Well, here we are. As we said at the end of the first installment of this short series, we have a bit more jaded view o the models in this segment. Don’t misunderstand us, these are solid cars, if all you want is a car to get you from place to place and do not really care about much else. If that is the case, you should consider a bicycle. If not, then one of these cars may fit your needs and budget.
The Smart Fortwo, offered by Daimler Corp., was the first non-Japanese manufactured car to meet Japanese governmental requirements to be listed as a kei car. That accomplishment aside, this is a basic, no-nonsense car. The 2015 model has added 101 mm in width, giving the passengers some added space. The Fortwo offers comfortable seats, an interesting dash, and very little else. The greatest assets the car has are its diminutive size and surprising maneuverability. Fuel efficiency lingers around 38 mpg(16.2 km/l), which is respectable to say the least. Despite its fuel efficiency, the Fortwo is underwhelming, underpowered, and offers excessive cabin noise. The Smart Fortwo is sold as the Smart K in Japan.
Kia, like Hyundai, has built a solid reputation as a creator of small, fuel efficient, and durable cars. The Rio has been the personification of that reputation since its inception in 2000. The 2015 Kia Rio is stylish and well equipped, offering a wide palette of colors for younger buyers and the low cost of ownership that drivers of all ages desire. It is powered by a standard 1.6L(1591cc) engine that pushes 138 bhp through the front wheels via a fun six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic. Steering is sluggish and blocky, putting the Rio this far down the list. Despite the steering challenge, the overall build of the Rio is top-notch. Throw in a stylish interior and tons of standard and optional equipment and you can see the appeal of the Rio. The Kia Rio is sold as the Kia Pride and Kia K2.
Fiat first produced the 500 in 1957 as a small city car. Production ended in 1975, but Fiat decided to resurrect the nameplate in 2007. The new Fiat 500 comes with a standard, and underwhelming, 0.9L(875 cc) engine in many markets. Fortunately for drivers, there are several better engines to choose from, including a 135- bhp turbo and 157 hp that is featured in the 500 Abarth. The Cabrio and special edition models add a great deal of style and pizzazz to the 500. No matter how you equip a Fiat 500, you will find it noisy, and less fuel efficient than most of the other models in the subcompact class.
Nissan Versa Note
The Nissan Versa Note, simply known as the Nissan Note in some markets, is a stylish multi-passenger vehicle that offers up to 40 mpg(17 km/l) on the highway. Despite being powered by a 1.6L(1598 cc) engine, the Note feels underpowered, especially when the engine is connected to a CVT. The feeling of the powerplant does even improve when you opt for a five-speed manual transmission. To make matters worse, the steering is uninspired and the suspension is soft. While the Nissan Versa Note is not the most fun car to drive, it is a great fuel sipper that is both durable and reliable. The saloon version of the Note is the Nissan Versa, which also suffers from the same maladies as the Note. The saloon does offer one great perk the Note does not, it is the least expensive car available in the North American market.
The Mitsubishi Mirage is designed and built to be basic transportation for congested urban settings. On those points it hits a homerun. Mitsubishi threw in a kaleidoscope of candy colors to appeal to younger drivers and a long warranty to draw in older drivers as well. Then there is the potential of 44 mpg(18.7 km/l) on the open road. It handles well and rides comfortably. Why is it ranked so low, then? The cabin is noisy and the the standard I3 engine makes you glad speed limits are set so low; anything over 60 mph(95 km/h) and you would be overtaxing the poor little thing. It is so underpowered that you may want to get out and push to maintain highway speeds! Sitting inside the Mirage is a like entering a sensory deprivation chamber, there just isn’t anything to excite anyone. The interior would bore a zombie. On the upside, the Mitsubishi Mirage is a car that offers great fuel economy and a low price point, which is exactly what it was designed to be. The Mirage is also sold aa the Dodge Attitude, Mitsubishi Space Star, Mitsubishi Attrage, and the Mirage G4.
We wish we could be more positive about the cars in this segment, but it is difficult when you get so much cabin noise that you think a window is down or you can sprint a faster quarter mile. In a positive light, all of these cars do offer better fuel economy than many larger vehicles as well as the diminutive size that most drivers find necessary in congested urban areas.