The Cheapest New Cars of 2021

Each year, I enjoy researching and publishing a ranking of the cheapest new cars sold in the U.S. market. This article ranks the top 10 cheapest new cars of 2021, by price (MSRP, but I’ve also included factory invoice pricing as well).




If you’re in the market to buy, I’d also recommend pricing out the same models for the prior model year, where available, for comparison. With dealers wanting to get rid of last year’s inventory and shift focus to the 2021 models, there is potential to find a good deal on previous model years. In most cases, they are the exact same car, with minimal tweaks.

I have made efforts to limit my vehicle use, but am still somewhat dependent on one and I know many others here are too. As a vehicle consumer, I think it is interesting to see what’s trending in the automotive market and what cost and fuel-efficiencies have been gained. There is value in knowing what to look for now (in limited circumstances) or further down the road.

cheapest new cars 2021

Chevy Trailblazer: a new addition to the cheapest new cars in 2021 list

That said, it’s worth noting that this list of the cheapest new cars is not an endorsement for everyone to go out and buy a new car. When it comes to optimizing your finances, vehicle ownership has a few rules that I would suggest readers consider:

  1. If you can, opt for public transportation, biking, walking, and carpooling over driving. Start with a test run and see if you can progress from there.
  2. If you have a 2-vehicle household, is it possible for you to shift from 2 vehicles to 1? I shifted from 2 cars to 1 eight years ago and it saved me a lot of money.
  3. Get as much mileage as possible out of your vehicle by properly maintaining it, until the cost of maintenance clearly outweighs the cost benefits of holding on to it. New vehicles these days can often go 15+ years with regular maintenance and my personal goal is to go 10+ years, at a minimum.
  4. If you do need a vehicle, do market research and negotiate the best deal. I don’t believe in the “always buy used” motto. With proper incentives, a new car may actually be a cheaper total cost option, particularly with the used car market being over-priced for many years now. Do your homework to find the most economical option for you.

When looking for the cheapest new cars, there is a whole lot more to finding the the most affordable car than just looking at sticker price. For convenience, I’ve focused on:

  • The base auto transmission model, without added options. Some of these vehicles don’t have a manual transmission option. And if they do, they can be hard to find and sell. If you can find and drive a manual, it could save you roughly $800 – $1,200 versus the prices highlighted in this article.
  • Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). There may be credits, rebates, or other incentives available for each model at any given moment. And you should never pay MSRP, as part of an effective new car negotiation strategy.

Also, I’d recommend pricing out vehicles at KBB.com and nadaguides.com to see not only what the MSRP and factory invoice costs are (which I’ve included below), but what actual buyers are paying in your local market.




I’ve also included other variables that impact total cost of vehicle ownership:

  • city and highway MPG fuel efficiency
  • average annual fuel cost (from the EPA’s fueleconomy.gov website, at $2.16 per gallon of regular unleaded, and 15,000 miles driven (45% city, 55% highway)
  • length of basic and powertrain warranties

Finally, I highly recommend pricing out insurance premiums at a number of automotive insurers prior to choosing which car to purchase, as prices per vehicle can vary dramatically.

The Cheapest New Cars of 2021: Top 10 Ranking

We’re now solidly within a period of disappointing new market entrants in the economical compact and subcompact car segments, with gas prices being as low as they are. With prices staying within the $2.00 – $2.25 per gallon range for quite a while now, and no sustained increases in price in sight, manufacturers are moving away from adding small, fuel-efficient vehicles to their lineups, due to these consumer purchasing behaviors and lower profit margins on these vehicles. Fuel efficiency is gravitating more and more to electric-drive vehicles, and not smaller cars. I’ll be exploring this further in my upcoming ranking of the most fuel-efficient cars of 2021.

There were 47 new and redesigned vehicles last year, but only 29 this year. Similar to last year’s entrance of the Hyundai Venue, only 1 new vehicle made this cheapest new cars list, and it is also a subcompact SUV – the Chevy Trailblazer. It ranks as the 8th cheapest new vehicle in 2021. The trend over the last 2 years gives you an idea of where the market is heading with inexpensive new vehicle model entrants.

Looking at a broader trend, a large number of cheaper compact and subcompact vehicles have recently had production ended, in favor of more development into trucks and SUV’s:

  • Chrysler: 100
  • Dodge: Dart
  • GM: Chevy Volt, Chevy Cruze, Chevy Sonic
  • Fiat: 500
  • Ford: Fiesta, Focus Sedan (hatch will live on), Fusion
  • Honda: CRZ, Fit
  • Nissan: Juke, Rogue
  • Smart: ForTwo
  • Toyota: Prius C, Yaris
  • VW: Beetle, Touareg

Not a good sign for the future for those who like inexpensive cars.

The Chevy Trailblazer and last year’s Hyundai Venue are exciting newer entrants to this list. And the Spark, Soul, and Mirage are still all high value returnees at their price points.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 cheapest new cars of 2021. Which would you pick, if you were going to buy a new car?

10. Nissan Kicks

2021 Nissan Kicks

  • Base Automatic Transmission model: Nissan Kicks S, 4-Door Hatchback
  • MSRP: $20,165
  • Factory Invoice Price: $19,478
  • Engine Specs: 1.6L, Continuously Variable Auto Transmission (CVT), 16 valve, 4 cylinder, 122 hp
  • City MPG: 31
  • Highway MPG: 36
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,000
  • Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Overview: the Nissan Kicks reminds me a lot of a car that I previously owned – the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix. It is slightly smaller, but still is a good looking hatchback model, with solid fuel efficiency.

9. Kia Soul

2021 Kia Soul

  • Base Automatic Transmission model: Kia Soul LX IVT
  • MSRP: $20,110
  • Factory Invoice Price: $19,446
  • Engine Specs: 2.0L, Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT), 16 valve, 4 cylinder, 147 hp
  • City MPG: 28
  • Highway MPG: 33
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,100
  • Powertrain Warranty: 10 years, 100,000 miles for original owner, 5 years/60,000 for subsequent owners
  • Limited Basic Warranty: 5 years, 60,000 miles
  • Overview: The Kia Soul is still a solid offering for its size at this price level. However, it is pretty close to being the same vehicle since its launch 13 years ago, with only slight styling and engine updates. It would be nice to see further developments in these areas.

8. Chevy Trailblazer

2021 Chevy Trailblazer

  • Base Automatic Transmission model: Chevy Trailblazer L
  • MSRP: $19,995
  • Factory Invoice Price: $19,976
  • Engine Specs: 1.2L, Continuously Variable Auto Transmission (CVT), 12 valve, 3 cylinder, 137 hp
  • City MPG: 28
  • Highway MPG: 31
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,100
  • Powertrain Warranty: 5 years, 60,000 miles
  • Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years, 36,000 miles
  • Overview: The Chevy Trailblazer is an exciting new entrant for 2021, and promises great value. Along with good looks and modern features, it offers 54.4 cubic feet of max cargo space, which is larger than the more expensive Chevy Trax (48.4 cubic feet). The fuel efficiency is a little lower than you’d expect for a 1.2L, 3 cylinder CVT, as one downside.

7. Hyundai Venue

2021 Hyundai Venue

  • Base Automatic Transmission model: Hyundai Venue SE, 4-Door Hatchback
  • MSRP: $19,925
  • Factory Invoice Price: $19,395
  • Engine Specs: 1.6L, Continuously Variable Auto Transmission (CVT), 16 valve, 4 cylinder, 121 hp
  • City MPG: 30
  • Highway MPG: 33
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,050
  • Powertrain Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles for original owners, 5 years/60,000 for subsequent owners
  • Limited Basic Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Overview: A new model to the Hyundai lineup last year, with many similarities to its sister model, the Kia Soul. The Venue has more of a sporty appearance than the Soul and is slightly less expensive. It also gets solid ratings from its users.

6. Kia Forte

2021 Kia Forte

  • Base Automatic Transmission model: Kia Forte FE IVT
  • MSRP: $19,755
  • Factory Invoice Price: $19,098
  • Engine Specs: 2.0L, Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT), 16 valve, 4 cylinder, 147 hp
  • City MPG: 31
  • Highway MPG: 35
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $950
  • Powertrain Warranty: 10 years, 100,000 miles for original owner, 5 years/60,000 for subsequent owners
  • Limited Basic Warranty: 5 years, 60,000 miles
  • Overview: the Forte is an all around solid car with good fuel efficiency, a great warranty, and strong user reviews.

5. Nissan Versa

 

2021 Nissan Versa

  • Base Automatic Transmission model: Nissan Versa S, 4-Door Sedan
  • MSRP: $17,425
  • Factory Invoice Price: $17,108
  • Engine Specs: 1.6L, Continuously Variable Auto Transmission (CVT), 16 valve, 4 cylinder, 122 hp
  • City MPG: 32
  • Highway MPG: 40
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $950
  • Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Overview: The Nissan Versa was refreshed last year and now looks a lot like the old Honda Civic. It offers outstanding fuel efficiency at 32 city and 40 highway MPG.

4. Hyundai Accent

 

2021 Hyundai Accent

  • Base Automatic Transmission model: Hyundai Accent SE, 4-Door Sedan
  • MSRP: $17,490
  • Factory Invoice Price: $17,075
  • Engine Specs: 1.6L, Continuously Variable Auto Transmission (CVT), 16 valve, 4 cylinder, 120 hp
  • City MPG: 33
  • Highway MPG: 41
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $900
  • Powertrain Warranty: 10 years, 100,000 miles for original owner, 5 years/60,000 for subsequent owners
  • Limited Basic Warranty: 5 years, 60,000 miles
  • Overview: excellent fuel efficiency, strong warranty, and good value.

3. Kia Rio

 

2021 Kia Rio

  • Base Automatic Transmission model: Kia Rio LX, 4-Door Sedan
  • MSRP: $17,015
  • Factory Invoice Price: $16,541
  • Engine Specs: 1.6L, Continuously Variable Auto Transmission (CVT), 16 valve, 4 cylinder, 120 hp
  • City MPG: 33
  • Highway MPG: 41
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $900
  • Powertrain Warranty: 10 years, 100,000 miles for original owner, 5 years/60,000 for subsequent owners
  • Limited Basic Warranty: 5 years, 60,000 miles
  • Overview: a sister model to the Hyundai Accent, with nearly identical everything. Strong fuel efficiency, warranty, and pricing, if you can get over the plain styling.

2. Mitsubishi Mirage

2021 Mitsubishi Mirage

  • Base Automatic Transmission model: Mitsubishi Mirage ES, 4-Door Hatchback
  • MSRP: $16,590
  • Factory Invoice Price: $16,249
  • Engine Specs: 1.2L, Continuously Variable Auto Transmission (CVT), 12 valve, 3 cylinder, 78 hp
  • City MPG: 36
  • Highway MPG: 43
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $850
  • Powertrain Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles for original owners, 5 years/60,000 for subsequent owners
  • Limited Basic Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Overview: the Mirage has a 3 cylinder engine, giving it excellent fuel economy. It also has an excellent warranty and a great price. But, it has a reputation of not having the greatest quality, from owners.

1. Chevy Spark

2021 Chevy Spark

  • Base Automatic Transmission model: Chevy Spark LS, 4-Door Hatchback
  • MSRP: $15,495
  • Factory Invoice Price: $15,040
  • Engine Specs: 1.4L, Continuously Variable Auto Transmission (CVT), 16 valve, 4 cylinder, 98 hp
  • City MPG: 30
  • Highway MPG: 38
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,000
  • Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Overview: The Chevy Spark, somewhat surprisingly, retains the #1 spot as the cheapest new car of 2021. It had been rumored that production of the Spark would end last year as Chevy axed much of their car lineup, but now the Spark is predicted to stay at least through 2022.

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