My first new car: Toyota Yaris or FIAT 500?

My head and my heart are in conflict and I need the dopers’ opinions.

I want a reliable, high-MPG 2012 two door hatchback, manual transmission preferred. The Yaris L looks like a no-brainer; it’s less expensive, takes regular unleaded gas, and my current mechanic can work on it. It’s got higher ground clearance and I wouldn’t worry so much about every little rock on the road. It’s even good-looking IMHO.

But… The FIAT 500 Pop is so seductive. It’s not that much more expensive, the warranty is better, it has plenty of legroom, and it comes in lots of colors. True, there aren’t many places that will repair and service FIATs, but I keep seeing 500s around here (So Cal) so there must be some. And most damning of all, the car I’m replacing is my beloved 1974 VW Beetle that I’ve owned for thirteen years and the FIAT 500 is the only car that approaches that same emotional resonance.

So please chime in with your driving/ownership experience. Or just tell me at length how I’m crazy.

The Yaris is a good little car, much better than I expected, and I usually try to talk people out of irrational automative purchases. But if a Fiat 500 is a splurge for you, then dear god, get the Fiat. It’s not expensive, it looks good, and it’s fun to drive. It seems like you’re going into this knowing what you’re getting, so have fun.

I’d stick with the Yaris-yes, the Fiat 500 is fun little car-but its resale value and reliability hasn’t been good. Plus, it is not selling well, and it may well be dropped…which means you have an orphan.

Ever wonder why the Fiat needs a lengthier warranty?

Fiat has a reputation. So does Toyota. Night and day.

The joy of owning the Fiat is likely to be balanced out by subsequent heartache.

Yaris is a Toyota, known for reliability. Fiat is a Fiat, known for breaking down.

My 2008 Yaris has two things I don’t like about it- the seats and the driving position. The seats are fine for city driving, but get uncomfortable after a couple of hours on the highway. Also, the steering wheel is too far away and the pedals are too close. If I sit close enough to the wheel to not be stretching, the pedals are too close to the front of the seat.

78,000+ miles so far with only oil and filter changes and one new set of tires. No mechanical problems at all.

If you do get a Yaris, got to
to find out how to put an inexpensive factory type cruise control on it.

For Yarises 2011 and back, go to
to find out how to put a cruise control on.

Oh, doesn’t FIAT stand for fix it again, Tony?

I don’t know that the Yaris is really going to have that great a resale value. It’s a bit of an oddball Toyota, however, it will be leagues better than the Fiat re-sale value.

Personally I feel both cars are so small they are borderline death traps if you get in serious accident on a California Interstate. I think a decent quality used midsize car with low miles would be a far better and safer (if less sexy) choice for basic transportation.

I don’t know much about the Fiat, but my husband has a four-door Yaris, and he loves that thing. Good gas mileage, surprisingly roomy inside, and the thing has a turning radius you would not believe.

Here is a fairly recent article in the LA Times about the safety (or lack thereof) of the Yaris:

The data looked at 2009-11 models, so maybe 2012 is better. But with how people drive around here (I’m in SoCal, too), that would give me serious pause.

I’m biased against the Yaris because when I was looking for a car a few months ago and came across 2011 one on a Carmax lot, my dad told me it was a crappy car and dangerously underpowered for California freeways. He’s the last person to care whether a car drives like a Bugatti Veyron, so I took his opinion seriously and eliminated it.

I hear you on the irrational Fiat love factor. Somebody parks near me who has a bright red Fiat 500 Abarth and I just want to stare at it every time I walk to my own car.

‘Get the Fiat,’ says the guy with a '66 MGB.

(I saw a bumper sticker on an X1/9: Forget Tony. I fix myself.’)

Get the Fiat, says the guy who owns not one but two Italian scooters.

Wow, look at all the quick replies! Dopers are the best.
steronz, thank you for the vote of confidence. I’ve been searching the web until my eyes threatened to cross, so it’s nice to know the effort wasn’t wasted.

ralph124c, you got me worried so I looked up some more recent articles. FIAT sales improved in 2012 and I didn’t see any indication that the 500 will be an orphan. I’m actually not concerned about resale value; I’ve owned exactly two cars in my life and kept them both for over ten years each.

california jobcase, thanks for the real life info. Long term seat comfort is important to me so I’ll investigate that for the Yaris. And yeah, I know the acronym. :slight_smile:

astro, thanks for the link. It’s one of the many comparison sites I looked at; this is another one I liked. I appreciate the concern for safety but I’ve spent the last thirteen years in a 1974 Beetle and drove a 1975 Celica before that, so I’m a lost cause.

iftheresaway, that sounds like what I’ve been hearing from Yaris owners. Thanks for the boost to my rational side.

chizzuk, I read that! It didn’t knock the Yaris off my list but it gave me a turn. And the first 500 I ever saw was red and it was like I imprinted on that color. Although the green is good too… no, plankter, stop that!

Finally, thank you Johnny L.A. and Arrendajo for the grins.

Be still my heart! Where do you live? I want a ride!

Near Canada. Alas, the 9-month rainy season has started and the car is under wraps.


You might also want to look at a Hyundai Accent.

Why not another beetle? I am on my second one and I love it.

Wow, what a beauty! Thanks for posting the photos,Johnny L.A.. I will own a MGB someday. Rainy season is starting in Oregon, too. Today we had a gorgeous day here in the Willamette Valley and I definitely took advantage of it and did some riding.

plankter, if you’re choosing only between the 500 and Yaris, based on what you said then it’s obvious: get the 500. It stirs your soul!

My first car was a 1979 Fiat X1/9. I took good care of it and it lasted many mostly trouble-free miles. It was a very fun car. Take good care of your 500 and it’ll last a long time. I have a 50-year old Porsche 356 convertible that still stirs my soul.

You are what you drive!

Completely agree. Says the owner of multiple cars that are less than practical, but soul stirring. I have a Fiat X1/9, a VW Vanagon camper, and a Mini Cooper S Convertible

BTW, I drove a Fiat Spider all through college. It was a car that required a little loving (maintenance), but it never once left me stranded.

If you want a car you can just drive and never have to do anything other than stop for gas, by all means, get the Yaris. If you want a car that will make you want to give it that last “over the shoulder” look as you leave it in a parking spot, get the Fiat 500. Both will be very competent at getting you from point A to point B