Who has experience with subcompacts?

We need a new car, and it seems to be time for a subcompact. We have a Subaru Impreza hatchback, and a 9-year-old who is big enough to legally be allowed to sit in front, but is also still small enough to sit in the back of a subcompact.

We want a manual, but we did look at Smart cars. We actually don’t like the idea of the rear-mounted engine.

I once owned a Geo Metro, and it was a great car. It handled beautifully, and got 40mpg in the city. I lost it in a collision, which was about as bad as they get-- it was semi-head on-- driver-to-driver, and going 55mph. All I had was a sprained ankle and a small cut on my forehead, so I’m convinced that small cars can be safe. Anyway, I’m leaning toward what seems to be the current version of the Metro-- the Chevy Spark.

DH likes the Mini Cooper, because he wants something just a little bigger, and he thinks the Spark is underpowered. I shy away from European cars, because they tend to be hard to work on, and mechanics don’t like them, so you have to take them to a make-specific garage, or you end up with resentful mechanics not doing their best job.

We also looked at the Fiat 500, which shifted nicely, but the safety rating isn’t impressive (the Spark’s is excellent), and it is a European design, even if it’s built in the US now.

Who here drives a subcompact, and what do you like or not like about your particular car? Has anyone here rented one, or driven a friend’s, and have anything to say about handling? anyone bought a car recently, and considered a subcompact, but decided against it? why?

I recently considered a Honda Fit, but decided to go with a Mazda 3 instead - a bigger (compact-class), more solid-feeling car, nicer to drive, a lot quieter on the highway, etc. - and I was able to get a base model for the same price as the Honda.

I drove a 2-door Hyundai Accent for over 10 years and it was a great little car. Only gave it up to get something a little bigger with 4 doors when the family expanded. It had a 5-speed manual transmission that seemed pretty solid. I would consider one again if I was shopping in that segment.

Just a heads up re 9 yr olds - how long do you expect:

  1. to keep this car
  2. a 9 yr old to be small enough to fit in a non-seat?

The Metro you loved was a rebadged Suzuki Swift, a great car from GM’s collaboration with Suzuki. The Spark is a rebadged Daewoo Matiz, although “rebadged” probably isn’t fair anymore since GM now owns Daewoo outright. It’s built on GM’s Global Small Car platform.

GM also makes the Sonic, which is also a Daewoo design but it’s built on the Gamma II platform, probably a bit more solid, looks more “grown up,” and has more powerful engine options. If you’re set on GM (and there’s nothing wrong with that), have your husband look at a Sonic RS with the 1.4L turbo. It’s probably more practical than the Mini and has a decent amount of flair.

The subcompact class is crowded with good cars right now. The Mazda2/Ford Fiesta twins are built on the same platform but occupy different ends of the comfort spectrum, with the 2 being a stripped down lightway runabout and the Fiesta being a heavier, more substantial effort. The Fiesta is available in ST trim with a 200hp turbocharged engine if your husband really wants to go nuts.

The Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris are both good cars as well. Even the Kia Rio/Hyundai Accent twins would be fine. Just don’t get a Nissan Versa, I hate those things.

My personal preferences would be the Honda Fit for interior versatility, the Yaris for mileage, the Fiesta ST for speed, and the Mazda2 for fun. But I’d probably get a compact instead, because something like a Mazda3 will get nearly the same mileage and be a lot more friendly on the highway.

As you mentioned safety ratings being a concern, here’s a page with the top safety picks according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Among the small cars are the Scion iA, Honda Civic, Kia Soul, Acura ILX, Mazda 3, Subaru Crosstrek and the Subaru WRX.

I’ve driven both a Toyota yaris and a Corolla. The yaris has more room for the driver than the Corolla, and even more than some midsized I’ve driven. Plus you get Toyota reliability. Honda and Toyota both make subcompacts that are the same price as a kia or Chevy, but reliability is better.

I had a 2012 Ford Fiesta and I really liked it. It had just the right amount of power and I could zip in and out of tight places with ease. Good handling and a good ride also.

As an enthusiast, but one who looks for a balance of everything in a day-to-day car, I’d be all over a Ford Fiesta. There are no shortages of good reviews. It has a European lineage, Car of the Year honors, and it never feels or drives ‘cheap’.


Slight hijack: What’s your experience with the Subaru? I’m thinking of buying that model. Thanks.

The littlest Subaru is a good car. Most of the competitors in the subcompact field are good.

What we’re down to here is first deciding what you like initially. Then you cross check whether you like a Dinotro 4000SUX Subcar (you don’t), so now that we’ve established you like a normal subcompact (Subaru) from a normal car company, you go drive it.

You ask yourself: Did I like that driving experience?

Then you buy it if you can.

It’s not a minefield out there. Damn good cars to choose from. I’d avoid Smart and Fiat. All the others are in play; none will set your life back. Just buy what you like.

The Fiesta is more polished and more everything. However, you might think it looks odd, or don’t like the placement of the cup holders, etc. You might want a different feel to the suspension… steering… etc.

So… buy what you like! :slight_smile: Subaru does offer the AWD advantages… if that’s important to you.

I’ve had a Fiesta as a rental car on numerous occasions (including once in Germany with lots of autobahn driving!) and really like them. Even the American (automatic) ones have a kind of more vaguely European-y feel to them than the usual Japanese subcompacts. (The Fiesta is getting a little long in the tooth. It got great reviews when it came out… in 2008 and it hasn’t changed much since.) I’ve driven the Yaris, Fit, and Versa and they’re all pretty competent but not all that interesting IMHO cars. I’ve never driven a Hyundai Accent, but my impression is that it’s pretty similar.

I’ve never driven a Spark either, but the previous Daewoo-turned-Chevrolet the Aveo was a pretty miserable little car. Definitely not a successor to the Suzuki-derived Metro, IMHO. I was also intrigued by the Alfa-Romeo based Dart, but the reliability ratings have not been kind to it (nor to the Fiat 500.)

I have a nearly 9 year old Honda Fit and I am extremely happy with it. My previous car was a 1990 Honda Civic Wagon (not made or at least not sold in North America after 1990), which I was also happy with and drove for 17 years.

I happened to notice in Consumer Reports car issue that they rated cars by the standard, “Would you buy that model again?” and the number 1 car on that question was the Fit. Obviously YMMV.

I have a Yaris. It’s been remarkably reliable. The only problem with it is the driving position sucks on long trips. This is because the steering wheel is too far from vertical and too far away and the pedals are too close to the front of the seat. If the seat is adjusted so the pedals are at a comfortable distance away, the steering wheel is too far away, especially at the top of the wheel. This really is only troublesome after a couple of hours on the road. In its favor, my measured MPGs have always been close to those advertised, unlike my Hyundai Elantra (a compact).

The best subcompact I ever had was a 1988 Ford Festiva. Can’t find those any more.

I’ve got an '09 Fit I purchased new. Outside of routine maintenance so far I’ve replaced the heater blower motor, so reliability is nice. Oh, and a new battery last year, but that probably counts as routine maintenance. It’s not particularly comfortable on long trips, but the back seats are sufficiently roomy for average-sized adults to be comfortable on short hauls. Extremely versatile cargo space is nice. I don’t get quite rated mileage, but I also do everything they tell you not to do in order to get good mileage. I mean, jeez, it’s a Honda 4-cylinder. If you aren’t revving it to at least 5k rpm before you shift you’re doing it wrong. :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s not tremendously exciting, but it’s extremely reliable and practical.

My previous car was a 2013 Toyota Yaris, manual transmission. I loved that. It was a great city car for me. It had enough space for the things I needed to do most of the time. I found it comfortable for long drives.

The only reason I don’t still have it is that a tree killed it. Luckily, I wasn’t in it at the time. When I was looking for a replacement last year, I looked at the new Honda Fit. I wanted to like the fit - it’s the size/style of car I should have liked tremendously. But I found it uncomfortable - particularly the location of the left foot rest (I was test driving a manual). It was in such a spot that my left hip was twisted oddly.

That’s all my recent experience with subcompacts.

Oh wait, I did once drive a Spark as a rental. Hated it. Stiff drive, uncomfortable for long trips.

I think my Citroën C1 counts as a subcompact, but it might not even be available in the US. It replaced a Yaris hutchback. I was very happy with the Yaris, but the combination of: coming to a point when I would have had to replace tyres plus one of those checks where you have to replace everything but the tyres plus my brother having accidentally blown the a/c plus a government “replace your old car and we’ll give you money” campaign got it chucked. The reason I got the C1 instead of another Yaris: the folks at the Toyota store didn’t answer their phone or email; my friend who works for Citroën did.

I got a Smart as a rental once and loved it (very comfortable for a butt which isn’t what most car designers have in mind; the built-in GPS worked very well; it even had cruise control!), and the damn things* are even cheaper than the C1. Pity about the almost-complete lack of a boot, I don’t think a Smart would have fit my mother, me and both our luggages (even if I can travel for as much as a week with a computer backpack).

  • damn things because I soooooo wanted one :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve driven the Fit and the Festiva and have nothing bad to say either of them, especially the Fiesta ST! However…When I was looking at prices you could get a Civic with more space, power and nearly the same fuel economy as the Fit for about the same money. Same goes for the Fiesta and Focus unless you really go bare bones on the options.

My wife just got a Mini Cooper and we love it. It’s a lease and all the maintenance is included, so while it may be inconvenient to get to the shop, there will be no additional costs for upkeep and the right mechanics are working on it.

We got the ‘S’ model and it goes like hell in sport mode. Economy mode saves money on gas and mid-range is for normal driving. Mini is a subsidiary of BMW, so there’s some serious engineering going on in terms of design, performance, safety, etc.

I’ve driven and been a passenger in a Smart Car. Don’t buy one. I have several friends and co-workers who swear by their Honda Fits. I swear by my Mazda3, but it’s a compact so a bit bigger than you probably want.

The Impreza, at least the new models, are considered compacts, not subcompacts. Is it too big for you? It’s very highly rated, usually among the top five in the class.