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From bare bones to econo-boxes to vehicles that offer terrific value for money, affordable cars are a huge segment.

Top picks

OverallHonda Civic sedan

The Civic is a reliable stalwart of affordable cars. Excellent fuel economy combined with good looks and a fairly peppy motor make the Civic a good choice for anyone on a budget.

2016 Honda Civic
Honda Civic Sedan 

Starting at $18,640, the Honda Civic sedan gets our pick for best overall affordable car. It looks great, has plenty of power, gets excellent fuel economy and has room for five. A high-revving 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. A 1.5-liter turbocharged engine is available on the higher trim lines, but it pushes the price up by about $2,000. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, netting 27 miles per gallon in the city, 40 miles per gallon on the highway, and 31 miles per gallon combined. Those numbers go up even further when equipped with the optional continuously variable transmission.

Also on tap are a spacious trunk, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and a 5-inch color LCD screen. The Honda Sensing suite of active safety features such as forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, collision and road departure mitigation is available.

Newcomer Scion iA also comes in as a top pick. Its 1.5-liter engine knocks out only 106 horsepower, but the tradeoff is an EPA fuel rating of 33 miles per gallon in the city, and 42 miles per gallon on the highway. While certainly not as refined as the Civic, its starting price of $16,495 with a six-speed manual is nothing to scoff at.

UtilityHonda Fit

With efficient use of interior space and the ingenious Magic Seat feature, the Honda Fit lives up to its name.

TechnologyChevrolet Sonic

With a starting price of less than $15,000 and standard features like 4G LTE, a Wi-Fi hotspot and OnStar, the Sonic takes the affordable tech crown.

Fun to driveMazda3

Mazda didn’t skimp on driving pleasure with this little sedan. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a zippy 2.0-liter engine produces great bang for your buck.

Affordability, defined

When talking about the best affordable cars available today, we must first define “affordable.” Mark Zuckerberg has enough money to buy a Ferrari without a dent in his wallet…you or I, not so much.

Spending 20 percent of your yearly salary on a car is a good rule of thumb, but with the average median household income being $53,657 (according to the US Census Bureau), that leaves the average consumer with only $10,731 or less to spend on a car. You can’t even buy a Toyota Yaris for that kind of scratch, and that’s the least expensive car on the market today.

To hell with that pesky formula! Let’s go all in with your hard-earned cash and take a look at cars that fall below $20,000. Interestingly enough, this segment includes everything from subcompact cars to SUVs.

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