2014 Subcompact Car Buying Guide

2014 Scion iQ

2014 Scion iQ 1

Toyota spun off the Scion brand a decade ago as its youth-oriented division and introduced the iQ for model-year 2012 as a car it dubs a “premium micro subcompact.” There’s little like it on the American road, starting with its size – just 10-feet long but 5-feet tall. That creates fine room for two adults in front. To carry more, slide the front passenger seat forward, slip a grownup behind, and squeeze in a child behind the driver: it’s a 3+1! Virtually no parking space is too small, and it’s surprisingly stable on the open road. Zero-60 mph in 9.6 seconds from its three-cylinder engine is acceptable. The iQ rates four stars on the five-star federal safety scale, and airbags in the back-seat headrests add a measure of protection should you be rear-ended. Fuel economy is rated 37 mpg combined for all configurations. Base price is $16,520. See the CarPreview.com 2014 Electric and Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle Buying Guide for coverage of the 2014 Scion iQ EV pure-electric model.

 

2014 Scion xD

2014 Scion xD 1

An often-overlooked slow seller, this four-door hatchback is a good choice in very basic transportation. The styling is current, but the rest is old-school, with a small-outside/small-inside design, a dated powertrain, and take-corners-slow handling. The only factory options are a choice of manual or automatic transmission and exterior color. The basics are standard: air conditioning, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a 6.1-inch color audio dashboard touchscreen. Scion does offer a wealth of factory-approved “port-installed” accessories to customize your xD, including lowered suspension, spoilers, carbon-fiber trim, fancier wheels, and a sound-system upgrade. Fuel-economy is rated 29 mpg combined for all configurations. Base price is $17,555.

2014 Smart ForTwo

Model year 2013 smart electric drive

A sort of motorized phone booth, the ForTwo is the smart choice only if you need consume just 9 feet of pavement when you park or maybe dice traffic like a bike messenger. Otherwise, the list of subcompacts that beat if for value, comfort, room, acceleration, and fuel economy is a long one. Designed for Europe’s narrow city streets, the two-passenger (ah, “for two”) comes as a coupe or a convertible with a slide-back canvass roof section. A three-cylinder engine drives the rear wheels through a woefully miscalibrated dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s slow, rough-riding, and requires premium-octane gas. Fuel-economy is rated 36 mpg combined. Base-price range $14,020-$18,860. See the CarPreview.com 2014 Electric and Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle Buying Guide for coverage of the 2014 Smart Electric Drive pure-electric model.

 

2014 Toyota Yaris

2014 Toyota Yaris 3

Entry-level motoring, Toyota-style, translates to this mundane but easy-to-like hatchback available in a two- or four-door body style. We prefer the four-door for its far better rear-seat access, though cargo volume is the same for both — and tight for the class at that. Passenger room is OK, thanks to the egg-shaped interior. Slow acceleration and a modest handling envelope best suit around-town commuting. It’s noisy on the highway and not terribly fuel efficient. But Yaris gets the job done with little pretension and the value-added of Toyota reliability. Fuel-economy ratings span 32-33 mpg combined. Base-price range is $15,240-$18,150.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]