With gas prices steadily rising and car maintenance bills on the rise, thrifty subcompact cars are back in demand. Toyota and Nissan joined the segment in 2007 when they released the Yaris and Versa, respectively.
Both the Toyota Yaris and the Nissan Versa have been redesigned in recent years -- but which offers the biggest bang for the lowest buck?
What the Yaris Gets Right
The styling of the Yaris is fairly refined for a subcompact entry-level vehicle, and its standard features are more than most buyers would expect from a car in its price range. Additionally, the Yaris has a generous 15.3 cubic-feet of cargo space.
Under the hood, the Yaris carries a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that puts down 106 horsepower and gets as much as 30 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. Additionally, the Yaris hits 60 mph in a quick-for-its-class 9.3 seconds.
What the Versa Gets Right
The Versa also features fairly sleek design, and its base MSRP is far lower than its closest competitors. A big surprise is in store for back-seat riders, as they enjoy 37 inches of leg room -- 3.7 inches more than the Yaris.
Under the hood, the Versa has a 109-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that hooks up to a standard five-speed manual transmission. As an option, buyers can get a continuously variable transmission or a four-speed automatic. Manual Versas return 27 mpg city and 36 mpg highway; the automatic drops to 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway; the CVT, meanwhile, increases mileage to 31 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.
Why Buy a Yaris?
The Versa has a definite edge on the Yaris, but the Yaris still has plenty to offer. First of all, it's much quicker than the Versa. And it you exclude the CVT model, the Yaris is more fuel efficient across the board. Finally, ample cargo room and easy loading could be a deciding factor for customers who choose the Yaris.
Verdict: Nissan Versa
The name of the subcompact game is low pricing and excellent fuel economy, and the Versa certainly runs away in both categories with its super-low base price and peak fuel economy of 40 mpg highway. To help sweeten the deal, Nissan adds a surprisingly spacious rear seat.