11 most affordable compact sedans

Cars.com

Car shoppers want a long list of features in a new car, even if that car is a compact sedan that starts around $16,000. That starting price usually doesn't include what many consider "must-have" features — chief among them an automatic transmission.

We took 11 compact sedans and looked at their prices when equipped with the following features:

Automatic transmission Cruise control USB input Remote entry Tilt/telescoping steering wheel Steering-wheel audio controls

It may seem like a simple search, but if you're looking at a new Nissan Sentra, Dodge Dart or Volkswagen Jetta, you'll need to know the specific trim level, options and option packages to ensure you won't regret not having that one missing feature.

We took those as-equipped prices and then added five years of fuel costs to come up with the most affordable compact sedan on the market.

Compact Car Affordability
Model & TrimOptionsTested PriceFuel CostTotal
2013 Nissan Sentra SVDriver's Package$19,180$8000$27,180
2013 Hyundai Elantra GLSPreferred Package$19,410$8500$27,910
2013 Toyota Corolla LE-$18,975$9250$28,225
2013 Honda Civic LX-$19,755$8500$28,255
2013 Kia Forte LXPopular Package$19,100$9,250$28,350
2013 Ford Focus SE-$20,090$8750$28,840
2013 Mazda3 iSport-$20,020$9000$29,020
Average$20,159$9000$29,078
2013 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-$21,065$9000$30,065
2013 Chevrolet Cruze 1LT-$20,465$10,000$30,465
2013 Dodge Dart SXT 2.0Bluetooth, Popular Equipment Group$20,830$10,000$30,830
2013 Volkswagen Jetta SEConvenience Package$22,225$10,500$32,725


Nissan's redesigned 2013 Sentra comes out on top. It wasn't easy to get all the options we wanted on the Sentra. First, you must choose the SV trim level and then the Driver's Package; many competitors deliver them in a specific trim level without the need for options. Configured like this, the as-tested price was actually higher than the Toyota Corolla and Kia Forte. But it bested those two thanks to segment-leading fuel costs.

We originally ran these calculations before Nissan announced a price reduction on the Sentra and other models last week. It still came out on top before the announcement, but the gap widened from a mere $90 to $730 between the Sentra and the next most affordable car, the Forte.

Another surprise was the Subaru Impreza. It had all the equipment we were looking for except cruise control in the 2.0i base model. If you don't need cruise, you'd save $1,400 by choosing the base model over the 2.0i Premium trim, and that lower price would have put it in sixth place between the Civic and Ford Focus. It also had surprisingly low fuel costs for an all-wheel-drive car.

The number that stands out is $20,000, and that's the price car shoppers need to remember when shopping this class. There are five compact sedans that are both well-equipped and well-reviewed for less than that price.

If you've got your heart set on a car that costs more than $20,000, make sure there are valid reasons to pick it over the more affordable options.

The Impreza's all-wheel drive is likely the biggest factor that would sway customers, but the as-equipped Dodge Dart has 17-inch alloy wheels and a six-speaker sound system that stands out in the class.

If value reigns supreme, it's hard to pass up the Forte, Sentra or Elantra.

Having recently purchased our long-term Honda Civic that has all of these features in a base model, we thought it had a good shot of scoring well here. But the results were somewhat surprising, especially in terms of what car was No. 1.
View Comments (215)

Recommended for You

  • Aston Martin turns toward Tesla with electric DBX concept

    The future of the British luxury carmaker could come as a jolt to many fans.

    Motoramic
  • The future look of Volkswagen? The Sport Coupe Concept GTE

    The Volkswagen Sport Concept Coupe GTE has five doors and a plug-in hybrid power system — but it's the exterior design that's most likely to see production.

    Motoramic
  • World's fastest car? Koenigsegg Regera makes an 1,800-hp case

    For $1.9 million, the Swedish supercar builder will sell you a machine that's capable of hitting 248 mph — in just 20 seconds.

    Motoramic
  • This is the last Bugatti Veyron ever built

    Bugatti vows it will return soon — but first, it marks the end of building the world's fastest supercars.

    Yahoo Autos
  • Harrison Ford Injured After Crashing Small Vintage Military Plane

    Harrison Ford crash landed at Penmar Golf Course in Venice, Calif. Thursday afternoon and is reportedly in moderate to serious condition. According to Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration, the crash happened just after takeoff. He was flying out of nearby Santa Monica Airport, which is…

    Boldride
  • Volkswagen Announces New Limited Edition Version of its e-Golf Electric Car

    Volkswagen has announced a new trim level for the 2015-model version of its fully electric e-Golf EV.

    J.D. Power and Associates
  • New for 2015: BMW

    BMW has been busy preparing for 2015, as evidenced by the introduction of the new M4 and X4 models, redesign of its aggressive M3 and X6, debut of xDrive on the 2 Series and a 4 Series Gran Coupe body style, and the launch of a diesel-powered 7 Series sedan. Find out what's new for all of BMW's…

    J.D. Power and Associates
  • McLaren Brings the Noise With its Latest Teaser

    As you know, this week was the Geneva Motor Show. And if you didn’t— where the heck have you been? But as Geneva winds to close, and in fact this was the 85th Geneva Motor Show, we can no look towards the future. Onward, to the New York Auto Show! Yes ladies and gentlemen, it’s

    Boldride
  • For $10,700, This 1960 Nash Metropolitan Will Steal Your Heart

    For a long time, I’ve been a fan of microcars. They’re just so adorable with their tiny little bodies and cute little engines. And after some late night browsing, this 1960 Nash Metropolitan is the latest object of my affection. With an all black getup, this example has 49,000 miles on the odometer…

    Boldride
  • Red Bull Explains What Skijoring Is In The Best Way Possible

    The venerable Wikipedia defines skijoring as a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog (or dogs) or a motor vehicle. Red Bull has been kind enough to give us a prime example of the awesome sport—and boy, do we want to see this in the

    RideApart.com
  • Ford Mustang Drifts The Abandoned City Of Ordos: Video

    If you’re like us, you’re not exactly up on your animal-based calendars. Fortunately, Ford is—and it’s the Year of the Horse. Naturally, that’s a perfect fit for the Mustang—new again this year.

    MotorAuthority
  • Check Out Harley-Davidson’s Electric Motorcycle in the New ‘Avengers’ Trailer

    The latest trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron is here, and it’s full of all the glorious superhero antics one would expect. There are crazy stunts, massive amounts of property destruction, and one very cool looking Harley-Davidson. This particular Harley belongs to Black Widow and it’s not any old…

    Boldride
  • You Can Get Your Ford Encrusted With Diamonds In The UK

    Great Britain isn’t exactly known for the most tasteless of vehicular productions. In fact, it’s rather well-known for the opposite—despite what some buyers may commission from the likes of Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, and Bentley. But here we have an example worthy of the worst of America, Russia,…

    MotorAuthority
  • Drive Review: 2015 Hyundai Genesis - A Glorified Sonata?

    As someone firmly entrenched in the world of auto writer-dom, it’s expected of me to get all hot and bothered about the Hyundai Genesis sedan. After all, it’s big, bold and brash, it’s got a sport-tuned chassis, and most importantly of all, it’s rear-wheel

    RideApart.com
  • Bold Ride’s 5 Favorite Cars From the 2015 Geneva Motor Show

    The Koenigsegg Regera hybrid megacar won the 2015 Geneva International Motor Show. If you say otherwise, just do everybody a favor and stop trying to be different for the sake of being different. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about everything else that was at the show. Because…

    Boldride
  • This is Indian Motorcycle's "Mark Wahlberg Collection" Clothing Line

    The former Marky Mark is the typical Boston tough guy and above all, a motorcycling enthusiast, so it's no wonder Indian Motorcycles chose him as their brand ambassador. The Pain and Gain star is now leading the new Indian Motorcycles clothing line campaign

    RideApart.com
  • Ferrari Sergio Debuts At 2015 Geneva Motor Show

    It was at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show that Italian design legend Pininfarina rolled out the Sergio concept car (shown below) honoring its fallen patriarch Sergio Pininfarina who passed away one year prior. The concept proved so popular that Pininfarina, together with Ferrari whose 458 Spider was…

    MotorAuthority