The best new cars for shoppers on a budget

(photo: Motor Trend)

New cars average around $30,000, but that’s a budget-buster for many buyers who just need basic transportation as a first or even second vehicle.

So we went looking for 2014 bargain cars to meet that need and came up with 15 of the best, along with a bonus four vehicles that didn’t make the best-of lists we consulted.

The top new car – the Chevrolet Sonic – was named by autoweek.com and chron.com and also was “recommended” by Consumer Reports’ New Car Preview 2014. Three other vehicles listed under $17,000 by aol.com and CR “recommended” were the Mazda Mazda2, Scion xD and Volkswagen Jetta.

The list of 19 vehicles by manufacturer and number of new cars were Chrysler Group, three; Ford, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, Scion and Toyota, two each, and Chevrolet, FIAT, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen, one each.

Lists by autoweek.com, “2014’s best bargain cars under $16,000” by Natalie Sejnost, and chron.com (Houston Chronicle), “Best 2014 cars under $20,000” by John-Henry Perera, agreed on three new car models. And the Chron.com’s list agreed on three more vehicles with autotrader.com, which cited several 2014 models in a review article on the Kia Forte. Consumer Reports “recommended” list concurred with autoweek.com and chron.com only on the Sonic.

(For this article, we split the difference between the headlined maximum prices on the autoweek.com and chron.com compilations, with a maximum for our list of bargains at $17,000, using approximate starting prices by Kelley Blue Book at KBB.com and comparing to Consumer Reports.)

The top new cars that made both autoweek.com and chron.com lists and approximate starting prices reported by Kelley Blue Book – were the consensus pick Chevrolet Sonic ($14,468), plus the Ford Fiesta ($14,124) and Kia Soul ($15,495). Additionally, the Ford Focus ($16,230), Kia Forte ($15,800) and Toyota Corolla ($16,959) were named by both chron.com and autotrader.com.

Other new cars named by autoweek.com were Nissan’s Versa SV ($15,150) and Versa Note SV ($14,267), as well as the Mitsubishi Mirage ($13,790). Chron.com’s “Best 2014 cars under $20,000” also named the Dodge Dart ($15,750), FIAT 500 ($16,100) and Mazda Mazda3 ($16,945), although we found the Mazda3 at slightly over $17,000. Chron.com cited an automedia.com article by Ryan ZumMallen on its list.

Other cars listed by aol.com – with Kelley Blue Book pricing – were Jeep Patriot ($15,966), Scion iQ ($15,434), Toyota Yaris ($14,757) and Chevrolet Spark ($12,576).

Consumer Reports minimum prices generally were slightly lower than Kelley Blue Book prices.

Of course, bargains are in the eye of the beholder – for some, $30,000 might be a “bargain.” But at least this list gives new car shoppers a place to start looking for and pricing vehicles that may fit their need for economic transportation, whether it’s a first or second vehicle.

 

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