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The 5 Cheapest, Most Fuel-Efficient Cars Available Right Now

June 26th, 2011

Looking to buy a cheap new car with both a low cost of entry and great fuel economy? Nearly every major automaker in the U.S. would love your business on such a model, but not all are alike in base price, gas mileage, standard features and initial quality. Here’s our list of the top 5 cheap and efficient cars that balance sub-$14,000 MSRP pricing with great mpg numbers.

Look beyond the numbers to find which subcompact or compact car may be right for you.

5. 2011 Chevrolet Aveo

2011 Chevrolet AveoSet to be entombed this fall with the introduction of the new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, the 2011 Aveo is still a decent value buy though the base model comes with a meager allotment of standard features. The Aveo in its current generation has been on sale since 2002, a lifetime in automotive years. As such it lacks some of the more modern safety features and cannot receive our recommendation despite great pricing and more-than-adequate mpg. The Sonic promises to be a much more modern and all-around better car. The 2011 Aveo’s standard equipment leaves much to be desired.

Base MSRP Price: $11,965
Engine: 1.6-liter inline 4-cylinder, 108 horsepower
Transmissions: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic with overdrive
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg city/35 mpg highway

4. 2011 Nissan Versa

2011 Nissan VersaWhile Nissan’s hot-selling Versa lags behind this group in fuel economy, its sub-$10,000 base price is by far the cheapest of any standard production car now offered in the United States. A redesigned Versa will soon be on sale, but the price will go up by around $1,000. The base model is stripped of some near-necessary features like air conditioning, ABS, stability control and even a radio so expect to pay more if you want a nicely equipped Versa. The all-new 2012 model will launch in early August with better standard equipment and fuel economy. The new car should still be the cheapest for sale around.

Base MSRP Price: $9,990
Engines: 1.6-liter inline 4-cylinder, 107 horsepower/1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder, 122 horsepower
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 4-speed automatic, CVT
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway (1.6), 26 mpg city/31 mpg highway (1.8)

3. 2011 Toyota Yaris

2011 Toyota YarisThe Toyota Yaris is a solid choice in the subcompact segment backed by the reliability and polish that can only come from a Toyota. Air conditioning, antilock brakes, and electronic stability control all come standard and upgrading to the automatic transmission only adds $800 to the car’s base price. All three body styles—the 3-door and 5-door hatchbacks and the 4-door sedan—are available in the base model trim with extremely competitive pricing. Don’t let Toyota’s recent recalls fool you: the Yaris is a safe and well-built subcompact car.

Base MSRP Price: $13,155
Engine: 1.5-liter inline 4-cylinder, 106 horsepower
Transmissions: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 29 mpg city/36 mpg highway

2. 2011 Ford Fiesta

When Ford announced its new Fiesta would be good for 40 mpg on the highway (with the optional SFE package) the buzz created a scramble by competing automakers to improve their gas mileage numbers. The base price is competitive, though ordering the SFE package and its 3-mpg highway bump will cost an extra $695 plus the cost of upgrading to the 6-speed automatic transmission. The Fiesta proved that American car companies are back in the game in the subcompact market. Shoppers will be happy to see the Fiesta’s generous standard equipment list, including air conditioning, a stereo with an auxiliary input, ABS and seven airbags.

Base MSRP Price: $13,200
Engine: 1.6-liter Duratec inline 4-cylinder, 120 horsepower
Transmissions: 5-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 28 mpg city/37 mpg highway (SFE 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway)

1. 2012 Hyundai Accent

Hyundai’s Accent is completely redesigned for 2012 and offers the top price-vs-mpg ratio in the subcompact segment. The Accent will cost you little to own and is backed by a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. While the Elantra is just a couple grand more, the Accent has virtually identical mpg and should appeal to savvy subcompact buyers. Hyundai is able to help you save at the pump with the choice of 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual transmissions with tall gearing for ideal highway cruising. Better still, the car doesn’t require an extra-cost package to achieve its best efficiency numbers. A powerful engine propels the featherweight Accent to good acceleration.

Base MSRP Price: $12,445
Engine: 1.6-liter direct-injection inline 4-cylinder, 138 horsepower
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic with overdrive
Fuel Economy: 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway

Looking for more fuel economy info? Try the EPA’s official efficiency rating site at


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