Just because you don’t have a lot of dough to spend and you need SUV levels of space doesn’t mean you have to buy used. There are three surprisingly roomy and inexpensive hatchback options on the market that can serve both as family runabout yet still offer plenty of driver fun. The days of the econo-hatchback torture chamber are long gone. Please, banish all memories of your babysitter’s old Pontiac T-1000 and Chevy Citation.
This is the go to standard for all economical hatchbacks on sale today and if you are afraid of taking a risk this is definitely the best choice. A proven quality item, the Honda Fit gets 34 miles per gallon on the highway and feels as spacious inside as a CR-V. What the Fit does lack is the pickup of the V-6 Kia Rondo. If you insist on having an automatic the Fit can sometimes feel a little bogged down in passing situations on the freeway. If you can handle a stick shift, however, you will find that the Fit is in fact the most sporting option of this trio with sprightly handling and a tight turning circle.
Granted, the Versa looks a little wacky but it is a far better looking car than its sedan cousin. The CVT transmission does its best to get the most from the 122 horsepower 4 cylinder engine but again the V6 Rondo is just in another league for power. The interior of the Versa also lacks the true versatility of the Fit but it drives a bit more like a traditional sedan as a result. Unfortunately the Versa still feels the most like an economy car of this trio.
Like that dorky kid with glasses in gym classes who somehow beat all the jocks in wind-sprints, the Kia Rondo is endearingly odd. While the styling may not be to everyone’s taste, you can’t really beat the Rondo’s V6 option for power (172 horsepower). The Rondo is also the only option available with a third row of seats making this the perfect economy option for a large family. To be frank, it is pretty much your only new sub-$20,000 option when you need seven seats. This is the perfect vehicle for any family who needs to downsize from their $700 super sized SUV lease payment. Just check Kia’s website as they are always making sweet deals on the multi-talented Rondo.
So Who Wins?
Well, the Nissan Versa is pretty easy to put in last just because the other two are so great at what they do. To be honest, the Rondo isn’t quite as polished as the Fit from a powertrain perspective (Honda just makes the best engines and transmissions) but if you need lots of space (or seven seats) the Kia makes a strong case for itself. As such the Fit wins if you only need five seats but if you need seven it is the Kia. Yes, cowardice has won out and the Kia and Honda tie.