2013 Chevrolet Spark
2013 Chevrolet Spark
2013 Chevrolet Spark
2013 Chevrolet Spark. Click image to enlarge

Article by Mark Atkinson

Originally published March 17, 2014

Here’s some arithmetic that takes some serious brainpower to solve. When prices for things like housing, fuel and new vehicles are rising steadily every year, and wages are stuck in place, how do people keep buying cars? The average transaction price in Canada is well over $35,000, and few people can afford that big a purchase in one shot.

The answer, of course, is financing. In the last decade, in order to help spur sales, car manufacturers have responded with lower interest rates and much longer terms. Where previously spreading payments out over four years – i.e. 48 months – was the norm, now it’s relatively easy to go almost double that. Some companies like General Motors and Volkswagen will max out at seven years, but you can find ones that go to eight. Currently, the Canadian average is just over five years – 62 months.

That brings the monthly payment down significantly, meaning a new vehicle is more easily attainable by some buyers. To help point you in the right direction, we’ve assembled seven new or heavily revised vehicles – and one that’s ancient but relevant – that can be financed for only $300 a month, and that three-bill payment includes all the sales tax, environmental charges, freight and PDI charges. We aimed to keep the term to 60 months, although some required pushing out to 72, and limited down payments to 20 percent of MSRP.

Obviously, there are the usual disclaimers like these are just estimates, that things like rebates and interest rates change rapidly, etc. However, our calculations start with the MSRP – which no one pays – and there’s always room to negotiate a better price.

2014 Chevrolet Spark 1LT
MSRP: $17,045
Total Price: $21,035
Down payment: $3,000
Rate/term: 0.99% for 60 months
Monthly payment: $310

Chevrolet faced down plenty of critics when it launched its Spark minicar, all of whom assumed that there was no way it would be competitive. Fair point since previous efforts had left plenty burned by the Bowtie. But the Spark isn’t just good, it’s the best in class , period, helped by being the only one that scored an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The snazzy, connected interior and tidy footprint are definite highlights. The criticism about its mediocre fuel mileage should be moot as the optional CVT – new for ’14 – will help greatly, and maximize the 1.2L engine’s middling 84 horses. The mid-level 1LT brings things like a decent stereo, air conditioning and keyless entry.

2014 Ford Fiesta2014 Ford Fiesta2014 Ford Fiesta
2014 Ford Fiesta. Click image to enlarge

2014 Ford Fiesta SE Hatchback
MSRP: $16,675
Total Price: $20,725
Down payment: $3,000
Rate/term: 0% for 60 months
Monthly payment: $296

2014 Hyundai Elantra GT
2014 Hyundai Elantra GT
2014 Hyundai Elantra GT. Click image to enlarge

The Fiesta has been Ford’s entry into the subcompact game for a few years now, but was refreshed for 2014 with a classier family nose and other minor tweaks. Although one of the tighter cabins in the game, it lands firmly on the ‘entertaining’ side of the coin. The 120-horsepower 1.6L four cylinder and five-speed manual are a good combination of fun and frugality, although the same can’t be said for the optional six-speed DCT, which is why we avoided it here. The mid-range SE is the volume player and comes well equipped with air conditioning, power everything and good cloth-covered seats.

2014 Hyundai Elantra GT L
MSRP: $18,349
Total Price $21,760
Down payment: $3,800 down
Rate/term: 0% for 60 months
Monthly payment: $299.61

The Hyundai Elantra remains one of the nicest looking sedans around, while the five-door GT is up there too. While Hyundai has faced criticisms about how its products actually drive, the Elantra family is significantly improved after its 2014 rework. Power in every GT comes from a new 173-horsepower 2.0L engine – optional in sedans – and six-speed transmissions. Base L models only come with manual transmissions and steel wheels, but do have air conditioning and powered convenience bits. We just squeaked under our $300 a month budget.

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