Value. Value. Value. With the economy in a recession and most people having to stretch their dollars further than ever, we're all learning to do more with less. If you're in the market for a new midsize car but you're balking at the prices, we have some good news for you. Manufacturers are turning out affordable small cars with base prices ranging from about $13K to $18K before incentives. And even better is that many of them come with lots of cargo space and some features that use to be reserved for luxury cars. These five babies are great examples of how you can get some serious bang for you buck in today's troubling times.
The Touring may be the most expensive Elantra trim, but it's well worth the extra cash. To begin with, this little beauty has enough cargo space to rival some midsize SUVs - a total of 24.3 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats in use. That's enough space for 18 grocery bags. Moreover, with a whopping 65.3 cubic feet of space with the seats folded down, you could fit a baby hippo in the back of this car with no problem.
The Elantra Touring also offers a surprisingly upscale feel. Features include a tilt and telescoping steering wheel covered in leather and an instrument panel backed by cool blue lighting. You can also get a six-speaker, XM-capable sound system and a built-in auxiliary audio jack for MP3 players. Even if you opt for the fully tricked-out Sport Package, which offers heated front seats and a power sun roof, the Touring only clocks in at just over $20,000. That's still a few thousand dollars cheaper than the average base price of a midsize car.
With an astounding 69.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded down, the Scion xB beats out every other car in its class. By contrast, the Honda CR-V provides a maximum 73 cubic feet of cargo space -- just 3.1 more than the xB -- and it's a compact SUV. Even with the seats in use, you're still left with 21.7 cubic feet of space -- enough for about 16 grocery bags.
Among some of the cooler features inside the xB is its audio system. The Pioneer Premium Audio system offers iPod connectivity and, if you opt for the Alpine Premium Stereo, you'll get HD radio and a touch screen control panel. You can even get the BLU Logic system, which allows you to answer cell phone calls hands-free. The Scion xB also has an optional navigation system to help make sure you stay on the right track.
Most small cars have two options for cargo space (all seats in use or rear seats folded down), but versatility is important too. Enter the Honda Fit's "Magic Seat." It folds down in sections, allowing you to carry lots of stuff and still seat more than two people. You also have the option to fold up the bottom seat, creating a unique, tall and thin storage space. When the entire seat is folded down, it lies flat and gives you a maximum 57.3 cubic feet of cargo space -- enough to house a full-size bicycle. The seat even has an additional storage bin buried underneath. Not to worry if the seats are left up -- the Fit still offers an impressive 20.6 cubic feet of space to carry whatever you might need.
In addition to its cargo space, the Fit boasts tons of cup holders plus a USB/iPod jack in the glove compartment. Satellite-linked navigation with voice recognition, a rare option in this class, is also available.
The Kia Soul's offbeat, funky exterior is one of the highlights of this versatile little car, but it's far from being the Soul's only selling point. Think of it as the icing on the cake. The Soul has less cargo space than some of the other cars on our list, but there's still enough room for about 15 grocery bags. With the seats up, the soul provides 19.3 cubic feet of cargo space, which expands to 53.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
If you want to actually bite into the cake, you'll have to check out the Soul's interior features. Beyond cargo room, the Soul's list of standard and optional interior features rivals that of most upscale small cars. You'll find both USB and auxiliary input jacks come standard, along with one or two 12-volt power outlets depending on which trim you choose. Options include Bluetooth connectivity and one of the coolest stereo systems in an affordable car. With the option for up to eight speakers and lights that pulse in time with the music, the Soul is a perfect place to rock out to your favorite tunes.
From the cabin's ripple water drop design effects to the wrap-around rear window and optional shag carpeting, the Nissan Cube has a style all its own. But there's even more to smile about beyond its avant-garde look. Although cargo space with the seats up (11.4 cubic feet) is a little on the skimpy side, folding the seats down allows for a full 58.1 feet of cargo space. What's more, a side-hinged rear door makes loading unusually shaped objects especially easy.
Among the Cube's long list of standard interior features are a 12-volt power outlet and an auxiliary audio input jack. Some of the more exciting optional features are a push-button ignition system, a Bluetooth Hands-free system, an interface system for iPods and XM Satellite Radio. The Cube even has some subtle touches, such as optional 20-color interior accent lighting, and a solar system-inspired tachometer and speedometer -- a cute design addition that is sure to bring a smile to even the grumpiest drivers.