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Thursday Throwdown: 2014 Subcompact Cars

In today’s Thursday Throwdown, we are going to look at subcompact cars from the 2014 model year. These are often the entry level vehicle for first-time buyers and are also popular second cars for commuters looking to save fuel and money. Whatever the reason for owning one, subcompacts are a fast-growing segment of the new and used car markets.

Subcompact cars can be segmented into two basic categories: electrified and standard. For our purposes, we’ll keep them together in one bunch, but will note which are hybrid or plug-in offerings and which are not. Battery-electric and fuel-cell cars are not included on this list if they are not sold nationally. We have rated the cars based on their most popular sales package (trim level, options) and include some information on other options available for the car.

Because the focus of most buyers in the subcompact market is on cost-of-ownership (including new purchase price, fuel economy, and reliability), safety, and daily use, these metrics are our primary rating points. Although we use the new purchase price for the car here, it’s likely that these models will be available as used subcompact cars as well, so check out the CARFAX Used Car Listings and vehicle histories if you are in the market for a subcompact car.

Side-by-Side Comparison Chart Top Picks

2014 Subcompact Cars New $ MPG Safety (of 10)
Fiat 500 $21,941 31/40 7
Honda CR-Z $21,977 31/38 9
Kia Rio $15,995 27/37 9
Mazda Mazda2 $16,115 29/35 5
Mitsubishi Mirage $14,746 34/42 7
Toyota Prius c $21,076 53/46 9

2014 Top Subcompact Picks

Lowest Entry Price: Mitsubishi Mirage
Best Fuel Economy: Toyota Prius c
Quietest Ride: Fiat 500, Toyota Prius c
Most Refined Overall: Kia Rio, Mazda Mazda2
Most Refined Interior: Kia Rio
Most Fun To Drive: Honda CR-Z

2014 Chevrolet Sonic

2014 Chevrolet Sonic 5DR LT leftside daycare 4 AOA800px
Smooth and comfortable, the Chevrolet Sonic is one of the larger subcompacts on our list. It has a good price point and average fuel economy for the segment, but offers more room and two engine and three transmission options – unusual for cars in this category. Our numbers here reflect the base 1.8 liter engine and five-speed manual transmission. A turbocharged four-cylinder option with a six-speed manual transmission raises the price tag, but also the MPGs.

2014 Chevrolet Sonic
Average price paid new: $18,533
EPA MPG (city/highway): 26/35 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Chevrolet Spark

Image via Paul Balze.
Image via Paul Balze.

Where the Sonic is a subcompact car, the Spark is a sub-subcompact commuter with a very small size, good fuel economy, and a tiny price tag. It also has one of the smallest engines on our list, but gets around well in urban environments. On the highway, however, it is loud and slow to pick up speed, which may be drawbacks for some potential buyers.

2014 Chevrolet Spark
Average price paid new: $15,000
EPA MPG (city/highway): 31/39 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 4-Stars

2014 Fiat 500

Image via Joseph Brent.
Image via Joseph Brent.

Although big in price by comparison to some contemporaries, the Fiat 500 is also big on style. The interior is not the most luxurious, but it’s one of the quietest (in coupe form). A fun, stylish, eye-catching vehicle, the 500 is a car to be proud of. The Turbo and Abarth model options upgrade performance but sacrifice MPGs while the 500e electric is available in limited areas.

2014 Fiat 500
Average price paid new: $21,941
EPA MPG (city/highway): 31/40 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 4-Stars

2014 Ford Fiesta

2014 Ford Fiesta 1

A nimble, well-tuned, and pretty little car, the Ford Fiesta is a popular choice in the subcompact market. It offers a good value proposition for the money spent, but does so in a field where many competitors offer much the same. Some rival offerings are competitive on all fronts at a lower price point. Edmunds named the 2014 Fiesta the Best Hatchback for the Money when in its five-door model format.

2014 Ford Fiesta
Average price paid new: $18,624
EPA MPG (city/highway): 27/38 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 4-Stars

2014 Honda CR-Z

One of only a couple of hybrids on our list, the Honda CR-Z is also one of the sportiest here. Its hefty price tag returns good fuel economy along with great performance and handling. Its two-seat hatchback design and relatively small interior are drawbacks, however, and some might expect higher fuel economy from a hybrid of this diminutive size.

2014 Honda CR-Z
Average price paid new: $21,977
EPA MPG (city/highway): 31/38 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 4-Stars

2014 Hyundai Accent

Image via Rosewoman.
Image via Rosewoman.

A nice overall package, the Hyundai Accent has a good value proposition for its refinement and performance, though its sister-company’s rival, the Kia Rio, is somewhat better on those counts. Good power, a low cost of entry, and one of the best warranties offered mean that the Accent is a good option.

2014 Hyundai Accent
Average price paid new: $16,509
EPA MPG (city/highway): 27/38 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Acceptable, NHTSA – 4-Stars

2014 Kia Rio

Image via Abdullah AlBargan.
Image via Abdullah AlBargan.

One of our top picks on several fronts, the Kia Rio is an excellent mixture of value, fuel economy, and safety. It holds one of the top safety ratings of the subcompacts on our list and offers a good mix of refinement and exterior appeal for the dollars spent. The Rio also has one of the longest warranties in the class and a peppy four-cylinder engine that offers plenty of power for both city and highway driving.

2014 Kia Rio
Average price paid new: $15,995
EPA MPG (city/highway): 27/37 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 4-Stars

2014 Mazda Mazda2

The Mazda2 is fun to drive and has a low price point to attract buyers. Although not as well-refined in its interior as some higher-priced options, the Mazda2 delivers an overall good value in look and feel for the money paid.

2014 Mazda Mazda2
Average price paid new: $16,115
EPA MPG (city/highway): 29/35 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Acceptable, NHTSA – Not rated

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage

Image via Michael Gil.
Image via Michael Gil.

The Mirage ranks in our list because of its very low price of entry and its high fuel economy. New car buyers that opt for the Mitsubishi Mirage are generally split between the manual and the automatic transmission choice, which is a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The three-cylinder Mirage’s primary problem is that it’s generally underpowered when more than one person is in the car, but much of this is made up for with the manual transmission’s increased driver control. It also features a very tight turning radius and high visibility for the driver, making getting around in urban environments far easier.

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
Average price paid new: $14,746
EPA MPG (city/highway): 34/42 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – Not rated

2014 Nissan Versa

2014 Nissan Versa Note - gasstation 1 - AOA1200px

This is the top-selling car in the subcompact segment and there are many good reasons for this. The Nissan Versa is a good size, seating five, and the Versa Note, which is slightly larger hatchback model, adds to that versatility. Cost of entry is good and not very high, considering that the Versa and Versa Note are split roughly 50/50 in sales volumes. Fuel economy is low, however, as is interior refinement and ride quality. Despite this the Versa does enjoy the number one spot at Kelley Blue Book for resale value, which attests to its ability to retain value.

2014 Nissan Versa
Average price paid new: $15,610
EPA MPG (city/highway): 27/36 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 4-Stars

2014 Scion iQ

The Scion iQ is one of the smallest cars on our list, yet has only average fuel economy returns to show for it. Its relatively high cost of entry also kept it from becoming a top pick on our rundown list above. It does, however, enjoy a very good crash test reputation and, thanks to its size, excellent in-town maneuverability as well as good acceleration.

2014 Scion iQ
Average price paid new: $17,845
EPA MPG (city/highway): 36/37 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 4-Stars

2014 Scion xD

A popular choice for its right-size and value, the Scion xD nevertheless does not return the high fuel economy some may expect from a subcompact car. It makes up for the lower economy with peppier performance than many rivals. It has both a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic transmission option, either of which is a good choice. This car enjoys the number three spot on the Kelley Blue Book list of subcompacts for resale value.

2014 Scion xD
Average price paid new: $17,059
EPA MPG (city/highway): 27/33 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – Not rated

2014 Toyota Prius c

Image via Wiki Commons.
Image via Wiki Commons.

With the highest fuel economy on our list, the Prius c is an attractive little car with a lot going for it. Great color options, a quiet and well-tuned ride, and relatively high power output make this a great choice for many buyers. The chief drawback for the Prius c is its high price point.

2014 Toyota Prius c
Average price paid new: $21,076
EPA MPG (city/highway): 53/46 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 4-Stars

2014 Toyota Yaris

The Yaris is relatively expensive for the interior quality and slightly above average fuel economy. It enjoys a reputation for its reliability and longevity, however, and ranks number two on the Kelley Blue Book resale values list for this segment.

2014 Toyota Yaris
Average price paid new: $16,605
EPA MPG (city/highway): 30/37 mpg
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 4-Stars

About the Safety Ratings

Safety ratings from the government’s tests are given for each vehicle on our list. Insurance tests are given below that.

NHTSA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is tasked with crash testing vehicles for the federal government; it rates vehicles with up to five stars in each of three categories. We list them as follows: Overall Rating – Frontal Crash/Side Crash/Rollover. You can find out more about the NHTSA’s testing procedures here.

IIHS
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a not-for-profit cooperative among automotive insurers that tests vehicles aimed at guiding insurance rates and risks for vehicles and to give consumers a better understanding of the safety of the vehicles they purchase.

The IIHS scores on five separate tests which measure crash worthiness and crash avoidance. Scores are rated as Good, Acceptable, Marginal or Poor. We present these as G, A, M, P or N (not tested) in the IIHS presentation standard in order of testing:

  • Moderate Overlap Front
  • Small Overlap Front
  • Side Impact
  • Rear Crash Protection
  • Roof Strength

You can find out more about the IIHS’s testing here.

In the CARFAX Thursday Throwdown, we compare vehicles in a particular class on important merits including safety, performance, and look and feel. Our goal is to highlight not only the excellence that automakers bring to the table in various categories, but also how these vehicles compare and how they appeal to different buyers within their markets. 

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