There’s a long list of subcompact cars to choose from

So, you only have $15,000 to spend on a car? In most cases, that wouldn’t be enough to get you what you want, but if you’re looking for a no-frills ride that you can maximize with your spending limit, this list of cars gives you lots of options to choose from. Do you want a subcompact car that boasts impressive interior space? How about one that packs more power than you thought? What about a car that has everything you need, or at least everything you think you need at the price you’re willing to pay for it. The cars on this list could be the answer you’re looking for.

2018 Nissan Versa

2015 - 2016 Nissan Versa Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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At $12,310, the Nissan Versa is the cheapest car on this list, and it’s the four-wheeled embodiment of getting what you pay for

At $12,310, the Nissan Versa is the cheapest car on this list, and it’s the four-wheeled embodiment of getting what you pay for. Jokes aside, the Versa isn’t going to win a lot of “best of” contests, but it has a surprisingly good amount of decent offerings to offset all of its obvious shortcomings.

Chief among them is the amount of interior space the subcompact has. There is ample headroom and legroom inside the car, and that’s even in the rear seats, the general area where subcompact models usually feel cramped. That’s not the case with the Versa, and it also rings true in the trunk, which is more spacious than other models in its class. The Versa has a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces just 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque while mated to a five-speed manual transmission. The sedan isn’t a workhorse, but you’re not paying it to be one.

2018 Nissan Versa - specifications

Engine 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder
Horsepower 109 @ 6,000 RPM
Torque 107 @ 4,400 RPM
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 27/36/30
Headroom front/rear (inches) 39.8/36.6
Legroom front/rear (inches) 41.8/37.0
Hip room front/rear (inches) 48.1/46.2
Shoulder room front/rear (inches) 51.7/51.9
Cargo room (ft3) 14.9

2018 Nissan Versa - safety

Small overlap front
Driver-side P
Passenger-side not rated
Moderate overlap front G
Side G
Roof strength G
Head restraints & seats G

2018 Nissan Versa - prices

Versa S 1.6 Liter 4 cyl MT $12,310
Versa S Plus 1.6 Liter 4 cyl CVT $14,450
Versa SV 1.6 Liter 4 cyl CVT $15,940

Read our full review on the 2018 Nissan Versa

2018 Chevy Spark

2016 Chevrolet Spark
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The Spark may not have the juice to win a sprint to 60 with a semi truck, but it is surprisingly packed for a car that starts at just $13,050.

At first glance, the Chevrolet Spark doesn’t look like a $15,000 car. It doesn’t even look like a $10,000 car. But the Spark will surprise you because of how adept it is in navigating around tight spaces and crowded city streets. It loses some of its spark — no pun intended — once it ventures onto open roads, but there’s still 98 horsepower under that hood. That should be good enough to get you where you need to go.

But one of the best things about the Spark is its tech features, most notably the standard infotainment that includes a seven-inch touchscreen that has the ability to recognize phone gestures. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available, and the hatch even has a Wi-Fi hotspot. The Spark may not have the juice to win a sprint to 60 with a semi truck, but it is surprisingly packed for a car that starts at just $13,050. Even better, spend an extra $1,800, and you can get the Spark 1LT trim, which, by the way, comes with features like cruise control, power windows and locks, and keyless entry.

2018 Chevy Spark - specifications

Engine 1.4L DOHC I-4
Horsepower 97 @ 6,200 RPM
Torque 94 @ 4,400 RPM
Fuel economy city/highway 30/38
Headroom front/rear (inches) 39/37
Legroom front/rear (inches) 41.7/33.0
Hip room front/rear (inches) 48.2/48.0
Shoulder room front/rear (inches) 50.8/48.9
Cargo room (ft3) 11.1

2018 Chevy Spark - safety

CRASHWORTHINESS
Moderate overlap front G
Side G
CRASH AVOIDANCE & MITIGATION
Front crash prevention Basic
CHILD SEAT ANCHORS (LATCH) A

2018 Chevy Spark - prices

Chevrolet Spark LS Manual $13,925
Chevrolet Spark LS Automatic $15,025
Chevrolet Spark 1LT Manual $15,750
Chevrolet Spark 1LT Automatic $16,850
Chevrolet Spark Activ Manual $16,995
Chevrolet Spark 2LT Manual $17,250
Chevrolet Spark Activ Automatic $18,095
Chevrolet Spark 2LT Automatic $18,350

Read our full review on the 2018 Chevrolet Spark

2018 Hyundai Accent

2018 Hyundai Accent High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The Hyundai Accent is one of the most surprising subcompacts in the market that you can score for under $15,000.

The Hyundai Accent is one of the most surprising subcompacts in the market that you can score for under $15,000. It’s a little bigger than most of its contemporaries and has a bit more power than a lot of them. All that for a car that you can get for just $13,495.

The Accent also doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. Its 130-horsepower engine is surprisingly high, but the base unit comes with a six-speed manual transmission, so if you’re going to maximize that power, you’re going to have to learn how to drive with a stick. It handles well, too, though acceleration feels like a slog, especially if the car isn’t warmed up yet. Space is also a boon for the Accent, though not on the level as you might think. If you are getting this subcompact, you’ll need to come to grips with what it can and can’t do. The good news is that if you buy it, you also get a number of cool features, including a five-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and a rearview camera.

2018 Hyundai Accent - specifications

Engine 1.6L DOHC 16-valve transverse-mounted Inline 4-cylinder
Horsepower 130 @ 6,300 RPM
Torque 119 @ 4,850 RPM
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 28/38/32
Headroom front/rear (inches) 38.9/37.3
Legroom front/rear (inches) 42.1/33.5
Hip room front/rear (inches) 51.7/50.8
Shoulder room front/rear (inches) 54.2/53.7
Cargo room (ft3) 13.7

2018 Hyundai Accent - safety

CRASHWORTHINESS
Small overlap front
Driver-side G
Passenger-side A
Moderate overlap front G
Side G
Roof strength G
Head restraints & seats G
CRASH AVOIDANCE & MITIGATION
Front crash prevention Superior
Headlights P
CHILD SEAT ANCHORS (LATCH) A

2018 Hyundai Accent - prices

Hyundai Accent Sedan SE 1.6L GDI 6-speed Manual Transmission $14,995
Hyundai Accent Sedan SE 1.6L GDI 6-speed Automatic Transmission withSHIFTRONIC® $15,995
Hyundai Accent Sedan SEL 1.6L GDI 6-speed Automatic Transmission withSHIFTRONIC® $17,295
Hyundai Accent Sedan Limited 1.6L GDI 6-speed Automatic Transmission withSHIFTRONIC® $18,895

Read our full review on the 2018 Hyundai Accent.

2018 Kia Rio

2018 Kia Rio - Driven Exterior
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It even handles well and is known to be one of the most reliable cars in its segment that’s out on the market today

Arguably one of the best budget subcompact cars in the market, the Kia Rio also benefits from getting a recent facelift. That effort on Kia’s part paid off because the Rio doesn’t look like a $15,000 car. It also has a peppy four-cylinder engine, one that can produce a tidy 130 horsepower. A six-speed manual comes as standard, but there are options to replace it with a six-speed automatic for only around $1,000. Opt to do that on the base LX trim, and you’ll still pay less than $15k for it.

The Rio is also heavy on new features, a welcome addition for a car of its size. Power door locks and air-conditioning are standard, as is a satellite radio and a five-inch touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available, though you’ll have to pay more for that. Overall, the Rio has good value. It even handles well and is known to be one of the most reliable cars in its segment that’s out on the market today. The base Rio costs $13,900, a fair price considering what it has to offer.

2018 Kia Rio specifications

Engine 1.6L in-line 4 cylinder, Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) 1.6L in-line 4 cylinder, Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) 1.6L in-line 4 cylinder, Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI)
Displacement (cc) 1,591 cc 1,591 cc 1,591 cc
Horsepower 130 hp @ 6,300 RPM 130 hp @ 6,300 RPM 130 hp @ 6,300 RPM
Torque 119 lb.-ft. @ 4,850 RPM 119 lb.-ft. @ 4,850 RPM 119 lb.-ft. @ 4,850 RPM
Fuel economy city/highway/combined (automatic) 28/37/32 28/37/32 28/37/32
Headroom front/rear (inches) 38.9/37.4 38.9/37.4 38.9/37.4
Legroom front/rear (inches) 42.1/33.5 42.1/33.5 42.1/33.5
Shoulderoom front/rear (inches) 54.1/53.3 54.1/53.3 54.1/53.3
Hip room front/rear (inches) 52.9/52.4 52.9/52.4 52.9/52.4
Cargo volume (rear seat up) (cu. ft.) 13.7 cu. ft. 13.7 cu. ft. 13.7 cu. ft.

2018 Kia Rio - safety

CRASHWORTHINESS
Small overlap front
Driver-side G
Passenger-side A
Moderate overlap front G
Side G
Roof strength G
Head restraints & seats G
CRASH AVOIDANCE & MITIGATION
Front crash prevention Superior
Headlights P
CHILD SEAT ANCHORS (LATCH) A

2018 Kia Rio - prices

Kia Rio LX 1.6L GDI I4 - 6 M/T $13,900.00
Kia Rio LX 1.6L GDI I4 - 6 A/T $14,990.00
Kia Rio S 1.6L GDI I4 - 6 A/T $16,100.00
Kia Rio EX 1.6L GDI I4 - 6 A/T $18,400.00

Read our full review on the 2018 Kia Rio.

2018 Ford Fiesta

2017 Ford Fiesta
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The Fiesta is known for having one of the best driving dynamics of any car in its class, and the current model doesn’t disappoint.

You would think that the Ford Fiesta is one of the cheapest cars in its segment, but with a starting price of $14,205, it actually sits somewhere in the middle of that list. Still, the Fiesta is known for having one of the best driving dynamics of any car in its class, and the current model doesn’t disappoint.

A 120-horsepower four-cylinder engine sits at its heart, and while you can buy other cars that offer more power, the Fiesta somehow makes those 120 ponies fun to drive with. The car’s steering, for example, is sharper than you’d expect. It also handles remarkably well, and it even fared well in reliability and safety scores. On the side of standard equipment, the Fiesta gets a 4.2-inch display, Bluetooth, and a rearview camera in its base trim. The only drawback to the hatch is the subpar space in the interior. That’s to be expected for a hatchback, but even with those standards, the Fiesta feels extra cramped inside, especially for tall adults. In the end, you take what you get with the Ford Fiesta. The good news is that it has more going for it than it does against it. That’s a battle won in our book.

2018 Ford Fiesta - specifications

Engine 1.6L Ti-VCT I-4 1.6L EcoBoost I-4
Horsepower 120 HP @ 6,350 RPM 197 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Torque 112 LB-FT @ 5,000 RPM 202 LB-FT @ 4,200 RPM
Headroom front/rear (inches) 39.1/37.1 39.1/37.1
Legroom front/rear (inches) 43.6/31.2 43.6/31.2
Hip room front/rear (inches) 50.6/49.2 50.6/49.2
Shoulder room front/rear (inches) 52.7/49.0 52.7/49.0
Cargo room (ft3) 12.8 12.8

2018 Ford Fiesta - safety

CRASHWORTHINESS
Small overlap front
Driver-side M
Moderate overlap front G
Side G
Roof strength G
Head restraints & seats G
CHILD SEAT ANCHORS (LATCH) P

2018 Ford Fiesta - prices

Ford Fiesta S Sedan $14,205
Ford Fiesta SE Sedan $15,435
Ford Fiesta Titanium Sedan $19,195
Ford Fiesta S Hatch $14,505
Ford Fiesta SE Hatch $15,735
Ford Fiesta Titanium Hatch $19,495

Read our full review on the 2018 Ford Fiesta.

2017 Smart Fortwo

2015 Smart Fortwo High Resolution Exterior
- image 560218
As far being a purpose-built city car is concerned, the smart fortwo is probably the best you can find

As far being a purpose-built city car is concerned, the smart fortwo is probably the best you can find. It’s even available as a coupe or a convertible, something that no other can on this list can boast of. Tight streets and small parking spaces are no problem for the fortwo. The car can go anywhere it wants to go, even if it takes a while to get there.

That’s the biggest drawback of the fortwo. As fashionably trendy as a nimble as it is, the fortwo’s 0.9-liter three-cylinder engine only has 89 horsepower at its disposal. Put it on a highway, and the fortwo might as well spend all its time sitting idle because it’s not going to overtake any car, even if it squeezes every ounce out of that 89-horsepower engine.

It’s also the only cars on this that only offers two seats. The lack of interior space means that cargo volume is also compromised. But like most cars on this list, you take the fortwo for the good or bad. You might not like what it has to offer, but with a price that starts at just $14,650, there aren’t that many cars in the business that can offer the same bang-for-buck than the fortwo.

2017 Smart Fortwo - specifications

Engine 3-Cyl Turbo 0.9 Liter
Horsepower 89 HP @ 5,500 RPM
Torque 100 LB-FT @ 2,500 RPM
Fuel economy city/highway 31/39

2017 Smart Fortwo - safety

2017 Smart Fortwo - prices

Smart Fortwo pure hatchback $14,650
Smart Fortwo passion hatchback $16,903
Smart Fortwo prime hatchback $17,490
Smart Fortwo proxy hatchback $18,480

Read our full review on the 2017 Smart Fortwo.

2018 Fiat 500

2018 Fiat 500 Exterior
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Unfortunately for the small Italian hatch, it relies too much on its heritage to get people to buy it

If you’re after heritage to go with your $15,000, there aren’t a lot of cars today that can match the Fiat 500. Unfortunately for the small Italian hatch, it relies too much on its heritage to get people to buy it. That’s not to say that the 500 is a bad car because, well, it’s on this list for a reason.

It has one of the most unmistakable designs of any car in its segment. It’s fun to drive in the city, too, especially because when you do, you get a lot of glances your way. Its small and tight frame also means that it navigate around narrow city streets without even breaking a sweat. The 500 also has a good amount of features for a car in its price segment. The base Pop trim, for example, comes with power-adjustable front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and heated mirrors. The 500 even has at the Uconnect infotainment system with a five-inch touchscreen with and Bluetooth. Did you think you can get those goodies on a car priced below $15,000?

That said, the 500 has its share of shortcomings, not the least of which includes a substandard interior design, cramped space inside, cargo room, and a 101-horsepower engine that isn’t as powerful as you might think. There’s always the good and the bad when it comes to cars at this price point. At $14,995, the 500 isn’t immune to that.

2018 Fiat 500 - specifications

Engine 1.4 liter turbocharged multiair I-4
Horsepower 135 HP @ 5,500 RPM
Torque 150 LB-FT @ 2,400-4,200 RPM
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 28/33/30
Headroom front/rear inches 38.9/35.6
Legroom front/rear inches 40.7/31.7
Shoulder room front/rear inches 49.4/46.4
Hip room front/rear inches 47.8/42.6
Cargo room 9.5 cu.ft

2018 Fiat 500 - safety

CRASHWORTHINESS
Small overlap front
Driver-side P
Passenger-side not rated
Moderate overlap front G
Side G
Roof strength G
Head restraints & seats G

2018 Fiat 500 - prices

Fiat 500 Pop $14,995
Fiat 500 Lounge $18,495

Read our full review on the 2018 Fiat 500.

2018 Chevy Sonic

2017 Chevrolet Sonic
- image 669969
The Chevrolet Sonic is one of the best subcompact cars on the market

The Chevrolet Sonic is one of the best subcompact cars on the market, a rank it earned thanks to a dynamic offering that includes better-than-expected performance capabilities to go with a spacious and comfortable interior, sharp handling, and a well-equipped infotainment system.

The Sonic has a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, which happens to also be one of the biggest engines in its segment. That’s good for 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. The Sonic has a lot of pep in its step, and it handles itself well in both the city and the highway. It’s also small enough that handling isn’t so much an issue, and ironically, spacious enough that cargo room also turns one of its advantages. The interior is comfortable, too, with enough seating for five people. There’s a good amount of cheap plastic in the cabin, but that’s to be expected for a car at this price point. If the Sonic has a drawback, it’s in terms of fuel efficiency, particularly with the base engine. It’s not the most fuel-efficient car in its segment, which isn’t surprising given the size of its engine relative to what other subcompact cars have under their hoods. Ultimately, the Sonic will cost you $15,295. It’s a bit steep, and just a tad too high for this list, but it’s still affordable enough to give you a lot of what other subcompacts can’t offer.

2018 Chevy Sonic - specifications

Engine 1.4L turbocharged DOHC I-4
Horsepower 138 @ 4,900 RPM
Torque 148 @ 2,500 RPM
Fuel economy city/highway 28/37
Headroom front/rear (inches) 38.7/37.8
Legroom front/rear (inches) 41.8/34.6
Hip room front/rear (inches) 51.4/51.6
Shoulder room front/rear (inches) 53.4/53.0
Cargo room (ft3) 14.9

2018 Chevy Sonic - safety

CRASHWORTHINESS
Small overlap front
Driver-side G
Passenger-side not rated
Moderate overlap front G
Side G
Roof strength G
Head restraints & seats G
CRASH AVOIDANCE & MITIGATION
Front crash prevention Basic
CHILD SEAT ANCHORS (LATCH) M

2018 Chevy Sonic - prices

Chevrolet Sonic LS Manual $16,170
Chevrolet Sonic LS Auto $17,395
Chevrolet Sonic LT Manual $18,595
Chevrolet Sonic LS Auto $19,295
Chevrolet Sonic Premier Manual $20,695
Chevrolet Sonic Premier Auto $21,395

Read our full review on the 2018 Chevy Sonic.

2018 Toyota Yaris

2015 Toyota Yaris High Resolution Exterior
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The Yaris doesn’t offer the best driving dynamics and it’s not the most comfortable car, even in its own segment

The school-of-thought surrounding the Toyota Yaris is that you take the good with the bad when you buy it. On the side of the latter, the Yaris doesn’t offer the best driving dynamics and it’s not the most comfortable car, even in its own segment. But like every subcompact hatch, the Yaris has a lot to offer, especially if you know what you’re looking for.

One of the most positive aspects of the Yaris is the number of safety features and standard tech it has at its disposal. The list is pretty long, too, and includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and even a rearview camera. If you want these goodies on other models, you’ll need to spend way more than $15,000, which isn’t that expensive, to begin with, but still above the financial threshold of this list. The Toyota subcompact even has a decent interior and better-than-expected drivability, which is largely a byproduct of its size and nimbleness. The Yaris is priced from $15,635, making it the most expensive car on this list. You’ll need to have a good reason to justify paying for that much when other options come cheaper, but it’s still a car worth checking out if you want to do your due diligence.

2018 Toyota Yaris - specifications

Engine 1.5-liter 4-cylinder 16-valve DOHC with VVT-i
Horsepower 106 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Torque 103 LB-FT @ 4,200 RPM
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 30/36/33
Headroom Front/Rear inches 39.3/37.6
Legroom Front/Rear inches 40.6/33.3
Shoulder Room Front/Rear inches 52.5/51.8
Hip Room Front/Rear inches 50.0/50.1
Cargo volume cu.ft. 15.3

2018 Toyota Yaris - safety

CRASHWORTHINESS
Small overlap front
Driver-side M
Passenger-side not rated
Moderate overlap front G
Side G
Roof strength G
Head restraints & seats G
CRASH AVOIDANCE & MITIGATION
Front crash prevention Basic
CHILD SEAT ANCHORS (LATCH) A

2018 Toyota Yaris - prices

2018 Toyota Yaris L Liftback 3-Door 5MT $15,635
2018 Toyota Yaris L Liftback 3-Door 4ECT $16,385
2018 Toyota Yaris L Liftback 5-Door 4ECT $16,760
2018 Toyota Yaris LE Liftback 3-Door 4ECT $17,285
2018 Toyota Yaris LE Liftback 5-Door 4ECT $17,660
2018 Toyota Yaris SE Liftback 5-Door 5MT $18,260
2018 Toyota Yaris SE Liftback 5-Door 4ECT $19,060

Read our full review on the 2018 Toyota Yaris.

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