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Budget Vehicles - Which One Is The Best?

Buying a car is stressful at any time, and doubly so when the budget is tight. There's a lot to consider, including financing insurance, and the biggest question of all: which car to buy. It's not an easy question to answer. Every automobile maker claims to have the best options and offers you many models to choose from, but when you have to balance the demand for quality with financial constraints, you can't just leave these major financial decisions to chance! It's important to remember that there is no universal "best car"; you need to find the best choice for you. What works best for you will be determined by your specific needs and of course your budget.

Rather than waiting to find out the hard way whether you made the right choice, here's a look at some of the more common budget vehicles on the market, complete with our reviews. Read our article and make an intelligent choice when buying your new budget car. Choose a car that suits your lifestyle and will put you on the road towards happiness and comfort, rather than drive you off a financial cliff, or drive you downright crazy!

Mitsubishi Mirage ES
Ballpark price: $13K+
Lifestyle: Individual

The Mirage is another of Mitsubishi's attempts to break into the U.S. market. This launch consists of the standard hatchback Mirage ES, and a larger sedan version called the Mirage G4 (ballpark price: $14K+). The only real difference between the ES and the G4 is that the sedan has a trunk and a larger back seat.

Both the ES and the G4 are extremely fuel efficient and easy to drive, due to having a 1.2-liter, three-cylinder engine that produces only 78hp. Unfortunately, this results in extremely limited driving speed— any slower, and you'd be going backward. The powertrain does come with a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. That does seem like a good enough deal, but we believe that for your cash, you can do better.

Chevrolet Spark
Ballpark price: $13K+
Lifestyle: Individual

You're probably thinking that any car in the $13K+ price range is going to be a letdown, but that's not the case. The Spark is one of the cheapest new cars out there, but its quality will surprise you! The 2017 version is smaller than the previous model, and you can hardly call that shelf behind you a backseat. But Chevrolet managed to pack ten airbags, a rearview camera, a 7-inch touchscreen radio interface, and even standard in-car Wi-Fi into this fuel efficient little hatchback.

It's not exactly a powerful car, and the 98hp it offers might feel like ripping down the road in a go-kart. The Spark handles remarkably well for its size, though, even at high speeds on the freeway. It's a good choice for budget-minded individuals: It won't break the bank, and you get a decent little car equipped with some luxury features.

Nissan Versa S
Ballpark price: $12K+
Lifestyle: Individual

Ah, the Nissan Versa sedan. It might be unconventional to include a car you probably shouldn't buy in this kind of list, but it helps if you know what to avoid, and the price tag alone means many budget shoppers will be taking a look. The Versa is indeed cheap for a new car, but be aware that with this car, you're not getting much for your money. The plastic interior and lack of convenient amenities will leave you feeling like you're driving a toy car, especially when it struggles up a small hill with its meager 109-hp, four-cylinder engine. The manual transmission is standard, with an embarrassing, rubbery shifter to remind you of what you're missing. A version with an automatic transmission is available, but you'll be forking out close to $15K for that option as an additional amenity. Nissan put out a car for folks on a tight budget, but they don't seem to have prioritized good quality when they designed it.

While the Versa is no doubt fuel efficient, so are all the other vehicles on this list, and these other cars don't cost a whole lot more. The Versa is still a car, and it's still a grand or two cheaper than the competition, so it's better than cycling in the rain. Just keep in mind that you could end up spending those extra savings on large sunglasses and scarves to disguise yourself as you drive.

Ford Fiesta S Sedan
Ballpark price: $15K
Lifestyle: Individual, Single Parent, Full Family

Ford made this European-styled subcompact available to American buyers in 2010 and produced many happy owners in the process. The Fiesta's fuel efficiency isn't the best on this list, but it does produce a decent 120hp from its four-cylinder engine. The car handles pretty well on winding roads, due to its responsive steering and well-tuned chassis, and can be surprisingly fun to drive.

If you aren't interested in buying a sedan, there is a hatchback version of the Fiesta for just a few hundred dollars more.

Kia Rio Sedan
Ballpark price: $15K
Lifestyle: Individual, Single Parent, Full Family

Now we're getting serious. The Rio is a four-door, six-speed manual transmission sedan, with a direct-injected four-cylinder engine that produces 138hp. You won't find anything even remotely close to that within the $15K range. Again, if a sedan doesn't float your boat, a hatchback version is available, but you'd be walking into $16K+ territory there, so don't let a particular style-preference push you to dig deeper into your wallet. The same goes for a couple of other features: The standard Rio comes with manual door locks and hand-crank windows. You'll have to shell out another couple of grand for the electric versions, which are more expensive to repair. Roll up your windows by hand, and save your cash.

Kia makes reliable cars, and the Rio comes with a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain. This car is a great, budget friendly option, and it deserves your consideration.

Nissan Versa Note
Ballpark price: $15K
Lifestyle: Individual

The Nissan Versa Note is essentially just a hatchback version of the Versa sedan, and for a price tag that's over two grand more than the sedan, the Versa must be a much better car, right? Well, not really. Depending on your taste, some might consider the hatch a better-looking car, but other than that, not much is improved. As a hatchback, it might have slightly better utilities, but it's obviously not as spacious as the sedan. The fuel efficiency isn't impressive either: It's good, but certainly not great.