Battle of the minicars: Yaris vs. Fit vs. Versa
New sub-subcompacts from Japan's Big Three offer high quality and big utility in a tiny package.
NEW YORK (MONEY magazine) -- Used to be, buying a small car meant getting the runt of a good automaker's litter or dealing with a manufacturer that had little regard for quality, reliability or even solvency. Either way, you were likely to drive off the lot in a rickety ride that would only hold itself together until, naturally, the warranty ran out.
So it's refreshing to see the latest crop of "microcars" showing up at dealers. For starters, they come from good families: Honda, Nissan and Toyota, manufacturers that know a thing or two about quality and reliability (and that are tired of seeing younger buyers flock to inexpensive models from upstart Korean manufacturers such as Kia and Daewoo). Added bonuses include interiors that don't look as if they were designed by a prison warden, great mileage and the ability to swallow a ridiculous amount of cargo.
Plus, with an average sticker price of $13,000, they're priced right.
Here's the other thing about small cars now: They're cool. In an age of high fuel prices, owning one -- whether it's your second vehicle or it's for your kid --doesn't carry the same stigma it once did. Owners of Yugos and Le Cars used to have to park blocks away from where they were actually going, lest someone see them behind the wheel. But in the wake of the wildly successful Mini Cooper, pulling up in a Toyota Yaris, a Nissan Versa or a Honda Fit is the perfect way to show you're smart, hip and ecofrugal.
At least that's how I felt while driving all three in and around New York this spring. Read on to see how they stack up against one another -- and against their bigger, pricier brothers
Gallery: Battle of the Minicars
Gallery: History of minicars