March 06-- Last July, Edmunds.com published "the 10 cheapest 2012 cars to own and operate." Including ownership -- depreciation, financing interest, insurance premiums, fuel cost, maintenance and repair -- the online automotive information source also considered taxes, fees and federal tax credits.
At 15,000 miles per year for five years, the 10 cars on the list cost $27,600 to $31,700 to operate for five years, or $5,520 to $6,340 per year to own and operate. Here are seven of the cars listed:
Kia Rio LX five-door: Price: $13,660, gas mileage: 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway; the five-year cost to maintain is $31,714, and cost per mile is 42 cents.
Redesigned for 2012, the Kia Rio is more stylish than its bargain-basement price might indicate. The LX is at the bottom of the Rio pecking order where every model gets the same 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. It has a six-speed manual transmission to get power to the front wheels and comes with air conditioning, trip computer and a four-speaker audio.
Toyota Prius C One: $18,950, 53 mpg city/46 mpg highway; five-year cost to maintain is $31,346, and cost per mile is 42 cents. Toyota added the Prius C One for 2012 to its three-model Prius lineup. It's the smallest in the group of cheapest cars to own. Its 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and electric motors combine to generate 99 horsepower funneled through a continuously variable transmission.
Honda Insight: $18,500, 41 mpg city/44 mpg highway; five-year cost to maintain is $31,079, and cost per mile is 41 cents. It's the least expensive hybrid on the market, and its combination 1.3-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine and electric motor deliver 98 horsepower to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission.
Honda Civic DX Coupe: $16,555, 28 mpg city/39 mpg highway; five-year cost to maintain is $31,013, and cost per mile is 41 cents.
The Civic remains one of the better compacts on the road. Its 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine turns the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. There's even a natural gas model.
Ford Fiesta S Sedan: $13,200, 29 mpg city/38 mpg highway; five-year cost to maintain is $30,994, and cost per mile is 41 cents.
It's a well-engineered, carefully made small car. As priced here, it comes with a five-speed manual transmission to usher production from the 120-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine to the front wheels.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV ES: $29,125, 26 city mpge/99 mpge highway; five-year cost to maintain is $30,729, and cost per mile is 41 cents.
The only all-electric car among the cheapest cars to own list, it uses a "miles per gallon equivalent" because it doesn't use gasoline. The i-MiEV is helped along in the TCO department with an average annual fuel-cost rating that's about $4,000 less than the next lowest car on this list, which is the Honda Insight. Its 49-kilowatt electric motor puts out 66 horsepower. It takes seven hours to charge, using a 240-volt hookup like your clothes dryer, and its range is 62 miles.
Mazda2 Sport: $14,530, 29 mpg city/35 mpg highway; five-year cost to maintain is $31,714, and cost per mile is 40 cents.
Not the quickest small car on this list, but it's fun to drive thanks to its responsive steering and tight handling. Every Mazda2 comes with a 100-horsepower, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and standard five-speed manual transmission.
The cheapest 2012 cars to operate are "very small and very basic," says the testing staff at Edmunds.com. It all comes down to priorities. Here they are:
Nissan Versa 1.6 S Sedan: $10,990, 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway; five-year cost to maintain is $29,735, and cost per mile is 40 cents.
If you want the updated Versa, the Sedan is the way to go. Nissan redesigned it for 2012. As its price tag indicates, the Versa 1.6 S Sedan is one of the cheapest cars, and it's also a very basic vehicle. Its 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine sends output to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission.
Standard features: AC, trip computer and a two-speaker audio system with CD player and auxiliary input jack. No trailer hitch.
Scion iQ: $15,265, 36 mpg city/37 mpg highway; five-year cost to maintain is $29,429, and cost per mile is 39 cents.
Scion iQ beats the 2016 average federal fuel mandate of 35.5 mpg for cars. It is also very small -- more than 1 1/2 feet shorter than the Fiat 500, its 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine delivers 94 horsepower to the front wheels via a "continuously variable transmission." Despite its small size, front-seat occupants have plenty of room in a cabin including full power accessories, AC, split-folding rear seat and a four-speaker audio system with CD player and iPod interface.
2012 Smart Fortwo Pure coupe: $12,490, 34 mpg city/38 mpg highway; five-year cost to maintain is $27,632, and cost per mile is 37 cents.
By Edmunds.com's reckoning, the Smart Fortwo coupe is the cheapest car to own over a five-year period. It is the one car that makes the Scion iQ look big. The iQ is 1 1/2 feet longer than Smart Fortwo. Its 70-horsepower, one-liter, three-cylinder, rear-mounted engine uses a five-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission to send power to its rear wheels. Standard equipment doesn't include much more than power door locks and remote keyless entry.
Tulsa World consumer writer Phil Mulkins wants to know which topics interest you. Call 918-699-8888, email your suggestion to email@example.com or mail it to Tulsa World Consumer, P.O. Box 1770, Tulsa, OK 74102-1770.