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Sub-$10,000 Car Is A Thing Of The Past

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On: Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 9:13AM | By: Chris Weiss


Sub-$10,000 Car Is A Thing Of The Past

Last week, Hyundai introduced the U.S.-spec 2012 Accent at the 2011 New York Auto Show. The new car brings a lot of extras to the table: extra miles-per-gallon (40 mpg), extra doors, and, of course, extra price. What's interesting about that is that the rather dramatic leap in base price—$12,445 up from $10,705—eliminates the car's designation as the cheapest in the U.S. The country's second cheapest car—the Nissan Versa—has done the same. With the rising prices, the era of the sub-$10,000 car is officially gone.

When I was a kid, I can remember $5,000 being the cut-off point that America's cheapest cars (everybody remembers the Yugo, right?) dipped below. In more recent years, that limbo bar has doubled in height, with the cheapest cars in the country dipping just below $10,000 (before destination fees). The 2011 Nissan Versa was about half a Benjamin more expensive than the Accent GL at $10,750. Before destination fees, the Accent GL and Versa cost $9,985 and $9,990, respectively, just barely remaining below $10,000. These cars have been stripped to the barest of minimums with things that many buyers take for granted (i.e. air conditioning and power windows) being offered only as options.

In the modern market, consumers are looking at small cars not just as inexpensive alternatives to larger, more comfortable cars, but as efficient alternatives to larger, less efficient cars that are becoming increasingly expensive to own, in light of rising fuel costs. In response, automakers have slowly shifted away from fighting for "cheapest car in America" designations toward offering more dynamic packages. Call it a sort of subcompact renaissance, in which even the cheapest small cars are offering more than just low stickers.

The 2012 Accent hits 40 mpg highway, thanks to a 138-hp 1.6-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine. Meanwhile, Hyundai has dropped the bargain-basement three-door GL and will offer sedan and five-door hatchback models. The model will come with choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. The cheapest GLS trim, which starts at $12,445 before destination fees, keeps equipment like air conditioning and sound system optional, however.

The 2012 Nissan Versa also made its debut at the New York Auto Show last week. The Versa will remain a little closer to its lowest-priced roots, with a starting price of $10,990 (before destination). Like the Accent, the 2012 Versa will come in both sedan and hatchback models. It will be powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder worth 107-hp that promises 37 mpg highway.

The cars may not be quite as cheap to buy, but, thanks to increased efficiency, will prove cheaper to own.




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