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Thread: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K


    The average new car sells for about $23,000 - but that doesn't mean your next new car has to cost that much. Or that the alternative is a "stripper" - a bare-bones shell with few options and not much to look forward to.

    Here are some new cars that don't cost a fortune - but still have a lot to offer:

    * 2007 Kia Rio (MSRP $10,770 ) Sometimes, you get what you pay for. With Kia, you often get a good bit more than that.

    The Rio is well-equipped compact commuter/small family car with a nicer (and roomier) interior than many cars in its class and standard side impact and head/curtain air bags - very unusual safety equipment to find in a car with a $10k price tag.

    Even better, the spunky little Rio is actually pretty fun to drive - and that's a lot more unusual in a $10k car.

    The Rio's 1.6 liter engine develops 110-hp, decent power in a car with a curb weight of just over 2,300-lbs. Teamed with the standard five-speed manual, the Rio can reach 60 mph in less than 10 seconds (automatic models are about a second slower). This performance is well within the "green zone" in terms of dealing with modern driving - and you still get nearly 40 mpg on the open road.

    Air conditioning is not included in the Rio's base price; however, a Rio LX with AC is still priced at just $12,695 - considerably less than competitor models with similar equipment. And most of those don't come standard with side-impact air bags. Or a ten year/100,000 mile warranty, either.


    * 2007 Suzuki SX4 (MSRP $14,999) Let's say you want a compact, AWD-equipped crossover sport wagon like the Subaru Impreza - but don't have the $18k Subaru wants for this model. Enter the Suzuki SX4. It's a new model for Suzuki and like the Impreza comes standard with all-wheel-drive - and similarly snarky exterior and interior styling. But its base price of $14,999 means it's exactly $3,000 less than the base model '07 Impreza and thus, one of the least expensive new vehicles with standard AWD you can buy right now.

    The SX4's AWD system also has a driver-adjustable function (unlike the Subaru's "permanent" system and most other similar AWD systems on the market.) There is a button on the center console that lets the driver toggle between "2WD," "Auto" and "Lock." In 2WD, engine power goes to the front wheels. In Auto, it is routed to all four wheels, in varying amounts, according to available traction. If the front wheels begin to slip/lose traction, then power is routed to the rear wheels (and vice-versa). "Lock" is designed for making your way through heavy snow - and locks the power split in a 50-50 ratio, front to rear.

    Standard equipment includes 16-inch aluminum wheels, air conditioning, keyless entry, ABS brakes, side-impact and curtain air bags - and a not-bad stereo with single-slot CD player and MP3 capability.

    And all for under $15k.

    * 2007 Nissan Versa (MSRP $12,550) The econo-box is yesterday's misery - a relic of a time when anything small and affordable was, almost by definition, a slow, tinny, stripped-down little stinkpot you were embarrassed to be seen in and hated driving. These cars - Pintos, Chevettes, Geo Metros, etc. - were the last rung on the ladder before you gave up and hitched a ride.

    Yes, it is an economical car. Its $12,550 price tag puts it among the lowest-cost new cars you can buy, in fact. And it is capable of delivering 36 mpg on the highway - so it's a great car to be driving when gas is $3 per gallon.

    But it also comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission tied to a 122-hp DOHC engine. The Versa also comes with air conditioning, electric-assist power steering and both side impact and head curtain air bags. As recently as three or so years ago, those features would have put the Versa in the same league as sporty compacts like the Honda Civic Si, drivetrain wise - and looking mighty good compared to mid-priced and even entry-luxury cars, safety-wise.

    The Versa's also the only so-called "B-car" (the other contenders being Honda's Fit and the Toyota Yaris) that offers a six-speed manual transmission (a CVT is optional). And its 1.8 liter, 122-hp engine outclasses both the Fit (1.5 liters, 109-hp) and the Yaris (1.5 liter, 106-hp) by a comfortable margin. The Versa's torque output - 127 lbs.-ft. - is also a lot healthier than the 103 lbs.-ft. and 105 lbs.-ft. of the Yaris and Fit.

    Anti-lock brakes are optional - but can be added for $300 and you'll still be under $13k.

    * 2007 Scion tC Spec (MSRP $15,000) "TC" was Magnum's amiable war buddy on the '80s show about a Hawaiian shirt-wearing private eye with a cheesy mustache and a borrowed Ferrari. The Scion tC, on the other hand, is a snarky hatchback coupe from Toyota's youth-oriented small car division that offers the same kind of smile at the girls fun - but in a price bracket nearly anyone can afford.

    Granted, the Scion's standard 2.4 liter, 160-hp engine is not quite a Ferrari V-12. But 160 hp in a featherweight car like the Scion tC is power you can play with on a daily basis at 95 percent of its capability. That can be more real-world fun than driving a 400 horsepower machine you can only play with (legally, responsibly) at 60 percent of its capability. And unlike any 400 hp car on the market, the tC gets 30 mpg, too.

    The tC also offers 60 cubic feet of storage capacity with the back seats folded down - and check the huge, panorama-style sunroof. This is a feature more commonly found in much more expensive cars. It's standard equipment - and unprecedented in this price range. The tC also comes with AC, power windows and locks, ABS, driver's side knee air bag, 16-inch wheels, satellite-ready 160-watt Pioneer audio system with CD player - all included in the $15k base price.

    Best of all, there's no need to sneak past "the lads" to get a test drive.

    * 2007 Chevy Cobalt (MSRP $13,175) Chevy finally has a compact car it can be proud of that can go bumper to bumper against anything from Japan. And with a base price just over $13k, it's also a great deal.

    Though inexpensive, the Cobalt's neither cheap-feeling nor sparsely equipped. All models come with air conditioning and a cabin filtration system, 15-inch rims and a CD-playing stereo system. And the Cobalt's standard 2.2 liter, 145-hp Ecotec four-cylinder engine is larger and more powerful than the standard engines in either the Toyota Corolla (126 hp) or the Honda Civic (140 hp). These two "big name" imports are also harder on the wallet than the Cobalt - with a starting price of $15,010 for the Corolla (without AC) and $14,305 for the Civic (which does come with AC as part of it standard equipment package).

    In addition to its "on paper" horsepower advantage, the Cobalt also benefits from an unusual high-tech feature at this price point: electric-assist (instead of engine-driven/hydraulic ) power steering. Since the engine's not turning a power steering pump, there's more usable power on tap for acceleration - as well as a boost in fuel efficiency.

    Despite its fairly large (by the standards of this class), high output engine, the Cobalt is rated by the EPA at 25 city/34 highway -- just a few ticks off the pace of smaller, less powerful "B cars" like the 40 mpg Toyota Yaris.

    And unlike the not-so-great Cavalier (which the Cobalt replaces in Chevy's model lineup), the cabin of the Cobalt doesn't look or feel like steerage compared with "benchmark" cars in this segment like the Corolla and Civic. The dash layout is especially attractive - with semi-oval gauges set back in the pod and trimmed with chrome. All models come with comfortable and supportive cloth seats - and you'll find thoughtful detail touches such as an outside temperature monitor, chrome door pulls (instead of Tonka toy plastic ones) and easy-entry rear doors on the sedan that are cut surprisingly deep into the back quarters. This design makes it easier to jam boxes and other oversizes stuff into the back seat area - in addition to giving passengers more wiggle room to get in and out.

    This car has a lot to offer and might just rehabilitate your feelings about Chevrolet - and General Motors - if you take one out for a test drive.

    END

  2. #2
    mrblanche
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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    Another advantage of the Cobalt is that it's not hard to get $1500 off that MSRP, unlike most of the others that are pretty close to "Take it or leave it." At least, that's been my experience.

    My Cobalt, with an automatic and cruise control (and, of course, the standard A/C and power steering) was out the door just a little over $12,000.

    The Cobalt, however, at that price has only front airbags and no ABS.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    Another advantage of the Cobalt is that it's not hard to get $1500 off that MSRP, unlike most of the others that are pretty close to "Take it or leave it." At least, that's been my experience.

    My Cobalt, with an automatic and cruise control (and, of course, the standard A/C and power steering) was out the door just a little over $12,000.

    The Cobalt, however, at that price has only front airbags and no ABS.
    Yes, that's true; much more "wiggle room" onthe domestics....

  4. #4
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    Had to look up Scion... a "marque" of Toyota

    That's a good PR spin

    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    Quote Originally Posted by Kwozzie1
    Had to look up Scion... a "marque" of Toyota

    That's a good PR spin

    In America (I don't know if the brand name even exists in other markets...) Scion has no-haggle pricing. Like Saturn.

  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Quote Originally Posted by Kwozzie1
    Had to look up Scion... a "marque" of Toyota

    That's a good PR spin

    In America (I don't know if the brand name even exists in other markets...) Scion has no-haggle pricing. Like Saturn.
    I like the "paddy wagon" xB a lot... cheap, fun to drive and distinctive. A great little car for in-city driving; also has ana amazingly roomy interior given how physically small it is....

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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Quote Originally Posted by Kwozzie1
    Had to look up Scion... a "marque" of Toyota

    That's a good PR spin

    In America (I don't know if the brand name even exists in other markets...) Scion has no-haggle pricing. Like Saturn.
    I like the "paddy wagon" xB a lot... cheap, fun to drive and distinctive. A great little car for in-city driving; also has ana amazingly roomy interior given how physically small it is....
    I was going to suggest that thing for the uglies list.I've seen them with 20" rent a wheels on them. UGH!

    On the subject of the small cars, if I was in the market for one, the Cobalt would be my choice. I have the 2.2L ECOTEC in my Saturn L100. The engine is indestructible. It is well made and hasnt given me a lick of probelms I recommend any GM car with that engine in it (except for the ION, sicne it is ugly).

    To put the myth of American cars being poles of doo, my Saturn has been every bit as reliable as was my Acura that I owned years ago. The only problem area I have had with the car is the Slave Cylinder, which unfortunately, was a Saab design - along with the trans.

    GM, at least, seems to have mastered building solid compact cars, finally.


  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    "I was going to suggest that thing for the uglies list.I've seen them with 20" rent a wheels on them. UGH!"

    Well, yeah - but in a good way.. like the old VW Thing, for example. I like that it's not pretentious....








  9. #9
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric


    I like the "paddy wagon" xB a lot... cheap, fun to drive and distinctive. A great little car for in-city driving; also has ana amazingly roomy interior given how physically small it is....
    Amazing, considering how thoroughly you hated the Toyota Echo, which was the same car as the xA and xB under the skin.

  10. #10
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric


    I like the "paddy wagon" xB a lot... cheap, fun to drive and distinctive. A great little car for in-city driving; also has ana amazingly roomy interior given how physically small it is....
    Amazing, considering how thoroughly you hated the Toyota Echo, which was the same car as the xA and xB under the skin.
    The Echo looks like it's cringing - expecting to be hit in the face at any moment. The xB does not look like that at all. It reminds me of a bulldog..

  11. #11
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    So looks were your only objection to the Echo?

  12. #12
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    So looks were your only objection to the Echo?
    Mainly; it is just a sad-looking little car. As I wrote earlier, it has the appearance of cringing; like it expects to be hit upside the head at any moment!

  13. #13
    mrblanche
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    Re: Low-priced - but not low rent: Five well-equipped cars for under $15K

    The Echo was the only non-SUV in the list of 10 cars most likely to roll over in an accident.

    I always thought it looked like a cat trying to hack up a hairball.

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