QOTD: Forced Into the Cheap Seats?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd forced into the cheap seats

Yesterday’s story on the lopsided growth, such as it is, of the new vehicle market clearly shows that sub-$20,000 vehicles are an endangered animal. Big shocker. That space is taken up mostly with cars, and, for a number of reasons, people just aren’t buying cars like they used to. As such, many automakers are having second thoughts about building them.

You’re already well aware that red hot, high-riding alternatives are not as easy on the pocketbook.

Nevertheless, here and now, there’s a decision to be made. You’re being asked to choose a new vehicle that costs less than $20,000 without the help of incentives. Which entrée from this meager menu would you add to your plate?

To broaden your horizons, we won’t include the destination fee, tax, or any other charge as part of the price. Strictly the MSRP, sans discounts.

There’s still enough choice available to tailor your lifestyle around this vehicle, and there’s plenty of manual transmissions still kicking around, too. Now, it’s highly unlikely any of you will sniff out a new Mitsubishi Mirage, but all models and trims fall below $20k if you’re so inclined. There’s the Chevrolet Spark and Sonic, as well, and a second-from-base Cruze LS only stickers at $19,120. The manual option disappears for 2019, sadly. It won’t be around for long, but Ford’s plucky Fiesta remains available for 2019, and all but the top-flight ST variant fall below the $20k mark.

Unfortunately, even last year’s Honda Civic remained out of reach for those with a twenty grand price ceiling, but there’s still a Fit Sport or well-equipped EX model to be had for your thrifty allowance. And think of the resale value you’ll enjoy when the time finally comes to unload your 2019 Toyota Corolla L, LE, or LE Eco. If that sounds like a recipe for narcolepsy, there’s the sharper handling [s]Mazda 2 [/s]Yaris Sedan and its very unrelated hatch cousin to select from.

Value and a sense of being on holiday (while renting) comes standard on the Nissan Versa sedan and Versa Note hatch, both of which fall below $20k. Even the larger Sentra allows you to get into a better-equipped SV with automatic ($19,090) without blowing your budget.

At Mazda, the base 3 sedan fits the bill in either manual or automatic guise, but the sweet 2.5-liter Skyactiv remains well out of reach. A Mazda 3 5-Door manual barely slides under the hurdle. Let’s not forget the Koreans, either. Hyundai’s revamped Rio and refreshed Elantra remain as candidates, depending on trim, as does Kia’s Rio and Forte.

The buffet peters out in a hurry once you try scratching that itch for off-road adventure. Looking for all-wheel drive? The Subaru Impreza 2.0i 5-Door is your only real option. Just think of it as a slammed Crosstrek. If a higher riding vehicle is a must-have, Nissan’s front-drive Kicks starts out at a low, low $17,990, though you can swap it for a three-cylinder, FWD Ford Ecosport S for $2,005 extra. Any takers? Hello?

It’s Nissan to the rescue once again in the pickup category — an army, it should be noted, of one. The base Frontier S King Cab retains its starting price of $18,990 for 2019, and I’ll probably go to my grave without having ever seen one. Still, you could bully Nissan into procuring one, thus ensuring a cheap, old bed to lie down in.

There’s likely a model or two I’ve skipped over, but this gives you an idea of what you have to work with. Cheap cars aren’t dead; they’ve just become slightly harder, on average, to finance. If handed the money and conditions and sent on your way, which vehicle would you return home with?

[Image: Nissan]

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2 of 89 comments
  • Deanst Deanst on Oct 12, 2018

    No love for the Nissan Kicks?

  • Arach Arach on Oct 15, 2018

    The reason I have a serious issue with the "no incentive" game, is that some OEMs intentionally have a high MSRP, but always sell for significant markdown, while others sell for price. Its kind of like saying you have to go for MSRP at a department store, despite the fact that you cannot buy anything at JC Penney that is NOT on sale, because the MSRP is made up as a marketing ploy. Therefore this whole MSRP challenge kind of gives unfair weight to the non-price leaders who sell value, because if you sell value you mark up MSRP and advertise big savings off MSRP ALL THE TIME. Thats how the discount game works. I don't think anyone has EVER paid MSRP for a mainstream vehicle from Kia, Hyundai, GM, etc. But if you have to go off MSR

  • Dukeisduke Why the hell doesn't Farley just resign? Why hasn't Bill Ford fired him? I lay all this at Farley's feet.
  • Dukeisduke I tried watching the livestream (I'm a MT+ subscriber), but after 15 minutes of jawing by the presenters, I got bored and turned it off. I may watch it this weekend, when I can fast forward through that stuff, to get to the reveal.
  • Dukeisduke Electric power steering, I assume. First-gen Chevy Cruzes can suffer from similar issues, usually traceable to a flaky battery negative cable, a $10 OEM part. Weird, huh?
  • Kwik_Shift Once 15 Minute Cities start to be rolled out, you won't be far enough away from home to worry about range anxiety.
  • Bobbysirhan I'd like to look at all of the numbers. The eager sheep don't seem too upset about the $1,800 delta over home charging, suggesting that the total cost is truly obscene. Even spending Biden bucks, I don't need $1,800 of them to buy enough gasoline to cover 15,000 miles a year. Aren't expensive EVs supposed to make up for their initial expense, planet raping resource requirements, and the child slaves in the cobalt mines by saving money on energy? Stupid is as stupid does.