Sports cars are cool and all, but you’ve got a lot of junk, and you ain’t rich! Well, get ready for some understeer, because we found you seven affordable and reliable hatchbacks for under $5,000 that’ll make perfect first, or last, cars for you!
And there’s something on this list for everyone! A turbo-powered micro-machine, a dirt-loving rally wagon, and even one of the weirdest and ugliest cars ever made! So, if you want to keep some money in your pocket, and a trunk that opens like that, keep reading! Let’s go!
2007 – 2013 Mini Cooper – BMW Power, Mini Price
Our first affordable hatchback is a Bimmer in disguise. And even with front-wheel drive, the Mini Cooper is fun to chuck around corners until, of course, you get that first repair bill.
I don’t know whether to call it Britain’s Bimmer, or Germany’s Mini. The second generation Mini Cooper is definitely larger than its British Leyland ancestors, but thankfully, it still maintains a lot of that iconic shape. With two doors, trick body-colored roof, and hatchback storage capacity, I could tell Mini designed the Cooper to stand out and be practical at the same time.
And then, I’m pretty sure BMW took over. Tipping the scales at just 2,600 pounds, a base Mini Cooper makes 118 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque from its 1.8-liter four-cylinder. Agreed, it’s not a lot of power, but its relative lightness makes it kind of tolerable.
It’s power-to-weight ratio is 0.0461, or about a quarter of what the Dodge Demon’s is. So, in case you need to race to the store for that last roll of toilet paper, make sure to leave a little bit early. It takes about 7.6 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour with a manual transmission. The other option is a CVT, and I’ll leave it at that.
Now, if you’re lucky you may find a Cooper S. It’s 1.6-liter four-pot has either a turbocharger or a supercharger. But how do you know which is which? Well, if the Mini is a pre-2007 model then its Eaton-Roots style supercharger pumps out 168 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. And post-2007 models have a twin-scroll turbocharger with 181 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.
Now, what will do 0 to 60 in 6.2 seconds? This 2012 Cooper S with a 6-speed manual transmission for just $4,200! Both Coopers are fun in the corners, but the “S” is clearly the car to buy if you can find the right deal.
Our next car has all-wheel drive, incredible longevity, and EJ power! The Subaru Impreza, baby!
2007 – 2011 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport – What’s In a Name
I mean, who wouldn’t want to slam gears in one of these 170-horsepower detuned rally cars? It’s no secret that the Subaru Impreza is one of the most reliable and capable vehicles you can buy today. The Outback Sport sits higher on a beefed-up suspension. With its projector fog lights and EJ25, you could do some serious off-roading on your way to the vape shop.
Launching to 60 miles per hour in just over 7 seconds, this all-wheel drive hatchback will haul you and your junk anywhere you need to go. Now, even though these cars can rack up some serious miles, there are a few things that you need to be aware of.
One thing about these motors is that they “consume”, or leak, quite a bit of oil, so check your dipstick regularly. It’s important to always keep sufficient oil inside of these motors because it decreases friction of internal components and therefore temperature. This applies to all engines, but the EJ25 in particular can overheat, warp the block, ruining your head gaskets and eventually your motor.
So, go check out the oil level on the 2009 Impreza Outback Sport we found, it’s got four doors, is under 150,000 miles, and less than $5,000!
Now, our next hatch is known for incredible amounts of torque steer. Available with a manual transmission for under $5,000, the smiley, cool, and collected Mazda3!
2010 – 2013 Mazda3 – Why Are You Smiling?
From its angular front headlights to its tapered hatch, the Mazda3 is actually a decent looking car. The slightly goofy grin adds character! Unfortunately, gunning one of Mazda’s base engines probably won’t leave you grinning.
Both are four-bangers. One is a 2-liter with a lethargic 144 horsepower and the other is a 2.3-liter producing a slightly healthier 165 horsepower. With the bigger engine and a manual transmission, 0 to 60 miles per hour is possible in 7.3 seconds. Not quick, but sufficient.
But if you do want to grin, after some searching, and more than likely some negotiation, you could get a Mazdaspeed3 for under $5,000! Now, the Speed3 actually is a hot hatch. It’s still front-wheel drive, but the 2.3-liter turbo produces 263 horsepower! And boy, does it sound angry!
It’s an absolute beast in a straight line with a 0-to-60 time of 5.4 seconds, but watch out for torque steer in the corners! If you’re interested, we found a 2010 Speed3 that had only 72,000 miles on the clock, a manual transmission, and was only $4,500!
For less than $5,000, I would take the Speed3 over a base 3 any day of the week. But with the poverty-spec Mazda3, you won’t have all of the issues that a turbo engine develops, not to mention the increased torque steer.
So, for those looking for that 33 miles per gallon on the highway, check out a 2010 Mazda3. Whether you’re looking for cheap speed or reliable transportation, either Mazda 3 variant is a great bargain!
Our next hatch has an optional dual-clutch automatic transmission and an “S” behind its name. It’s too bad the Ford Fiesta S isn’t actually fast.
2011 – 2019 Ford Fiesta S – A Boring Party
Whether you aspire to drive for Uber, or just to save a few bucks at the pump, look no further than a Fiesta S. You won’t be front row at car shows, but hey, at least you won’t be oversteering into crowds.
With hamster-like styling, the front-wheel drive Fiesta S is powered by a 120 horspower inline-4-cylinder delivering just enough kinetic energy to merge. But let’s be honest, if you’re interested in one of these cars, you probably care about fuel economy.
Because it only weighs 2,500 pounds and has a drag coefficient of just 0.33, the Fiesta S averages 28 miles per gallon in the city and 36 on the highway! And if you have the time, it will take you to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds.
Generally the 1.6-liter Fiesta is quite reliable, but every car has its Achilles heel. Steer clear of model years 2011 and 2013, especially if they have an automatic transmission. Not only have they been known to fail completely, but also in as few as 55,000 miles. So, stick with models 2016 and up, or at least get a manual transmission if you want to chance an older model.
Now, usually when you see the “S” badge on a car, it means sport or luxury. Well, I hate to break it to you, but to the Fiesta, “S” means base. And luckily for you, that translates to cheap, like under $5,000 cheap. We found a 2016 Fiesta S with less than 68,000 miles, room for most of your junk, and a price of just $5,000. So, take advantage of the Fiesta’s affordability and reliability before someone else does!
Now, it’s time for the only rear-wheel drive hatchback on our list, the two-door, mid-80’s Ford Merkur XR4Ti.
1985 – 1989 Ford Merkur XR4Ti – An International Patriot
The Merkur is more of an example of what $5,000 will get you on Craigslist. It doesn’t have the safety technology or driving aids that convolute the driving experience of newer cars. Even though this Ford was sold in the States, it was first sent to the European market under the name Sierra. It was Bob Lutz, Ford’s Chairman of European operations who wanted to bring the Sierra to the States.
The car was then turbocharged, rebadged as a Merkur XR4Ti and sold for $16,503, about $40,613 in today’s money. Merkur means “Mercury” in Germany, which was where they were produced. Another reason why you might not have seen many of these cars, on the road or otherwise, is because there were only 42,464 built for the USA. In comparison, in 2006 alone, there were 7.3 million Honda Civics sold in the USA.
Now, I had mentioned a turbocharger, and for a car built in the ‘80’s, that’s like space age tech. The Merkur XR4Ti is powered by a cast iron block 2.3-liter turbo with either a manual or automatic transmission. Here’s the catch, though, you can only get the motor’s full 175 horsepower if you buy the 5-speed manual. With less boost possible, the automatic transmission cuts engine power to just 145.
With that manual trans the XR4Ti runs a 0-to-60 time of 7.9 seconds, finishing the quarter mile in 16 seconds flat. So, if you want the chance to own something weird with an interesting past, we found a 1985 Merkur XR4Ti with a manual transmission and that was listed for just $3,500.
Drum and disc brakes delivered acceptable but not spectacular performance. Body roll was also a concern when driving quickly. The Merkur has been included in many top ten lists, varying from the “10 Worst Cars Ever Made” to the “10 Best Forgotten Cars”. But what do you think?
Our next affordable hatch actually is German, the Volkswagen Golf has long been recognized for its practicality, performance, and reasonable price.
2008 – 2012 Volkswagen Golf – Sehr Gut
The Mk6 Golf is definitely a looker. I mean, Volkswagen’s chief designer Walter de Silva himself drew out its styling. It’s definitely more streamlined than the previous Mk5 on the outside, however, many people have commented that its interior wasn’t as nice as a Mk5.
Volkswagen, of course, countered that cost-cutting would reduce the price of the car, benefitting its customers. In 2008, the base Rabbit did start at just $16,000 so maybe VW wasn’t just blowing smoke. But today, they sell for less than $5,000. Let’s talk options.
You have the choice between four transmissions: two automatic, and two manual. Next, you have the choice between two reliable motors: a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder with 174 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, or a 2-liter TDI with 134 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The TDI also gets 30 miles per gallon in the city and 42 on the highway! The 2.5 liter manages a 0-to-60 time of 8.1 seconds, and the turbo 4-banger in 8 flat.
There are also GTI and R versions, but not for under $5,000! So, a base Golf is within your price range. But, of course, you have to ask yourself if it’s reliable? Well, in 2012, it was IIHS top safety pick and, 12 years later, the only real issues come from high mileage transmissions. Clunky shifts in the automatic and failing reverse gear synchros in the manual.
My solution: find a manual, buy the manual, and take care of reverse. Now, we did find a good deal. It wasnt a manual, but it did get 29 miles per gallon from its 2.5-liter motor, and it was just under $5,000! If you want the newest and most practical German hatchback under $5,000, then a Mk6 Golf is what you want.
But what if you want something that would make your grandparents proud? No, it’s not a Buick, but an efficient and ridiculously reliable Honda Fit.
2009 – 2013 Honda Fit – The Smart Choice
Maybe Honda hoped fit people would buy this car, because there’s nothing sporty or inspiring about its design. Or maybe they meant it would fit into small parking spaces. Either way, I’d rather discuss its name than behold its ghastly appearance. The Honda Fit just screams, “My miles per gallon are higher than my horsepower!”
Well, this front-wheel drive Honda hatch can get up to 28 miles per gallon in the city and 35 on the highway. But, the 1.5-liter thankfully makes more horsepower than both of those numbers combined. Boom. In fact, the inline-4 produces 118 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. And hold your breath, because with a manual transmission you could hit 60 miles per hour in a stealthy 8.9 seconds! All joking aside, you could probably watch the entire Tiger King series before you see 60 miles per hour.
Now, it isn’t fast, but it is practical, safe, and reliable. If you fold down the rear seats, you’ve got 41.9 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s big enough to fit a 50-inch flat-screen TV! It also received a five-star crash rating for frontal crash tests from the NHTSA and an overall “good” rating. Furthermore, last year’s consumer ratings placed the Honda Fit at “above average” reliability.
And most importantly, another thing you can rely on is affordability. With under 100,000 miles, the 2010 Honda Fit we found was a screaming deal at $4,000!