Latest News > Top 14 Best New Cars For 2014: Under $20,000, Over 30 MPG

Top 14 Best New Cars For 2014: Under $20,000, Over 30 MPG

by Ryan ZumMallen on

Every new car buyer sets out to get the most out of their money, so to help budget-minded customers, we’ve compiled our third annual list of the Best Cars Under $20,000 with Over 30 MPG.

Engine technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in the last few years, pushing more cars than ever before over the 30 MPG plateau. Over that same period, the technology has become cheaper as well, so new cars are able to offer cutting edge fuel economy while staying under the all-important $20,000 mark.

Top 10 Best New Cars for 2012: Under $20,000, Over 30 MPG 

Top 15 Best New Cars for 2013: Under $20,000, Over 30 MPG

But you can get more than just MPG for that money. Upstarts like Hyundai and Kia reinvigorated the industry by packing their economy cars with impressive refinement and interior materials. That forced other automakers to follow suit, and you no longer need deep pockets to drive in (relative) luxury.

Here are fourteen of our top recommendations for affordable efficiency.


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Chevrolet Cruze: Making its return to our annual list, the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze is now one of the most obvious choices if you’re looking for bang for the buck. Five different Cruze trims are available for less than 20k, including the automatic Cruze 1LT for comfort and the manual Cruze ECO for max fuel economy (28/42 MPG). The interior is one of the most pleasing and easy-to-use in the entire segment. With the 2014 Cruze, you know what you’re getting. And what you’re getting is good.
   

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Chevrolet Sonic: The truly affordable car has all but gone away. However, in the 2014 Chevrolet Sonic, buyers who need transportation first and foremost can find a pleasant package. They’ll probably even get more than they bargained for. The 2014 Sonic is no-frills, which is why you can find twelve different trims for under $20k. The sedan starts from $14,185 and the hatchback begins at $14,785. For that price, you’ll get excellent handling and 26/35 MPG. The 1.8L four-cylinder doesn't have the most power, and the interior is what you’d expect for the money (a USB port costs extra). Still, the 2014 Sonic offers a whole lot.
   

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Dodge Dart: The Dart endured one of the more challenging debuts in recent memory. It looks great and promises driving excitement, but issues with the powertrain soon began to arise. Execs admitted they launched the car with an unappealing dual-clutch transmission, and Chrysler has since debated replacing one of the engine choices. The good news is that the handling and interior quality are impressive, and fuel economy is competitive at 25/36 MPG. Soon, the 2014 Dodge Dart will be available with a nine-speed transmission and three engines are currently available. If you like the look and the price, you just may find the Dart that fits your needs.
   

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Fiat 500: Talk about character. The 2014 Fiat 500 will continue the Italian brand’s resurgence in the U.S. with three trims available for under $20,000 with great styling, fun handling and 31/40 MPG. Recently, the 500 Turbo also hit dealers with 135 horsepower and still less than $20k. Interior space is at a premium, and the car is a little top-heavy at speed. For the money, though, you won’t find more personality than the 2014 Fiat 500.
   

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Ford Fiesta: The era of the enthusiast is upon us. The 2014 Ford Fiesta continues to be one of the most direct and engaging affordable driving experiences around, with a few extra goodies coming this year. For one, the appealing exterior design has been honed and sharpened even further. Second, and most importantly for this list, Ford will make their 1.0L EcoBoost three-cylinder engine available in America. Fuel ratings haven’t been released yet, but could average out to somewhere in the low 40 MPG – this in a car around $15,000. Stay tuned for those official figures, but for now, stay content with six different 2014 Ford Fiesta trims under $20k that all achieve 27/38 MPG.
   

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Ford Focus: Score another win for Ford. All of a sudden one of the best small carmakers around, they earned a well-deserved spot on this list last year with the Ford Focus. Little has changed for 2014, and without any competitors to knock it out, the 2014 Focus returns this time as well. Two four-door trims and one five-door trim are priced under $20,000, with all the driving engagement of the Fiesta, plus extra muscle in the form of a 2.0L inline-four with 160 horsepower and 26/36 MPG.
   

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Honda Fit: Imitation is the ultimate form of flattery in the automotive industry, and every car on this list owes the Honda Fit a debt of gratitude. The Fit revolutionized driving dynamics, cargo space and fuel efficiency in small cars, and the 2015 Honda Fit it sure to follow suit. There are still lots of questions surrounding the new car, which should go on sale later this year, like will both the 1.3L and 1.5L four-cylinders engines make their way stateside? No matter what, the exterior design has been sharpened and there are rumors the 2015 Fit could flirt with the 55 MPG mark. Don’t forget the originator.
   

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Hyundai Elantra: One of the more versatile cars on this list, the 2014 Hyundai Elantra comes in all shapes and sizes but manages to keep them linked with excellent features and fuel economy. Hyundai has made their name on high-class interiors, and all nine trims – including two-door, four-door and five-door models – feature cabins that should put the Elantra out of the $20,000 category. Yet here it is, with a 1.8L four-cylinder making up to 28/38 MPG. Some say it’s underpowered, but if you’re looking for a smooth ride at bargain prices, the 2014 Elantra is right up your alley.
   

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Kia Forte: With the same engine, the 2014 Kia Forte is largely the same car as its sister Elantra. But you wouldn't tell from the outside. The 2014 Forte is as sharp as anything on this list short of the Mazda3, with a dynamic presence that makes a statement and is available from just $15,900. The manual transmission pairs with the 1.8L four to achieve 25/37 MPG, or you can load the Forte EX up with an auto that hits 24/36 for $19,400. Another smart buy out of Korea, the 2014 Forte simply defies convention with all it offers for the price.
   

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Kia Soul: Aptly named, the 2014 Kia Soul is packed with character. In the same vein as the Elantra and Forte, but with spunky design and much more cargo space, the 2014 Soul offers eye-popping value for its price. Both the base with a 1.6L four-cylinder engine, and Soul + with a 2.0L four, are available for under $20k. Most people will opt for the Soul + because of the more attractive design and peppier engine, though fuel efficiency is a little behind the times. Its gorgeous interior and standard electric power steering, however, are revolutionary for the class. The Soul is a hot seller for a reason, and certainly worth your test drive.
   

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Mazda3: All hail car designers – especially those at Mazda. With the new 2014 Mazda3, artists have penned a shape that makes its competitors look almost boring and bloated in comparison. Even better, the Mazda3 backs up those stunning lines with driving excitement that you simply can’t find anywhere else for the money. There are eight trim options, ranging from base SV to Sport to Touring, priced under $20,000. Each offers the most direct steering and capable handling in the class, plus 40 MPG highway across the board. You know what you’re getting with a Mazda, but the 2014 Mazda3 takes those expectations to new extremes. If you expect excitement from your vehicle, you owe the Mazda3 a look.
   

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Nissan Sentra: Every car has a niche, but none may have theirs locked down like the 2014 Nissan Sentra does. This is a car built for drivers with a singular focus on fuel economy, and the 1.8L four-cylinder engine more than delivers with up to 30/39 MPG ratings. Speed is on the low side with just 130 horsepower, but the 2014 Sentra makes up for it with a friendly design and impressive standard features inside. It’s not the flashy bargain that Hyundai and Kia are dangling, nor the driving experience from the Ford Fiesta or Mazda3. It’s among the top of the sales boards year after year, though, and expect the 2014 Nissan Sentra to continue that trend.
   

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Toyota Corolla: No names on this list are as recognizable as the Corolla, and the 2014 model has been updated to catch up with competition that is quickly moving the class forward. Expect to see the new Toyota Corolla flooding streets near you very soon, with nine trims priced from $16,800 to $20k, interesting styling and fuel economy that can reach 30/42 MPG. The 1.8L four-cylinder engine and CVT transmission still don’t provide much excitement, nor does the sleepy steering. But the interior has taken a step up to better compete, and standard features will please tech-happy buyers. It may not lead the class anymore, but the 2014 Corolla has finally caught up.
   

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Toyota Prius c: Like most hybrids, it’s hard to keep costs down on the 2014 Toyota Prius c. Only one trim comes in under $20k, the base HB One model available for $19,080. But if fuel economy and low base price are a priority, the 2014 Prius c absolutely needs to be on your list. That’s largely because of the hybrid 1.5L inline-four, which makes only 73 horsepower but returns an astounding 53/46 MPG. The rest of the car is serviceable, with good standard technology and excellent safety for its size. You’re buying this car for the fuel efficiency, though, and you won’t be disappointed on that front. Toyota may have intense competition for the small car market, but they’re still on top when it comes to gas savings – thanks to the Prius c.

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