Review and photos by staff

Introduction, by Steven Bochenek

The year 2010 saw an historic first: more humans now lived in cities than in rural settings. Even if you missed that milestone in the news, you probably live it every day. Gas prices, enviro-guilt, the sheer impossibility of parking and general lack of space in cities have changed North Americans’ views of driving – and of subcompacts.

Plus the price factor. Price matters. (In his chunky tome, ‘The High Cost of Free Parking’, academic Donald Shoup claims vehicles stay parked 95 percent of the time, and 95 percent of the actual driving time so many of us do is simply getting from A to B in packed cities. Why cough up for that?)

All these reasons have contributed to making the subcompact far less uncool, even among driving enthusiasts. The six of us had a ball comparing these 2013 subcompact hatchbacks, and once the scores were tallied, it was amazing to note how close they came, especially the top five. And yes, price factored into point scores.

Test day was February 27, yet for the third time this winter the gods blessed our comparison day with the complete spectra of climates, rather than old-fashioned weather. It alternately spat needles of ice or suddenly dropped cow-sized puddles like being hit with a water-filled weather balloon – all day.

So it was a blast!

2013 Subcompact Hatchback Comparison2013 Subcompact Hatchback Comparison
2013 Subcompact Hatchback Comparison. Click image to enlarge

We all drove each model, following an identical route. At first, we stuck together, not wanting to lose two new drivers unfamiliar with the route – especially in this weather. We looked hilarious, possibly ridiculous: a colourful daisy chain of subcompacts gleefully splashing through slushy ponds in tight formation across north Etobicoke. More than once, I noticed hefty pickup trucks stocked with heftier workmen, staring gob-smacked as this rainbow anaconda of hatchbacks raced to make the same green, no amber, light.

The route we took was more classically suburban than downtown, but it cleverly had a taste of everything a city driver faces: some highway with ignorant truckers who haven’t slept in two days and revile all things 416; dense thoroughfares with multiple traffic lights; depressing industrial park; and a touch of middle-class neighbourhood with frozen au pairs walking labradoodles around slush lakes. To mimic the tight turns of a downtown lane, construction-constricted roads or, say, the constant challenges of a deep underground garage, we got creative and employed – you guessed it – a deep underground garage, with construction-restricted lanes.

So here you go: ask five auto writers one question and get ten opinions. Enjoy the diversity. (Finally, if you’re stuck in traffic and reading this on a device, please desist immediately. The mayor may be doing the same and you risk a severe rear-ending.)

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