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Buying a new car doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, there are some really great new cars out there for under $20,000.

The Art of Frugality

The average sale price on a new vehicle in 2020 in the US is approximately $38,000. Ouch. But that doesn’t mean you’ve got to break the bank when buying a new car. It turns out there are loads of great new vehicles out there to be had for under $20,000. Though you might have a tough time finding one with a panoramic moonroof, trust me when I say, you will be surprised by all the standard features that come in these economical options.

Kia Soul

2020 Kia Soul - kia.com

2020 Kia Soul – kia.com  |  Shop Kia Soul on Carsforsale.com

The Kia Soul shows up on a lot of our lists. It’s a great subcompact crossover, it’s a great delivery vehicle, and it can even be had with blind spot detection. The reason is simple, the ratio of quality to price is pretty ridiculous. The Soul come with an optional 6-speed manual or CVT paired with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 147hp. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard in the 7-inch touchscreen. Due to its boxy verticality, the Soul offers a ton of room for such a small footprint. It also drives and rides wonderfully. Top it off with a generous 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty and you’ve got one of the best new vehicles out there. That it can be had for under $20,000 is just a bonus.

Honda Fit

2020 Honda Fit - automobiles.honda.com

2020 Honda Fit – automobiles.honda.com  |  Shop Honda Fit on Carsforsale.com

Another vehicle that outperforms its weight class is the Honda Fit. The Fit offers a good amount of passenger room despite how small it is. Cargo is even better thanks to Honda’s Magic Seats in the rear, which not only split 60/40 but also can fold up so you can, ahem, fit even larger items in the back. The interior of the Fit is its strongest suit, with quality materials, comfy seats, and good road visibility. The Fit comes standard with a 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, remote entry, LED taillights, and side-curtain airbags. But, since three of the four trims are below $20,000, you have room to upgrade with lots of additional options.

Chevy Sonic

2020 Chevrolet Sonic - chevrolet.com

2020 Chevrolet Sonic – chevrolet.com  |  Shop Chevrolet Sonic on Carsforsale.com

The Chevrolet Sonic comes in either sedan or hatchback varieties. It’s 1.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder makes a decent 138hp and provides the pop necessary to make the Sonic an enjoyable drive. A big plus with the Sonic is its cargo hold, which maxes out at 47.7 cu. ft. with the back seat folded down. The Sonic offers a 7-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard to the infotainment system.

Subaru Impreza

2020 Subaru Impreza - subaru.com

2020 Subaru Impreza – subaru.com  |  Shop Subaru Impreza on Carsforsale.com

If you want AWD with your cost savings, the Impreza is the car for you. That surefootedness is great in nasty weather conditions, but don’t ask too much from the 152hp 4-cylinder engine. The Impreza’s powerplant can be a little stodgy. The standard manual transmission helps a bit, but the CVT is probably the better option as it adds greatly to the fuel efficiency (36 mpg highway) and makes Subaru’s EyeSight system available. The Impreza is also a segment leader when it comes to interior space, beating out the likes of Toyota, Honda, and Mazda in both sedan and hatchback variants. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard, along with a rear-view camera and keyless entry.

Toyota Yaris

2020 Toyota Yaris - toyota.com

2020 Toyota Yaris – toyota.com  |  Shop Toyota Yaris on Carsforsale.com

The Yaris is one of the lowest priced vehicles on the list. That means even the highest XLE trim meets our budget requirement. That gets you a lot of your money, including a 7-inch touchscreen, 2 USB ports, and Low-Speed-Pre-Collision prevention. The Yaris benefits from both sharp steering and excellent fuel economy, even for its segment, at 32 city/40 highway. For an economical and well appointed ride, look to the oddly named Yaris.

Honda Civic

2020 Honda Civic - automobiles.honda.com

2020 Honda Civic – automobiles.honda.com  |  Shop Honda Civic on Carsforsale.com

New vs Used: Toyota Corolla

Citizen Kane, vanilla ice-cream, Bohemian Rhapsody, the classics are classic for a reason, they’re just that good. The classic Honda Civic has been on the short list of best affordable cars since it’s debut in the US in 1972. Available as a coupe, sedan, or hatchback, the Civic is arguably as good as it’s ever been. It offers modern tech and design, a high-quality interior, and an engaging drive. Given its track record of reliability and resale value, you’d be hard pressed to find a better vehicle for your pocketbook.

Hyundai Veloster

2020 Hyundai Veloster - hyundaiusa.com

2020 Hyundai Veloster – hyundaiusa.com  |  Shop Hyundai Veloster on Carsforsale.com

Unlike many entrants on this list, the Veloster only comes as a hatchback. But don’t think of that as a limitation. The Veloster has an interesting set up, it’s a three-door. That’s one driver’s side and two on the passenger side. More important than the number of door’s is the Veloster’s pick-up, which makes it the most exciting on this list. The standard engine is a 147hp 4-cylinder engine paired with either a manual or automatic transmission. You’ll need to jump up to the R-Spec trim, adding roughly $3,000, to get the turbocharged engine and it’s 201hp. Even if you don’t go that route, you’ll benefit from one of the best handling budget cars around. The Veloster comes standard with lane keep assist, back-up camera, and a six-speaker audio system, among other options.

Kia Forte

2020 Kia Forte - kia.com

2020 Kia Forte – kia.com  |  Shop Kia Forte on Carsforsale.com

The Kia Forte is another great, affordable choice for a sedan. Like most of Kia’s current offerings, the Forte comes with a high-quality, well-designed interior. The Forte runs a base 4-cylinder producing 147hp that gets an impressive 33 city/41 highway mpg rating. Cargo capacity was another area the Forte excels in, with a 15.3 cu. ft. of truck space. In addition to Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, the Forte comes with our list’s largest standard infotainment screen at 8 inches. Add in the great predicted reliability and Kia’s 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and you’ve got a great deal in the Forte.

Toyota Corolla

2020 Toyota Corolla - toyota.com

2020 Toyota Corolla – toyota.com  |  Shop Toyota Corolla on Carsforsale.com

Like the Civic, the Toyota Corolla is a classic of the budget conscious car segment. The current generation saw a refresh in 2020, both inside and out, and we love the new, aggressive look. The Corolla offers a smooth and quite ride, thanks to improved sound insulation and a new independent rear suspension. It’s comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen, back-up camera, and Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 that includes pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and lane departure warning. The Corolla also boasts both outstanding safety and reliability ratings.

Hyundai Kona

2020 Hyundai Kona - hyundaiusa.com

2020 Hyundai Kona – hyundaiusa.com  |  Shop Hyundai Kona on Carsforsale.com

It turns out the Soul isn’t the only budget friendly compact crossover on our list. The Hyundai Kona garners a spot thanks to its fun driving characteristics, efficiency, and practicality. The base 4-cylinder engine produces 145hp, but you can also upgrade the engine to a 175hp turbocharged version and add AWD if desired (there’s even an all-electric version, but that’s well above our $20K limit here). The interior is roomy, both front and back, and is well appointed, with quality materials and a great design perfectly marrying form and function. The Kona is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick and comes with standard safety tech line lane-keep assist and automatic emergency breaking.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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