These days, the average price of a new car is around $38,000. Yikes. This makes it hard for a lot of people to buy new cars, especially in the tight market we have now. But there is good news: you can still buy cars that don’t cost a lot of money.
For this list, we chose our favorite new cars that sell for less than the average price of a new car.
The aggressive design of some cars can help hide the fact that they aren’t very good, but that’s not the case with the 2021 Hyundai Elantra. This affordable compact sedan is one of the best you can buy right now. It has both style and substance.
Funky styling on the inside and outside will help you stand out from the conservative econobox crowd, but that’s just the beginning. Even the base Elantra SE comes with features like an 8-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wide range of active and passive safety systems, and a 147-horsepower I4 gas engine that promises up to 43 mpg highway. It’s not very exciting to drive, but if you need more excitement, you can get the turbocharged N-Line model. People, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Hyundai Elantra is armed with heaps of style and tech
The Toyota Camry, the king of midsize sedans, has to be on any list of great cars that are also affordable. Most people talk about the Toyota Camry like they talk about a package of envelopes they bought at Staples, but that’s for a good reason. For decades, the Camry has been a good, reliable, and affordable car for families of all shapes and sizes.
Not surprisingly, the Camry doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down. The non-hybrid Camry is supremely affordable, yet it’s still loaded with tons of tech and safety systems as standard equipment, even on the base LE model. It also runs very smoothly and gives a comfortable ride that makes long trips feel a lot shorter.
Full-size sedans are slowly becoming extinct, but there are still a few left. The Dodge Charger is probably the oldest of that group, but it still has a surprising amount of value.
The 2021 Dodge Charger, like the last five years’ worth of Chargers, is a big, comfortable sedan with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) that just crosses the $30,000 mark. If you want four-wheel drive instead of two, the price goes up a bit. Its V6 engine works well enough in its basic form, but it doesn’t make the car feel fast. If you spend a little more money, you can get a V8 instead and still be under the average price for a new car. The Charger isn’t the most high-tech car on the market, but it does come with Stellantis’ Uconnect infotainment system, which has been one of our favorites for years and keeps getting better.
In his review of the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid, our own Craig Cole says, “The Honda Accord is like a blue-chip stock: it’s always a good buy.” And it’s true: the Accord is still one of our favourite cars because it’s a good mix of comfort, efficiency, and fun to drive. You might think that adding a hybrid-electric powertrain would mean giving up something, but it doesn’t. It’s still pretty darn good.
With 212 net hp and 232 net lb-ft of torque, the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid is plenty quick for everyday use. If you’re easy on the gas, you can get the EPA-estimated 44 mpg in the city, 41 mpg on the highway, and 43 mpg overall. The battery hangs out behind the back seats, so it doesn’t take up any space inside or in the trunk, which is bigger than that of both the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. A standard 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto comes with all trims. The former can be used wirelessly on trims EX and above.
The Best affordable electric car
2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV
The first-generation Chevrolet Bolt EV was a nice electric hatchback, but it wasn’t perfect. Now, for the 2022 model year, the Bolt EV is back with a bunch of improvements and a second model, which we’ll talk about later, that make this five-door car even more interesting (and money).
The Bolt EV looks much better on the outside, but it still has a hatchback shape. From the overall design to the materials used, there are a lot of big changes inside. The dashboard is dominated by a 10.2-inch infotainment screen, and standard safety tech includes lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, and automatic high beams. Optional safety tech includes adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system. Oh, and it has a range of 259 miles, which is nothing to scoff at for most commuters.
The Honda Civic Type R is good, but holy cow, it’s expensive. The 2021 Hyundai Veloster N will give you a similar but slightly less powerful experience while saving you a lot of money and giving you a look that’s just a little bit more grown-up.
The Veloster N is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine that makes 250 horsepower (or 270 horsepower with the optional Performance Package) and 260 lb-ft. of torque. Standard is a six-speed manual, but new for 2021 is an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic that can give the same hilariously fun experience on backroads to people who don’t want to row themselves. The Veloster N is a lot of fun to drive, and like all new Hyundais, it comes with a lot of safety and comfort tech. Even if you fill it to the brim, you won’t reach $40,000, which makes it a great deal compared to other high-powered performance cars.
Every day, there was a new paragraph about how great Ford’s “Baby Bronco,” which became the Bronco Sport, was. This small SUV won our hearts with its strong mix of capability, quality, and a little bit of nostalgia.
The base model of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport, which is a small crossover, costs less than $30,000. This is a very good thing. Its tall body gives it a lot of space and good visibility, and the latter goes well with the vehicle’s off-road capabilities, which are better than those of almost every other small SUV. The Bronco Sport might not be the best on paper when it comes to how much cargo space it has or how much it can pull, but it has so much guts that you can’t help but love it.
The 2022 Subaru Outback might not be much more than a tall waggon, but these days it doesn’t take much to be called a crossover, so it is. No matter how you put it, the Outback is a beautiful car that is worth your time.
In 2022, Outbacks will get a new piece of safety technology: LED headlights that move left or right when the steering wheel is turned. This will add to the EyeSight technology that comes standard on all Outbacks. The optional turbocharged flat-four engine makes trips to the grocery store a little more fun, and the optional 11.6-inch portrait infotainment screen makes quite a statement on the dashboard. We had a 2020 model for a whole year, and during that time we found it to be a great highway cruiser that got good gas mileage.
Think of the Kia Telluride as a three-row SUV version of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. With a starting price of around $32,000, you can keep it Ace of Base and walk out of the dealership with a good, family-friendly three-row SUV that won’t break the bank. Or, you can give money to a salesperson in your area and drive away in a Telluride with wood trim, Nappa leather, and rear rows that fold down automatically. You can also get it just about anywhere else.
The 2021 Kia Telluride is a great car, period. It can do a lot of things, and its three rows give big families enough room to be comfortable on long road trips. It’s also full of the same great tech that we love in everything else Hyundai and Kia make. Its 291-hp V6 is a little thirsty, but if you stick with the standard front-wheel-drive setup, you can avoid stopping at gas stations. No matter how you set it up, though, the end result is a very nice SUV.
If you’ve driven one of Honda’s newer hybrids or a gas-powered CR-V from this generation, you might think that putting the two together would make a car that’s just as good.
The 2022 Honda CR-V Hybrid is like going to a fancy restaurant for a nice meal. There are many fun things to do that won’t break the bank. The CR-V Hybrid’s engine gets 40 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, which is good for an all-wheel-drive vehicle, and the ride is on the comfortable side. You can choose between a base trim that costs less than $30,000 and a top trim that costs about $37,000. This lets you choose from a wide range of affordable trims.
Chevrolet doesn’t just have the Bolt EV as a cheap electric car anymore. Now, there is a version called the Bolt EUV that has a higher ride height. It looks a lot like its brother or sister, but they don’t share any sheet metal. All of the good things about the Bolt EV are here, like a nice interior design with better materials and some good tech that comes standard. Even though it doesn’t look like it in pictures, the EUV is half a foot longer than the EV and has more room inside to match.
But the Bolt EUV is different in a very important way from any possible competitor: it has Super Cruise. The Bolt EUV now has GM’s advanced driver aid, which used to only be on expensive Cadillacs. If you press a button on any of the more than 200,000 miles of mapped highways, the car will take over the steering, brakes, and accelerator so you don’t have to.
Is the Mazda CX-5 Turbo a performance SUV in theory? Well, no, but until the Hyundai Kona N comes out, the CX-5 with its turbocharged I4 engine is as close to a performance-oriented car as you can get for this price.
The CX-5’s optional 2.5-liter turbocharged I4 engine makes a solid 250 hp and 320 lb-ft, which makes for some very exciting starts and on-ramp antics. With a solid body and well-damped suspension, you can have a surprising amount of fun in corners, and in the right configuration, its interior materials and styling put some real luxury cars to shame.
Comparison of the best affordable cars for 2022
|Category||Name||Base Engine||Output||Fuel Economy (mpg, city/hwy/combined)||Base Price|
|Best affordable small car||2022 Hyundai Elantra||2.0-liter I4||147 hp / 132 lb-ft||33 / 43 / 37||$20,655|
|Best affordable midsize car||2022 Toyota Camry||2.5-liter I4||203 hp / 184 lb-ft||28 / 39 / 32||$25,965|
|Best affordable full-size car||2022 Dodge Charger||3.6-liter V6||292 hp / 260 lb-ft||19 / 30 / 23||$31,490|
|Best affordable hybrid car||2022 Honda Accord Hybrid||2.0-liter I4 hybrid||212 hp net||48 / 48 / 48||$27,565|
|Best affordable electric car||2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV||Single electric motor||200 hp / 266 lb-ft||TBA (259 mi. est. range)||$31,995|
|Best affordable performance car||2022 Hyundai Veloster N||2.0-liter I4||275 hp / 260 lb-ft||22 / 28 / 25||$33,245|
|Best affordable small SUV||2022 Ford Bronco Sport||1.5-liter I3||181 hp / 190 lb-ft||25 / 28 / 26||$29,650|
|Best affordable midsize SUV||2022 Subaru Outback||2.5-liter H4||182 hp / 176 lb-ft||26 / 33 / 29||$27,845|
|Best affordable three-row SUV||2022 Kia Telluride||3.8-liter V6||291 hp / 262 lb-ft||20 / 26 / 23||$33,415|
|Best affordable hybrid SUV||2022 Honda CR-V Hybrid||2.0-liter I4 hybrid||212 hp net||40 / 35 / 38||$31,710|
|Best affordable electric SUV||2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV||Single electric motor||200 hp / 266 lb-ft||TBA (250 mi. est. range)||$33,395|
|Best affordable performance SUV||2022 Mazda CX-5 Turbo||2.5-liter I4||250 hp / 320 lb-ft||23 / 28 / 25||$31,760|
How we made our list
You won’t believe it, but we drove them! Everyone at Roadshow is always testing out new cars in different situations, like hauling mulch or just getting a family from A to B. Our huge collection of published reviews lets us put each car in its proper place and figure out what makes a good car. The names on this list are some of our favourite affordable cars from all parts of the auto industry, except, of course, the ones that are really expensive.
Don’t forget, though, that your mileage may vary, and not just in a literal sense. Everyone has different needs, and what works for one person might not work for another. If you want to take this list as gospel, that’s great, but we urge you to get out there and drive these cars and others to find out what you, dear reader, really want in a car.
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