10 Cheapest New Cars for 2021

2021 cheapest new cars

Car and Driver

Were you looking for the intersection of excitement and horsepower? Sorry, that’s the next town over. Welcome instead to the carpool lane of affordability. These models are zero-frill commuters that typically have cloth interior, smaller infotainment screens, and, in some cases, steel wheels. It’s not all bad news. Despite their business casual look, they shine brighter than others in areas that matter for long-term use, like fuel efficiency, cargo room, or warranty offerings.

Compact sedans will make up the bulk of the cheapest vehicles in 2021, but, recently, compact-crossovers have started to trickle into the realm of sub-$330-a-month finance payment. Four of last year’s cheapest cars–the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, and Chevrolet Sonic–have ended production, opening space on this list for a new group of affordable cars, but that’s also pushed the prices up. At $17,120, the Fit was last year’s most expensive cheapest car. This year, the most expensive car here is $19,925 and the cheapest is more expensive than last year by $300. Even the Nissan Versa, which held the title for least expensive car sold in America for two years in a row has fallen to third after a heavy redesign for 2020. Although these rides might not have everything you want, they’ve all got what you need, and for a price many people can afford. Check out our list of the cheapest new trucks too.

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Hyundai Venue – $19,925

The second-cheapest subcompact crossover in the United States is the Hyundai Venue. Its quirky looks make it standout in a segment thick as a soup with the same ingredients. Powered by a 121-hp inline-four, the Venue is front-wheel-drive only, and only offered with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Despite being low on power, the Venue is 1.1 second quicker than the pricier Nissan Kicks and 2.4 seconds quicker than the Toyota C-HR. The infotainment and climate controls are simple and easy to use. Max cargo area with both rear seats folded is 32 cu ft, and 17 cu ft with the rear seats in use. During our highway fuel economy test we averaged 31 mpg, which is only slightly under what we were able to achieve in the smaller Hyundai Accent sedan.

  • Base price: $19,925
  • Fuel Economy EPA combined/city/highway: 31/30/33 mpg
  • Warranty: 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain, 5-year/60,000-mile limited, 3-year/36,000-mile complimentary maintenance


Hyundai Veloster – $19,895

The cheapest Hyundai Veloster is a taste of what makes driving hatchbacks fun. Even though the base engine is a 147-hp inline-four, a big leap from the sportier Veloster N’s 275-horsepower turbocharged inline-four, it’s still an affordable three-door compact with sharp looks and nimble handling. The Veloster is front-wheel drive only, and the cheapest model comes with a six-speed manual. The inside of the Veloster is snug and its 20 cu ft of cargo space under the hatch isn’t as spacious as the Volkswagen Golf, but it’s roughly the same as what’s available in the more expensive Mazda 3 hatchback. Its less powerful engine gets average fuel economy, with an EPA-estimated 30 mpg combined. Even though it has a meh interior and lacks scoot juice, the base Veloster is a bargain for those who enjoy driving.

  • Base price: $19,895
  • Fuel Economy EPA combined/city/highway: 30/27/34 mpg
  • Warranty: 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain, 5-year/60,000-mile limited, 3-year/36,000-mile complimentary maintenance


Subaru Impreza – $19,720

Standard all-wheel-drive on the Subaru Impreza makes it the cheapest AWD powertrain available today. Power comes from a 152-hp flat-four with a five-speed manual transmission. Is it the most exciting powertrain? No, but it’s a good balance of power and fuel efficiency, with an EPA-estimated 31-mpg highway fuel economy. The base Impreza does lack standard safety features. Unlike cheaper cars on this list, forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking and lane-keeping assist are all optional equipment here. The Impreza earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from IIHS thanks to Subaru’s EyeSight technology, but it’s only offered on models with automatic transmissions, so not on the cheapest Impreza.

Kia Forte – $18,855

The Kia Forte is among the Korean brand’s top-selling models. Maybe it’s because of its good looks, or its incredibly affordable price. The base engine is a 147-hp inline-four, although a turbocharged 201-hp is available for the upper GT version. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and the Forte is only offered in font-wheel drive. Inside, the 8.0-inch infotainment screen is easy to use and comes standard with modern tech like Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The Forte gets incredible gas mileage, with an EPA-estimated 41 mpg on they highway. It also has a larger gas tank than Honda Civic and Volkswagen Golf, meaning it has potential to travel more than 560 miles before returning to a gas station.

  • Base price: $18,855
  • Fuel Economy EPA combined/city/highway: 35/31/41 mpg
  • Warranty: 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain and 5-year/60,000-mile limited warranty


Kia Soul – $18,610

Nothing else on this list has won a 10Best Trucks and SUVs award. The Kia Soul has done it twice. The Soul is a toaster-shaped subcompact SUV that shares its front-fascia with a grumpy old man. Its shape lends it nicely to sufficient space for passengers and cargo. The Soul offers 62 cu ft of cargo area with its rear seats down, making it the most spacious vehicle available today for under $20,000. Base models come with a 147-hp inline-four and six-speed manual transmission. The main drawback to the Soul is that it’s front-wheel drive only. All-wheel drive isn’t even offered on top trims. To get cheap all-wheel drive we’d recommend the Impreza, or spending extra for the Kia Seltos, if you’re looking for a more capable Kia.

  • Base price: $18,610
  • Fuel Economy EPA combined/city/highway: 30/27/35 mpg
  • Warranty: 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain and 5-year/60,000-mile limited warranty


2021 Kia Rio – $16,815

Refreshed for 2021, the Kia Rio is available as both hatchback and sedan with new front- and rear-end looks. Although photos of the sedan are yet to be released, the difference of starting price between the two body styles is only $640. An inline-four with CVT is the only powertrain, and the Rio is front-wheel drive only. Its subcompact size make it entertaining to drive with solid body control through corners, but its dull steering is an immediate reminder of the money you didn’t spend. Gas stations hate them, with an EPA-estimated 33 mpg city and 41 mpg highway fuel economy. That’s better than the slightly cheaper Nissan Versa. An upgraded interior is also expected for the refreshed model, but that won’t change the fact both sedan and hatchback Rio lack cargo room.

  • Base price: $17,455
  • Fuel Economy EPA combined/city/highway: 36/33/41 mpg
  • Warranty: 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain and 5-year/60,000-mile limited


Hyundai Accent – $16,390

Whoever said it’s not cool to save money is a total loser. Just look at the Hyundai Accent, a 120-hp front-drive sedan that comes standard with a six-speed manual. And instead of wasting horsepower on minor performance gains, the updated 2020 and newer models now get an EPA-estimated 41 mpg on the highway. The interior lacks the funkiness of the Kia Soul or Rio, which isn’t to say it’s not well built. A 5.o-inch infotainment touchscreen arrives standard with Bluetooth, but lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Though the Accent isn’t mighty, its savings are huge.

  • Base price: $16,390
  • Fuel Economy EPA combined/city/highway: 36/33/41 mpg
  • Warranty: 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain, 5-year/60,000-mile limited, 3-year/36,000-mile complimentary maintenance


Nissan Versa – $15,855

The Nissan Versa is a safe bet both in terms of safety and finances. Unlike the Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent, the Versa comes standard with front and rear automated emergency braking, automatic high-beams, and lane-departure warning. It also uses a larger 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, but lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on its most affordable trim. A 122-hp inline-four powers the front wheels with a standard five-speed manual transmission. If it makes you feel any better, people spending close to $20,000 on a Versa have just as much horsepower, but with a boring CVT. The manual transmission is noticeably worse for fuel economy, however, with an EPA-estimated 35 mpg highway versus the CVT’s 40 mpg.

  • Base price: $15,855
  • Fuel Economy EPA combined/city/highway: 35/32/40 mpg
  • Warranty: 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain and 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty


Mitsubishi Mirage – $15,565

Last year’s cheapest car is second fiddle for 2021. The Mirage is the only car offered from Mitsubishi, and unlike its name, its simplicity is no illusion. All Mirages come with the same 78-hp three-cylinder engine. Yes, believe it or not, there is still a car offered in the U.S. today with under 80 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard. Constant flattening of the accelerator is required to get the Mirage to go anywhere, and the engine’s loud efforts to move the car faster can be heard and felt throughout the cabin.

Chevrolet Spark – $14,395

The Chevrolet Spark is the most affordable car sold here today. For less than the price of a Polaris 850cc snowmobile, the Spark offers 27 cu ft of cargo storage with the rear seats down, and incredible fuel efficiency. Power comes from a tiny 98-hp inline-four, with a five-speed manual standard in its cheapest form. The Spark gets an EPA-estimated 38 mpg on the highway, but its range is limited by a nine-gallon fuel tank. Unfortunately, the Spark lacks greatly in standard safety features. There’s no forward-collision warning or automated emergency braking unless you pay extra. Cruise control is also extra. Unlike the Mitsubishi Mirage, though, even the base trim has a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth capability, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Chevy’s smallest model is America’s cheapest.

  • Base price: $14,395
  • Fuel Economy EPA combined/city/highway: 33/30/38 mpg
  • Warranty: 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain, 3-year/36,000-mile limited, and one complimentary maintenance visit for the first year


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