By on February 19, 2021

Imagine for a moment you’re not a well-heeled connoisseur of expensive cars and high finance, and there’s not a Bentley Mulsanne and a Land Cruiser in your garage. Instead, imagine you have to buy one of the three cheapest sedans on sale in America in 2021.

Today it’s Buy/Drive/Burn meets Ace of Base.

Mitsubishi Mirage G4

The Mirage G4 is the cheapest sedan on sale in America. There are four total trims: ES, LE, Carbonite Edition, and SE. In ES trim the G4 starts at $15,295, and the SE tops out at $18,195. In its basic form, the G4 has a five-speed manual transmission, and the model’s only mill: a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine good for 76 horsepower. Niceties include a driver assist package and a seven-inch screen with a smartphone link. Six free colors are available on the G4, and all of them offer a choice between dark or light gray upholstery. Mitsubishi charges you a $995 shipping fee and forces a $145 welcome package that includes floor mats. The final cost of the SE is $15,295.

Nissan Versa

The second least expensive sedan in America is the Versa. Available in four trims: S manual, SR, S CVT, and SV, the Versa ranges in price from $14,930 to $17,740. The base S trim comes with a five-speed manual, 1.6-liter inline-four (122hp), a driving assist package, and is available in five free paint colors. Interiors are all black. Final cost including the shipping fee of $950 is $15,880.

Hyundai Accent

Hyundai’s Accent is the third least expensive sedan on sale in America right now. Across its three trims of SE, SEL, and Limited, the Accent starts at $15,395 and ends at $19,500. Base SE customers receive a 1.6-liter inline-four good for 120 horses, a backup camera, a five-inch interior screen, and a sporty six-speed manual. Six free exterior colors are on offer, and with a couple of those Hyundai offers a beige interior in addition to basic black. Hyundai charges $1,005 for shipping, so the actual base price of the SE is $16,400.

Three Aces of Bases, all quite close in price. Which one’s worth the Buy with your skinflint dollars?

[Images: Mitsubishi, Nissan, Hyundai]

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41 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: The Cheapest Sedans in America for 2021...”


  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    I like that these manufacturers include paint for free even on these basic cars.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    while the carbonate edition is a looker for sure , I guess I would roll with the Accent, buy the Mutsi , why not folks seem to need transportation these days and burn the Versa just bc

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Buy: Hyundai with the manual. It looks better than the other 2, slightly.

    Drive: Mitsu with the manual. It doesn’t have much of an engine, but slow car fast and all that.

    Burn: Nissan. It’s ocular rabies combined with a CVT and is uglier for it.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    All good choices, all bad choices.

    Buy: Accent
    Drive: Versa (Nissan’s driver assist is supposedly OK)
    Burn: Mirage

    All with the manual shift only – no CVTs. If the Accent has a regular 6-spd auto, it would be OK.

    Hyundai and Mitsubishi have similar 10/100 warranties, but Mitsu can’t seem to scrub the dorky out of their designs.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Buy: The Versa. Based on a three week rental of a 2019 Versa Note, courtesy of GEICO while my wife’s Dart GT was in the shop being repaired from my garage fire. The car turned out to be a lot more than I was expecting, and if I could have gotten the same car (top line trim) with the 5-speed (available only on the bottom line S which is the current definition for “nasty penalty box) I would have bought one.

    Drive: Hyundai Accent. Because it seems to be a good car, and I’ve been pretty impressed with whatever Hyundai has put out over the last two years.

    (Do I have to) Burn: Mitsubishi Mirage. Probably the most unfairly slagged automobile of the last ten years, it’s only in the Burn category because I have to put one there.

    Real feelings? Buy the Versa. It’s a coin toss between the other two.

  • avatar
    amwhalbi

    Free paint! That’s a good LOL.

    The only one of these I have driven is the Accent (auto, not 6 speed). Not a bad drive at all for a commuter car. If this geezer would be sure I would remember how to shift gears at 70, I might actually consider a 6 speed. I have a friend who has the restyled Versa, and he’s OK with it. Very leery of Mitsubishi in general, so I buy the Accent, drive the Versa, and burn the Mirage.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    This one’s actually kind of tough.

    The easy part: burn the Mirage. It’s hateful in a way that you usually don’t see anymore.

    The Hyundai/Nissan question is harder. The Hyundai has the better powertrain and more feature content, but the Nissan is roomier and has the better-calibrated suspension. I think on balance I’d probably Buy the Hyundai and Drive the Nissan, but that one is close.

    But who am I kidding… for this money I’d buy a slightly used Accord or Camry V6, because I’m an occasional driver, not an everyday one. These are best for couriers, food delivery drivers, and the like who really need all the useful life and the initial reliability of a new car.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yes – you’ve hit on one reason sales of new small cars are falling.

      Competition from CUVs and slim profit margin are a couple reasons, but $16k puts you into very good used car territory. You don’t even need to jump two size classes; a CPO Elantra, Civic, or Corolla would do nicely.

  • avatar
    Mr. Monte

    Buy= Versa as it looks good and drives decent for what it is and has some good features available.

    Drive= Accent, drives well and not bad for what it is.

    Burn= Mirage, just a terrible looking car all around from it’s fat looks to tiny rims/tires and drives bad IMO.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    None of these are worth a damn
    Take a look around and you’ll see hundreds of brand-new VW Jettas in base trim with a manual transmission for under $17k. That’s the ticket for someone looking for a cheap new car.

    • 0 avatar
      Oberkanone

      Hyundai 10 yr warranty
      Mitsubishi 10 yr warranty

      Accent wins vs. Mirage

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Most people buying cheap new cars are buying them to drive them into the ground for business purposes. If you are in that market then buying any Volkswagen is a very bad idea.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      For the price of one of these, you could get a very nice used Lexus. The registration and insurance would likely cost less, and in a few years the Lexus would be worth more than any of these three.
      On the other hand, if you just have to buy new, you’ll get an awful lot of econobox in all three for an affordable price. Buy and drive the manual transmission, crush the CVT and ignore the other one.

  • avatar
    deanst

    It’s funny that 2 of these cars are so bad they don’t even try to sell them in Canada. I guess America is the new dumping ground for crappy cars.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Burn the Mitsu and all 76 of its ponies. I’d have to give the other two a test drive, 120 hp with a manual can be OK if done right.

    You mention the Hyundai’s back-up cam, isn’t that mandatory on everything these days?

  • avatar
    theonlydt

    If I’m in North America the answer is:

    Buy – Hyundai Accent – bit better than the Versa, better ownership value prop.

    Drive – Nissan Versa – by default

    Burn – Mirage POS.

    HOWEVER – I once had lots of fun driving a 61bhp 1.1 Hyundai Getz rental car on Malta. Absolutely knackered car, aircon on full blast, I reckon it may have had 40bhp at the wheels. An exercise in momentum, keeping your flat welded to the floor and revving the absolute nuts off it. The Mitsubishi is spiritually the closest to that experience, so assuming I won’t be sideswiped and killed by something else on the road, I’ll drive the Mitsubishi, manual only, without dropping below 5000rpm, and the others can burn.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: Hyundai Accent – With each generation seems better and less lowbrow. The manual makes it more fun.

    Drive: Nissan Versa – With the manual of course it’s better than the blah previous version.

    Burn: Mitsubishi Mirage- Still as bad as the infamous NYT review said.

    Honorable mention: Kia Rio

  • avatar

    Nothing beats Lada, nothing.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    I like the new Versa. It looks sportier than the other two. It’s gotten bigger. One day I saw the new Versa parked next to a Sentra. Versa’s exterior dimensions are pretty much the same. The suspension is pretty good, the car drives well planted on twisty mountainous roads. Yes, the 1.6L engine leaves a lot to be desired, but at sea level and no passengers the car has enough power to get out of its way, and it’s available with a manual transmission too.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” [Interestingly, this applies to the customers and to the OEMs.]

    Or as Jeremy Clarkson might say, “Work harder” (and get a nicer vehicle).

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I’ll drive the Nissan with a stick and stick some SE-R badges on it. It is stupid, but I am sentimental.

    I’ll buy the Mitsubishi. I don’t really want to drive it, but it isn’t the Hyundai.

    I’ll burn the Hyundai because Hyundai burned me with their can’t figure out how to build the 2.4 over a decade BS. Fool me once…

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Does it really matter? They all suck. But if I gotta, a manual trans and a 2,000 watt system/stereo aren’t negotiable. Just to keep from going totally insane. It better have power windows/locks, or it will after I get through with it.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy the Hyundai. It has the longest fuel range, better MPG rating than the Nissan, an extra gear, and the styling is okay.

    Drive the Mirage. For the experience of driving the Mitsubishi Mirage.

    Burn the Versa. It isn’t terrible but it doesn’t really land many punches either. I guess the interior volume is pretty good.

    I actuality, if I was buying in this class I’d probably be looking at the Rio 5-door, which starts at $16,990. And unless I had a very hard $17K budget, a Veloster starts under $19k.

  • avatar
    jagerninja

    Burn the Mitsu. No one needs that. Drive the Versa, it’s not a bad option in this field. Buy the Accent. Its styling is the easiest to live with, fuel economy is the best, and they include one option that is important: light color interior. Living somewhere where it gets mighty hot in the summer, I think this is an underrated option and one that can dramatically improve what it’s like to live with a car full-time.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I realize this snark is more dealer-specific, but which one would toss the keys to the lowest FICO score?

  • avatar
    craiger

    Mitsu stills sells cars here?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Burn them all. Just buy and drive a USED decent car at these price levels. Why would you subject yourself to this sort of thing? You can buy cans of fake new car smell.

  • avatar
    Cobrajet25

    “Fcuk ’em all, I’d buy a CPO 2018 Toyonda Civrolla! Ain’t I smart?” –50% of comments

    Yeaaahhh…as long as we all remember this is why really cheap new cars are disappearing.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Price available ‘off lease’ Corollas, Civics, etc. And try to get a ‘base’ model which are as rare as hens’ teeth. Up here in Canada used cars are surprisingly expensive compared to new ones and their finance rates are much higher.

    So for 25% – 40% more money you ‘can’ buy a ‘larger’ or perhaps ‘better’ car. Although it may not have the same level/number of safety ‘nannies’, and boy have we come to appreciate the blind spot monitor in our newest vehicle. And of course without the extra long warranty offered by Hyundai and Mitsu.

    And the ‘new to you’ vehicle you have purchased may have been in a collision, not received proper maintenance, been abused or even rarely washed and had 4 years of salt eating at the undercarriage/exposed parts.

    Remember that when purchasing a used vehicle that the care/maintenance taken by the previous owner(s) is often more important than the make/model or even age/mileage of the vehicle.

    Finally as per the comment above, if nobody else buys new ‘inexpensive’ vehicles then where are all us ‘cheapskates’ going to get our cheap, good, used ones?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Buy the Accent and drive it at least it will not leave you stranded.

    Burn the Mirage not worth the bother.

    Burn to a crisp the Versa with the Jatco CVT unless the transmission goes before you get a chance to burn it.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    Walked past an Accent in the grocery store the other night. A CVT perhaps? Owner was reving the piss out of it and it wouldn’t move. I hustled by b/c had it suddenly gone into gear – someone could have gotten hurt.

    Nothing against any of these three. More inclined to keep my 20+ year old domestic sedan that costs me nothing and is valued at nearly nothing.

    For me its a toss up between the Kiayundai and the Nissan. I could make the Mitsu do the job and last but I can’t warm up to it aesthetically. I want absolutely nothing to do with any of their CVTs or automatic transmissions. I like cheap and slow b/c I like to spend my money on fun weekend toys. Still, a used car seems like a better preposition.

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