Frugal finds: The 10 least-expensive vehicles under $19,000

Larry Printz
Tribune News Service

If you have found yourself furloughed or are facing a reduced paycheck and need some new wheels, you’ll want a new ride at the lowest possible cost. Enter the frugal finds, the 10 least expensive new vehicles you can buy, ranked by base price of the base model. Each price includes destination charge, but excludes incentives.

The Chevrolet Spark LS, which starts at $14,395, is the least-expensive new car you can buy.

All are built on front-wheel drive car platforms with independent front suspensions, torsion-beam rear suspensions and — with the exception of the Kia Soul and Forte — rear drum brakes. Cars in this class are all about value for the money, and in that regard, they are hard to match.

That said, here’s what you’ll find.

Kia Forte FE — $18,855

While it is the most expensive sedan here, the Kia Forte’s cabin sports a sophisticated minimalism that lends it a spacious feel. There’s lots of standard gear, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on an eight-inch touchscreen with auxiliary and USB ports, along with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, parking assist, lane departure warning and lane keeping assistance. Handling is nimble, with exceptional compliance and composure. A six-speed manual is standard; a CVT automatic transmission is a $900 option.

Kia Soul LX — $18,610

The only crossover on the list, the Kia Soul offers boatloads of style and a tall boxy shape that provides generous space for its size and a high seating position. Easy to drive smoothly, it’s not ultimate power that makes the Soul so impressive, it’s the vehicle’s nuance and poise. A six-speed manual is standard; a CVT automatic transmission is a $1,500 option. However, if you want any advanced safety gear, you’ll have to opt for the S trim, which costs an additional $1,680 over the LX but includes an automatic transmission as standard equipment.

Chevrolet Sonic LS — $17,595

The Sonic punches above its weight, delivering a quiet comfortable ride with responsive handling. A turbocharged four is mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission that provides enough punch to keep you amused. The Sonic’s design may have been around awhile, but it comes with a seven-inch color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, keyless entry and power door locks, but not power windows. A funky five-door hatch is also offered, starting at $20,295.

Honda Fit LX — $17,145

The Fit has never been a glamour queen; it’s a pocket-sized, athletic workhorse with astonishing space efficiency. The Fit’s exceptional practicality is its sex appeal. Despite being more than 30 inches shorter than a Honda Accord, it has room for five and 16.6 cubic feet of cargo space. A six-speed manual is standard; a CVT automatic is an $800 option. But finding your perfect Fit might cost you more. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t offered on the LX, while driver-assistance items come on the pricier EX or EX-L.

Kia Rio LX — $16,815

Kia’s most-popular vehicle worldwide, the Rio sedan is no speed demon. There’s enough power to give the car a punchy feel if asked to play, but the standard CVT transmission hesitates before offering up power. But there’s some real value here, including a standard seven-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, auxiliary/USB ports and heated side mirrors. That said, the base model lacks power locks, mirrors or windows. A five-door Rio hatchback is also available, starting at $17,755 in pricier S trim.

Toyota Yaris L — $16,605

It may look like a Toyota, but the Yaris is actually a Mazda wearing a Toyota mask. This means it’s not only frugal, it’s also fun to drive and delivers decent ride comfort. A six-speed manual is standard; a six-speed automatic is a $1,000 option. Given its size, it sports a surprisingly spacious 13.5 cubic-foot trunk, as well as two USB ports, a center console with storage bin, power windows and door locks, Bluetooth and a seven-inch color infotainment touchscreen. A five-door hatchback is also available for an additional $2,000.

Hyundai Accent SE — $16,250

More than its identical cousin the Kia Rio, the Hyundai Accent isn’t very exciting to drive, but proves to be an acceptable value. Its wardrobe is conservative but remarkably handsome. A six-speed manual transmission is standard; a CVT automatic transmission is an $1,100 option. But it’s not as much fun to drive as a Honda Fit, and its standard content is OK but somewhat beneath the Rio, with a smaller five-inch color infotainment touchscreen and USB and auxiliary jacks.

Nissan Versa S — $15,625

Now offered solely as a sedan, the 2020 Versa is better than what it replaces, looking more like a real car thanks to a new wardrobe that transforms it into a pint-sized Altima. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a CVT transmission is a $1,670 option. Thoughtfully, the Versa has an exceptional list of standard gear for the money, including a seven-inch color infotainment touchscreen, power windows with auto up/down, automatic door locks, three USB ports, Bluetooth and remote keyless entry.

Mitsubishi Mirage ES — $15,135

For Mitsubishi, it’s small world, at least when it comes to the Mirage. It’s a mere 148.8 inches long, has a turning radius of just 15.1 feet and is powered by a three-cylinder engine that returns big fuel economy numbers: 36 mpg with the standard five-speed manual transmission, 39 mpg with the CVT transmission, a $1,200 option. Nevertheless, while the Mirage is frugal and efficient, its overall performance might disappoint you.

Chevrolet Spark LS — $14,395

Not only Chevrolet’s least-expensive car, it’s the least-expensive new car you can buy. Diminutive in size, the Spark is more than four feet shorter and nearly a foot narrower than a Chevrolet Malibu. What it lacks in size it makes up for in features, including a seven-inch color infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and two USB ports. It’s a perfect city car, where its peppy low speed performance is a plus, but reaching 60 mph takes patience and planning. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a CVT transmission is an $1,100 option.