No matter what you use your car for, one of these affordable models will suit your needs.
Cars are starting to become too expensive for the average buyer. Back in 2016, the price of a new car averaged $34,000, and that number has only increased since then. In the past, we've helped people out with a list of the most fun cars that could be purchased for just $25,000. However, we realized that we could be just as helpful by offering our five most recommended models in five different categories. These cars all start at less than $25,000 and suit almost every car buying need.
Our first car, the Honda Civic Si, sits in the fun category. This sporty coupe comes with a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine with 205 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. While no more powerful than the outgoing Si, it's much easier to tune thanks to the turbocharged architecture. We wanted to keep this list contained to cars that were less than $25,000, even with destination fees. This ruled out cars like the Mazda MX-5 and Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Civic Si coupe starts at $23,900, which keeps it under $25,000 even with destination. Enthusiasts will also love the fact that Honda only offers this car with a six-speed manual transmission. Those who want an automatic should look elsewhere.
The FWD Honda Civic is not a terrible car to drive in inclement weather, but some people absolutely need AWD to handle the rough winter months. The AWD options for less than $25,000 are limited, but the Subaru Impreza has always been an impressive package with an affordable price. The Impreza starts at well under $20,000 in both sedan and hatchback body styles. All Impreza models come standard with the Subaru's Symmetric AWD driven by a 2.0-liter boxer engine with 152 hp. Even the premium trim, with Subaru EyeSight driver assist technology, still comes in under the $25,000 mark. The Impreza is truly the best AWD bargain on the market.
Most of the cars under $25,000 are pretty small, but compact crossovers offer a bit more practicality. Mazda has worked its way into our hearts by building good looking cars that are shockingly fun to drive. The spirited driving dynamics of the MX-5 find their way into every Mazda product, including the little CX-3 crossover. We enjoyed our week with Mazda's smallest crossover, noting that the car was extremely nimble in city traffic. The little CX-3 is no sport car, with just 146 hp from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but Mazda did manage to keep the curb weight under 3,000 pounds. The Mazda CX-3 starts under $20,000, making it a great buy.
Even though the CX-3 is a pretty practical little car, it can't handle the hauling needs of many Americans. The small pickup truck segment has been slow for many years, but has recently picked up with the announced return of the Ford Ranger. Since the Ranger isn't available yet, the most affordable pickup truck on the market is the Chevy Colorado and its sibling, the GMC Canyon. Unfortunately, the cheapest Colorado and Canyon only come in the extended cab trim with the smaller 2.5-liter four-cylinder and RWD. Adding 4WD, the crew cab, or either of the optional engines pushes the price above $25,000. This is a work truck in the purest sense.
Our final category is the fuel efficiency car. The Toyota Prius usually dominates this discussion, but we much prefer the Kia Niro. The Niro may not be the best looking crossover on the market, but it is not as visually offensive as the Prius and doesn't sacrifice all driving dynamics in the name of efficiency. The Niro starts at under $23,000 and comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder mated to a hybrid drivetrain for a total output of 139 hp. It may not be a speed machine, but the Niro has a respectable 0-60 mph time of 8.6 seconds compared to the Prius that takes a full 10 seconds. The Niro even has a sport mode that sharpens up the steering and the shifts on the dual-clutch transmission.