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16 Cars for $16,000---Or Less Page 3

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2009 Pontiac G3

2009 Pontiac G3

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2009 Pontiac G3

What is it? A Pontiac-badged version of the Chevrolet Aveo
Price range: $14,335 - $14,335

GM has promised to get out of the badge-engineering business—yet for 2009, the Pontiac division will sell a lightly reworked version of the 2009 Chevrolet Aveo under the G3 nameplate. With no mechanical differences, it’s strictly for those who’d rather have an arrowhead on the front end instead of a bowtie. TheCarConnection.com rates the Pontiac G3 with a score of 6, with a low of 4 for performance and 8 for comfort and quality.

Likes:

  • Decent comfort and quality
  • Slightly better styling than the Aveo
  • Acceptable safety equipment and scores

Dislikes

  • Lack of advanced features
  • Four-cylinder performance is sluggish

2009 Scion xD

2009 Scion xD

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2009 Scion xD

What is it? The smaller of the Scion wagons, it’s also the more frugal
Price range: $14,650 - $15,450

The 2009 Scion xD is one of the most substantial and feature-laden vehicles for the money, and the opportunity for customization helps mask any econo-car cues. Scion dealers will sell you all sorts of performance and cosmetic add-ons, which can send the pricetag well above $16,000—but the base car slots comfortably below that price point. TheCarConnection.com rates the Scion xD at 7, with a high of 8 for features and a low of 6 for comfort and quality.

Likes:
* Great value for the money
* Good crash safety
* Safety features

Dislikes:
* Skimpy front seats
* Rear stadium seating impedes headroom
* Premium sound system doesn't include premium speakers

2009 Smart fortwo

2009 Smart fortwo

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2009 smart fortwo

What is it? A Euro-bred two-seat city car that’s a parking attendant’s dream
Price range: $11,990 - $20,990

The 2008 Smart Fortwo is a very competent, fun-to-drive city car, not just a novelty, but with so many caveats, most people would be best served by a hybrid or larger small car. It has very little cargo room, has extreme susceptibility to crosswinds on the freeway, and can get very costly despite its low base price. TheCarConnection.com rates the smart fortwo at 6, with a high of 8 for safety and a low of 4 for comfort and quality.

Likes:
* Very quick, responsive steering
* Parking nirvana
* More seating space than a Ferrari
* Standard electronic stability control

Dislikes:
* On the highway, it’s a penalty box
* Busy, bumpy ride
* Disappointing fuel economy
* Lacks passing power at cruising speeds

2009 Suzuki SX4 Man

2009 Suzuki SX4 Man

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2009 Suzuki SX4

What is it? The smallest crossover on the market—and a nimble, enjoyable wagon, too
Price range: $13,299 - $19,639

If you need an inexpensive wagon with all-weather traction and a unique badge on the hood, look no further. The 2008 Suzuki SX4 Sport brings all-wheel drive to the subcompact class, along with great visibility and an engaging driving experience. TheCarConnection.com rates the Suzuki SX4 at 7.4, with a high of 8 for safety and a low of 7 for features.

Likes:
* Perky handling
* Smooth four-cylinder engine
* Great visibility
* High-quality interior

Dislikes:
* Tight rear-seat room
* Economy-car acceleration
* Hardly beautiful

2009 Toyota Yaris

2009 Toyota Yaris

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2009 Toyota Yaris

What is it? The smallest Toyota you can buy
Price range: $11,595 - $15,880

The 2009 Toyota Yaris is a recession darling, with cheap running costs, a low price, and a reputation for dependability. It comes in hatchback or sedan form, and has a frugal four-cylinder under the hood—but it’s unengaging to drive and lacks important safety gear as standard equipment. TheCarConnection.com rates the Toyota Yaris at 5.6, with a high of 7 for styling and a low of 5 for safety.

Likes:
* Very cheap price
* Great reputation for reliability and resale value
* Excellent fuel economy
* Good ride (sedan)

Dislikes:
* Instrument panel design seems gimmicky
* Doesn't handle very well
* Front seats are small
* Safety features are optional

2009 Chevrolet Cobalt

2009 Chevrolet Cobalt

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2009 Chevrolet Cobalt

What is it? A compact Chevrolet offered as sedan or coupe
Price range: $14,990 - $23,525

If you’re looking for a small car that drives like a larger car, the Cobalt fits the bill. Exotic turbo versions may be fun to drive, but the base Cobalts feel drab and less spacious than they actually are. The price is right for the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt, yet most of its competitors offer a better overall value. TheCarConnection.com rates the Chevrolet Cobalt at 6.8, with a high of 7 for styling and a low of 6 for comfort and quality.

Likes:
* Smooth ride
* Road noise is quite absent
* Impressive fuel economy
* Spacious trunk

Dislikes:
* Engine noise
* Steering feels vague
* Drab interior
* Uncomfortable seats
* No thorax side airbags offered


 
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