $15,070
Starting MSRP Accent GLS 4-door $12,920
Manual 27 / 33 MPG
Automatic 26 / 35 MPG
110 HP, 1.6-liter DOHC CVVT engine
The GS grabs the title of America’s cheapest car, by a whopping $20. The racer wannabe SE is fitted with 16-inch alloys, B&M (manual) shifter, leather-wrapped steering wheel and knob.
Built in Korea

Hyundai Elantra
Starting MSRP Elantra GLS $13,970
Manual 24 / 33 MPG
Automatic 25 / 33 MPG
138 HP, 2.0-liter DOHC engine
Built in Korea

Kia Rio

Starting MSRP $12,145
Manual 27 / 32 MPG
Automatic 25 / 35 MPG
110 HP, 1.6-liter DOHC CVVT engine
Built in Korea

Kia Spectra
Starting MSRP $14,200
Manual 23 / 30 MPG
Automatic 24 / 32 MPG
138 HP, 2.0-liter engine
Built in Korea

Mitsubishi Lancer

Starting MSRP Lancer DE M/T $15,035
Manual 22 / 30
CVT 22 / 28
152 HP, 2.0-liter MIVEC engine
Built in Japan

Mazda3

Starting MSRP Mazda3 i Sport 4-door $15,360
Manual 24 / 32 MPG
Automatic 22 / 30 MPG
148 HP, 2.0-liter DOHC VVT engine
Fun-to-drive and a good value. Update due for 2010.
Built in Japan
Reference: Mazda3 Review

Nissan Cube

Starting MSRP Nissan Cube 1.8 4-door $13,990
Manual 24 / 29 MPG
Automatic 28 / 30 MPG
122 HP, 1.8-liter DOHC engine
The Cube’s asymmetrical design may be polarizing, but it’s undeniably spacious and easy to drive.
Built in Japan
Reference: Nissan Cube Review

Nissan Sentra

Starting MSRP $16,730
140 HP, 2.0-liter DOHC engine
Manual 24 / 31
Xtronic CVT 25 /33
Year-after-year, the Sentra delivers solid value for the dollar.
Built in Japan
Reference: Sentra Review

Nissan Versa

Starting MSRP 1.6 Base Sedan $9,990
Starting MSRP 1.6 Sedan $10,990
Starting MSRP 1.8 S Hatchback/Sedan $12,990
Starting MSRP 18 SL Hatchback/Sedan $15,990
Manual 26 / 31
Automatic 24 / 32
Xitronic CVT (SL) 27/33
122 HP, 1.8-liter DOHC engine
With the second lowest base price in America (by a mere twenty bucks) and a roomy interior, the Versa delivers bang for the buck.
Built in Japan
Reference: Nissan Versa Review

Scion xB

Starting MSRP $16,420 (manual)
158 HP, 2.4-liter engine
Manual 22 / 28 MPG
Automatic 22 / 28 MPG

Scion xD

Starting MSRP $15,320 (manual)
Starting MSRP $16,120 (automatic)
128 HP, 1.8-liter engine
Manual 27 / 33 MPG
Automatic 26 / 32 MPG
The latest entry from Toyota’s youth-oriented Scion brand.
Reference: Scion xD Review

Smart Fortwo

Starting MSRP pure $11,990
Starting MSRP passion coupe $13,990
Starting MSRP passion cabriolet $16,990
70 HP, 1-liter engine
Auto/Manual 33 / 41 MPG
With just room for two and a passion for premium fuel, the Smart’s not as cheap as it first appears.
Built in France

Suzuki SX4 Sedan / Sport

Starting MSRP SX4 Sedan $13,299
Starting MSRP SX4 Sport $15,739
Sedan 23 / 31 MPG
Sport 22 / 30 MPG
143 hp, 2-liter, DOHC engine
SX4 Sport model rolls on 17-inch alloys clad with low-profile 50-series tires.
Built in Japan

Suzuki SX4 Crossover

Starting MSRP $15,939
22 / 30 MPG
143 HP, 2-liter, DOHC engine
The rally-inspired SX4 Crossover is the least expensive AWD vehicle available in America.
Built in Japan
Reference: Suzuki SX4 Crossover Review

Toyota Corolla

Starting MSRP $15,350
Manual 26 / 35 MPG
Automatic 27 / 35 MPG
132 HP, 1.8-liter DOHC VVT-i engine
Year-after-year, the Corolla delivers the goods without the hype.
Built in America
Reference: Toyota Corolla Review

Toyota Matrix

Starting MSRP: $16,290
132 HP, 1.8-liter DOHC Dual VVT-i engine
Manual 26 / 32 MPG
Automatic 25 / 31 MPG
Built in America

Toyota Yaris

Starting MSRP 3-door Liftback $12,205
Starting MSRP 5-door Liftback $13,305
Starting MSRP Sedan $12,965
Manual 29 / 36 MPG
Automatic 29 / 35 MPG
110 HP, 1.5-liter DOHC VVT-i engine
An excellent value and MPGs that exceed the estimates have the Yaris winning over fans.
Built in Japan
Reference: Toyota Yaris Review

Note: For the purposes of this article, we’ll define a “cheap car” as having a MSRP under $17,000.

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13 comments ↓

#1 Jen Miller on 11.24.08 at 8:52 am

I love love love my Honda Civic. No stress, no fuss, no muss: just a great, reliable car. It’ll be tough to give it up…but I figure I have another 100,000 miles or so :-)

#2 Mohacky on 11.25.08 at 9:27 am

The Honda Fit is superb! I have a manual 5 speed, and have clocked 46.3 mpg while hypermiling. When just driving like every other idiot in Boston, I get 42 to 44 mpg.
Handles like a go cart, stereo sounds killer with the USB interface. I’m going to get another…

#3 The Cheapest Car on 11.25.08 at 7:53 pm

[...] tag just under $10,000 ($9,990 to be exact), the Nissan Versa Sedan 1.6 Base sits atop the chart of 2009’s Cheapest Cars, delivering the goods with a roomy interior and very good gas [...]

#4 Grant on 01.26.09 at 9:00 pm

I thought base on a xd was below 16k

#5 Cheap New Car? on 01.27.09 at 11:57 pm

[...] each of the Big Three have domestically produced vehicles in our list of the 22 Cheapest Cars of 2009, the bulk of the action is from overseas. While the Nissan Versa 1.6 Base Sedan is the cheapest new [...]

#6 Lou on 01.28.09 at 12:44 pm

My 2009 Jeep Patriot gets 23/28 EPA rated MPG. It is the exact same size as a Jeep Cherokee, so it has plenty of utility. I picked mine up BRAND NEW for under $13,000.

#7 mpg-o-editor on 01.28.09 at 1:10 pm

@Grant – thanks for the heads up! I added the xB and xD.

@ Lou – $13K for a Patriot is a steal. I just checked around and found a bunch under $14. We’re bound to see more crazy prices, as dealers hit the skids …

#8 TOMMY VIG on 02.13.09 at 3:39 am

Where can I read the details relating to the cheapest cars and are all of these available in Europe? By details I mean relative safety, speed, comfort, guarantee, reliability (how often in the repair shop…), roominess, gas consumption (milage-economy), performance, and so on. Thanks!

#9 Brett Jameson on 03.16.09 at 8:17 am

American automakers have been in the bed with Texas Big Oil for years and have produced less efficient cars(MPG) because of it. The backdoor money they receive for doing this is in the billions.

All of the American automakers in the late 70′s & 80′s produced cars that easily got 35-40 mpg, but since then they have taken to the demands of big oil and keeping the cars to around 22-30.

Foreign automakers in the late 70′s & 80′s were producing small cars that were attaining up to 50 MPG and since then they to have been pressured by big oil to draw down the efficiency of their vehicles. These automakers act like now it’s impossible to achieve those numbers that they produced 25-30 years ago.

The bottom line is they all are crooks and they are being rewarded extensively by ripping off drivers that have to pay more for a gallon of gas and get less MPG from these inefficient cars.

#10 LM on 03.20.09 at 12:54 am

To Tommy Vig – go to MSN autos – they have the most comprehensive info on new and older vehicles that I’ve found anywhere on line. Really good. Not sure about European availability of these cars though, sorry.

To Lou – thanks for the info about the Patriot!

#11 DW on 08.25.09 at 2:44 pm

Why isn’t Nissan Cube in this list? It’s probably cheaper than half of the cars in this list.

#12 mpg-o-editor on 08.26.09 at 11:23 am

Thanks, DW … the Cube’s been added to the list, with a full review, no less. :)

#13 Mike Fischer on 09.08.12 at 12:30 pm

Apart from new cheap cars, used cheap cars are a good option too in terms of pocket friendliness. There are two great advantages of buying cheap used cars i.e. avoiding the expense of a brand new one and secondly the cost of the car depreciates 15 to 20 percent in one year. Therefore cheap used cars are gaining popularity in the market.

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