Which of These Cars is Best for Me?
March 12, 2009 2:47 AM   Subscribe

The batmonkeymobile was in an accident today (everyone's ok) and will be totaled. My last car-buying attempt worked out splendidly and I want to repeat it, but I'm having a harder time figuring out which makes/models will best fulfill my desire to have car happiness many years into the future. Can you help?

batmonkeymobile is was an '02 Hyundai Accent 4dr GLS (basic sedan) with a manual transmission. Other than idle pondering, it wasn't my intention to replace her anytime soon. Now I have to, but I don't want to give up the things that made me love her. I did a ton of research today and think I have my candidates.

These are the cars I have it narrowed down to:
Honda Fit
Toyota Yaris
Hyundai Elantra GLS

I'll mostly use the car for errands, monthly trips to nearby cities and the occasional distant spot, like NOLA or Las Vegas (admittedly, at some point in the future, I may be using it for commuting but currently work at home). I also sometimes go camping and driving in less urban areas, so anything addressing that would be helpful.

My two questions:
Which of those three would you/did you choose?
If you already have/had one of these cars, what year is it and what is your experience with it so far?

Cars I've ruled out:
Scions, Kias, Mazdas, Mitsubishis, Nissans, Fords, Suzuki, Subaru
posted by batmonkey to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I drive an 02 Toyota Echo which is an old Toyota Yaris for all practical purposes. We bought it because of the great gas mileage (back when gas first when above 1.20) and I'm glad we did. We have used it for everything including a cross-country camping trip and haven't been displeased.

Although the car looks small it is very comfortable and I've been told this by very picky people that had to sit in the back seat for 5 hours. I think the Yaris is actually a little bigger in the back than the Echo.

We have had our Echo since 03 and we have done the following to it: replaced clutch (we both learned to drive a clutch on this car) and replaced muffler (from rustiness) That's it.

If our Echo was totaled and I wanted a newer car I would definitely look at the Yaris or Prius.
posted by aetg at 3:47 AM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: I've enjoyed the various Yaris' I've driven, we had 5 adults packed into a 4-door model for 5-6 hours, and though it wasn't super-comfortable, it was doable. I also had a Matrix for a while, which is a bit more, but has additional room.
posted by defcom1 at 4:08 AM on March 12, 2009

I'm curious why you ruled out the Nissan Versa. I was in the market 2 years back and looking at exactly the same vehicles you are, and I went with the Versa due to it having a 6 speed manual (all others were only 5 speed) and having the roomiest interior in its class.

I was quite happy with the car for the year that I drove it.
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:06 AM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: I can't say enough about the 07 or newer Elantra. I was amazed that at 6'4" I could fit comfortably in it. I also blasted across Texas with the A/C cranked at 75 mph and still got 38 mpg. My wife has an older model and reliability wise it hasn't had a single hiccup.
posted by sanka at 5:24 AM on March 12, 2009

not sure if you ruled it out, but about a year a go i was looking at roughly the same cars as you, and i ended up getting a Honda Civic. I couldn't be happier with it. Plus comfort level wise it was beyond any other cars in the class I test drove. Just my 2 cents.
posted by pyro979 at 5:39 AM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: Between those three, the Fit, but I would definitely buy a used Civic or Corolla first.
posted by box at 5:46 AM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: I recently bought a used Yaris Verso (2000) after intially considering an ordinary Yaris. It look a bit weird (bubblecar!) but is much more spacious without much increase in the footprint. I'm finding it reliable and pretty nice to drive, and it's positively cavernous inside with the seats down if you ever need to shift large amounts of stuff. Er, I'm in the UK though - not sure if the Verso is available in the US?
posted by jzed at 5:50 AM on March 12, 2009

I love my 08 Civic. I was pleasantly surprised when I had to do the 1st oil change; the oil drain plug and (more importantly) the oil filter were right there. There was no reaching around the engine or removal of trim to get to them. I initially went with the Civic because of the interior, as the other cars I was looking at in the price range looked and felt really cheap on the inside in comparison. I consistently get 38 mpg at 70+ mph. About the only thing negative I have to say about it, is that the center console armrest is a smidge too low for me.

I don't know if you've found this or not, but here is a side-by-side of your 3 picks, a new Accent, and a Civic, all in manual transmission.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:33 AM on March 12, 2009

I have never owned any of these cars but I can give you advise on how to get the best deal.

You need to find 3 dealers for each model you are interested in. See what they have on their lots and make them fight over your business. Also do not buy the car the same day you see it. Walk away and sleep on it. This will drive the dealers nuts. If they do sell the car who cares. You got 3 models to choose from.

Good luck.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:39 AM on March 12, 2009

Choosing from those models, and your happiness with your previous Hyundai, I'd get the Hyundai.
posted by gjc at 7:03 AM on March 12, 2009

Consumer Reports basically gives a tie to the Elantra and the Fit, with the Yaris lagging because of reliability and performance issues. All have similar total costs of ownership. But you can't really go wrong with any of those cars. Hyundai's reliability has gotten much better and they have a fantastic warranty, Hondas and Toyotas run forever. Just pick the one you like the best.
posted by electroboy at 7:25 AM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: We have a 2008 Fit Sport, and we love it. It may look like and be priced like a compact economy car, but it's got the room of a minivan inside and the handling of something much sportier. It's a pretty incredible combination of inexpensive, practical and fun.
posted by eschatfische at 7:28 AM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: We love our 2007 Fit Sport. When we bought it, we looked at the Yaris, but felt like (1) it felt really cheap/cheesy, and (2) it cost about the same after adding safety features (all standard on the Honda).

Honda and Toyota tend to have lower cost of ownership than Hyuandai, but none of these are bad choices. Test drive them and see how they feel.
posted by JMOZ at 8:28 AM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: I got a 2009 Honda Fit in August 2008. My very first NEW car purchase, done after much research and nervousness. I've been overjoyed with it so far. It's a huge MPG saver (I average 32-38 with mostly in city driving. I've had a couple 40+ MPG tanks before it got cold) and all the foldable seat options are great for shopping trips/stuff, or in my case, hauling my boyfriend's wheelchair around without tearing it apart. :) The engine also got much more responsive/peppier after the first thousand miles or so, a common occurance with small Hondas, if that makes any difference. I am quite happy with my Fit. <3
posted by ninjakins at 8:29 AM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: I chose the Fit over the Yaris and some of its other competitors back in 2007. Good steering and handling, good 4-channel ABS, well-designed interior, slightly less slow to accelerate (if you rev the engine high enough), generally more fun to drive, etc. The rear seats in the Honda fold down flat, giving just enough space for someone 6' tall to find a way to comfortably sleep in the car. The whole "magic seats" arrangement of the Fit works well for me. Only advantages of the Yaris I'm aware of are the lower base price (depending which options you want) and slightly better reported fuel efficiency.

I was biased in favour of the Fit since the first time I heard of it, when I searched the web and found that Car and Driver had claimed that Honda's little economy car was faster than a Z06 in their lane-change test. Not sure how meaningful that result really is, and it may not be all that relevant to ordinary driving, but it is nonetheless impressive and I believe it's representative of the outstanding job they did with the Fit in making a good compromise between performance, comfort, cargo space, economy, and everything else you might want in a car. So yeah, I like it.

Base model Fit vs. Fit Sport is another debate. Personally I took the base model, as you don't really get a whole lot in the way of things I care about with the Sport package. Maybe it's more worthwhile for those who for some reason prefer the automatic transmission, in which case you get those paddle-shifters. Better wheels/tires, some different body kit, and a better stereo are easy enough to add later if you want them, and then you can get better ones than those that come with the Sport (as of 2007). By now the Fit has a very good selection of aftermarket performance parts available. All I miss is the cruise control.

They've made many changes for the 2009 Fit, and I've no idea if they're for the better. It's slightly larger than the previous model, which for me is not an encouraging sign.

But really if you've narorwed it down to just 3 cars, there's not much point reading other people's opinions on the web; go test drive them and see what you like.
posted by sfenders at 8:36 AM on March 12, 2009

A friend of mine says that the Hyundai warranty did not live up to expectations for him and if it were me I would choose the Toyota or Honda. Both are great cars. I am also a huge new car fan now that they last for 200 thousand miles. In my opinion that totally negates the drive off premium if you are the type of person who keeps a car a long time. And on the Honda and Toyota the resale value is stupid high. Now I want a new car!
posted by snowjoe at 8:44 AM on March 12, 2009

From your list? Fit.
If you insist upon ruling out all Nissans, Suzukis and Mazdas, I guess I don't have much to add. I wouldn't rule them out because the Mazda3, Versa, and SX4 seem to fit your needs pretty well, but presumably you have your reasons.
posted by willpie at 9:00 AM on March 12, 2009

I am a toyota guy and will recommend toyota but honestly all three are very very good cars. That comes down to really taking a test drive of all three and deciding which one you liked the best.

I would also like to make a sugegstion of the scion brand of cars :)
posted by majortom1981 at 9:50 AM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: Before buying a Civic 2 years ago, I spent a while eyeing the Yaris and the Fit, and I have to say that the Fit is a really really nice car. I test drove one a few times and loved the feel of it, and if you're a camper, just go in and ask them to show you how the seats fold down and all that. You can fit damn near anything in that car, you might not use the space all the time, but when you need it, it's nice to have. I came away pretty unimpressed with the Yaris, I didn't like the feel of it, or the look really. But that's just me. As I said, I ended up buying a civic, mainly because I wanted something a little more sedan-ish and pretty.

Anyways, I vote for the fit.
posted by dnesan at 10:14 AM on March 12, 2009

Response by poster: Let's see...there was more off the cuff stuff regarding other vehicles than I'd anticipated, so I'll address those first:

My guidelines were price (which took out many of the cars you guys favoured over my options), reliability and performance scores (determined from consumer reports, edmunds, car & driver, and j.d. powers), overall cost of ownership (prior list), mpg (many fell to this, too), handling & braking (prior list + tons of other reviews from various sources via googling vehicles), and warranty & manufacturer support of same (reviews, reports, and manufacturer site comparisons). I'll definitely test drive once I get to that point in the process.

If I don't address your comment directly, please refer to above list for why the car you mentioned was ruled out. 12 hours of research narrowing down a starting field of 20 cars wasn't the most pleasant exercise, but at least I had the advantage of having done it before to get a great deal on a great car, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

namewithoutwords: you asked specifically, so the Versa was ruled out because of poor reliability scores compared to the vehicles remaining on the list, handling and clutch received a lot of flak, and cost was more than I was willing to pay for those concerns.

box: my experience with used cars (the three before this one) is that one ends up buying someone else's problem no matter how clean or careful that person was. since I've the option of new, I'm going with it.

jzed: Versos aren't available here, and now I'm sad to know that. I love bubbles.

argentcorvid: I did so many sidexside comps yesterday that my entire world is in text-filled columns today. but thank you. as a note, the Accent isn't on my list because ABS is not available, and the accident may have been prevented if we'd had that.

Mastercheddaar: I've got that part down, thanks, but I encourage any folks reading this thread in the future to attend to your advice.

gjc: well, I might, but the goal here is for me to not overlook other fine vehicles which may, in fact, be better than my prior choice.

electroboy: I like them all, which is why I'm here looking for personal recommendations.

sfenders: great stuff, but there's definitely a point in checking in with the experience others have had before heading out - all of the dry data and spoiled reviewer opinions in the world can't replace personal experience, and I trust this pool of braniacs.

majortom1981: scion (xD was the contender) was ruled out because the cost vs. performance, mpg, and features ratio was unfavourable.

Thanks so much for all of the great responses. This has helped a lot. If anyone else has anything to add after this point, feel free - I'll be checking in on this thread until the replacement vehicle is secured.
posted by batmonkey at 10:47 AM on March 12, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, how did I miss replying to snowjoe? Dag. Anyway:

My experience with the Hyundai warranty is that it's better than most but certainly not perfect - mostly because dealerships have a lot of leeway in service level. Anyone who is considering a Hyundai should do extensive research on the dealerships in their area and how well they fulfill their service obligations based on warranty.

Then again, I really didn't ever need to take her in very often. She went in once for a warranty-covered clutch repair which was absolutely free and would have cost $500+ without it. Everything else was apples even after 6 years of somewhat flakey maintenance, a cross-country drive, and an extreme number of 200+mi trips.
posted by batmonkey at 10:54 AM on March 12, 2009

When I was looking, I had the Fit on my list (great car, enjoyed the test drive), but not the Yaris or the Versa (or the Scion XD) because of poor reliability reports from Consumer Reports. (I ended up getting a Mazda3 Hatchback, which I love, but is pricier than the others). The new issue of Consumer Reports that just came out rated the Fit within its top 5.
posted by matildaben at 10:55 AM on March 12, 2009

I recently bought a car that is chiefly for commuting. During my car search, I drove both a Fit and a Yaris and if the choice was between the two, I'd have picked the Fit. The Yaris felt cheap and tiny, and my experience with Toyotas is that they're just "mushy" whereas Hondas are more rocket-sled-y. I liked the configurable seat inside of the Fit - more options for schlepping stuff if need be.

I also drove a Sentra, a Smart, a Civic and...something else I'm forgetting.

I bought a Mini Cooper because it wasn't much more than a full-of-all-the-toys Civic and it's WAY cool.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:22 PM on March 12, 2009

Noticed this today and thought of this thread. It's just a (very) brief endorsement of the Fit from a popular car blog.
posted by willpie at 1:35 PM on March 13, 2009

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