TribLIVE

| Business


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

There's some spiffy new vehicles for less than $20,000 out there

About The Tribune-Review
The Tribune-Review can be reached via e-mail or at 412-321-6460.
Contact Us | Video | Photo Reprints

By Larry Printz

Published: Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

The average price paid for a new car or truck in the United States this year is $30,748, according to TrueCar.com.

Sound spendy?

It is. Especially if your new car budget is smaller — say, $20,000 or less. This doesn't mean that you can't drive a vehicle that meets your needs and makes you smile every time you climb behind the wheel. Consider this sampling of cheap fun.

• Chevrolet Sonic: $14,765. Opt for the five-door over the four-door notchback, and you get more than style; you'll have an extra five cubic feet of cargo space. The Sonic's quick steering, poised suspension and athletic feel are a kick. For a real hot hatch, choose the turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine.

• Dodge Dart: $15,995. Dodge's first small car in seven years revives a name that many will remember, affixed to a stylish new car that's based on the platform of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. The new Dart is roomy enough to be classified as a midsize car, yet returns as much as 41 mpg, depending on engine.

• Fiat 500 Turbo: $19,500. Like the Mini Cooper, the Fiat 500 reinvents an iconic car for the 21st century. This is a little slice of la dolce vita — slathered in style as only Italians could muster.

• Ford Focus: $16,200. No matter which Focus grabs your eye — the four-door or five-door — the Focus has the solid feel one expects of a small European car, and that's because it is one. Its behavior is almost unheard-of in small cars with American nameplates.

• Honda CR-Z hybrid: $19,695. The cheaper Honda Insight has more space, while the Toyota Prius C returns higher mileage. But the CR-Z hybrid looks better than either of them, channeling the classic look of the Honda CRX. No, the CR-Z is not as sporty to drive, but no one will notice.

• Kia Soul: $14,400. The Soul received a new one for 2012: upgraded engines. Base models get a 138-hp four-cylinder, while others got a new 164-hp four-cylinder — up 22 hp from 2011. Both powerplants are now available with a six-speed transmission.

• Mazda3: $15,200. At just over 15 big ones, you'll get the four-door sedan, not the five-door hatch, but the latter costs almost $20K. Regardless, all Mazda3s have quick reflexes and precise steering. They're amazingly fun to drive, even in base form, despite being somewhat noisy and delivering a very firm ride.

• Nissan Frontier: $19,010. Ordering the base model of a compact pickup means a standard cab with little space behind the front seat, aside from the pickup bed. That's where the Frontier stands apart from its competitors: rear jump seats are standard on the base model. And it tows 3,500 pounds. Nice.

• Nissan Juke: $19,990. The Juke, a word that means “to deceptively outmaneuver something or someone,” is aptly named. Once behind the wheel, you'll discover that its perfect size, raised-ground height, practical shape, all-wheel drive and rowdy turbo engine are a riot.

• Volkswagen Beetle: $19,795. It's hard to reinterpret a classic, but VW managed by injecting a dash of Porsche into the Beetle's new design. Now lacking a bud vase on its dashboard, the car is safe for those with y-chromosomes. Base models get the Jetta's five-cylinder engine, but turbo and diesel options are offered.

Larry Printz is automotive editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. He can be reached at larry.printz@pilotonline.com.

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Business Headlines

  1. Pandora sued by record companies
  2. Chocolate prices expected to soar as ingredients grow more expensive
  3. Wages have soared in Pittsburgh, but economy appears to have stalled
  4. Squeezed by competition, Chobani to expand offerings
  5. Pa. unemployment rate falls to lowest since 2008; 12,000 more enter workforce
  6. Mazda recalls 109,000 older SUVs
  7. Investment in Western Pa. startups reaches 5-year high
  8. Under the Hood: A chance to take top cars for a spin
  9. Chrysler’s Easter eggs fun for vehicle owners
  10. Shale pioneer hires Chesapeake for drilling job
  11. Emboldened by Italy move, QVC to expand into France
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.