2012 Nissan Versa – $11,798

Nissan as much as admits that the base model of its redesigned Versa sedan is little more than a marketing gimmick that lets the company lay claim to selling the least-expensive car in Canada. We know this is a basic car, but there aren’t many other sedans that don’t include a folding rear seat in their list of standard kit. You can spec a Versa with air conditioning and a manual transmission for $13,798, but going automatic (which entails a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in this car) means also taking items like power windows and lock, keyless entry, larger wheels/tires and a few appearance upgrades, for $15,098, $3,330 more than that attractive base price. The Versa uses a 1.6-litre engine that generates 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. Nissan charges a $1,497 destination fee. Cost with freight, auto and air: $16,595

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Ford Fiesta; photo by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

2012 Ford Fiesta – $12,999

Ford’s European-bred Fiesta drives like a bigger car than many of its subcompact competitors, but its $13,000 starting price is at the lower end of the MSRP scale. Standard stuff includes next-to-nada over and above the expected, though a split folding rear seat is included. The basic S sedan can be optioned with a $600 Convenience Package that includes keyless entry and a CD player (the base car has a radio only). Ford’s six-speed Powershift automatic transmission costs $1,250 here, but air conditioning is not an option. For that, you must move up to the SE sedan, where the air is cooler, but the price higher, at $15,004. Again, the automatic gearbox is $1,250, so the Fiesta that meets our criteria costs $17,249 before taxes and Ford’s $1,450 destination fee. Ford’s current incentives on the Fiesta include an employee pricing and delivery allowance discount. Cost with freight, auto and air: $18,699

2012 Hyundai Accent – $13,199

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2012 Hyundai Accent; photo by Jil McIntosh. Click image to enlarge

This all-new Accent is cheapest in sedan form; the hatchback, otherwise identical, costs $400 more. As is commonplace, the basic Accent L sedan comes with a manual transmission and no air conditioning; power locks are included, but a folding rear seat isn’t. Adding auto and air to the base car brings the price up to $17,959 (the A/C is a whopping $2,065 when ordered as a stand-alone extra, while the automatic is $1,200). The Accent GL sedan gets air as standard, as well as keyless entry, power windows, cruise control and steering wheel audio controls. For all that, it’s actually cheaper, at $16,199 with automatic transmission. All Accents are powered by a 1.6-litre engine making 138 horsepower, and 123 lb.-ft. of torque, and the optional automatic transmission is a six-speed. The destination charge is $1,495. Cost with freight, auto and air: $17,694

(The similar Kia Rio, also new for 2012, is pricier, with an MSRP of $14,095. It’s worth of mentioning, though, because when optioned out to include automatic, air and a few other goodies, the Rio winds up being one of the best all-in deals, at $16,895.)