The New New Cars That Are Priced Like Used Cars

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They’re not cheapo, stripped, bare-bones vehicles. They’re “value cars.”

That’s what USA Today is calling an emerging subcategory of automobile, which starts with a sticker price under $15,000 and packs in a pretty good set of features and style.

The cheapest of the bunch is the Nissan Versa. The current (2011) base model starts at just under $10K, while the 2012 model—which includes more features as standard, including A/C and electric power steering—is still a bargain at $10,990 and up.

Other small-but-not-stripped vehicles starting around or under the $15K mark include the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, and Kia Rio. These cars are marketed with the idea that an inexpensive sticker price does not necessarily equate to a “cheap” car.

Will the concept actually catching on with buyers? If it does, the buyers will probably fall into one of two categories, as described by USA Today:

Young adults. Hit hard by the recession, some are underemployed, still live at home to cut expenses and are eyeing new, fuel-efficient cars. Others just now got a decent job and want a credible new car.

Older adults. Boomers trying to cut costs but unwilling to buy a car that lacks basic amenities, such as air conditioning and power windows.

Still, that leaves plenty of drivers who probably won’t be interested in such “value cars.” Consumer Reports David Champion explains one reason why many drivers prefer to stick with showier, pricier vehicles:

“To a large extent, the size of the car in the driveway shows your wealth.”

Or does it show off your ego? Or your need to compensate for something else that’s lacking, or on the small side?

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