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They miss the Yugo, godblessum. Those wacky guys at Slate long for the days when a new car could be had for less than the price of a modern television set. Surveying the bargain basement offerings of the automotive world, they found that only the Chevy Aveo can be had for under 10 grand, let alone the four thousand bucks a Yugo stickered for 20 years ago. Even at an adjusted-for-inflation price of $7500, the Yugo GV earns its initials and indeed represents a Great Value. Well, you get what you pay for. Anyway, Slate rounded up a field of econoboxes for a brief comparison test to see what you can realistically expect at the bottom end of the scale.

Slate's Seth Stevenson, an admitted cheapskate who drives a '96 Saturn with 103,000 miles on it, laments the fact that the lowest rung of the car market actually spans $12,000 to $17,000 nowadays. But what exactly do you get for that much cash? More than some might guess in a few cases. Mainly in response to escalating gas prices, several automakers have brought thrifty new models out to make the bargain hunters happy. Slate tried out the Saturn Ion, the Kia Rio, the Nissan Versa, the Scion xA, the Toyota Yaris, and the Honda Fit. When he went in to rent a Chevy Aveo, the counter agent told him, "You do not want to drive that car." So he skipped it. We don't want to spoil the rankings, but after trying cars that were too boring, too jerky, and even too flashy, he finally found one that was a perfect fit. Click through for the car-by-car reviews.

Thanks for helping us fill our slate, smj!

[Source: Slate]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      Poor article. I own none of these cars but expect to own a small high mpg car in the next year. The line the rental agent gave was a way for the company to get people to rent higher priced models. I have had it happen to me a few times. I always state "How do you know what I want to drive?" Or "it is not your job to tell me what to rent!" that usually gets a rude face and a fast here you go.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I have an Aveo as my daily driver. You know what, it's not too bad as long as you don't ride the redline and have the 5-speed manual. The automatic was a dog. At least it's faster than the Honda Element it replaced and gets better fuel economy (I average 27 mpg and have gotten 30 mpg). If it had the ability to adjust timing and fuel delivery for higher octanes, it would do better. It's made to run on piss. Fit and finish for a cheap car is damn good. I too second the rental agency didn't know what they were talking about. Did I mention the steering and pedal feel aren't over boosed either!
      • 8 Years Ago
      The article has me wondering why not the Aveo and why he is so easily swayed. At under 10 grand it's the least expensive (the motivation behind the article), and at the $15 grand mark he could have had a decked out Aveo with leather seats and 6 disc changer! The Toyota and Scion should go in a lower category with their bad crash ratings... I want cheap, but not at the cost of my life.
      • 8 Years Ago
      #5: The Saturn L300 was built on a platform adapted from a Saab 9000, I think. It's not even close to the same thing as an Ion.

      #2: I never drove an Ion, but rented a Cavalier autobox with an Ecotec 2.2 that had dreadful tip-in. Once up to speed, though, it had enough torque for passing. It reminded me of a V6 Celebrity but with with better handling.

      As for the article, the guy skipped a few other "cheap" cars. The Hyundai Accent is a big seller and likely on a lot of people's lists. Last one I drove was buzzy and miserable, though. And the Focus ZX3, which is more in the same category as the Ion as opposed to the subcompacts, is cheap, too... our local dealership is offering it for little over $11K. The ST is wayyyy overpriced, though. Suzuki makes a bunch of penalty boxes, too.
      • 8 Years Ago
      My mother owned an L300 and it served her well for the two years she had it.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Cheap cars in price or cheap cars in quality.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I'm in agreement with the others... The review does not achieve its stated purpose. Supposedly it is to review the cheapest of the cheap - then he skips out on the cheapest!

      If they miss cars like the Yugo GV, then they needed to test the Aveo no matter how bad it was. Because if you want cheap, you want cheap. That was the philosophy behind the GV - why not the Aveo?

      (caveat lector - I'm hardly an Aveo fan.... but if you're going to say cheap... you should follow through).
      • 8 Years Ago
      While it's worlds better than a Yugo, the Aveo didn't HAVE to be in this test. It was skipped because this wasn't a scientific test, merely a satire site blogger driving some cheap cars and giving his opinions. If people don't see the humor in having the rental agent warn a driver not to take it, then I feel sorry for them. And it wasn't like they talked him into something else, he ended up walking away rather thn drive it. Now THAT'S funny.
      Greg A.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "Even at an adjusted-for-inflation price of $7500, the Yugo GV earns its initials and indeed represents a Great Value."

      But to be sold now, it would have to have a frontal airbag for the driver and another for the front passenger, a tire pressure-monitoring system, lower emissions, and who knows what else. I'd say that the airbags and the tire pressure-monitoring system alone would make that Yugo GV cost more than a base Aveo.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Now, do any of the cars come with power or AC standard?

      I have no credit as I'm 19, and my folks aren't willing to cosign yet, and my current car, despite being a 10 year old beater still turns heads ('96 Ford Taurus owned by some elderly people with low, low miles when purchased).

      Since I can't really be "trusted" finanically... my payments will be high, and too bad, because if I am going to pay over 300 a month for five years, the car better be fully loaded...

      Better save up some more money.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I like the Nissan Versa, it is quite roomy as the clever commercial shows. The Yaris is a piece, friend has one and the door handles just fell off as we entered the freeway. HOna Fit looks like a clown car!
      • 8 Years Ago
      My father had a cheapie Ion (~$14,000) that I adopted for a while. It had no steering issues, but it did suffer the take off issue that he is describing. It felt like it was taking off in the wrong gear, perhaps 1st is extra tall. Once you got past take off, it was much more peppy than one would expect. For the 2 months I had it, I got 34 mpg, and from a guy who hasn't gotten more than 21 (4Runner & GM trucks) in years, that was very cool. I got used to the center guages in a few days, and didn't think anything more of it.

      Of the steering issue, one has to ask, was the reviewer's defective, or was my fathers uniquely stable.

      Based on his review of the Ion, I tend to think his review of the others are dead on too...
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