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10 cheapest new cars for sale in Australia

​Affordable motoring comes in all shapes and sizes, not to mention spec and safety levels.

 A little cheap-car history; back in 2008, Indian automotive giant Tata produced the Nano; a stripped-bare economy box designed for its local market that cost a ridiculously low $2000. It was, Tata said proudly, the cheapest car in the world, and they expected it to do big things in the Indian marketplace.

But then... it didn't. It turned out that parking something known across the planet as the cheapest car in the world on your driveway did nothing to impress the neighbours, and so the Nano sat unloved in lots across India.

The lesson, of course, is that nobody really wants to be seen to own a 'cheap' car, do they?

Here at CarsGuide, we're nothing if not observant, and so to avoid Tata's mistakes, we won't be referring to the following list as the cheapest brand-new cars in Australia in 2018, and instead call them the best-value new-car buys on offer today.

As well we should, because these represent so much more than just cheap new-car prices. In most cases, they're safe, packed with features and perfectly sized for navigating our cramped capital cities.

You might notice a few of the big-name cheapies are now gone from this list. The Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta (ST only) and Holden Barina have left our market, while the Toyota Yaris is sold out until the new version arrives, and the Mazda2 recently saw a massive price increase that pushed it out of contention for this list.

Kia Picanto S manual - $14,390 MSRP

Kia's take on a city car is not only the cheapest new car available on the market – it's very convincing.

What is it: A tiny five-door city hatchback with Australian-tuned suspension and steering that help it blend on-road skills with a killer ownership package.

Price: The littlest Kia will cost you $14,390 for an S with a manual transmission, with driveaway deals pegged at $16,190 at the time of writing. That price may increase when the facelifted Kia Picanto arrives later in 2020.

Mechanics: A 1.25-litre petrol engine with 62kW/122Nm is what you get in the base model S, and it's paired with a five-speed manual gearbox. There’s a four-speed auto available, too, and it’ll add $1000 to the price. There’s a turbocharged GT model if that tickles your fancy, but don’t expect to get it for this sort of money.

Features: It all starts with the warranty - a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre ownership package that is still a leader in the industry. Meanwhile, a 7.0-inch touchscreen in the cabin is both Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-equipped, so you can use the features of your smartphone (maps, podcasts etc) while driving. It’s easy to see why the Picanto has 80 per cent market share in the Micro Car segment, according to VFACTS! Finally, AEB is standard in the Picanto – impressive at this price point – but it doesn’t have pedestrian or cyclist detection like some updated rivals.

Pros: Apple CarPlay/Android Auto revolutionised the cheap-car cabin, strong ownership package

Cons: Feels like a city car when you hit the open road

Kia Picanto

Kia Picanto
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

Mitsubishi Mirage ES manual – $14,990 MSRP

Mitsubishi's Mirage city car is still cheap, despite having seen a 20 per cent price increase ($2500) as part of a recent update.

What is it: Few brands know more about shifting cut-price cars in huge numbers than Mitsubishi, though the Japanese brand’s most affordable model has come off the boil in recent years. Perhaps this facelift will help it regain some favour?

Price: The ES manual version can be yours for $14,990 MSRP, but there are driveaway deals – pegged at $16,490 for the ES manual at the time of writing. And that includes a seven-year promotional warranty plan, while it usually has five-year/100,000km kilometre coverage.

Mechanics: A simple 1.2-litre petrol engine producing 57kW/100Nm is paired with a five-speed manual gearbox. Need an auto? That’ll be $1500 more.

Features: New to Mirage with the 2020 facelift is forward collision mitigation (Mitsubishi’s version of AEB) with pedestrian detection and front, front-side and curtain airbags, as well the usual suite of braking and traction aids. You'll also get power windows front and rear, while multimedia has been upgraded as part of the facelift to comprise a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Pros: Cheap to buy, own and run, and with a turning circle that makes inner-city living a breeze. Updated tech and safety add further appeal

Cons: Prices are a fair bit higher than pre-facelift!

Honda Jazz VTi manual - $15,490 MSRP

The bite-sized Honda has been a staple of the L- and P-plate set for years.

What is it: Honda’s small, smart little Jazz has been a go-to for budget car buyers for years, owing largely to its practicality perks and its maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating (albeit from 2014).

Price: A VTi manual will set you back $15,490 – that’s the MSRP, or list price. But haggle and you'll get a deal. Need an auto? That’ll add $2000 to the price.

Mechanics: A 1.5-litre petrol engine produces 88kW/145Nm. It partners with a five-speed manual or an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) auto gearbox and drives the front wheels.

Features: The Jazz’s 7.0-inch touchscreen media system finally scores Apple CarPlay/Android Auto as part of a 2020 model update, but it is paired to a tinny four-speaker stereo.

The Jazz maxed out at five stars for its ANCAP crash test score in 2014, and it comes with six airbags, cruise control and a multi-angle reversing camera – but it has no active safety technology, no AEB, and no chance of scoring those items before the Jazz is axed locally - likely in 2021. The brand’s patented 'magic seats' tilt up as well as split 60:40, meaning the little Jazz is surprisingly practical.

Pros: Supremely practical, with a well-equipped interior and auto as standard

Cons: No active safety tech means it’s falling behind

Suzuki Baleno GL manual - $15,990 MSRP

What is it: If you haven’t heard of the Suzuki Baleno, you’re probably under the age of 60. That’s just the reality, because this small hatchback appeals to an older market demographic. Maybe that’s because it’s a wise option.

Price: The Baleno GL manual is just $15,990 MSRP, but there’s every chance you’ll get one for that money, including all the on-road costs. That’s some affordable motoring.

Mechanics: The GL manual makes use of a 1.4-litre petrol engine with 68kW and 130Nm. There’s a five-speed gearbox and front-wheel drive. Prefer an auto? There’s a four-speed unit that adds $1000 to the price.

Features: Speaking to the buyer demo, the Baleno GL gets standard sat nav as part of its media onslaught, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto featuring on the 7.0-inch touchscreen unit, too. You get a six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, and a reversing camera, fog lights, auto on-off headlights and a rear spoiler to really set pulses racing (along with 15-inch steel wheels). Like some of the others on this list, there’s no active safety kit like AEB, and it hasn’t been ANCAP tested either.

Pros: Roomy cabin, big boot, sharp price, good interior tech

Cons: No AEB or ANCAP score

Honda City VTi manual - $16,490 MSRP

The sedan mechanical twin to Honda's Jazz hatch, the City lags its better-known sibling in the sales stakes.

What is it: Prefer a small sedan to a hatchback? Then the Honda City – which is the Jazz hatch’s three-box sibling – is the one for you. It falls well behind in terms of sales and will finish up its run in Australia later in 2020. But for the savvy buyer, it remains a surprisingly spacious and practical option.

Price: A VTi manual will set you back $16,490 MSRP. Want an auto? Like the Jazz, it’ll add $2000 to the price.

Mechanics: A Jazz-matching 1.5-litre petrol engine is good for 88kW/145Nm, pairing with a five-speed manual and driving the front wheels. The auto option is a CVT.

Features: There's some genuinely premium-feeling kit on the City's standard-feature list, with LED DRLs, a multi-angle reversing camera and a 7.0-inch touchscreen in the cabin. There’s no smartphone mirroring tech like you find in the Jazz, though. Perhaps that speaks to the target markets of these two models. A five-year warranty, parking sensors and six airbags round out a solid kit offering, though it lacks any active safety tech like AEB.

Pros: Capacious boot, solid feeling of quality

Cons: No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, no active safety kit, being axed by end of 2020

MG MG3 Core auto - $16,490 drive-away

The MG MG3 is the brand's cut-price city hatchback aimed at first-car buyers and empty nesters.

What is it: A Chinese car with a British badge, the MG MG3 is the brand's cut-price city hatchback aimed at first-car buyers and empty-nesters, and it’s now auto-only.

Price: An MG3 Core will set you back $16,490 drive-away. Add $500 for sat nav. Spend $18,490 for the Excite with a better stereo, different trim, exterior body kit elements and bigger alloy wheels.

Mechanics: A 1.5-litre petrol engine produces 82kW/150Nm and is paired to a four-speed automatic gearbox.

Features: A seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty puts it level pegging with its rivals, while the LED DRLs add a sense of premium. It has an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with smartphone mirroring (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), and while it has six airbags and a reversing camera, there is no AEB available on any grade of MG3. And it hasn’t been tested by ANCAP, either.

Pros: Long warranty and premium-feeling touches. Looks smart, too

Cons: Lacking active safety tech that its rivals have, and no ANCAP score to speak of

Skoda Fabia 70TSI manual - $16,890 MSRP

You mightn’t have thought a European brand would make this list, but Skoda isn’t your average Euro badge.

What is it: A compact hatchback with the same underpinnings as a VW Polo. That’s what makes the Skoda Fabia such a clever option for the shoestring budget buyer.

Price: The 70TSI manual version of the Fabia is just $16,890 list price (or $17,490 driveaway), and if you want a super practical option there’s a wagon variant for $1500 more.

Mechanics: We’re talking a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine here, with 70kW of power and 160Nm of torque. You get a five-speed manual gearbox, and it claims to use just 4.5L/100km! Want an auto? There’s a dual-clutch auto that upgrades the engine to 81kW/200Nm.

Features: Simply Clever is the Skoda mantra, and there are plenty of elements that live up to the mindset here: an LED torch in the boot, an umbrella under the passenger seat, and of course you get a 6.5-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but sat-nav is part of an option pack. The Fabia base model still gets a city-speed AEB system as well as adaptive cruise control – neat for this price point.

Pros: Clever inclusions, smart packaging, European styling and brag-factor, safety and tech

Cons: Needs premium unleaded fuel, dearer to service than most budget cars

Skoda Fabia

Skoda Fabia
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

Suzuki Swift GL Navigator manual - $16,990 MSRP

The Suzuki Swift is the car most often seen with P-plates attached.

What is it: The Suzuki Swift has been one of the choices of P-plate drivers for years. With its cute styling and clever sizing, it’s an urban-dweller’s ideal car.

Price: The Suzuki Swift’s entry-level GL Navigator manual model is now $16,990 MSRP. You might even get it for that much registered and ready to drive home. Want an auto? Add a grand.

Mechanics: The Swift GL Navigator model runs a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 66kW and 120Nm, and it has a five-speed gearbox. It’s front-wheel drive. There is a turbo version higher up the range, and the warm-hatch Swift Sport is even more potent. But for urban dwellers, the 1.2L is fine.

Features: As you may have guessed from the name, the GL Navigator has sat nav. It didn’t used to. But Suzuki kept the name after the previous base GL (without nav) was dropped. So yes, you get a 7.0-inch touchscreen media system with GPS and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the Series II Swift update adds two speakers, for a new total of four. There are 16-inch alloy wheels, too. It's unclear if the facelifted model sees the standardisation of safety kit like AEB, lane keeping, adaptive cruise control and high beam assist – as it stands, they're part of an optional Safety Pack available only with the automatic transmission, but you’ll get a few extras to justify the $19,690 driveaway price.

Pros: Alloy wheels, smart looks, navigation and smartphone mirroring

Cons: No advanced safety kit available with manual gearbox

Kia Rio S manual - $17,490 MSRP

The second Kia to make the list is probably a smarter option, if you can shell out the extra cash.

What is it: If you haven’t heard of the Kia Rio, welcome to Earth. The Rio has been one of Kia’s best-selling cars in Australia since the brand launched here, and that comes down to strong pricing, smart sizing and keeping pace with buyer demands.

Price: The Kia Rio S manual has a list price of $17,490 MSRP – that’s pretty attractive, but you should be able to get one, on the road, for not much more. Often they’re advertised at $18,000 driveaway.

Features: There’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring tech, plus Bluetooth, USB connectivity, auto headlights, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, and it rocks a five-star ANCAP crash test rating (from 2017). But because it scored that all those years ago, it hasn’t been held accountable for what’s required to score that high today: that means that, aside from the top-spec model, the current Rio misses out on stuff like AEB, lane-keep assist and other safety aids. There’s a 2021 facelift coming which will hopefully address this.

Pros: Great size, promising ownership credentials, bigger than rivals

Cons: No AEB in base car, maybe just shell out a bit more and get a Cerato?

Kia Rio

Kia Rio
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

Suzuki Ignis GL manual - $17,990 MSRP

You mightn’t have thought a European brand would make this list, but Skoda isn’t your average Euro badge.

What is it: The Suzuki Ignis blends crossover styling cues with city car size. It’s the smallest SUV on the market, if you go by industry classifications – and that instantly means it has lots of appeal, apparently.

Price: The Ignis GL manual opens the range at $17,990 MSRP, or $18,990 driveaway. That’s a bit more expensive than the previous model, but the just-facelifted Ignis Series II range has new tech and added safety spec to justify the cost.

Mechanics: The carryover 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the Ignis remains, offering 66kW of power and 120Nm of torque. In GL manual spec, there’s a five-speed gearbox, but if you want an auto you can option the CVT for an extra $1000.

Features: The Ignis GL pre-facelift already had stuff like a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as sat nav and a four-speaker (yes, only four) stereo. There are steel wheels, a reversing camera and urban-friendly dimensions: this thing is just 3700mm long. That’s less than two Richard Berrys. And in the GL you get five seats (GLX has four seats, but a sliding second-row). No AEB, though - even for the facelifted model - which is hugely disappointing.

Pros: Well packaged, good tech, and charming as a city car alternative

Cons: Feels very small on the open road, no AEB