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Budget Vehicles - Which One Is The Best? - Part 2

Smart Fortwo
Ballpark price: $15K+
Lifestyle: Clown-Car Driver

The what-now? Ridiculous name aside, this baby could park in a lunchbox. It also has an incredible turning circle of only 22.8 feet! If you spend a lot of time commuting and parking in a busy city, these features could make your life a whole lot easier. Unfortunately, convenient parking is the Fortwo's only redeeming quality.

The little engine is a mid-mounted three-cylinder that produces only 89hp! On top of that, the car suffers from horrendously bad turbo lag. If you're thinking about overtaking that bus on the road, think again. The five-manual shift doesn't lag as badly as the dual-clutch automatic version, but that's not saying much. No matter which transmission option you choose, neither are breaking any records in the fuel economy department. The Fortwo also has only two seats, and a tiny cargo hold. No, the seats don't fold down to increase storage space. To be honest, while driving this little disaster-on-wheels, you'll spend most of your time keeping a sharp eye out for trucks in the opposite lane. You'd better hope they see you because this car won't survive a collision with anything more robust than an average watermelon.

The Fortwo is the only model on this list that comes in a cabriolet or electric version, but both cost considerably more. Ironically, there's nothing smart about buying this Smart car. It's both dangerous and cost-ineffective.

Hyundai Accent SE
Ballpark price: $15K+
Lifestyle: Individual, Single Parent, Full Family

The Koreans are at it again, folks. Hyundai, like Kia, is another trustworthy, honest, and reliable brand. Their Accent SE is a stylish vehicle with a four-cylinder engine that puts out 137hp. The standard version has a six-speed manual transmission, but an automatic version is available for about a grand more. On top of that, you can grab a hatchback version of the Accent in either transmission choice. Fuel economy is top-notch, too!

There isn't much else to say. It's just a great basic car. Its upscale design gives you a glamorous aesthetic (on a budget), and typical of Hyundai, the car comes with a generous warranty, so you know you'll be secure for a long time.

Fiat 500 Pop
Ballpark price: $16K
Lifestyle: Individual

The Fiat 500 Pop is a small car. It's not quite as small as the not-so-Smart Fortwo, but parking in this little popper is a breeze. Fiat wiped the floor with Smart on this one. Unlike the Fortwo, Fiat has packed this vehicle with decent standard equipment. You get air conditioning, cruise control, and keyless entry. Fiat has even installed a driver's knee airbag--for obvious reasons!

The interior is mostly plastic, which can make it feel cheap, but Fiat didn't completely cheap out on this one. They installed cloth seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The little engine might produce only 101hp out of its four-cylinders (not as dismal as the Fortwo's 89hp, or the Mirage's 78hp), but the car is still fun to drive. The steering is excellent, and the handling feels pretty planted, with decent braking, thanks to the four-wheel disc brakes. Surprisingly, the 500 pop also has several usable interior storage spaces, including first-row under seat storage. One drawback is that the back "seat" doesn't seem designed for adult humans.

Regardless, Smart just got schooled by Fiat. This model is a great choice for those on a budget looking for a cute lil' car.

Chevrolet Sonic LS Sedan
Ballpark price: $16K
Lifestyle: Individual, Single Parent, Full Family

A round of applause for Chevy. Like the Spark, the Sonic LS is another noteworthy addition to this list. It's a good-looking car with a long list of amenities. We're talking air conditioning, a rearview camera, ten airbags, driver information display in the gauge cluster, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display, keyless entry, variable intermittent wipers, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, OnStar, and even 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity.

This car is pretty darn roomy inside, too, and if the sedan body isn't your thing, you can also get the Sonic in a sporty hatchback model. That snazzy little number will cost you an additional two grand, but the hatchback version does have RS body modifications, which is nice! This car would be an excellent choice for budget-conscious consumers who want a bit more space.

Final Word
Now that you've read up on the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of the budget car world, you should be able to make an informed decision about buying a low budget vehicle. Keep in mind: Other models are out there, so be a well-informed shopper and use this list of "cheapest new cars" as a comparison tool to get an idea of what's good and what's not. Explore what's out there; don't just stick to this list. When it comes to affordable used cars, take a peek at the previous versions of the best models listed above. Just be smart, and avoid that Smart car.

One final word of caution: Check out the cost of insurance on any car before you sign the dotted line. After all, you aren't just paying for the vehicle, but for the whole transportation experience. Think well and choose wisely before you drive off into the sunset. Happy motoring!