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What is "wrong" with these new subcompacts?



  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,931
    Moving around every few years can be fun. Go for it. Only having one car helps make it more affordable too.

    (Didn't realize that the Knitting Factory was a "chain". I just thought it was a dumb name for a Boise concert venue).
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Posts: 5,663
    edited December 2010
    Yeah, I didn't know that about the Knitting Factory, either. The Spokane venue seats 1,500 people. Looking forward to going. Still waiting to hear back on the Brewster, WA, job and I had a good phone interview with the Walgreens of Everett, WA, people this morning.

    Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

    2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS

  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,118
    edited December 2010
    "Honda is set to provide the CR-Z with an all-new four-cylinder gasoline-engine option as part of plans to broaden the compact coupe's appeal in key world markets, including North America.

    Currently available with just one engine option—a gasoline-electric hybrid system that mates a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a brushless electric motor—the CR-Z is also earmarked to receive a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine currently undergoing development in Japan.

    With forced induction and Honda's patented VTEC-i fully variable camshaft-timing system, the new 1.6-liter engine is aimed at providing the performance of a typical 2.0-liter engine...a standard version making about 160 hp and a highly tuned version aimed at matching the 200 hp of the discontinued 2.0-liter four-cylinder used in the Civic Type R. The latter engine is likely to form the basis of a CR-Z Type R tentatively due out in late 2011.

    Plans to go beyond the single hybrid-engine option for the CR-Z come as sales of the coupe have begun to sag in Honda's all-important home market. The Japanese carmaker's intentions to add a gasoline engine to the lineup were first hinted at with the CR-Z Type R concept revealed at the recent SEMA show in Las Vegas. Unlike the proposed production version though, that car ran a turbocharged version of the CR-Z's existing 1.5-liter four-cylinder."
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    Sales have gone form dismal to worse. I am glad Honda saw the light.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    edited December 2010
    I found a Fiesta with a stick shift today! Turns out I had to try a small-town dealer who I assumed would have less in stock; in fact, that place was like the epicenter of the Fiesta intro, with rows and rows of Fiestas along the curb and big Fiesta banners everywhere.

    And yes, an ample selection of stick shifts. I actually got to drive a car that was the exact trim and option set I would buy if I were buying today: an SES with nothing optional except the moonroof. I am still of two minds on the moonroof - I like that this is the only car in the class with a factory moonroof, but the one it has is a tiny little thing, completely BEHIND the driver, which kinda makes it not worth it. But it is a cheap option at $695.

    This car is the OPPOSITE of the Mazda2 in almost every way I can think of. The Mazda is SOOOO much more fun to drive, with so much BETTER driver interfaces and controls, that it's amazing the two are even built on the same platform. But depending on what you like in your subcompact, there's a lot to like, and I can see why the Fiesta has won the awards it has.

    Where the Mazda tells you everything the front wheels are doing, the Fiesta tells you very little - some would call this "well-damped". The Fiesta has one of those electric steering setups which has decent weight to it at 60 mph but can be turned by blowing on it at 0-5 mph, the feeling I refer to as "someone forgot to screw the steering wheel on so now it's coming off".

    Where the Mazda corners fast and true but is often jittery over bad pavement or at high speeds, the Fiesta smooooooths everything out but kinda wallows through the turns. Where the Mazda is moderately noisy at highway speeds, the Fiesta is quieter. It is the small car that drives like a big car, something a lot of people want in a small car. I do not.

    The interior of the Fiesta is YARDS better than either the Fit's or the Mazda2's - it has a padded dash, good ergonomics, and electronic HVAC controls where the others still have 1970s-type levers you pull on and hear the cables moving the vacuum doors behind the dash. Oh, and of course Fiesta has Sync in most trims. Bluetooth, ipod controls, all there. Soft surfaces most places elbows and hands end up. It feels like a 21st century car, whereas Mazda2 and Fit both feel very much like their makers cheaped out inside.

    The Fiesta's clutch is light, which is good, but it's very hard to tell where it engages, which is bad. The shifter is decent but the Mazda's is better. The Fiesta has one of those e-throttles which is designed to increase power slowly as you push it down, which would drive me crazy. I would feel like I had to floor it all the time. However, it does have enough torque to pull away from a stop with very little revving in first gear, so the e-throttle thing isn't a big deal when you want smooth starts, just when you want quick ones.

    Just like the Mazda, there isn't much power below 3000 rpm. UNLIKE the Mazda, it has no guts to pass in top gear on the highway, because of the taller top gear (which is good for an additional 2 points of highway fuel economy, according to EPA).

    The price of the one I drove was $18,5. The Mazda Touring is $15,5. If you take out the moonroof on the one I drove (which isn't available in the Mazda), the price would be $17,8. It's easy to see where Ford put the extra $2300, so I think both are a good value, but there isn't much in that $2300 worth of stuff that I care very much about, and I would want the car that drives and handles better. So for me, the Mazda is ahead in the running, but I still intend to drive the Fit again to get a back-to-back-to-back impression.

    IF I can find a stick shift Sport.

    Foot note: believe it or not, my Echo feels stronger at around-town engine speeds than either of the two I have driven, but I guess that is borne out by the tested 0-60 times, which are slower for both Mazda2 (slightly) and Fiesta (more than a second slower) than they were for Echo. However, I think any of these are plenty fast enough if you are willing to keep the revs up above 3500 rpm. So when you need that burst of speed they are there for you, and the rest of the time you get that 40 mpg fuel economy. Or at least, I do.

    Fit is the only one that has been measured faster than the Echo, so I am looking forward to driving it again (if I can find one) now that I have driven the 2 and the Fiesta.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • oregonboyoregonboy Posts: 1,653
    Great review nippon! Based on your description, I would definitely prefer the Mazda over the Ford.

    $695 may be a bargain as sunroofs go, but I can think of a whole bunch of ways that I would prefer to spend that tidy chunk of change than to spend it on a hole in the roof of my car. ;)
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,706
    edited December 2010
    You should also test drive the following vehicles with manual and tell us what you think:

    - Scion TC - Overlooked but a fine car. Handles very nicely, IMO. Back seat is small, though. These are very slow sellers(Scion never seemed to really have taken off?) so you can get good prices on them.

    - Mitsubishi Lancer - Also another often overlooked choice.

    I personally think they are better vehicles that the Mazda 2 or the Fiesta. The Fiesta felt... HEAVY. Like they took a Fit and put a Buick suspension on it. Quiet, soft, and stable. But it's as wide in the rear end as a Buick, and the transmission, as you noted, is rubbish.

    BTW - the two I mentioned above have pretty decent manuals. I'm consistently happy with how Toyota does manuals(Honda is also good, a Civic with Manual is a great thing)

    Of course, if I had the money, I'd spend 17.5K on a 2010 Mustang and forget about MPG. (still does 25mpg combined, easy, with the V6 and manual) And, yes, that's a local price from TrueCar. Evidently the 2010 V6 models are slow movers, due to the new V6 in the 2011, despite being great budget transportation. Yes, it's a better engine, but is it worth 5K more? I don't think so considering that you have a manual to extract every ounce of that power. Figure a real world 8 seconds(again, not abusing the car) or so 0-60, which is worlds faster than a typical sub-compact.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    In looking at the models you suggested I drive, plekto, I am thinking you are suggesting cross-shopping strictly on price, as those models would be roughly the same price (the tC would be a bit more than the Fiesta SES and significantly more than the other two) but I am only interested in subcompact 4- or 5-doors, because I have sworn to myself I won't replace the Echo with a car that makes worse mileage and because I have little kids in the back often enough to value the extra doors.

    tC and Lancer mileage kinda sucks IMO, especially the tC's. Mazda2 and Fiesta will allow me to match the Echo, I'm very confident, and in fact if I went with the Fiesta I think I could improve on the 40 mpg I get now by a bit.

    A big drawback to the Fit is that I would probably drop a few points in fuel economy, so for me the Mazda is definitely leading in the race. The Fit would have to feel much more fun to drive than the Mazda to grab the prize at this point.

    I wish the 500 were already out - I would love to compare its drive to these others, even though it is only a 3-door. But I bet it's slow - I really want to check out the Abarth, which is still a year away.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I'm so glad, and I hope they call it the CR-X!
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,706
    Well, that's the rub. If you want a good ride, 4 doors, and 35+mpg, you're down to a very narrow list. But there is a list. ;) The Fiat 500 is 2 door only and as small as a jellybean. It's like an estate version of a Smart car. And just about as slow unless you get the Abarth (which we won't in the U.S.)

    I also removed a ton of vehicles from the list because they got mediocre MPG or had issues like miserable suspension or lacked a manual. The Civic Si, RX8, and many many others were dropped, because if you want 28-30mpg highway, just get a Buick or Camry. They are cheap and nearly indestructible in a crash. More on this later...

    1: TDI type cars of course are one option. Good MPG and really no issues. No batteries to deal with, either from an environmental perspective or a potential resale value one. Due to the current pent up demand, resale value is quite high as well, especially for a TDI with manual(will sell in days, not weeks) A Jetta TDI gives you a midsize package and a micro-car's fuel economy. Finding one 1-3 years old, though, can be problematic. And the price you pay for them nearly kills the economy savings for the first 50-80K miles.

    2: Alternative cars:

    - Mini Clubman. What impressed me was that they managed to turn a tiny and poor excuse for a vehicle into something that actually works as a small family car. And without making it look like a jellybean or losing the same look and feel. Mini used to do this sort of alternate body styles approach back in the 60s, so it's not without merit. Great handling. Holds its value quite well. Buy new as these tend to be abused all too often.

    - Get a Civic or Corolla. Sacrificing 3-5mpg for a much larger and better vehicle isn't necessarily a bad compromise. (don't forget the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe, either) The 2008 Pontiac Vibe is basically a Toyota Corolla wagon with a better interior and higher depreciation. Win-Win. :) Buy 1-3 yrs used if you can.

    - The Jeep Patriot gets 29mpg highway and has a huge cargo area. It's a hidden gem amongst the miles and miles of overpriced and gas hungry SUVs. As long as you avoid automatics, Jeeps are decently reliable. There are loads of other small and micro SUVs out there as well, but most of them just simply cost too much. Starting at $15K, and often having rebates as well, it's worth looking at, IMO. e=false (I chose Pasadena, CA because it's fairly close to a typical national price and is well known) Buy new, obviously.

    3 - Kids. If you factor in really low prices like this (which is why I added the Mustang), you can get into a situation where you would have to drive a new Civic 100K+ miles to break even on the fuel costs. Just because you got such a screaming good deal. If it was my money, I'd be a cheap ba***rd and get the best 3-5 year old car that I could for the least amount of money. This usually means a domestic midsize sedan, but not always. The advantage here is that while you might get 5 mpg less than a typical small car, you paid 5K less for the vehicle. That's more than the gas savings. And it's safer in a crash, often handles better, and has tons more amenities as well. These tiny cars are frankly, not something I'd put kids into, because they're simply not going to survive in a typical crash, given that most cars are rolling down the road with a running weight of nearly 4000lbs including the driver and everything else.(not even factoring in SUVs)

    My top "tightwad" pick for a good used car is to just get a 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix or similar for $8-10K. It gets 25mpg combined. If you drove 100K miles, the Pontiac would use 4000 gallons. If you had a 35mpg average car, it would use 1143 fewer gallons. At $3.20 a gallon, that means that as long as the larger vehicle is $3657 less than the econobox, you're breaking even and MPG is a moot factor.
    That's your optimal car, other than it having an automatic. Though, the shifter is in-line on the floor, so power-shifting the automatic is simple. And, yes, it does have a "1" gear, so I've actually done it with cars I've rented. I'd rather drive this than a Civic, Yaris, or Mazda 2 any day.
    (maybe I'm spoiled, but I prefer small cars like the Volvo C30 - the lack of features in a typical $15K car is too much for me)
  • tifightertifighter WAPosts: 1,349
    About the TDI- with the HPFP problems, and the loss of power/dash warning lights like a xmas tree problems that keep getting reported on the 09+ TDI's, I'd personally avoid them. Too bad, as I like the car in concept. YMMV...
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    TrueDelta did report lots of early TDI issues FWIW....
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,706
    Well, the issue with TDIs is VW. Not the technology. Honda makes a TDI Civic in the U.K. that is amazing. Nearly 50mpg and Honda reliability. But not for us plebeians in the U.S...
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    edited December 2010
    It's a shame, because the TDI Jetta wagon is pretty darn nice, too. Hopefully VW addresses it soon.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,902
    I've read those GPs aren't exactly the most comfortable best finished cars.

    But if kids are going to ransack it, I guess why not.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    edited December 2010
    Oh heck no. Not for me anyway. It seems from your remarks that in fact you are not a fan of the truly small car, but may instead subscribe to the "best value is the highest number of pounds of car I can get per buck" school of thought.

    Which to me is a counter-productive way to think.

    As for compact vs subcompact, my experience is that the quality and interior materials of compacts for sale in the U.S. isn't much better than the subcompact from the same automaker. So I would rather go with the subcompact to get the right-size car.

    Also, for my commute car, nothing less than 40 mpg (in my driving, which equates to approx 36 highway EPA rating) will do. I do this not only for the dollar savings but for the GHG emissions savings, so buying a used car that makes 25 mpg for the same money because it nets out the same is not of interest to me.

    I am not immune to the charms of the 45+ mpg Golf TDI, but it also costs about $25K with a moonroof, and for that money I would rather have the better driver of the pair: the Mini Cooper. At $25K the Mini comes with lots of toys, and in fact one optioned the way I would want is only about $22K. So I will have to wrestle with that decision before I pull the trigger: do I go with a much cheaper, more basic car which will be almost as much fun to drive but less desirable in lots of other little ways, or do I go with the Mini?

    I had a Matrix and only averaged 32 mpg in it. Not to mention it was a cheap trashy car that I would never recommend to anyone, ditto its twin the Vibe. Nothing with a Jeep badge on it is a bargain to me - they all have beyond-cheap interiors (painful to the misplaced elbow, in fact) and below-30 mpg.

    For now I'm sold on subcompacts for my commute car, and I'm also not looking to maximize pounds per dollar - I would rather buy the best car for my needs. Used is a possibility - I bought the Echo 2 years old and it proved to be a huge bargain by giving me 6 years and 100K miles of trouble-free operation, plus I saved about $4000 off the new price. But I think I would stick to certified, and I know that jacks the price up some and reduces the savings you net from going used.

    Still looking for a Honda Fit Sport, might get some time this week if I shuffle a few things around.......

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,118
    edited December 2010
    Based on what you say, you should go for the MINI. Why? The day after you buy it you'll forget about what you paid, or it will become a receding memory, while the joys of owning your favoite car will grow.

    The Golf feels much more substantial than the Fit. If you prefer the MINI over the Golf, I predict that you'll prefer the feel of the MINI over the Fit.
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Posts: 5,663
    edited December 2010
    though I have just looked at the Ford Fiesta hatchback and sedan and not driven them, I am really keen on keeping and digging my 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS compact. I get 32mpg on the highway consistently and 23mpg in the city. I beat the sticker, which says 22 city, 30 highway, IIRC. But I am more than happy with that kind of mileage.

    2011 Ford Fiesta S sedan

    But the Fiesta and Mazda 2 subcompacts would beat that, yes, but comparing the size of the Fiesta sedan and the Lancer GTS, I just get enough extra sq. footage in the Lancer to make things more comfortable. I would need to test drive a Fiesta sedan to tell you for sure, but man, just leaning over to look inside the Fiesta, it is small in there! And I would buy the sedan, the hatchback would really feel like it's closing in on me I think.

    2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS

  • stickguystickguy Posts: 13,584
    well, if you will go a little larger (and don't need a hatch, I may have lost track of your needs here!) take a look at the new elantra. I drove one the other day, and it was extremely nice. And rated at 40 hwy, and some reports make that seem entirely reasonable.

    I am pretty sure the stick will be on the base model, so $ wise it will be cheap.

    and if you like the current model, they are having a fire sale on those!

    2013 Acura RDX (wife's), 2007 Volvo S40 (when daughter lets me see it), 2000 Acura TL (formerly son's, now mine again), and new Jetta SE (son's first new car on his own dime!)

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