Best affordable small cars

Buyer's guide to the best affordable small cars of the year, including the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit.

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The new year dawns during a slow economic recovery, when many consumers are still looking for ways to tighten their belts and fatten their wallets. Interest in the best affordable small cars is typical of the buyer mindset, when large SUVs are no longer practical for singles or small families. Fortunately, there is no shortage of quality vehicles that are modest in both dimensions and price. Your decision will hinge on several factors, including:

  • Engine horsepower
  • Interior upholstery
  • Miles per gallon of gasoline
  • Cabin comfort and technology
  • Retail cost

Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta - best small cars

 Whatever your preferences, a wide range of automobiles is available this year to suit your transportation needs and economic constraints. A longtime favorite among small car enthusiasts, the Ford Fiesta returns to positive reviews this year.

This subcompact car scores well in car rankings due to the smooth transmission operation, accommodating front seats and Ford Sync infotainment system. It also performs well in fuel efficiency, covering 29 mpg in the city and 39 on the highway for both the automatic and manual transmission models.

With a 120 horsepower engine, the Fiesta falls slightly short in terms of desired passing power. This complaint, however, is common with cars of this size. The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the Fiesta sedan is $13,745.

Honda Fit

Outstanding reliability and safety put the new Honda Fit among the best buys in small cars. Offering plenty of passenger room and cargo space - for a small car, that is - the five-speed Fit transmission handles consistently well on road tests.

With adaptable seating, the back can be rearranged to accommodate more baggage or freight. The 117 horsepower engine is typical for subcompacts and may feel somewhat limited for a veteran of SUVs. Still, the Honda Fit averages an impressive 28 mpg on city roads and 35 on highways. The latest model carries a suggested retail price of $15,425.

Hyundai Elantra

2013 Hyundai Elantra

Like the Fiesta and the Fit, the new Hyundai Elantra is rated highly by reviewers for smooth transmission and precision steering. It stands out, however, in the potential of its four-cylinder engine: 148 horsepower. This is high potency for a subcompact engine.

In addition, the Elantra is credited with leg room and cargo space on par with much pricier automobiles and comes with satellite radio and USB port. Its fuel economy is measured at 28 mpg for the city and 38 mpg for highway driving, placing it prominently among small vehicles. Efficiency like that can offset the $16,965 price tag recommended by the manufacturer.

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Of course, the dealers sell to consumers, and they will gauge the prices according to buyer demand. Financing and leasing options are available for all these models, made even more affordable through savvy negotiating.

A car buying guide can assist you when doing business with a dealership. The buyer's guide can further clarify your options when choosing among the best affordable small cars. Use Reply! to find the lowest price quotes from local dealerships and set up test drives of the best small cars of the year.

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About the Author

Alex Gabriel is a content editor at Reply! with several years of digital marketing and and copywriting experience. A native of Portland and graduate of the University of Oregon, Alex has a passion for test-driving new cars he can’t afford. Click here to connect with Alex on Google+.