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Vehicle Recommendations: Subcompacts

August 18, 2006

I’m what Forrester Research calls an "Alpha Enthusiast", which is their term for someone who is very interested in all things auto, and who is often tapped by those around him or her for car recommendations.  Figuring that I find myself make vehicle recommendations in real life quite a bit,  I figured I may as well make them online, too.  Instead of going after every segment in one shot, though, I’ve decided to break them up.  Today, I’ll be talking about subcompacts.

Mainstream

Europe and Japan (and even Canada) are way ahead of us when it comes to compelling subcompact cars.  Here, the segment has never enjoyed much attention, since as a country we prefer some meat on our vehicles.  With gas prices at or above $3.00, however, that is changing, and automakers are taking advantage of the newfound emphasis on fuel economy with a slew of new subcompact models.

Gone are the days when your choices were a Kia Rio, Geo Metro, or some other worthless econobox absolutely lacking in anything approximating excitement.  Granted, subcompacts are still the red-headed stepchildren of the automotive world, but at least they are no longer the pariah they were only a few years ago.

If I had to recommend one subcompact, it would be the new Honda Fit.

Yours for less than $14,000, the diminutive Fit is big on both content and utility.  And, unlike many of its competitors, the Fit does have some engaging driving dynamics.  Since the 1.5L engine is only good for 109 horsepower, I would highly recommend going with the manual transmission so you can stir that power as you see fit.

As runners up, I would suggest the Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa

Premium

There’s really only one car that actually fits into the premium subcompact category, but even if there were more, it’d still be the winner.  The Mini Cooper (and Cooper S).  Small in size, but big on style and performance, the Mini is more sports car than econobox. 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 18, 2006 8:54 pm

    I think that one of the best factors that the Mini has going for it is the roomy interior. For a subcompact, I was suprised at how comfortable it was inside! The I-pod adapter is an awesome addition as well. I would still be nervous being in one on a crowded freeway however.

  2. August 18, 2006 10:39 pm

    After seeing pictures and hearing the stories of Mini owners involved in some pretty major crashes, I feel pretty darn safe in mine. It may be little, but it is extremely solid and well built. Definitely safer than the Mazda.

  3. August 19, 2006 1:40 am

    That is good to hear.

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