If you are OK with a firm noisy ride, Honda Fit is an excellent choice for a practical fun-to-drive subcompact. Nothing can beat the Fit on space efficiency. What is interesting about this car is that the rear seat cushions flip up allowing you to fit even a flat-screen TV between the front and rear seats. The Fit is reliable and good on gas. The 2007 Honda Fit is rated at 27/35 mpg city/highway (8.7/6.7 L/100 km). Full review
The Versa is spacious and fuel efficient subcomapct. It comes as a sedan or hatchback, with a 1.6-liter or 1.8-liter engine. The most common trim level on the used car market is the 1.8S with a 4-speed automatic transmission. It’s rated at 24/32 MPG (9.8/7.4 L/100 km) city/highway. The Versa is simple and easy to maintain. Read more
Another fuel-efficient subcompact, the Yaris is available as a three- or five-door hatchback or four-door sedan. It rides comfortably and is surprisingly roomy, although you won’t be impressed with the interior quality. The 2009 Yaris with an automatic transmission is rated at 29/35 mpg (8.1/6.7 L/100 km). It is very maneuverable and easy to park. Toyota Yaris is rated above average for reliability and with proper care, it shouldn’t give you too many problems. Maintenance costs are pretty low too.
Despite its age, this model is still popular as a low-priced fuel-efficient commuter. It’s a very simple and reliable car that is easy to maintain. The Corolla rides softly and has a comfortable interior. The EPA rates the 2001 Corolla with a 4-speed automatic transmission at 26/36 mpg or 9.0/6.5 liters per hundred kilometers. Full review
The seventh-generation Honda Civic is another good choice for a simple inexpensive starter car. It’s good on gas and has a comfortable interior. The ride is firm, but not punishing. The Civic has a very good engine and is very reliable. It also scored well in the government crash tests. The EPA rates the 2003 automatic Honda Civic at 26/34 mpg or 9.0/6.9 L/100 km. Read more
Pontiac Vibe is a GM twin of the Toyota Matrix with the same reliable Toyota powertrain. The Vibe is very economical, practical and easy to maintain. It offers plenty of headroom and a flat cargo floor. The 2006 Pontiac Vibe with an automatic transmission is rated at 25/31 mpg or 9.4/7.6 L/100 km by the EPA.
The Matrix is a practical wagon with a roomy interior and easy handling. With good headroom in the front and back, It is a great car for tall people. It also offers plenty of cargo space and the rear seats fold flat. The cargo floor is covered by the easy-to-clean plastic. Fuel economy is good for a wagon. The 2012 Matrix auto is rated at 26/32 mpg or 9.0/7.4 L/100 km The base 1.8L engine is not very strong, but adequate for daily driving. Read full review
The Maxima is a sporty firm-riding sedan with good handling and a powerful V6. Rare for a V6 car, the Maxima is also available with a stick shift. With the 2004 redesign though, the reliability dropped; automatic transmission problems in the 2004-2006 Maxima are fairly common. For 2007, the CVT became the only transmission option. Overall, it’s a fast sporty car, but repairs are expensive. Opt for the 2007 or newer model. The 2007 Maxima is rated at 19/25 mpg or 12.4/9.4 L/100 km.
Mazda RX8 has a rotary engine that readlines at 9000 rpms. The RX8 handles very good, but to get to the power, you have to rev the engine very high. Overall it’s a nice, very unique car, however, it’s not a very good choice to buy used, especially with high mileage. The rotary engine is not very durable and is picky to the maintenance and oil quality. Fuel economy is a big minus too. The 2009 Mazda RX8 manual is rated at 16/22 mpg or 14.7/10.7 L/100 km city/highway.