Consumers looking for best new cars under $15,000 will find a number of choices in the small car segment. Those fitting the price target include subcompacts and compacts from many different automakers – domestic and foreign – in this hotly-contested market.

Of course, to snag one of these affordable makes, you’ll need to concentrate on the low-end models. This means foregoing a lot of optional features, which typically jack up the price. But that doesn’t mean you’re relegated to a stripper. Here are some best new cars under $15,000 that you may want to put on your shopping list:

  • 2011 Ford FiestaWith competition from the Honda Fit, Chevrolet Aveo, and Toyota Yaris, the supermini from the Blue Oval gang at Ford, the 2011 Fiesta, is a winner on all fronts. Reviewers say Fiesta is a perfect balance of styling, interior space, and dynamic handling and feedback. And its hybrid-like 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway estimated (by Ford) fuel economy may seal the deal for many frugal consumers. AutoWeek comments: “The Fiesta is as good a small car as can be found, sourced from anywhere in the world. That it comes from the Blue Oval is remarkable and heartening; its brilliance is the first ray of sunshine on what has been a seemingly midnight horizon.” Base S and SE sedan come in under $15,000 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRPs) at $13,210 and $14,320, respectively, while the SE hatchback is just over at $15,120.
  • 2010 Suzuki SX4More expensive than its platform-mate, the 2010 Nissan Versa, the 2010 Suzuki SX4 offers lots of standard features, outstanding headroom, and great visibility – besides being fun to drive. Consumer Guide says: “SX4 is roomy, solid, and offers uncommon class features, such as AWD and a navigation system. All models lag most rivals for fuel economy, but pricing is reasonable, which makes this Suzuki a Recommended pick. If SX4 is on your shopping list, be sure to try the manual transmission, as the unrefined CVT [continuously variable transmission] saps much of the enjoyment from driving this sporty subcompact.”
  • 2010 Honda FitBeloved by many, the 2010 Honda Fit continues to garner accolades among the automotive press. Named a Car and Driver 10Best for three years in a row, Fit also makes Kelley Blue Book’s list of “10 Coolest Cars under $18,000.” Kelley Blue Book remarks: “The Honda Fit’s versatility, fuel efficiency and fun-to-drive nature have kept this sub-compact on our list of cool cars since its American debut. Now in its second generation, the Honda Fit keeps its cool with available options like paddle shifters, a navigation system and iPod integration.” With EPA-estimated 28 mpg city/35 mpg highway, standard air conditioning, AM/FM/CD audio system with four speakers, power windows/mirrors/door locks and more, and a low starting MSRP of $14,900, Fit may very well prove to be a good choice for your driving needs.
  • 2010 Hyundai ElantraNew Car Test Drive observes: “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.” Excellent cargo space, very comfortable rear seats (a rarity in this class, according to many reviewers), and good fuel economy (26 mpg city/35 mpg highway for Elantra Blue), are other reasons many consumers are checking out the Hyundai Elantra. Base MSRP begins at $14,145 for Hyundai Blue.

Other new cars under $15,000 to consider: Chevrolet Aveo and Cobalt, Kia Forte, Rio and Soul, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Cube and Sentra, Scion xD, and Toyota Yaris. Two that have base models with MSRPs just over $15,000 (but invoice price is less), include Mazda Mazda3 and Honda Civic.

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