The Australian new car scene has gone upmarket in recent years, with there now being a distinct lack of inexpensive, high-quality vehicles.

Six years’ ago we had eight vehicles on sale under $15,000 – now there’s half that number for $5k more.

Here’s a quick look at what you can buy brand-new for less than $20,000.

Kia Picanto

Price: $18,490

Remaining a dominant player in the niche micro-car segment, the Kia Picanto holds its own, with 3192 sold so far this year.

Unlike its competition here, the Picanto has an ANCAP safety rating – but it goes back to 2017 and is a four star, rather than top marks five star, score.

It’s powered by a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which in base S form is mated to either a five-speed manual or four-speed auto. Note this price is based on the manual, but the auto S still comes in at under $20k drive-away too. Fuel economy for the manual is rated at 5.0L/100km on the WLTP combined cycle.

The tiniest Kia comes with cruise control, a reversing camera, and a big touchscreen that does a lot with your smartphone. Broadly effective autonomous emergency braking is also standard.

MG 3

Price: $18,990

The biggest player in the small car segment, the MG3 has sold 10,819 units year-to-date.

The MG3 has no ANCAP safety rating from 2018 onwards.

It’s powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which in base Core form is mated to a four-speed auto. Note this price is based on the Core, but the Core with satnav still comes in at under $20k drive-away too, as does the Excite – almost, costing $20,490. Fuel economy for is rated at 6.7L/100km on the WLTP combined cycle.

This little MG comes with a reversing camera, leather-trimmed steering wheel with contrast stitching, LED daytime running lights and an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay.

Suzuki Baleno

Price: $19,990

The now axed Suzuki Baleno is in run-out mode, meaning if you want to get your hands on the pint-sized model you’d better act fast. So far this year 5362 Balenos have been sold across Australia.

The Baleno has no ANCAP safety rating from 2016 onwards.

It’s powered by a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which in base GL form is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed auto is available though for an extra $1000. Fuel economy for the manual is rated at 5.1L/100km on the WLTP combined cycle.

The Baleno comes with cruise control as standard, as well as a touchscreen, bluetooth, electrically adjusted mirrors, and a reversing camera.

Kia Rio

Price: $21,490 ($19,690 MLP)

GT-Line pictured

Slightly more popular than its smaller Picanto stablemate, so far in 2022, 3201 Rios have been sold nationwide. Here, though the drive-away price actually exceeds $20k, we’re giving it an honourable mention as its list price is under our cap.

The Rio has no ANCAP safety rating from 2017 onwards. Its last score was five stars – but that dates back to 2011.

It’s powered by a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which in entry-level S form is mated to a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed auto is available though for an extra $1500. Fuel economy for the manual is rated at 5.6L/100km on the WLTP combined cycle.

The small Kia comes with two USB charging ports, electric mirrors, and a jazzy rear lip spoiler, as well as an 8-inch touchscreen, bluetooth and wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay.

Cheap cars – 4 new cars under $20,000

Model Price
Kia Picanto $18,490
MG3 $18,990
Suzuki Baleno $19,990
Kia Rio $21,490 (drive-away, MLP is $19,690)

Pricing, specifications and performance figures refer to entry-level variants.

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