Though falling gasoline prices have eased driving costs in recent weeks, economic uncertainty and the feeling that $4.00-a-gallon fuel may come around yet again is causing those in the market for a new car to consider ones that are not only more fuel efficient, but are inexpensive to purchase. Fortunately there are several small cars out there these days that fit the bill, and while they’re far from being the most luxurious vehicles in existence, they don’t necessarily make their owners feel unduly penalized for their frugality, either.
Here’s a quick look at several subcompact sedans and hatchbacks for 2009 that are not only the lowest-priced models on the market, but generally carry fuel economy ratings that are surpassed only by costlier hybrid-powered models. They’re not the top performers on the road, certainly aren’t the roomiest and for the most part only offer a modicum of features, but they get the job done and do so with inherent thrift as their main virtue.
* Hyundai Accent. As of this writing the lowest-priced car sold in the U.S. at $9,970 (for the hatchback; the sedan starts at $12,920), the subcompact Accent affords essential four-passenger transportation and good fuel economy without feeling overly cheap. It’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces a barely-adequate 110 horsepower, though the reward comes with an estimated 27-city/35-mpg fuel economy. Six air bags, a 100,000-mile warranty and a five-speed manual transmission come standard, with a four-speed automatic gearbox available.
* Kia Rio. Corporate cousin to the Hyundai Accent, the Kia Rio comes in specific, curvier styling, though it’s likewise offered in sedan and hatchback models and packs a 110-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Its sticker price starts at $11,495, though the hatchbacks are priced higher. Six air bags and a 100,000-mile warranty are included. As with the Accent, the Rio remains a worthy alternative to a used Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic for about the same price.