Let's face it, small cars are economical. They use less fuel and are less expensive to own when compared to SUVs. Nowadays, it just smart to own a small car. We've compiled a list of 10 hot small cars on the market today in terms of size, overall value for money, fun, and their effectiveness in an urban setting. Who says small cars don't have big hearts?
VW Rabbit: It seems fitting to start with the model that perhaps defined the small car -- for better or worse -- with its Mk 1 incarnation back in 1974. The much more successful 2006 model release boasts svelte dynamics with urban appeal, a 165ÔøΩ footprint and a fun driving experience alongside gas consumption of 22 and 29 mpg city and highway. Those wanting a little more power can opt for the dropped-grille GTi, which boasts a rich exhaust note and performance like few others in its class.
Toyota Yaris: Toyota's budget baby comes in liftback and sedan variants. The boldly designed hatch is ultra-compact with a footprint of just 150", with the sedan about 20" longer. A high-revving 1.5-liter engine across the model range contributes to impressive consumption of 34 to 40 mpg town and freeway. You won't find many frills in the basic, but both trims come in a sprightly "S" model that adds distinct touches such as halogen headlights and electro-glo interior lighting.
Ford Focus: Restyled inside and out for 2008, Ford's utilitarian compact looks to ape the success of its high-selling European brethren. Steering is light but its road-feel is assured, giving the impression you're driving a bigger car than its 175-inch length -- both sedan and coupe -- suggests. Some will love the wraparound grille and headlights and chunky rear styline, while others won't find them to their tastes. The base model has some kick to its acceleration, but it'll still get you 24 to 35 mpg city and highway, respectively.
smart fortwo: Finally you can see the much-hyped ultra-compact two-seater on U.S. roads, though demand is so high actually getting hold of one of these presents its own challenges. If you do, you'll find a footprint about the size of a fridge --it's just 106" long -- and a well-equipped interior including a six-disc CD player. Visibility is good from the high-up driving position. The rear-mounted 1 liter engine and curb weight of just over 1,800 pounds ensure a combined consumption of more than 50 mpg.
Chevrolet Aveo: Can you argue with the cheapest new car on the market today? Fit and finish is surprisingly high quality here for an MSRP that will attract first-time buyers and, as a result of its 24 to 34 mpg, the environmentally conscious. It's peppy around the city and its five-door hatch and subcompact sedan variants come in at 153" and 170", respectively, to help you out in those tight parking spaces.
Honda Fit: Honda's innovative and deservingly high-selling subcompact has opened up a new generation to small cars that are big on the inside, both in dimensions and quality. At just 157ÔøΩ long, there is a surprising amount of cargo space with the rear seats folded flat. The five-speed manual variant will give you 28 to 34 mpg city and freeway with the automatic delivering a shade less. The real winner here is the ergonomically sound interior and a quirky yet strong compact shell that blends both design and safety.
Kia Rio: It won't win many prizes for style but Kia's subcompact sedan also won't contribute much to a city's smoggy air -- it comes with a combined fuel consumption of 35 mpg. It's roomy inside for its 167" length and comes with one of the best warranties in the business (it's good for 100,000 miles). For buyers looking for a little more, the SX variant kicks its performance and styling up a notch.
Scion xD: Boldly styled with looks and handling that raise it above many of its competitors, the reworked xD's 1.8-liter engine is good for a combined 30 mpg. The five-door wagon's wide stance and high beltline suggest a heftier frame than its 154" length offers. Inside is as expected of Toyota's niche brand: innovative, highly geared toward customization but still ergonomically correct. Small windows do, however, impede visibility a little.
MINI Cooper: Just how much fun can you have in a micro-mini? Mini's BMW-tuned suspension and road feel are a great example of how replicating the past can also give a nod to the future. Its 34-40 mpg is forward-looking, too, both in terms of technology and planetary awareness, and its spacious cabin belies its 143" length. And if the base just isn't enough fun for you, there's always the Cooper S or convertible models to pick up any slack.
Nissan Versa: Heavily influenced by the success of European partner Renault in the small-car sector, Nissan brought out its multi-platform to capture sales in a burgeoning sector. Its five-door wagon and four-door sedan -- both powered by 1.8-liter engines -- come in at 169" and 175", respectively, and both deliver 26 and 31 mpg city and freeway in manual variants. Interior space and quality is good in both models, as are safety ratings, and the automatic offers the only six-speed transmission in its class.