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If you’re looking for an economy car, chances are budget is your first concern. Buying cheap needn’t mean lowering your standards, however. If you want something inexpensive to run, or something small and nimble for darting around the city, your choices are surprisingly varied. Whether practical, sporty or just plain fun, we’ve got economy cars guaranteed to give you more bang for your buck.
30 mpg city/ 41 mpg hwy
Mazda’s 3 is the epitome of a good economy car. With sharp looks, an excellent chassis and smooth, efficient engines it ticks a lot of boxes, but it also throws in a well-appointed cabin and numerous options for buyers. It can be had with a traditional auto or a slick manual transmission and buyers can choose from a frugal 155 bhp 2.0-liter or a sportier 184 bhp 2.5-liter engine. It also comes in either sedan or hatch bodystyles, with the former being cheaper and the latter offering greater practicality. Mazda knows how to make a good car, and the brand offers Japanese reliability, but the overall package looks and feels more premium than its size and starting price would suggest. With an input for your phone, sports seats as standard and a host of safety features, you won’t feel penalized even in the base model. Economy has never looked this good.
33 city / 41 hwy
Honda’s Fit is a TARDIS. There is simply no other justifiable reason that a car as small as the Fit can be this practical and this capacious. With space for five in such diminutive dimensions, it’s a modern marvel of clever packaging. At just 160 inches long, the Fit crams a maximum of 53 cubic inches of cargo volume behind the front seats, while those in the rear are treated to 37 inches of headroom and almost 40 inches of legroom. Its 1.5-liter engine may seem small, but it produces 130 horsepower – not bad in a car that weighs just 2,600 pounds. What’s more, up front there’s standard air-con, Bluetooth, cruise control, a 5-inch display, 160-Watt speaker system and the usual assortment of safety systems. The Fit comes as standard with a 6-speed manual, which should be great fun to throw around city streets and country roads alike, though a traditional CVT auto is available. Throw in Honda’s legendary reliability and a redesign that sharpened its predecessor’s dull looks and the Fit is perfect for those seeking economy and space in equal measure.
Fiat 500 – This quirky Italian may be small, but it’s jam-packed with character. Plenty of customizable options, peppy engines and an overall sense of fun make it a great option for those looking to stand-out on the city streets.
Dodge Dart – Dodge’s updated Dart is an undeniably handsome car. In fact, it may be one of the best-looking economy cars available. The interior reflects the exterior, with Dodge claiming the most technologically-advanced infotainment system in its class and the largest screen of any economy car at 8.4 inches. Get it in GT spec – which brings sports suspension and more horsepower – and it’s a mean-looking pocket rocket.
Ford Fiesta – Ignore the awkward-looking sedan and jump into the fun, zesty, European-derived hatch. The interior is screwed together well and there are a variety of engines available – including a turbocharged three-cylinder unit – but at just $14,365 for a base model hatch, the Fiesta is one of the cheapest cars on the road guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
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Our daily emails are personally curated by our editors and feature a wide range of news, features, reviews and interviews. Don't miss out on any of our award-winning content -- from news to arts, cars to tech, food to fitness, we've got it all!