Light, nimble, twitchy and responsive, subcompact cars perform to the best of their abilities when under the pressure of inner-city commutes. Extraordinarily small, subcompact cars are great for commuters who need to park in tight spaces and dodge obstacles like construction or the occasional pothole. They accomplish all this under a remarkably affordable price tag.
While they might not be as fast as a proper sports car, or do well to stay stable on the freeway at high speeds, subcompact cars do a few things quite well including get good gas mileage, provide soft and comfortable suspension and quick steering, and are some of the most practical, affordable cars around, and all brand new for 2018:
Honda’s Fit holds a 1.5-liter inline-four cylinder engine that produces 130 horsepower. It gets roughly 40 MPG, has a manual transmission and can fit multiple car seats. It’s perfect for the working parent. It’s not a super quick car, and doesn’t have a ton of storage space but it still manages to check all other boxes.
The Honda Fit has received top marks in the way of safety features as well, scoring five stars in every category with the one four-star score exception for roll-over. Select trims, including the LX, Sport and all others, may equip the new Honda Fit with the Honda Sensing safety technology suite. This suite includes lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, a brake assist system and forward collision warning.
Newer generations of Mini Coopers have gotten better over time. Mini Cooper S’ aren’t super light, in fact they barely eclipse 3,200 pounds, but make decent power out of a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four cylinder engine and manage to squeeze out about 32 MPG.
There is a bit of turbo lag when you stomp the throttle, but the steering is responsive and with its LSD the car has a distinct lack of understeer despite its FWD disadvantage. In other words, through a turn the car is well balanced, and the shifting feels as solid as a BMW.
While the Mini Cooper S doesn’t share the same stage as the Honda Fit in terms of safety technology or ratings, it is still a safe car for its size. The Cooper S’ safety features are more understated and subtle, having more to do with the actual construction of the car itself rather than driving assists. With side-impact beams, a backup camera, electronic stability control and driveline traction control the Cooper S will protect you in a crash.
Yes the Honda holds your hand down the highway, but if you’re interested in actually driving your car then the Mini Cooper is what you want.
Incredibly light-weight, the Fiat 500 Abarth edition provides a substantial performance package. It uses a 1.4-liter inline-four turbocharged engine that makes 160 horsepower, which isn’t a superior amount however the car weighs just 2500 pounds which is astounding. Beyond that the Abarth gets more than 30 MPG and is positively tiny.
It’s arguably one of the most practical cars on this list. It doesn’t have as much storage space as a Honda Fit, but the car is only 12 feet long which makes it just about the easiest car to park. Even the price is reasonable for what you get, unless you’re aiming for an automatic transmission in which case you might have to pay a little extra.
The envy of the hot hatch world could be defined as the Ford Fiesta ST. It’s got a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine making about 200 horsepower, has four doors, is lightweight, gets more than 30 MPG, has a manual transmission and is as cheap as dirt. The only things it may lack are the Honda reliability, Mini Cooper handling and Fiat size.
That said, it’s a powerhouse while managing to be just 2,700 pounds and provides four doors along with plenty of room for car seats. Not only that but the Fiesta can comfortably compete with the Fit’s cargo space, providing as much as 15 cubic feet.
Classified as a subcompact SUV, the Mazda CX-3 is certainly optimal for the car buyer looking to get into a subcompact car that offers just a little more room in the trunk. Don’t let its modest size fool you. The CX-3 comes with a 2.0-liter engine that makes roughly 150 horsepower, has AWD and gets more than 30 MPG on the highway. In other words, the Mazda CX-3 is everything you could want in a subcompact car, plus a few extra cubic feet of storage.
As a subcompact SUV the CX-3 is somewhat capable of towing moderately-heavy objects as well. Bear in mind it’s not going to tow a car, because unfortunately the engine just isn’t powerful enough, but the CX-3 can tow a little more than 2,600 pounds, enough for a small trailer carrying a motorcycle.
These subcompact cars are the cream of the crop. While there are other cheaper options available, you get much more car for the extra $8,000 paid on top of what a cheaper subcompact car like a Nissan Versa might cost. These subcompact cars provide unique, comprehensive and practical driving experiences.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.