Welcome to Used Car Face Off, where we find two similar or similarly priced used cars and ask you which one you would buy. Choose wisely!
In a recurring series of convertible comparisons as we head into summer, and as it feels a lot like summer in parts of the country, I decided to dig around for some really cheap examples that fulfill the basic task of providing that open air driving experience but without, you know, massive power.
I don’t know about you, but as nice as a roadster with six or eight cylinders sounds with the top down, it seems like a bit of a waste when all you hear above 55 mph is the wind. It’s hard to even hear an engine note sometimes at that speed, so why wouldn’t something light with four (or fewer) cylinders be just as much fun? Yes, there’s the Mazda Miata again, and it’s a great choice. But what if you need to spend less and get even better MPGs? Well, here are a couple of choices and let’s see which one is less humiliating.
I saw something like this 1997 Toyota Paseo Convertible parked on the street the other day. If you’ve forgotten what a Paseo even is, it was a small twoish-seater based off of the Tercel and sharing a lot of underneath pieces covered by a slightly more attractive coupe body. Toyota introduced the one-year-only convertible model and literally some were sold. I’m sure it originally appealed to people who couldn’t quite afford a Volkswagen Golf Cabrio, or couldn’t get past that basket handle.
Powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder that made 93 horsepower when new, I’m glad this Paseo has the standard five-speed manual. OK, all things considered, it’s a pretty bland machine to behold and you know you’re not going to turn many heads in it. I guess you could say that it is at least more rare than the likes of a Chevy Cavalier convertible, though. It’s a cheap convertible, too, and this one I saw listed in LA is going for $4,000. No idea what the miles are on it, but you could do a lot worse.
Is a 1991 Geo Metro Convertible a lot worse? Well, you decide. Unlike the Paseo, the Metro Convertible of 1990 to 1992 has never escaped my memories and every now and then I’ll see a bright yellow one that really does resemble a bee. With a 1-liter three-cylinder, though, it also sounds like a bee. Again, the manual transmission really comes in handy.
I hate that this one is blandest shade of white and seems to have the wheel covers from a Dodge Shadow, and a recently rebuilt engine seems to suggest it has well over 100,000 miles. I don’t think Metros were particularly known for their durability, but the economy is pretty much unsurpassed by any other drop top save for a Tesla Roadster. In white, especially, I would have a hard time being seen in this. It really is like a large shoe. And anything more than $3,000 for a slightly rusty example seems like a lot of money.
In this contest, I’d take the Paseo without a second thought. Even though it’s not much larger than a shoe, it does look less embarrassing than the Metro. But I’d save up for a Miata with horsepower in the triple digits, and if I were really concerned about improving my fuel economy, I’d just drive it more carefully.