Big Savings in a Small Package: The case for subcompact cars

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, you have a plethora of choices these days. For cars, you have full sedans (Toyota Avalon), mid-size (Honda Accord), compact (Ford Focus) and subcompact (Mazda 2). For SUV’s you also have pretty much the same categories, from the biggest (Chevy Suburban) to one of the smallest (Mini Cooper Countryman) and a lot of in-betweeners, like the RAV-4 and the Subaru Forrester.

The biggest question though, is how much you’re willing to spend. Do you have the cheese for a badass SUV or are you as broke as a college kid on a student loan? Your budget will determine what vehicle you drive in the end. It always does. One other important factor is you. Ask yourself these questions first:

  • Are you single or do you have four kids and their gear to lug around?
  • Do you need a lot of cargo space?
  • Fuel efficiency or speed and power?
  • Spartan utility or a fancy ride?
  • Can you parallel park and are you comfortable maneuvering a vehicle in tight places?
  • How many years would you be willing to pay for your ride?

The case for Subcompacts

So, if you got the resources and you need a lot of space to haul people and gear, go get yourself an SUV. If you want the driving dynamics of a car better, go for a full or mid-sized sedan. But if you’re on a tight budget and want more value for your money, then you may want to re-think your strategy go get yourself a compact.

But if you really don’t want to spend more than $16k on a car and you like small stuff, then you should consider getting a subcompact. The subcompact car segment was resurrected because of a clamor for cheaper automobiles with smaller engines. Smaller engines on a smaller body meant that these cars were more fuel efficient than their bigger brothers. Well, it’s not always the case. With the advent of new engine technology, some of the compacts now are even more fuel efficient than ever.

For example, an automatic transmission equipped Chevy Spark is rated at 30/39 mpg/cty/hwy. Pretty awesome, right? Then a Mazda 3 rolls around, also equipped with an automatic transmission and gets 30/40 mgp/cty/hwy. Bummer! The Mazda 3 is bigger, has more cargo space and can haul 5 adults. When choosing a subcompact, always check fuel efficiency ratings because it defeats the purpose if it guzzles more gas than a bigger car.

Engines, Trims and Safety

With the subcompact segment heating up, car makers are out-doing each other in available trims and engines. Some subcompacts, like the Honda Fit, come standard with a 130 hp engine, which is pretty fast for a small car in this segment. Other subcompacts, like the Fiesta ST and the Spark Turbo, are a driver’s dream because of fast and furious engines and better driving dynamics.

When it comes to accessories, everything else comes standard nowadays, thanks to well equipped cars like the Mazda 2 GS and the Hyundai Accent. These cars have a low price tag and are loaded with goodies inside and out.

One caveat when you’re considering a subcompact is safety. Smaller cars aren’t rated all that high in safety tests, and passengers in a small car are at a disadvantage in a collision with a larger vehicle. There’s just no room to add more crumple zones.

In a Nutshell

For the budget strapped, subcompacts are a very attractive option when compared to compacts. With a price tag that’s $2,000 – $3,000 cheaper than compacts; many people are jumping on the subcompact bandwagon. A minority here would be those who just want an extra car (and a novelty one at that) and have money to burn. But the vast majority of subcompact owners just want a car that can take them from point A to point B, with the occasional passenger in tow.

Personally, I’d be willing to add a little extra for the added safety, cargo space and bulk of a larger vehicle. But that’s just me.



Big Savings in a Small Package: The case for subcompact cars — 1 Comment

  1. My mom has a Nissan Cube and I have a Honda Civic. We looked at the smaller cars but we were both concerned about safety. We saw a ‘smart’ car smushed between two big trucks and well…didn’t really want one after that!

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