So it's no secret that I'll be in the market for a subcompact/cheap brand new car very soon and have done a lot of research into my options that has included everything except test driving (this is due to dealerships not having the cars on the lot because they "sell too quickly"). I'll get my bias out of the way and say I'll be buying the Mazda 2. It was the one I favored from the start and, while it isn't as powerful or well equipped or spacious as some of the others on this post, it is the one that I fell in love with and want to live with for the next few years.
So here we go, real consumer advice here folks!
Kia Rio -
The Kia Rio is one of the cheapest cars we'll be looking at, with the base model 4 door variant starting at 13,900 USD. For that price you get a 1.6 litre 4 cylinder direct injection motor capable of producing 138 horsepowers while managing 27/37 miles per gallon. Four wheel disk brakes and sirius satellite radio are standard on the base model while the highest end model is only 4,000 USD more and comes with a "sport suspension" and infotainment center as standard.
The base model Hyundai Accent starts at $14,645 USD and has a 1.6 litre 4 cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower, equally powerful with the Kia Rio but boasts more interior cargo space. The Accent also shows 27/38 MPGs, better than the Fit and Yaris but just barely. The Accent can be had in both 4 door sedan and 5 door hatchback as well. The 5 door hatch is roughly 200 dollars more than the sedan, however. The Accent features an AM/FM/XM radio with iPod and MP3 connectivity through an aux jack and USB port as standard. The top level 5 door model also features a sunroof.
The Ford Fiesta can be had in both sedan and hatchback form, with the sedan starting at $14,100 and the hatch 14,600 USD. Those prices net you a base model that is equipped with a 120 horsepower 1.6 litre 4 cylinder motor that is capable of 27/38 MPGs, similar to the Accent but less powerful. The model most people talk about is the SE trim with 3 cylinder turbocharged motor. The SE starts at 16,080 and that engine nearly a thousand dollar option. The base model Fiesta has a higher quality interior than some of its competitors and features Ford Sync as standard.
The Sonic LS starts at $15,595 which is a bit pricier when looking at subcompacts but for that price you get an Ecotech 1.8litre engine that produces 138 horsepower and is capable of 40 miles per gallon. MP3 connectivity via aux jack is standard along with AM/FM stereo and digital clock. Unlike some of its competitors, the Sonic has a 4 speaker sound system. It also comes with OnStar and an engine immobilizer in the event of theft.
The Mazda 2 starts at 14,720 USD and for that price, you get an AM/FM stereo with an aux jack and USB port plus a 100 horsepower 1.5 litre 4 cylinder engine. Power mirrors, windows and door locks are all standard. The 2 is probably the most basic of this bunch but as a result, the 2 remains very lightweight. Cruise control is standard on the Touring model, but not the Sport.
The Toyota Yaris starts at 14,430 USD and yes, Toyota, it is a car. It's a car with a 1.5 litre 4 cylinder motor that produces 106 horses and can manage 30/37 MPGs. And it's a car! The base model 3 door can be had with a 5 speed manual while all other variants only have a 4 speed auto. The base model Yaris is still nicely equipped with bluetooth, aux jack and 9 total airbags, making it one of the most airbag filled cars in this group. And did I mention it's a car?!
There are more subcompacts available, yes, but these are the bunch that I've looked at quite a bit and felt compelled to do a little write up for. I left out the Spark and Mirage because they were much cheaper but also much less powerful and much lower quality cars. All of these had roughly the same starting prices and power outputs at base model trims.