2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
This Japanese automaker restores its Mirage nameplate to the U.S. after years on the shelf and applies it to a four-door hatchback that strives for superlatives. It’s among the smallest vehicles in this class, rates as one of the lightest (around 2000 pounds) and lays claim to the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid sold in America. To achieve stealer mileage, Mitsubishi uses a body that’s quite aerodynamic despite its doughy shape and fits a tiny 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine with just 74 horsepower. This is a five-passenger car, but interior volume is among the stingiest in the class. Cargo volume is good for the car’s size, however. Nothing fancy here, but base models do come with automatic climate control and uplevel ES versions with standard Bluetooth and available navigation. Fuel-economy ratings span 37-40 mpg combined. Base-price range is $13,790-$16,890.
2014 Nissan Cube
One of the original boxes on wheels, the aptly named Cube hasn’t changed much since its model-year 2009 into. It remains an odd amalgam of angles, curves, and clownish proportions. It works as a funky fashion statement but it’s fairly utilitarian, too, with copious headroom on upright seating, 58 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded, and city-friendly exterior dimensions. The ride is choppy and gas mileage middling for the class. Acceleration and handling are adequate. Bluetooth is standard and the uplevel SL model offers a thumping subwoofer audio setup, but your smartphone is a better guidance device than Cube’s optional navigation system. Fuel-economy ratings span 27-28 mpg combined. Base-price range is $17,570-$19,760.
Versa tradition dictates compact-car dimensions at subcompact-car prices, and the 2014 edition upholds tradition. A redesigned sedan debuted for model-year 2013 and is joined for 2014 by a four-door hatchback Nissan calls the Versa Note. Indeed, both have compact-car-rivaling passenger space and what we consider the most accommodating rear seat of any subcompact. Cargo volume is another asset, as is ride comfort and outward visibility. Handling is decent, but engine noise intrudes and acceleration is barely adequate given the stingy horsepower. Fuel economy and low base prices are selling points. So are such interesting options as a surround-view camera that displays on the 5.8-inch color dashboard screen. Fuel-economy ratings span 30-35 mpg combined. Base-price range is $12,780-$17,680.