Buying a vehicle is a big decision and not one you want to get wrong. You will be driving it, after all, so finding the right fit is important. But if you’re on a budget, you might want to make sure you get something that is both affordable and reliable to save you from costly repairs down the road.
There’s a lot to choose from in the market when it comes to finding something dependable that you can count on. With the help of the J.D. Power Dependability ratings, Canada Drives was able to crunch some numbers and assemble this fine list of dependable automobiles. All of the following budget-friendly vehicles were designed to keep chugging along without too many headaches.
Price: Starting from $27,990 MSRP
Engine: 121HP Net Power 1.8L DOHC 4-cylinder with hybrid electric motor
Fuel Economy: 4.6 Highway / 4.4 City
Other Highlights: Safety Sense, all-wheel drive, 6.1" touchscreen with rearview camera
Designed by Toyota, one of J.D. Power's highest-rated brands in dependability, the Prius comes in four trims, two of which (Prius and Prius Technology) are front wheel drive, while the other two (AWD-e and AWD-e Technology) offer a unique all-wheel-drive setup. Toyota’s most popular hybrid is also one of the auto industry’s most popular hybrids, and the new addition to the latter two makes things interesting.
The ‘e’ means an electric motor turns on the rear axle for those two trims, thereby allowing the car to activate it only when necessary. For the kind of winter conditions common when driving in Canada, it’s extra peace of mind in knowing the Prius AWD-e can handle itself. Bear in mind, however, that the electric motor maxes out at 7 horsepower, and disengages completely above 70km/h.
Normally, all-wheel drive vehicles sacrifice fuel economy to maintain the connection between the transmission and rear axle, but the electronic method Toyota used keeps the gap fairly close. By all accounts, the disparity should round out to losing about 0.3L/km when comparing the front wheel drive Prius to the AWD-e model.
To accommodate the motor and battery, the AWD-e models lack a spare tire, with Toyota throwing in a repair kit instead. But with three years of roadside assistance included as part of a new purchase, you do have some backup that way.
Cargo space is still spacious, despite the extras. You do get heated front seats and the standard infotainment package. Opting for upgrades can get you better headlights, a heated steering wheel and more. Unfortunately, Toyota doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay for any Prius trim.
Price: Starting from $21,099 MSRP
Engine: 147HP 2.0L Nu DOHC MPI Atkinson 4-cylinder
Fuel Economy: 7.0 Highway / 8.6 City
Other Highlights: SUPERSTRUCTURE, SmartSense, 7.0" touchscreen with rearview camera plus CarPlay and Android Auto
Crossover SUVs are popular, and the Kona is no exception as one of Hyundai’s most popular models in Canada. Built out of the factory with the higher-strength SUPERSTRUCTURE chassis and capable of solid fuel economy, the Kona can hold its own on the road.
Plenty of safety features come included, though the starter Essential trim does skimp out on a bunch of things, safety or otherwise. It’s Preferred and up (Luxury, Trend and Ultimate) that offer more out of the lot. The full breadth of Hyundai’s SmartSense safety technology only comes in the Luxury and Ultimate trims. That means you won’t get Lane Keeping Assist, Forward Collision-Avoidance, Pedestrian Detection and Reverse Parking Distance Warning without going for one of those two.
You do get 60/40 split-fold seats to make use of the cargo space in the back. The infotainment package also gives you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, regardless of trim, which is nice.
Upgrades don’t stop there. The higher trims also get you a 1.6L Turbo 4-cylinder and a boost to 175 horsepower. Ultimate includes a larger 8” display, plus a wireless charging pad inside and access to remote features through Hyundai’s BlueLink app.
Price: Starting from $32,900 MSRP
Engine: 181HP Skyactiv-G 2.0L DOHC 4-cylinder
Fuel Economy: 6.6 Highway / 9.0 City
Other Highlights: Safety features, soft or hard top, 7.0" touchscreen with rearview camera
Who said a sports car had to be totally out of reach? True, they’re not always the most practical of vehicles, given the limited cargo space and seating. If you’re big or tall, this might be a tighter squeeze. But if you’re looking to reliably drive with the top down (or not) in good weather, the Mazda MX-5 could be the safest bet.
You do get the option of going with a Skyactiv-MT 6-speed manual or automatic transmission with manual-shift mode. Every trim comes with Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE safety features, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, smart city brake support, lane departure warning and high beam control. Upgrading to a higher trim gets you a 9-speaker Bose sound system, 17” alloy wheels, more leather in the interior and the traffic sign recognition system.
Firing on a 4-cylinder engine gives this sporty ride better fuel efficiency than you might expect, especially in city driving. The power here should be fine if you plan on driving this in the winter, but if it’s more of a spring, summer and fall indulgence, cruising in it should be fine. Hard or soft top depends on your preference, too.
While you do get a 7” infotainment display, Mazda doesn’t support CarPlay and Android Auto in the MX-5. There’s no word on whether there would be backward compatibility or not to do so in the future.
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Price: Starting from $23,695 MSRP
Engine: 152HP Subaru Boxer 2.0L DOHC 4-cylinder
Fuel Economy: 7.2-8.1 Highway / 9-11 City
Other Highlights: Safety features, cargo space, 6.5" touchscreen with rearview camera with CarPlay and Android Auto
Coming in four trims (technically six if you count the EyeSight safety measures), the Subaru Crosstrek is a smaller SUV that offers solid mileage and safety features from the start. Spacious cargo room is in the back, or even more, courtesy of the 60/40 split rear seats. A wider opening and roof rails help pack in more than before — inside and out.
Subaru equipped the Convenience and Touring trims with many safety features, but left the more advanced ones to the others. EyeSight is the automaker’s premium safety suite, and it’s only available in the Sport and Limited trims. That also includes the rear/side vehicle detection system. Unless you go for one of those, you miss out on Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Reverse Automatic Braking and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
CarPlay and Android Auto come standard throughout the line, though going for Sport or Limited also gives you a bigger 8” infotainment display. You could also get six or eight speakers, the latter of which is made by noted audio manufacturer, Harman Kardon.
Price: Starting from $15,045 MSRP
Engine: 130HP 1.6L DOHC 4-cylinder
Fuel Economy: 6.4 Highway / 8.3 City
Other Highlights: New steel frame, cargo space, 6.5" touchscreen with rearview camera with CarPlay and Android Auto
Small and nimble probably best describes the Kia Rio in any circumstance. Ideal for city driving, the easier maneuverability and mobility also comes with a smaller price tag. If your budget is tighter than the parking spots you want to cram into, then this is one of your best options.
The Rio has a surprising level of cargo space and legroom for a vehicle its size, especially with the 5-door hatchback design. You can make use of the 60/40 split rear seats to expand the cargo space in the back even further. Driver and passenger seats will offer more space than is typical of a hatchback.
A tweaked exterior design is underpinned by what Kia says is a stronger steel chassis underneath. Kia’s Drive Wise safety tech includes Forward Collision Warning, which automatically applies brakes if it anticipates a frontal collision. Kia also highlights the Hill Start Assist Control to keep the car in place when moving off an incline.
The built-in 7” infotainment display comes with CarPlay and Android Auto standard. App integration with the UVO app also comes with it, giving you in-car diagnostics, access to roadside assistance and parking reminders.
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