Affordable compact cars don’t have to be Spartan, so check out these picks for Best Cheap Small Cars. They each have a starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) well under $20,000, and even at the top end models, they don’t exceed $20K (unless you plunk on the options).

Bang for the buck in a small car? Give this trio of Best Cheap Small Cars a good look:

  • Honda FitAutomotive reviewers heap plenty of praise on the 2010 Honda Fit, literally gushing over its innovative options for storage, zippy ride, spacious rear seats, and extensive options list. All this at starting MSRPs from $14,900 to $19,110. Fit is also ultra fuel efficient, achieving an EPA-estimated 28 mpg city/35 mpg highway. Check out its “Magic Seat,” which can be configured for three separate storage modes: tall, long, and utility. Reviewers say it’s surprisingly comfortable as well. Note that the base model has no stability control or anti-skid option and, since there’s no change for 2010, consumers could consider a 2009. says: “The 2010 Honda Fit, a perennial favorite of the automotive press and customers alike, offers value and versatility in a fun-to-drive and fuel-efficient five-door package.”
  • Hyundai ElantraAvailable in Blue, GLS, and SE, with corresponding starting MSRPs of $14,145, $16,895, and $17,845, the 2010 Hyundai Elantra is another strong contender for Best Cheap Small Cars. The automaker says Elantra boasts the most interior room in the class, gets an economical 35 mpg highway (Blue), and has America’s best warranty. Among the many standard features (surprising for this price) are power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, dual power heated side mirrors, tilt steering wheel, and driver seat with 6-way adjustment. It also has excellent handling dynamics and good cargo space. New Car Test Drive comments: “The Hyundai Elantra is a compact car with handsome styling, a notable complement of safety features, commendable driving manners, a responsive and fuel-efficient powertrain, a strong warranty, and above-average value for the money.”
  • Kia ForteThe 2010 Kia Forte makes a compelling choice for savvy consumers. Available in LX, EX, and SX models, with starting MSRPs of $13,695, $15,995, and $17,495, respectively, it’s loaded with standard features such as Bluetooth, SIRIUS satellite radio, USB ports, iPod connectivity, and auxiliary input jacks. Its class-leading cargo space of 14.7 cubic feet of cargo volume is pretty impressive as well. As for safety, Forte receives the Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Edmunds remarks: “Unlike the bargain-bin Spectra that it replaces, the new 2010 Kia Forte is good enough to compete against perennial segment stars from Honda, Mazda and Toyota…There can be little doubt that the 2010 Forte marks Kia’s arrival as a serious player in this hotly-contested segment.”

Still want more choices? Here are three more to consider for Best Cheap Small Cars: Mazda Mazda3 (starting MSRPs $15,295 to $22,800), Volkswagen Golf (starting MSRP of $17,620), and Volkswagen Jetta (check out the base MSRP model, beginning at $17,605).

See the top 10 cheapest cars

Search used cars for sale and find the best deals near you at
To get a FREE iSeeCars VIN Report for a car, click here.