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2016 Best Cheap Cars – Top 10 Cars Under $20,000

No matter your automotive budget, there’s little substitute for the peace of mind that comes with a brand-new car and the new-car warranty that comes with it. Limit your search to $20,000 or less, and that security, along with the latest in safety and connectivity features and fuel-economy-boosting tech, becomes critically important.

Our 10 Best Cheap Cars price ceiling is a $20,000 suggested retail price without options but including the manufacturers’ destination fee, which average about $800. Presented here in alphabetical order, you’ll note that none is a large car, but each is a standout for value. Some are design-efficiency gems. One or two are even lookers. All are very good cheap cars.

Dodge Dart – Italian-American Treat
Base price range: $17,690-$24,790

Wrapped in standout styling that sets it apart in a field of lookalike compacts, Dart traces its basic engineering to Italy’s Alfa Romeo, where its Old Country equivalent is the Giulietta. That makes it look and drive a little sportier than the norm, though it still possesses good-old Midwest values: it’s built at the Fiat-Chrysler assembly plant in Belvedere, Ill. In its transformation, the Dart has put on some American pounds, so consider bypassing the two least powerful four-cylinder engines, the turbocharged 1.4-liter and the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter, with their 160 horsepower each. Go for the 184-horsepower 2.4-liter. You can pair it with the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission for just under $19,000 in the basic SE model, or stretch your budget to get that combo in the better-equipped SXT, at just over $21,000. If, however, you’re after the line’s best fuel-economy ratings, the answer is the 1.4-liter turbocharged Aero model. It’s rated 28/41/32 mpg city/highway/combined, though it’s priced nearly $4,000 more than the base Dart, which rates a still-laudable 27/37/31 mpg with the same engine. To please your racier side, consider the 2.4-liter GT version with assorted performance-minded upgrades; it’s $22,990 with manual transmission. And if you love the way the Dart looks and you have pockets deep enough to cover a near-$25K starting price, check out the top-line Limited model. It comes packed with amenities, including a moonroof, heated leather seats, push-button entry/start, and a navigation system. Options include a blind spot monitor with cross path detection.

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About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]