As gasoline prices creep closer to $4 a gallon nationwide, fuel economy has become a paramount concern for most drivers. Consumer Reports has tested a fleet of new, small-cars looking for those that deliver good all-around performance. And the results show it is not smart to buy based on brand reputation alone.
With its nimble handling and well-equipped cabin, the Kia Rio EX outpointed the Hyundai Accent and Chevrolet Sonic as the top-rated subcompact sedan in Consumer Reports' latest tests. The Rio's hatchback version scored lower, but it sits firmly in third place behind the previously tested and higher-rated Honda Fit and Nissan Versa SL among the subcompact hatchbacks tested with automatic transmissions.
"Subcompact cars were once collectively known as 'penalty boxes' for their noisiness, rudimentary interiors, uncomfortable rides, and weak performance. But now improved redesigns, combined with affordable prices and impressive fuel economy, make a number of subcompact models good all-around choices for people looking to stretch their budget," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center.
The new Chevrolet Sonic is a relatively refined model that offers a quiet cabin for the class, agile handling, and excellent braking. But our testers found the Sonic's fuel economy is mediocre in this segment. We also tested a top-level Sonic LTZ hatchback with a turbo engine and a manual transmission, but it was expensive at nearly $20,000, and didn't live up to its sporty aspirations.
The Hyundai Accent GLS sedan and Accent SE hatchback were not overly fancy, but they hit the mark for basic, sensible transportation and are good values. Fuel economy also approaches the best in this class.
Rounding out the latest test group were the unimpressive redesign of the Nissan Versa sedan and the perennially low-scoring Toyota Yaris hatchback--both scored too low to be recommended. Prices for the test group range from the Nissan Versa's $15,490 to the Sonic LTZ hatchback's $19,870.