Best Small Car?

Okay, now that all of these have been out on the road for awhile – the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Scion xA, Nissan Versa – in addition to some other high-mileage cars such as the Smart Twofer and Mini Cooper, and I see Volkswagon still makes the Rabbit, what do you drivers recommend?

Everyone raves about hybrids, electric, battery, but I think if we ALL traded in our 4x4s and SUVs for a small car that gets 38 mpg, half our problems would be solved. What’s looking good out there?

I think if we ALL traded in our 4x4s and SUVs for a small car that gets 38 mpg, half our problems would be solved.

But who would then buy them?

I suggest once you have your list of possibilities down, that you make the final choice after test driving the ones of interest.

We liked out Corollas. Check out Consumer Reports tests in the past few months. If I remember, they did an article on rating and re-rating small cars. Mazda 3 might have come out first, if my memory is correct.

The Honda Fit is the best of the small fuel efficient cars. The Toyota Yaris is just not in the same league as the Fit, unfortunately. The Scion is essentially the same vehicle as the Yaris, albeit with a different body style. My second choice in that category would be the Nissan Versa, but since Nissan does not have a reliability rating in the same league as Honda or Toyota, the Versa may contain some long-term compromises. Another possibility in this category is the Hyundai Accent. It is not as good as the Fit, but it is actually superior to the Yaris, and it costs less than the Yaris, as well as coming with a better warranty.

The “Smart” car only makes sense for someone who will use the car exclusively in urban areas as the gas mileage is not good enough to justify the extremely small carrying capacity, the punishing ride, and the lurching of its transmission. The Smart’s only advantage over other small cars is its ability to park in extremely small spaces. VW has had long-term reliability problems on many of their models, and I would not recommend one at this point. The Mini is a love it or hate it proposition. If you are a very “sporting” driver, you will love it. If you are simply looking for an economical car with a good ride, it is probably not for you.

My vote is for the Honda Fit, but I would suggest that you do your research by visiting dealerships for all of your possible candidates, take extended test drives in each, and also do as much reading as possible of publications such as Consumer Reports New Car Buyers’ Guide.

Agree with other posters that the Honda Fit is head and shoulders above the others. Also, the standard Toyota Corolla is as good on gas as he Fit. Nissan Versa comes highly recommended, but does not have the sterling repair record of a Toyota or Honda. The Yaris is bullet-proof but lacks in creature comforts. The Suzuki SX-4 is a neat car, and with 2 wheel drive has good gas mileage, but not as good as the Corolla or Fit.

Avoid the Smart Car; it’s gas mileage is no great shakes and it is basically an urban commuter car.

Stay away from nice but fragile cars such as the Chevy Aveo, small Kia models,

My favorite small cars are the Mazda 3, Honda Fit, Mini Cooper and Rabbit, but each for different reasons.

The Mazda 3 handles very well and has a sporty driving experience to it, but a smooth ride at the same time. It’s been reliable and the gas mileage is pretty good.

The Mini Cooper is a wonderful car that gets superb gas mileage and seats 4 but it’s quite sporty and not geared for older folks. It has a quality about it that puts it above other small cars from the moment you sit in it. This is reflected in the price.

The Rabbit has the best interior quality of any of the small affordable cars. It drives smoothly with a controlled ride and is enjoyable to spend time in. Gas mileage however is severely lacking and is far behind its competitors. It was however the highest rated small car Consumer Reports has tested. The two door is not available with a sunroof.

The Fit gets excellent gas mileage and offers a solid driving experience, but the styling and power may not be for everyone. It is the best of the small Japanese cars by a good margin and offers superior braking, driving dynamics and interior quality. If you have a small budget and need great mileage and resale this is the one to consider.

The Corolla is painfully boring and offers little driver interaction. Also, the electric steering can be a nuisance (yes, that’s right-electric steering). It offers greta mileage and reliability, but little else.

The Yaris is simply not a good car. Poor braking and a lousy interior. Geared for people with little money who just need basic transportation-no justifiable reason to choose this over the Fit.

The Smart is a great little car and I’ve spent time in it-but it’s for Urban folks plain and simple. If you live in the city, or spend most of your time commuting in the city it should be considered, but otherwise you should probably look elsewhere. The best mileage of the small cars, and comfy for two people, but it’s like owning a Corvette-not practical.

Here’s the tested mileage for all the cars from Consumer Reports:

Honda Fit: 22 City 43 Highway (Auto)
Mazda 3: 18 City 38 Highway (Auto)
Mini Cooper S: 22 City 38 Highway (Manual)
VW Rabbit: 16 City 32 Highway (Auto)
Honda Civic: 22 City 40 Highway (Manual)

Hope this helps.

Looking at miles per gallon is deceptive. You should really look at gallons per mile for an honest comparison. Improving a vehicle’s fuel economy from 10 MPG to 11 MPG saves more fuel (91 gallons per 10,000 miles) than an improvement of 30 MPG to 40 MPG (83 gallons per 10,000 miles).

I would hold out another year or two. These new small cars (the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Scion xA, Nissan Versa) all get worse fuel economy than I would expect from cars that small. They should be averaging 40 MPG without being hybrids. I would wait for them to get the fuel economy we all deserve. Perhaps you could buy a used car for now. My 98 Civic gets fuel economy almost as good as a new Fit, and you can buy a one for about $4,000. Until new cars actually get better fuel economy than those made a decade ago, I won’t be buying a new one.

Jeremy the current crop of small cars get GREAT gas mileage considering the hoops they have to jump through. There isn’t a technology issue that’s preventing higher gas mileage-it’s a weight issue. All of these “small” cars while physically small weigh a lot. Modern cars have safety equipment like reinforcements, multiple airbags, etc etc that weigh quite a bit. Now add new and massive sounds sytems, air conditioning, sunroofs, sound deadening, etc etc and the cars wind up weighing a thousand pounds more than they would have otherwise.

It’s easy to brag that your 1998 Civic gets great mileage, but watch what happens when I load it with modern ammenities and safety equipment-your mileage will drop like a rock. It’s not a fair comparison.

I agree about the weight issue. Looked up the Rabbit on edmunds. the 2 door hatch weighs just over 4000 pounds, with the sedan weighing just over 100 pounds heavier than the coupe. 4124 pounds is that of a small pickup truck. Just to compare, a Ranger FX4 offroad 4x4 supercab weighs 5000 pounds, and the ho-hum regular cab 4cyl weighs just 200 pounds more than the Rabbit(4380 pounds). Curb weight of the Ranger is actually LESS than the Rabbit sedan’s curb weight(3030 ranger, 3138 Rabbit)

The revised EPA ratings are substantially lower than the old ratings so these new cars are not nearly as bad as you think. I have a 2008 manual transmission Yaris and I almost never get less than 42 mpg, my best tank was 46 mpg. I have no idea how the EPA only gets 29/36 out of that car, do they drive it with the parking brake on?
The only time I ever got close to the EPA highway gas mileage figure was when I drove from Austin TX to Brady TX against a brutal headwind at 65-70 mph, this resulted in 36.1 mpg.

Fortunately, we buy cars, even the small ones, based upon a variety of factors and not mileage alone. I would never presume what the “best” small car might be. A sacrifice in some economy is perfectly acceptable to one looking for a little more performance or additional room.

The best economy car for me is a 4 Runner with five aboard while towing a sailboat to a regatta. Other times, it’s an 02 Prism when shopping or PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION or a bike.

Solving our problems with oil means judicious use of the auto not the soul devotion to one type.

Looked up the Rabbit on edmunds. the 2 door hatch weighs just over 4000 pounds, with the sedan weighing just over 100 pounds heavier than the coupe.

You’re off by half a ton (typo?). The curb weights listed on the MSN auto site are 2975 to 3138 pounds.

Dave, I have loaded the car to the roof. I have driven around with a small spare, a full size spare, and a small floor jack in the trunk. The fuel economy was not measurabley affected. It was just my humbe opinion anyway. We shall see who is right in two years. I predict fuel will be more than $6 a gallon and the average small Japanese car will get an honest 40 MPG without hybrid technology.

I stand by my opinion. If you are going to trade in a car to achieve better fuel economy, you will get more for your money on a reliable used econobox than a brand new econobox.

I have a 2008 manual transmission Yaris and I almost never get less than 42 mpg

…and I caught a fish this big.

Weight doesn’t really affect highway mileage too much-the effect is mainly in the city where you must move the mass from a standing start. This is why highway mileage is so high on the small cars and city mileage is so low. You may think your mileage did not go down when the car was loaded-but I assure you it did-the laws of physics and science apply to everyone.

As far as getting 40mpg without hybrid technology-they have cars that do that now for sale in Europe and have for years. Most are sub-compact mico-diesels and many are quite fast. However, Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Seat, etc, etc do not sell cars here. They do exist though and they will make their way here eventually-but don’t expect them to be big. You can have efficient, big, or affordable- pick any two.

A lot depends on your needs (#people, your size, etc). Fit’s great, but wait for the new one this fall, I am. Yaris, Scion xA good, but Corollas close. Versa uses more gas, Rabbit uses a LOT. Smart’s a joke.

[b]I have a 2008 manual transmission Yaris and I almost never get less than 42 mpg

…and I caught a fish this big.[/b]

Gee, maybe I’m doing the math wrong. Why don’t you double check it for me?

The list of small cars in the OP’s post is far from complete. OP: If you don’t care enough to make the list complete then you don’t really care about the answers. Answering your question is a useless exercise.

The list of small cars in the OP’s post is far from complete.

Why do you say his list isn’t complete. It’s complete for HIM. If I was looking for a small car that’s about the same list I’d pick.

Why would I check your math? I did catch a fish this big. I swear!