Sub-Compact Car reviews

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2019 Fiat 500 Abarth Driven

2019 Fiat 500 Abarth Driven

One last go in Fiat’s fun and spirited city car

The reborn, retro-chic, Fiat 500 first graced North American shores back in 2011 and now, eight years down the line, we got behind the wheel of the peppy Abarth version to get one final sting from the scorpion as the entire 500 range is being discontinued by Fiat-Chrysler. Prepare for some top-down driving as we assess whether we’ll miss the 500 for what it is or for its vibe akin to an endless summer holiday in the rolling hills of Tuscany.

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2020 Toyota Yaris

2020 Toyota Yaris

Toyota’s new Yaris looks more European than it ever did and that’s a good thing

The new Toyota Yaris is here and it means business. The new Yaris will embrace the carmaker’s TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform derivative known as GA-B. The TNGA is also found underneath the likes of Prius and Corolla, but it’s the first time that Toyota has used it to underpin a sub-compact vehicle. The new platform is also tweaked to support Toyota’s new fourth-generation, three-cylinder hybrid setup. Here’s every detail you want to know on the new Toyota Yaris.

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2019 Hyundai Kona

2019 Hyundai Kona

Entry level hatchback can be cute

The Kona is Hyundai’s smallest crossover, a quirky looking model that was conceived to challenge the established names in the subcompact niche like Mazda’s CX-3, the Toyota C-HR, and the Honda HR-V. Starting at little over $19,240, the Kona offers up to 175 horsepower although the base engine is far less powerful. The design is, if anything, divisive and the fuel consumption is on par with what the rivals come up with at 33 mpg highway.

Hyundai, like Citroen, is an adopter of the ’big-grille-and-narrow-headlights’ design language for some of its crossover SUV models and you can see that in the facial expression of the Kona that somewhat mimics its much larger brother, the eight-passenger Palisade. But that’s about as much as these two models share with the Kona being a budget offering, something you’ll see and feel in the cabin, although you now get more equipment in standard than you did with the 2018 MY.

The Kona is still a new model so judgment on its long-term reliability will have to wait but you may like to know that the Kona, both in hybrid and non-hybrid guise, was the recipient of the 2019 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year award making the Kona the first subcompact crossover to ever win this award. We drove a cherry red Kona to see if it deserves all the accolades and you can read more about it below.

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2019 Nissan Kicks

2019 Nissan Kicks

Nissan expands is CUV offerings with the new subcompact Kicks

The Kicks is Nissan’s smallest crossover offering in the United States, and it’s widely based on the 2014 Nissan Kicks Concept that debuted back in 2014 at the Sao Paulo International Auto Show. In essence, the new Kicks CUV is quite similar to the concept, and most of the design cues carry over. As always, the overall design has been toned down a bit because, well, the production models are never as good as the concepts. Major features include a floating roof with a “wrap-around visor,” a comprehensive infotainment system, and best-in-class rear passenger space.

Keno Kato, the Vice President of Product Planning for Nissan, said, “With Kicks, we have developed a compact crossover in the best Nissan tradition, and thanks to the unmatched experience we have in creating vehicles to meet the needs of car-buyers around the world, Kicks will offer best-in-class design, convenience, and technological innovation. And, it will demonstrate Nissan’s commitment to Nissan Intelligent Mobility. Kicks is a car to confidently take on the city.”

The Kicks replaced the Juke in the United States, but it’s not available in Europe as of 2019. Let’s find out more about this crossover in the review below.

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2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback

2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback

Bolder than ever, the Yaris is here to take on the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta

The 2020 Toyota Yaris is the fourth-generation version of the company’s popular hatchback. Previewed by the 2019 Yaris Sedan, the hatchback sports the same front fascia and side body panels, but drops the deck lid in favor of a shorter tailgate design. Now more aggressive on the outside, the Yaris boasts a more upscale interior packed with new technology and revised upholstery. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder carries over from the outgoing model, but it mates to a new transmission.

The fourth-generation Yaris arrives just in time to take on a batch of recently redesigned hatchbacks. The Kia Rio was redesigned for the 2017 model year, while both the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta were overhauled for the 2018 model year. The Yaris is the only hatchback from this list to come to the United States, so it will take a large share of the market. In Europe, however, the Yaris will face some stiff competition.

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2021 Honda Jazz

2021 Honda Jazz

A fourth-gen subcompact from the H Badge

Honda is testing an all-new Jazz subcompact hatchback, also known as the Fit in some markets. It’s the fourth generation for the nameplate and it looks like it will retain the wedge-nosed one-box design of its predecessors, albeit with a slightly sportier design twist.

The camouflaged prototype spotted by our spies reveals quite a lot about the car, which is slated for a reveal no earlier than 2020, since the refreshed version of the current model only came out last year. Aside from the completely new and slightly more rakish-looking body, changes will be made to its powerplant lineup and interior. The hybrid version may share its powertrain with the new Insight.

Update 04/4/2019: The 2021 Honda Jazz was caught out in the wild again and, while it hasn’t dropped a lot of camo, we can make out a few subtle differences. Check out what we know in the Spy Shots section below!

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2020 Audi S3

2020 Audi S3

Audi is in the final stages of testing and refining its upcoming A3 hatchback, as well as the hot S3 version of it. It’s not clear when the new S3 may debut, but it will probably be at a major motor show sometime in 2019 - we’ve heard rumors that Audi is ditching the three-door model and will only sell its hatch as either a five-door or sedan.

The model, in true Audi fashion, looks like an evolution of the current model, and the only real giveaway that the vehicle spotted by our spies is the spiced up S3 is the fact that it has those quad exhausts in the back; it also looks as if its fenders are wider than what we saw in previous spy shots of the regular A3, but we can’t say for sure due to the use of psychedelic camo.

Power for the next S3 will most likely come from a development of the same four-cylinder turbo that motivates the current model which may get a modest horsepower increase. Electrification of some kind is not out of the question either, as Audi has announced its commitment to bringing it more models - maybe even performance models.

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2018 Volkswagen Golf Estate TGI GMOTION

2018 Volkswagen Golf Estate TGI GMOTION

Adding spice to a CNG five-door

The annual GTI Fest at Lake Worthersee in Austria is currently underway, and per tradition, Volkswagen is bringing along a pair of custom rides built by a select group of apprentices to show off the next generation’s skill set. In addition to the GTI Next Level that we featured earlier this week, there’s also this spruced-up five-door wagon dubbed the GMOTION, intended to bring a combination of “sporting character, elegance, and off-road capabilities.”

Continue reading to learn what makes the Volkswagen Golf Estate TGI GMOTION special.

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New Toyota Aygo Can Overtake the VW Up! and Hyundai i10 in Europe but Has Little Chance Against Fiat

New Toyota Aygo Can Overtake the VW Up! and Hyundai i10 in Europe but Has Little Chance Against Fiat

Better watch out, Volkswagen and Hyundai

It’s not the fanciest or most powerful car in the world, but the Toyota Aygo is present and accounted for at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. Toyota’s little munchkin of a hatchback is packing serious visual and technical updates, fitting for a car that was in need of a mid-life refresh. The updates range from the prominent to the obscure. All told, they make for an impressive-looking hatchback that should help the Aygo gain ground on models like the Volkswagen Up! and Hyundai i10.

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2017 Abarth 695 Rivale

2017 Abarth 695 Rivale

Special edition Abarth 695 joins the 695 Rivale 175 Anniversary in honoring yacht-maker’s long and storied history

The Abarth 500 has been on the receiving end of some interesting special edition models in the past. We’ve seen the Abarth 695 Biposto Record, the 595 Yamaha Factory Racing Edition, and the 500 Track Experience, among others. None of them, though, can lay claim to the title of being the “most sophisticated Abarth ever.” That distinction, according to Abarth itself, now rests on the shoulders of the 695 Rivale Special Edition.

Developed specifically to celebrate the company’s close ties to yacht maker Riva, the 695 Rivale is the physical embodiment of the premium luxury that goes into the craft of building those sea vessels. Safe to say, that “most sophisticated Abarth ever” title fits the 695 Rivale. It’s inundated with aesthetic features that shine a big spotlight on the nautical theme of the compact car. Inside and out, the 695 Rivale is decked to the brim with luxury, the kind you expect from any one of the yachts that Riva has built in its 175-year history. The special edition Abarth 695 doesn’t pack any power or performance upgrades, but that’s an inconsequential omission when you compare it to the quantity and quality of cosmetic additions given to the hot hatch. There’s no word yet on how many models Abarth plans to build of the 695 Rivale, but another special edition model, the Abarth 695 Rivale 175th Anniversary, is limited to just 350 units, divided into 175 units for the coupe model and another 175 for the cabriolet version.

Update 02/21/2018: Our friend Cyril stopped by a showroom in Paris and snapped a few shots of the Abarth 695 Rivale. Check them out in the gallery below!

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2018 Kia Rio - Driven

2018 Kia Rio - Driven

The humble hatchback goes highbrow for 2018

Ask anyone to think of the Kia Rio, and first recollections generally include its overall cheapness and lack of desirability. Well, Kia has worked hard to changes that for 2018, moving the humble hatchback up-market while actually dropping its base price. Is it too good to be true? To find out, I spent a week with the new 2018 Kia Rio 5-Door equipped in its range-topping EX trim.

It’s worth knowing the 2018 Rio isn’t technically new. In fact, it rides on the same platform as before and uses the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder. However, that’s where the similarities stop. The car has been slightly lengthened and widened, and the naturally aspirated engine gets improvements in efficiency and drivability. Of course, the 2018 Rio’s appearance is different, too. The new car looks more upscale than before, both outside and inside.

Let’s have a look at Kia’s most affordable model.

Continue reading for more on the 2018 Kia Rio 5-Door.

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2017 Fiat 500C - Driven

2017 Fiat 500C - Driven

Tiny, topless Italian

Dated and diminutive it may be, but the Fiat 500 remains a frugal and fun — and tiny — car. Adding a canvas top to the pint-size Cinquecento just increases the smiles-per-gallon it generates.

As a cheap-and-cheerful commuter, the Fiat 500 has long been a favorite of mine for its European style and driving characteristics. Among cars in its price range, the little Italian remains near the top of my fun-to-drive list. The Fiat 500C has even more charm thanks to its fully retractable roof.

For 2017, Fiat simplified the 500 lineup to just three trims: base-level Pop, leather-trimmed Lounge, and sporty Abarth. All are available with the “C” designation, which stands for “Cabrio.” In prior years, there were twice as many trims available. Most of the equipment from those additional trims is still available in the options list.

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