Auto Show entries that won't take you for a ride

smart car USADoing our best to ignore the $443,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe, WalletPop set out on its mission to find all the low-priced wheels Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show. It didn't take long.

A handful of models stood out for their real-people sticker price. The rest of the convention seemed to be conducting business as if the recession were a road stop it passed miles ago.

Without further ado, the rides that graced the showroom floor with the common touch -- and uncommon value (all are available for sale now):
Smart car rep Rick Bourgoise focused on the lifestyle fit of the Fortwo Pure Coupe, but I couldn't take my eye off the $11,990 sticker. Gotta hand it to these savvy niche-grabbers. Smart has been around since 1998, building its reputation without the TV commercial hard-sell. It zoomed past 1 million sold by giving urbanites well-earned dibs on tight parking spaces and narrow streets.

It still looks like it ought to play the sidekick in a talking-car movie, but it's cute. And, yes, Rick, it is perfect for Joe and Joanne Metropolis. Incidentally, the Pure Coupe is made in Hambach, France. Feel free to hum La Marseillaise while you chug happily down l'avenue at 33 miles per gallon city.

The Kia Soul, a sleek-boxy number -- if there could be such a thing -- checks in at a non-soul-stealing $13,300. A rep told WalletPop that $14,000 would probably get you off the lot with the dashboard necessities. It can seat four adults and one child. Its four-cylinder engine gets you there with pep on the petrol austerity program: 35 mpg highway, 25 city. "It's a car people can drive that's not astronomically priced," a Kia spokeswoman said.

Hyundai pulled its budget-hugging Accent from the floor temporarily to make room for a stage presentation, but I felt its presence. Who wouldn't at a $9,970 MSRP? The company's recent marketing strategy to feature its higher-end models still casts a glow on its dollar-friendliest inventory, a spokesman said. Besides, there isn't a need to advertise when the car costs less than a year's rent for many of us.

"That has been essentially the Hyundai story -- the value proposition," spokesman Oles Roman Gadacz said to WalletPop. "We've never lost sight of our roots in the business." Hyundai is the across-the-board fuel-efficiency leader. As for the Accent, 36 highway, 28 city. That's a score where no economizer loses.
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