Great technology doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Bargain shopping for a low priced new car with tech features isn’t simple. With the safety and convenience features found in today’s automotive technology, the lowest end of the new car market usually suffers the most. Low-price models can be pretty bare-bones, which is unfortunate if you have a tight budget but still want something that can do a little more than transport you from Point A to Point B.
When shopping for lower-priced cars—just like with smartphones, computers, and other engineered products—you typically have to compromise on quality and power. But for 2021, budget shoppers are in for a treat. Technology becomes much cheaper when it’s been out for a few years, and that means we’ve finally arrived at a time when technology has been added to even the most basic compact cars.
The most popular tech in cars these days includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, keyless entry technology, and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) such as lane departure warning, forward collision avoidance and blind spot warning.
We asked our friends at automotive researcher firm AutoPacific to narrow down the list to 16 cars that range from $14,395 to around $20,000. Most of these cars are small, compact passenger vehicles, not SUVs, but some do ride little higher for parents who are looking for a vehicle with a more comfortable hip height.
Ed Kim, AutoPacific’s vice president and Industry Analyst, says that although passenger cars are not as popular as SUVs, the compact car market is still full of good offerings based on low price. And carmakers have begun “democratizing” technology—namely, offering it to every car buyer no matter the trim—which was not the case just a few years ago.
Ed explained, “Even the most price conscientious buyers will find that there are lots of options for $20,000 or even significantly less with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which project their phones’ navigation, music, and productivity apps on the vehicle’s center console screen. There are even quite a few models that have advanced driver assistance.”
Before we explore the best high tech in low priced cars, here’s the list of tech-filled lower-priced cars we researched:
|Chevrolet Sonic||Hyundai Venue||Nissan Sentra|
|Chevrolet Spark||Kia Forte||Nissan Versa|
|Ford EcoSport||Kia Rio||Subaru Impreza|
|Hyundai Accent||Kia Soul||Toyota Corolla|
|Hyundai Elantra||Mitsubishi Mirage||Toyota Yaris|
Many of the cars on the list offer some popular technology, but there are three cars that stood out from the pack in terms of keeping prices low while integrating features that are typically only offered on much more expensive cars: the Nissan Versa, the Kia Rio, and the Hyundai Venue.
2021 Nissan Versa – $15,930
Known as having the lowest priced, bare bones, compact car in the market, the Nissan Versa has stepped up in recent years and added some desirable tech features. Even the base trim, S, has standard 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, rear automatic emergency braking, and automatic headlights. If you buy the SV trim, you can add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Its top-of-the-line SR trim adds remote engine start, keyless door access, optional heated front seats and adaptive cruise control.
This is a great, cheap option for anyone who needs an affordable car for commuting. It’s small, so you won’t have tons of rear seat room, but you cannot find a better-connected car for this price.
Related: Ask The Car Chick: How Do I Get the Best Deal on A Cheap, Used Car Without Feeling Like I’m Compromising?
2021 Kia Rio – $17,045
Sometimes, when a car has had no real changes to the body style in several years, the company sweetens the deal by adding lots of features. This is the case with Kia Rio – the lowest priced car in the Kia lineup. The Kia Rio faced an overhaul for 2021, so you will be paying a little more for it than you have in recent years, but there’s still no better deal in the Kia lineup, and there are very few other options as attractive on the market.
If you choose the S model (only $600 more than the base), you’ll get cruise control, keyless entry standard. You can add an optional Technology package as well, which includes LED headlights, forward collision warning and assist, and Kia’s Uvo telematics system which has a long list of safety and infotainment features that are voice activated.
Another huge selling point is the excellent Kia Warranty, which covers your purchase if you have to get major repairs, like a new transmission, in the 10-Years or 100,000 miles you drive the car.
2021 Hyundai Venue – $19,935
The Hyundai Venue got a gorgeous makeover in 2020, and that’s only continued into 2021. The Venue has the look of a mini-SUV and is raised up a bit to give you high seating—but it’s still a pretty tiny hatchback, so rear-seat space can be cramped. This puts its price point a bit higher to begin with, but its featured standard technology is still pretty robust. You get an 8-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, automatic emergency braking (it applies the brakes for you!), and lane keeping assist (steers back to the lane you drifted from). It also has an interior that will make you feel more luxe than that of its competitors.
Hyundai also has the great warranty of 100,000 miles or 10 years on the power train, which is most of the expensive stuff that can go wrong.
Other cars on the list stand out in terms of build quality, driving dynamics, and styling.
For instance, the Toyota Corolla is a fine, well-made car, but as for how much tech bang for the buck goes, there’s a higher point of entry cost and that’s the trade-off. If you’re willing to pay a little more than $20K, the Honda Fit is a unique car that is worth a look. Of course, Toyota’s Corolla improves all the time, but the price point climbs as a result.
So, are you ready to test drive and test the technology? A smart shopper will bring a smartphone and put the car to the test of how it integrates with the vehicle. And in this economy, finding the most you can get for the least possible price is a smart shopper’s #1 rule.