An advanced dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission will cost you a relatively expensive $1,095, but it delivers an EPA-rated 29/38 mpg city/highway, making the Fiesta one of the most fuel-efficient offerings in the class. (Gas costs $1,800 a year).
Total Fiesta costs come out to $18,190.
The Mazda2 is Mazda's first entry-level subcompact offering in this country since the 323 went away in 1994. New for the 2011 model year, the Mazda2 is based off the Ford Fiesta but offers a less high-tech powertrain and transmission than the Ford. The model is available only as a four-door hatchback.
The Mazda2 starts out well-equipped on the base Sport trim, with power mirrors, locks and windows; remote keyless entry; air conditioning with filter; and electronic stability control. The only add-on is a relatively inexpensive $800 four-speed automatic transmission. At 27/33 mpg city/highway, the Mazda2 isn't as fuel efficient as some of its competitors and will cost you $2,049 a year for gasoline.
Total cost — including the most expensive destination fee in the class — will net you $17,824.
Notable Features You'll Get: none
2012 Hyundai Accent sedan
The new Hyundai Accent is the latest entry in the group, and it goes on sale later this summer. The sedan offers a punchy 138-horsepower engine that delivers 30/40 mpg, which is the best fuel economy currently available this side of the Smart ForTwo. The Accent also packs the most powerful engine in this comparison.
Despite being slightly more expensive than its predecessor, in terms of base costs, the model is actually a better value than the old model, starting at $12,445. The Accent sedan comes standard with power door locks and a cabin air filter, electronic stability control and active head restraints.
A six-speed automatic is optional, and it's paired with cruise control, an Eco mode to optimize fuel economy, air conditioning, six-speaker stereo with USB input, and power windows and locks for an extra $2,750.
Add in destination and $1,757 for a year's worth of gas (the second-cheapest of any car in the group), and the total cost for the Accent comes to $17,712.
Notable Features You'll Get: Active front head restraints, six-speaker stereo, iPod/USB controls, Eco mode
Not surprisingly, basic transportation isn't as cheap as most people think.
New transmissions and engine technology have dramatically increased the gas mileage of newer models, and they give the 2012 Hyundai Accent an advantage over the older models in this comparison. But the aging-yet-well-equipped Fit fares well, too.
The Accent is the most affordable option in the group if you discount the Smart car, which we don't recommend.
It will be interesting to see how the new Accent does against new competition like the 2012 Kia Rio, Chevrolet Sonic and the redesigned Nissan Versa — models that are more fuel efficient and offer the latest safety equipment.
We'll have a follow-up post to compare those models to the segment above when pricing becomes available.