By Eve Pickman.
Bigger does not always mean better, even in the city car segment. Yes, at $16,015 MSRP the 2014 Toyota Yaris LE 3-Door costs slightly less than $16,100MSRP of the 2013 Fiat 500 Pop; yes, you can squeeze two people into the back seat of the Toyota Yaris, but that is where the Toyota’s advantages end. There is cost and then there is value. And while both cars are small on space, the Fiat 500 Pop delivers more fun and better finishes.
The Toyota Yaris LE enters the 2014 model year basically unchanged from the 2013 model year. The 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission gets an estimated 30 city/36 highway/32 combined MPG. The 106-hp engine is a bit buzzy at higher rpms, the 103 lb.-ft. is not enough to add any zip to the Yaris’ step. The Fiat 500 Pop is powered by a 1.4-liter I4 MultiAir® engine that cranks out 101 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque. The Fiat 500 Pop feels like a faster car, even with its slightly smaller engine. The Fiat 500’s 5-speed manual transmission can be upgraded to a 6-speed automatic for $1,250; both transmissions outperform the Toyota’s older 4-speed transmission, with smoother shifts and better gear ratios.
The interior of both small cars comes with cloth bucket seats, the Fiat 500 Pop’s rear seats are 50/50 split-folding, they do not lay flush to the lower cushion, unlike the 60/40 split folding rear seats in the Yaris. The Fiat 500 Pop has standard Bluetooth, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with auxiliary audio input jack; one year of satellite radio subscription is available. The Toyota Yaris LE sound system includes an AM/FM CD player with six speakers, with SiriusXM Radio compatibility, HD Radio™, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod® connectivity, auto sound leveling, and Bluetooth hands-free phone capability. The speaker quality in the Fiat seemed better, though that may be in part due to the quieter cabin and reduced wind noise. Neither the Toyota Yaris LE 3-door nor the 500 Pop offers available navigation.
Outside, the Yaris feature 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, front disc brakes with rear drums, daytime running lamps and halogen headlamps. Inside, inexpensive looking and feeling fabric and plastic surfaces contribute to the overall cheap appearance of the Yaris. The large rear hatch, flat folding rear seats and flat rear floor give the Yaris more usable cargo space than the Fiat 500 Pop, the Yaris is more practical if space is your only consideration. The Yaris’ 98.8-inch wheel base and 153.5-inch overall length stands in sharp contrast to the Fiat 500 Pop’s 90.6-inch wheelbase and 139.6-inches in length. The additional space is all rear seat space and hood length, front leg room is comparable.
15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers are standard on the 2013 Fiat 500 Pop; 15-inch aluminum wheels are available for an additional $500. A $1,100 power sunroof will shine some light on the interior of the Italian offering, no sunroof is offered on the Yaris LE. The $1,700 Beats™ Audio Group includes BeatsTM audio, six premium speakers, a subwoofer, security alarm and one-year SiriusXM Satellite Radio subscription.
The 2014 Toyota Yaris LE has a limited number of dealer installed options, like floor mats and mudguards, what you see is pretty much what you get. A well-equipped Fiat 500 Pop can easily creep into the $20,000 range, but you get so much more in the way of creature comforts for your money. If it is geek chic you seek, go with the Fiat. If all you want is dependable transportation, the Yaris is a sound choice.