Without further ado, here's what they came up with. We've listed them from lowest to highest base price:
- Nissan Versa - $12, 450
- Scion xA - $12, 780
- Dodge Caliber - $13,425
- Ford Focus - $13,450
- Mazda3 -$13, 710
- Honda Fit - $13,850
- Kia Sportage - $15,900
The fuel economy kings are the Versa (30/34 mpg), Scion (31/38 mpg) and Fit (33/38), and in terms of value, all seven cars bring some good things to the table.
While the Honda Fit is a very attractive candidate, Honda has acknowledged that it's having trouble keeping up with the demand, so it may not necessarily be easy to find one.
The Focus looks a little dated compared to some of the newer vehicles listed above, but as CNN points out, it's also available as a sporty wagon (base price, $16,735), which is a really nice thing for a student who has to haul his or her life to and from school a couple of times a year.
The Scion is a nice deal, but its 1.5L engine only makes 105 horsepower. Still, the low entry price leaves the buyer with some extra dough that can be used to accessorize the car.
The Sportage is pretty cool as small SUVs go, but its entry price doesn't include A/C. Plus, if you want 4WD, the number immediately jumps to $20K. Unless you absolutely must have the SUV body style, you'll likely get more bang for the buck from the other cars on the list (if you stick to the $16,000 budget, that is).
The Mazda3 sports 150 ponies underhood, stylish bodywork (though we wish the car at this price point was the hatchback and not the sedan), and can also be upgraded to include PW/PDL while still sneaking in under $16,000.
The Versa boasts decent power (122-hp) from its 1.8L, looks good on the road, and gets great gas mileage. While it doesn't come with power windows or door locks at the price shown above, buyers can upgrade to the better-equipped SL trim and still stay well below the $16,000 threshold CNNMoney set for the list.
Finally, Caliber brings bulldog-tough looks and a highly versatile interior to the party, though CNNMoney advises that you wait until you can get a manual transmission to go with the 2.4L four.
No matter how you cut it, there are a number of new, interesting, stylish, and frugal small cars out there for the budget-minded. The list is geared toward students and new grads, but you needn't be either one to appreciate the value the list highlights.