I was able to retain last year's $14,000 limit for the survey, despite the fact that the price of new wheels keeps rising. But inflation did cut the field of under-14s from six to five.
So let's take a look at our five-pack of small sedans and hatchbacks, keeping in mind that the MSRPs given are for base cars and don't include shipping and incentives:
Nissan Versa 1.6S sedan ($11,990). This base Versa may have gone up $1,000 again this year, but it's still the lowest-priced car in the marketplace. The Versa is essentially a carryover for 2013, but it did get an EPA mileage bump: from 26 city and 34 highway, to 27 and 36.
This reasonably roomy and comfortable subcompact is fitted with a 109-horsepower engine and a five-speed manual gearbox (an automatic adds $1,000). Standard gear includes air conditioning, antilock brakes, and traction control.
Chevrolet Spark LS hatchback ($12,245). A new U.S. model for 2013, the Spark is a re-badged Daewoo Matiz whose diminutive footprint allows you to call it a minicar, a city car, or a munchkin. At 145 inches long, it is a foot-and-a-half shorter than Chevy's Sonic subcompact, which makes it ideal for moving about on Center City's more claustrophobic side streets.
The Spark's 1.2-liter Cuisinart twirls up a modest 84 horsepower, but then you don't need a lot of motivation when you weigh less than 2,400 pounds.
The five-door hatch has EPAs of 32 city and 38 highway. It can be fitted with either a manual or automatic and boasts 10 air bags.
Smart fortwo Pure ($12,490). If you thought the Spark was a midget, consider this two-seat offering from Mercedes-Benz's Smart car subsidiary. It's only 106 inches long and weighs a pre-school 1,808 pounds. The equally tiny 1-liter engine serves up 70 horsepower, is buttoned to a five-speed automatic, and engenders EPAs of 34 and 38.
While good, those economy numbers are less than you'd expect from a car this light and an engine this small. The car's comebacker is its safety-mindedness and unchallenged urban maneuverability.
Ford Fiesta S sedan ($13,200). Introduced as a 2011 model, the subcompact Fiesta has much to recommend it. It is surprisingly roomy, provides a comfortable ride, and gets more than enough motivation from its 120-horsepower engine. The base car's EPA estimates are nice numbers of 28 city and 38 highway with the base five-speed manual gearbox. It can be fitted with an optional six-speed automatic.
The Fiesta is available as a sedan or hatchback and with a wide array of hedonism, ranging from heated leather seats to a moonroof. The long litany of safety gear includes a Boron steel safety cage.
Kia Rio LX sedan ($13,600). Redesigned for 2012, the sporty Kia subcompact is available as a sedan or hatchback. This is a greatly improved car, especially in the fuel-economy department, where the use of direct fuel injection has bumped up its EPAs to an exceptional 30 city and 40 highway - and increased the 1.6-liter engine's horsepower to 138.
Honorable mention. Several cars priced themselves out of the survey this year. These are nice subcompacts that barely missed, so I thought you might want to tack them onto your shopping list: Chevy Sonic ($14,200); Toyota Yaris ($14,370); Mazda2 ($14,530); and Hyundai Accent ($14,545).
Contact Al Haas at email@example.com.