2012 Lemon Aid New Car Reviews - Superminis

Superminis (referred to also as B-Segment cars) were once cramped, stark, slow and noisy. Those days are gone. Levels of comfort, cabin space, performance and refinement have increased to such an extent that for many people, there is no need to move beyond this segment unless you seek more space than they can provide. Desirable features such as air-conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors are either standard or optional on all of the cars in this category, with some cars offering luxury features like leather seating and navigation systems as well.

Popular in the 90s, this segment went dormant when the U.S. Market, which sets the trend for what vehicles are sold in Canada, soured on hatchbacks and small cars in general. The Toyota Echo (followed by the Yaris) and the Hyundai Accent were the sole cars in the segment for many years. The introduction of the Chevrolet Aveo in 2004 marked a rebirth of the segment, which now includes the Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500, Honda Fit, Hyundais Accent and Veloster, Kia Rio, Mazda 2, MINI Cooper, Nissan Versa, Scion iQ, Smart ForTwo and the Toyota Yaris.

The Fiat 500 has done well since introduction, exceeding sales targes in Canada, and, on a per capita basis, selling at the level Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne predicted for U.S. sales, which have been disastrous. Sales held steady for many cars in this segment, but the Mazda 2 sold like hotcakes (about 9000 units), while the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris dropped precipitously as their makers withdrew incentive supports from the imports built in high-cost Japan.

Vehicle debuts for 2012 include the introduction of the Mexican-built, Chrysler-distributed Fiat 500, the replacement of the Chevrolet Aveo by the Sonic, and all-new versions of the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and the Nissan Versa sedan. Scion's (Toyota), micro-car, the iQ, available in other markets for a few years, is now on sale in Canada. The big news for the Honda Fit is not the car, which has been out for a few years, but that it is the first Chinese-assembled car to be sold in Canada.

Vital safety features like side-curtain airbags, ABS and Electronic Stability Control (ESC), once reserved for luxury cars, are standard on most of the cars in this segment.

The better cars in this class are economical to operate, very reliable, and have excellent resale value. Unless you are a cash buyer, please pay attention to monthly payments, which are often as high as they are for more expensive cars in the next size class up. 

A note about mileage: The APA's posted fuel economy figures for 2012 differ from those published by the Canada EnerGuide. For 2012, the APA is using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA), numbers for fuel economy as they better reflect real-world fuel economy. For more information, read APA President George Iny's article regarding the inadequacies of the Canada EnerGuide test cycle

Chevrolet Sonic Honda Fit  Kia Soul  Nissan Versa 
Fiat 500  Hyundai Accent  Mazda 2 Scion IQ 
Ford Fiesta  Hyundai Veloster  MINI  smart fortwo 
Honda CR-Z  Kia Rio, Kia Rio 5 Mitsubishi i-MiEV  Toyota Yaris 

Chevrolet Sonic

Specifications

NEW

What’s new
The all-new Sonic is upscale from the superceded Aveo, and sits between the smaller Spark due for 2013 and the larger Cruze.

Comments
Built on a 45 mm (1.8 inch) longer wheelbase, the Sonic is 89 mm (3.5 inches [sedan]) to 119 mm (4.7 inches [hatchback]) longer, 25 mm (1 inch) wider and a bit taller than the Aveo it replaces. The taut lines of the sedan are conservatively elegant; with those of the hatchback being more dramatic. The cabin is fronted by a large analogue tachometer placed in a motorcycle-like instrument pod. All other read-outs are digital. Nicely textured matte-finished hard plastic trim pieces. Comfortable seats, front and rear. Good space upfront, acceptable rear legroom, and in the hatchback, excellent headroom. Shallow trunk depth on the hatchback due to hidden storage bin. Big trunk on the sedan. The same normally-aspirated 1.8L and 1.4L turbo fours offered in the Cruze power the Sonic. Transmission choices include five-speed manual and six-speed automatic on the 1.8L, with the 1.4T restricted to a six-speed manual. Compared with the Aveo, Chevrolet has seriously upped its game with the Sonic, moving its B-segment entry from a category trailer to a category leader. Driven briefly, the Sonic is one of the nicest-driving cars in its class.
Pricing
The hatchback body style commands $1000 and $500 premiums on LS/ LT and LTZ models respectively. The LT upgrade is great value. Overpriced LTZ Turbo package. Expensive compared with the Accent.

Reliability: New model, not rated. New GM cars sometimes develop post-launch glitches.  


Body Style: 4HB, 4SD
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.4L-4 T (138 HP), 1.8L-4 (136 HP )*

Transmissions: 5M, 6M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive
City Fuel Economy: 9.4L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/160,000
Country of Origin:  United States

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Fiat 500

Specification

Below Average

 

What’s new
Mexican-built Fiat-designed style icon distributed by Chrysler. Turbocharged 2013 500 Abarth goes on sale in the summer of 2012. 

Performance
Hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission, the 500's 101 horsepower 1.4 L four delivers sprightly performance and mechanically-relaxed cruising, but is noisy from idle to redline. The "Sport" mode of the automatic transmission adds an aggresive edge to the 500's performance. Quick, but light steering, uninspired handling and a ride which is turbulent at lower speeds but smooths out on the highway . This new-generation Fiat lacks the fizzy, zingy brio of Fiat's of old. Pronounced wind noise, especially with the optional fixed-glass roof, the sunshade of which is too transparent to be of much use. There were omnipresent rattles on one of the two cars tested. The 500 is eclipsed for driving pleasure by the MINI. The single instrument pod cleverly contains a round electronic read-out at its centre, ringed by a tachometer, which in turn is surrounded by a the speedometer. It looks good and works well, but the speedometer and tachometer graphics are too cartoonish, especially in a car where so much effort was expended on design. Much better dashboard ergonomics than on the MINI. The very attractive cabin features a large exterior-body colour insert on the dashboard. Superb audio system, but its controls are a bit muddled and the satellite radio signal cuts out frequently. The Bluetooth system was easy to hook up but wouldn't maintain a connection. Efficient heating and defrosting. The seat heater switch "on" lights are so dim as to only be visible at night. The front seats are comfortable enough, but seat travel is limited for the tall, and some drivers find that the high-mounted seats limit headroom, especially on cars equipped with the glass roof panel. Low windshield header. The high roof permits easy cabin access, and while rear legroom is tight, headroom is adequate and ingress/egress is better than on a number of other small cars. The trunk is tall, regularly shaped and reasonably roomy for such a small car.

Comments
The 500's look was inspired by the 1957 Nuova 500 of 1957. Fiat's new car was styled by Frank Stephenson, the same designer who penned the first BMW MINI. The 500 is beautifully detailed and extremely chic. Labelled a cabriolet, the open-top 500, which has a cloth roof that unfurls electrically between fixed roof pillars, has traditionally been referred to as a "transformable".

Pricing
Trim upgrades are very good value. At $4000, the "cabrio" option is overpriced. The MINI Cooper is more expensive than the 500, but the driving pleasure it delivers is well worth the extra money.   

Reliability: All-new car distributed by a dealer network unfamiliar with the product. It might be best to wait a while before buy a 500. Not rated.


Body Style:  2HB, 2CV
Occupants: 2/2
Engines:
1.4L‑4 (101 HP)*, 1.4L‑4T (160 HP) 

Transmissions: 5M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  8.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  Mexico

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Ford Fiesta

Specifications

Above Average

 

What’s new
Small blindspot sectors added to the door mirrors. The driver's seat now has an armrest. SE hatchback price reduced by $800 and SEL sedan price increased by $800

Performance
The Fiesta's engine lacks response at low revs but does perform enthusiastically at higher revs. Gearing favours fuel economy more than performance. Except for excess gear whine, the manual transmission, with a silken smooth clutch, is a delight. The dual-clutch automated manual transmission works well but shifts can be abrupt, especially in traffic. Nicely weighted, precise steering. A resilient ride and precise handling reflect careful suspension development. Strong, progressive braking. The traction control cannot be turned off to allow for some wheelspin if you are stuck in the winter. Unattractive graphics mark the small speedometer and tachometer. Except for confusing radio operation, the controls are straightforward and work well. Tight cabin space, especially in the rear. The Honda Fit, Nissan Versa are much roomier, and the new Accent and Rio are more welcoming as well. Good cargo space on the hatchback, with the sedan having an enormous trunk for such a small car. The Fiesta finished second place in a three car test, ahead of the Mazda 2 and behind the Honda Fit.

Comments
The Fiesta is available in sedan and hatchback forms. One engine, a 1.6L four, can be hooked up to either a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

Pricing
Lacking air-conditioning, even as an option, the mission of the cheapest Fiesta, the S sedan, is to allow for a low advertised base MSRP for the model range. Trim upgrades are poor value. The sedan and hatchback body styles of the same trim level are priced the same this year. Poor value leasing.   

Reliability: Insufficient data on this model. Not rated. 


Body Style: 4HB, 4SD
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.6 L‑4 (120 HP) 

Transmissions: 5M, 6A 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  8.1L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: Tier 2 Bin 4

Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  Mexico

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



 

 

Honda CR-Z

Specifications

Above Average

 

 

 

 

What’s new
No changes of note.

Performance
Adequate power from the hybrid system is delivered with uncommon smoothness. Power reaches the front wheels via a precise manual gearchange that combines with a smooth, progressive clutch to make the CR-Z a delight to drive. The well-sorted auto-stop feature works very well with the manual transmission. Firm, yet resilient ride. The precise, nicely weighted and geared steering provides plenty of feedback from the road. The CR-Z is agile and feels impressively solid. The workings of the regenerative braking system is transparent to the driver. The CR-Z's arresting looks compromise rear visibility. The chic cabin featuers space-age upholstery and attractive finishes. Cleverly-designed, slick-acting controls. The gauges consist of a digital speedomter ringed by a tachometer. The main gauage background colour glows green when the car is driven abstemiously, blue in normal driving and red when the the Sport mode is engaged. Comfortable seats reside in a spacious two seater cabin. The two storage bins behind the front seats are jump seats in other markets. Good cargo space and versatility for such a small car. While not quick for a sporty car nor as fuel-frugal as expected of a hybrid, the CR-Z is a genuine pleasure to drive and significantly better sorted out than the mediocre Insight it is based on. 

Comments
The CR-Z is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. Despite a plethora of design and product gaffes over the last five years or so, the CR-Z shows what Honda can still do when it is really trying.

Pricing
At just under $24,000, the single trim level, comprehensively-equipped CR-Z is a unique, upscale-feeling car for a reasonable price. Good value leasing available.

Reliability: Above average reliability predicted.  


Body Style: 2HB
Occupants: 2
Engines:
1.5 L‑4 H (113 HP gas, 122 HP combined)

Transmissions: 6M*, CVT
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy: 7.6L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: Tier 2 Bin 2

Warranty: 3/60, 000, 5/100,000, 8/160,000 (hybrid components)

Country of Origin:  Japan

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Honda Fit

Specifications

Above Average

 
 

What’s new
Mid-cycle update with new front fascia, revised wheels, monochrome dashboard, new fabrics, standard ESC and Bluetooth on the LX and Sport trim levels. The Fit is the first car built in China to be sold in Canada.

Performance
The short gearing of the precise manual transmission provides good performance at all speeds, but leads to high engine speeds (3000 rpm at 100 km/h), on the highway. Smooth clutch. The automatic transmission makes good use of the available power, permits lower-rev cruising than the manual but turns the engine note from sporty to harsh. The Fit is very loud overall. Nicely weighted steering. Entertaining handling. The LX rides more smoothly than the "Sport" model. Supportive front seats and a comfortable driving position. Excellent visibility. Big, clear gauges and logical controls. Upgrades for 2012 give the cabin a less approximate look than last year. Comfortable, versatile rear seat and good legroom. Impressive cargo-hauling capability. The Japanese-built Fit was rated first in a three-car comparison test ahead of the Ford Fiesta and Mazda 2. 

Comments
The Fit's 1.5L four can be hooked up to either a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic.

Pricing
The LX and Sport trim upgrades represent good value. The high value of the Japanese Yen and Japanese cost structures make it hard to make money on an inexpensive car sourced there. Despite cheaper aquisition costs, Honda Canada has not cut prices, or more importantly, enhanced incentives to increase the market share of the Fit. Monthly payments for the LX versions of the Fit and Civic are virtually the same, making the Fit attractive only to those who like the hatchback package. Honda should make a good profit on each and every Chinese-built Fit it sells this year, but neither dealers nor consumers benefit from the non-Japanese-sourced Fit.
Reliability: The Japanese-sourced Fit was rated above average. Predicted reliability of this Chinese-built Fit is also above average. The air conditioning condensor is vulnerable to damage from road debris.


Body Style: 4HB
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.5 L-4 (117 HP)

Transmissions: 5M, 5A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive
City Fuel Economy: 8.4 L/100 km

ESC: LX and Sport only

Emissions ratings: Tier 2 Bin 5


Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/160,000
Country of Origin:  China

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Hyundai Accent

Specifications

New

 
 

What’s new
All-new fourth-generation Accent

Performance
The Accent's direct-injected 138 horsepower four provides brisk acceleration. and works well with the slick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. Relaxed highway cruising. Well-suppressed wind noise. Nicely weighted and geared steering lacks feedback. Resiliently firm ride and stable handling. Strong air conditioning and a very good audio system for a car in this segment. An ActiveEco mode and an alternator that spins only when charging is required save fuel according to Hyundai. Excellent cabin finish with matte plastics, chic two-toning and attractive fabrics. Big, clear gauges with sober graphics. Simple, logical controls move with a slicki precision. Comfortable seats. Roomier (especially in the back seat) than the Ford Fiesta and Mazda 2, but the Accent lacks the expansive cabins of the Honda Fit and the Nissan Versa. The low-mounted front seats restrict rear toe space. Huge trunk on the sedan and a sizeable, versatile cargo hold on the hatchback.
Comments
The fourth-generation Accent is available in sedan and hatchback forms. Hyundai expect the hatchback to account for 75 percent of sales. High-end technologies like direct fuel injection and six-speed transmissions are standard on all models. The sedan and especially the hatchback, are very good looking cars. One engine, a 1.6L four with 138 horsepower, can be hooked up to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. 

Pricing
The GL, with expected features like air-conditioning, power windows, locks, mirrors and keyless entry, is the best value of the lineup. Moving up a trim level represents excellent value. The hatchback body style is priced $400 more than the equivalent sedan. Poor value leasing. An Accent GL hatchback is priced $600 less than a Kia Rio 5 LX+ , which has desirable features such as heated seats and Bluetooth not offered on the Accent GL.

Reliability: All-new car. Insufficient data. Predicted reliability is above average, like the previous Accent. 


Body Style: 4HB*, 4SD
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.6L-4 (138 HP)

Transmissions: 6M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive
City Fuel Economy: 7.8 L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  South Korea

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Acceptable

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Hyundai Veloster

Specifications

New

 

 

 

What’s new
All-new Accent-based sports hatchback with two doors on the passenger side and one door on the driver's side. 2013 turbo model with a unique front fascia due in June of 2012.

Comments
Built on an 80 mm (3.15 iinch) longer wheelbase than the Accent, the Veloster, at 105 mm (4.14 inches) longer, 90 mm (3.5 inches) wider and 51 mm (2 inches) lower than the Accent hatchback, is more than just a simple spin-off of Hyundai's B-segment stalwart. With a goatee-like lower air intake, cycle-type fenders, asymmetric (one door on the driver's and two-doors on the passenger side), side profiles and fully-integrated siamesed rectangular rear exhaust outlets, the Veloster is one dramatic piece of road sculpture. Upscale-looking cabin features big, clear gauges, logical controls, a prominent centre stack, interesting shapes and carefully-considered bright detailing. Supportive, body-hugging seats, ample front legroom, and with a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a good driving position. Tight headroom front and rear. Good rear access via the second door on the passenger side of the car. Tight rear toe room. Driven briefly, the Veloster's Accent-derived four is willing, and very strong at higher revs, but feels a bit flat at lower revs when hooked up to the six-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission. A precise manual geachange is allied to a progressive clutch. Direct steering allies to engaging handling and a firm, yet resilient ride. Strong brakes with good pedal feel. Restricted rear vision. . 

Pricing
Good value Tech upgrade. The normally-aspirated Veloster matches the CR-Z for performance and style, but trumps it on practicality by having an easily-accessed rear seat.

Reliability: New car, not rated. The dual-clutch automated manual transmission is an-all new technology for Hyundal. Predicted reliability is above average, like other recent Hyundais.


Body Style: 3HB
Occupants: 2/2
Engines:
1.6L-4 (138 HP)*, 1.6 L-4 T (201 HP [2013])

Transmissions: 6M, 6A (clutchless manual/base)*, 6A (turbo)
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive
City Fuel Economy: 8.1L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 5/100,000
Country of Origin: South Korea

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Not Rated

Side: Not Rated

Rollover: Not Rated

Rear: Not Rated

NHTSA Rating: 


 

Kia Rio, Kia Rio5

Specifications

New

 

 

What’s new
 All-new third-generation (second-generation based on the Hyundai Accent), Rio.

Performance
The Rio's direct-injected 1,6 L four accelerates briskly, but doesn't feel like 138 horspower. Smooth clutch and accurate manual gearchange. Relaxed highway cruising. Nicely weighted steering, resiliently firm ride and stable handling. The Rio moves with a smooth, cushioned fluidity seldom experienced in non-European cars. Big, crisply-marked gauges are part of a horizontal panel containing the audio controls under which is hung a consolette with HVAC controls. All controls move with a smooth precision. The Rio's cabin is a bespoke creation sharing nothing obvious with the Accent. The upper dash and trim inserts in the doors have upscale soft-touch surfaces. Comfortable seats and a good use of cabin space. Strong air conditioning, big trunk and an excellent audio system.

Comments
Built on a 70 mm longer wheelbase, the new Rio is a bit bigger than before. The Rio's ovular styling is a departure from Kia's recent (Sportage, Optima) angular, minimalist creations. The Rio Eco's engine turns off when stopped in traffic, restarting when the brake pedal is released. Kia claims improved urban fuel economy on cars with this feature. Luxury features like leather seats and Keyless Go are optional

Pricing
Trim upgrades are spectacular value. The ECO option is priced at $800. The Rio5 LX+ trim level is priced $600 more than an equivalent Accent GL sedan, but includes desireable featuresd such as heated seats and Bluetooth. A Rio hatchback is priced $300 higher than the sedan of the same trim level.
Reliability: All-new car. Insufficient data. Not rated. Predicted reliability is above average, like the previous Rio.


Body Style: 4HB, 4SD*
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.6L‑4 (138 HP) 

Transmissions: 6M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy: 7.8 L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 5/100,000
Country of Origin: South Korea

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Acceptable

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 


 

Kia Soul

Specifications

Above Average

 

 

 

 

 

What’s new
Mid-cycle remake includies new engines, transmissions, restyled grille, hood, lights and bumpers. Revised cabin. Kia states improved refinement. 

Performance
Experienced in other Hyundai/Kia products, the new powertrains have improved both performance and refinement. Pleasant manual transmission. Smooth, responsive automatic. With its big 18 inch wheels, low-profile tires and firm suspension, the 4U version of the Soul is a sporty-driving car but has a punishing ride. Low wind noise is offset by very loud road noise.  Funky cabin styling with big, clear gauges and logical controls. Large, supportive seats front and rear, and good legroom as well. Carefully assembled cabin. Versatile hatchback body contains good cargo space. The Kia Soul was rated the best car in an APA two car vehicle test that also included the Nissan Cube.
Comments
The new direct-injected 1.6L four 138 horsepower four used in the Accent and Rio replaces the previous-generation 122 horsepower 1.6L used last year. The 142 horsepower 2L used in 2011 has been replaced by a 164 horsepower version of the 2L found under the hoods of the Forte and Elantra. Both engines can be hooked up to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic.

Pricing
The 2U upgrade is an exceptional value as it includes roughly $2000 worth of features and the bigger 2L engine for only $1200. The 4U package is overpriced. Good value Retro package; Burner variant is priced to reflect the value of its additional content. The 2U the best value of the lineup. The Luxury trim level is well worth having. Poor lease arrangements.

Reliability: Above average reliability predicted as the powertrains have proven reliable in other Hyundai/Kia products.


Body Style: 4HB
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.6 L‑4 (138 HP), 2 L‑4 (164 HP) *

Transmissions: 6M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy: 9 L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  South Korea

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 


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