Good morning! Today we’re looking at two cute little stickshift hatchback runabouts down in Florida. But first, let’s see which little pickup you all chose yesterday:
Interesting. I figured for sure the extra room and the royal hue of the Nissan would give it the win. But it seems the MitsuDodge’s four-wheel-drive put it over the top. Me, I’d keep shopping, and try to find a 4WD King Cab Nissan. Preferably in purple, naturally.
Now then, today is March 1st, which means springtime is right around the corner. (Right? I mean, it has to be… right?) This means that soon, the farm-and-feed store down the road from my house will start selling baby chicks, and troll the “gentlemen’s club” next door by putting up a sign that says “Cutest Chicks In Town.” (I’m not making this up.) I thought of that as I drove by it this afternoon, and I thought: hatchling, hatchback – yeah, that’ll work for a theme. It’s no more lame or contrived than some of the others I’ve come up with. So let’s run with it, shall we?
Engine/drivetrain: 1.8 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Ocala, FL
Odometer reading: 143,000 miles
Nissan’s Versa was once, as our Editor-In-Chief likes to point out, the cheapest car sold in the US. It was brought in to fill the bottom end of Nissan’s lineup after the Sentra moved upmarket (as weird as it is to use “Sentra” and “upmarket” in the same sentence). You could get one of these for under ten grand brand-new in 2008.
Because Americans hate hatchbacks for some reason, Nissan offered the Versa with a grafted-on traditional trunk to make it a sedan. Fortunately whoever bought this one new was smart enough to understand the utility of having the whole back end of the car open up. They also eschewed the automatic transmission option. I confess I’ve never driven a Versa with a manual, but I’ve been stuck with two automatics as rental cars. I imagine (and hope) that a manual makes it slightly less punishingly dull to drive.
This Versa is in decent shape, and wears its 143,000 miles pretty well. Say what you will about cheap interior materials; they don’t look much different after 13 years than they did when they were new. I guess I’d rather have hard plastic bits in a cheap used car than “soft-touch” stuff that starts flaking off on your hands.
The seller says it runs well and everything works, including the air conditioning, and all the maintenance is up-to-date. Really, you can’t ask for more in a little used car like this than to be able to simply turn the key and drive off, and do the same thing the next morning to get to work. Simplicity, reliability, and practicality are all virtues in my book.
Engine/drivetrain: 1.5 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Orlando, FL
Odometer reading: 180,000 miles
Runs/drives? You bet
In the beginning, there was the Tercel. And it was good. Not exciting, but really, really good. It lasted several generations, and provided millions of college students a reliable way to get home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But then came the Echo, and it was somehow not as good. Even Consumer Reports, the fun-police of the automotive world, called it “dull.” The Echo begat the Yaris, and it was good again? Kinda? At least it was availabe in the US with a hatchback, which the Echo never offered.
The Yaris in the US was powered by a 1.5 liter four with variable valve timing. This one sports a manual gearbox, as small Toyotas should; a Tercel/Echo/Yaris with an automatic is not fun, to put it mildly. The Yaris carried over the Echo’s centralized instrument cluster, which I imagine makes changing between right-hand-drive and left-hand-drive versions easier, but requires drivers everywhere to take their eyes off the road to find and read the speedometer. I imagine you’d get used to it, but it’s one of the things that put me off byung a new Echo many years ago.
This Yaris is in good shape, with 180,000 miles on the clock. We don’t get a lot of details on its condition, but it’s a Toyota; as long as the maintenance has been kept up, it’s fine. I do note with some amusement that it, like so many others, sports cheap Pep Boys wheel covers; Yarises seem to shed their hubcaps with such regularity that I couldn’t even tell you what the stock ones look like.
It has air conditioning, and it works, which I imagine is vital for Florida. The paint and upholstery look good, though it is missing the side-marker light on the passenger’s side. It might be worth asking why.
[Editor’s Note: Okay, two things: That’s not a side marker lamp, it’s an indicator repeater, a very different sort of thing. If you were to make this mistake at The Citrus Wink, the fifth-best turn signal fetishist club in the Dakotas, they’d work you over. And over. Also, that vertical stack of HVAC controls is novel! – JT]
Little hatchback runabouts like these are all the rage in Europe and much of the rest of the world, but they never have really caught on here in the US. I’ve never understood why a small car with a regular trunk, which arguably makes it less useful, is preferable to a big hatchback opening. Regardless, these two have the correct cargo configuration, and the correct transmission type. Which one suits you?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)