I Need a Fun, Manual Car Suitable for a Short Person! What Should I Buy?

Needs a more reliable, sub $20k replacement for a Fiat 500

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Image: Fiat

Bee is just over five-foot tall and has trouble being comfortable in cars that are considered “compact.” She had a Fiat 500 that unfortunately lost a battle with a Chevy Suburban and is looking for something small and manual under $20,000. What car should she buy?


(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )


Here is the scenario -

Help a short person out please! I’m 5'3" but most of it torso with only a 27-inch inseam. I had a Fiat 500 Sport which I loved but was totaled when I got rear-ended (Chevy Suburban vs Fiat, the Suburban wins every time). I bought a 2016 Mazda3 hatchback as a replacement but I’ve realized that I hate it. I have a hard time seeing over the hood and I can’t even enjoy the sunroof since my seat is so far forward. I’m thinking about trading it in for another Fiat 500 but expensive repair bills suck. What other options are out there for me that would fit the bill?

I want a small, zippy car I don’t mind commuting in. Used is strongly preferred. Manual only, sunroof, Bluetooth audio, and rear seats that fold down to maximize trunk space. Backup cams and heated seats would be nice but not required. A not-boring color option would be a plus.

My budget is up to $20,000

Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $20,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Portland, OR

Wants: Small, Manual, Reliable

Doesn’t want: Something too big or rear-drive

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Tiny-ish Turbo

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Image: Autotrader.com

Sorry to hear about the Fiat, and I can imagine that it’s frustrating to find a car that fits you comfortably, especially when everything seems to be getting bigger. If you don’t want to roll the dice on Italian reliability again, perhaps a shift to something with slightly better build quality is the way to go.

The Veloster was Hyundai’s attempt at a fun and funky hatchback. While only the awesome, but expensive Veloster N remains in the lineup a sub $20,000 budget can score a variety of “regular” models with three pedals. Here is a 2015 Turbo model in a cool orange with some nice accessories in nearby WA state. This will get you about 200 hp under the hood for a zippy ride that should fair a bit better than the Fiat. Like most hatchbacks, the back seats will fold flat, but the overall cargo capacity in these Hyundai’s isn’t super impressive. If you don’t need the turbo power and would prefer something newer, Carvana has a 2019 example for just under $20,000


Expert 2: Andy Kalmowitz - The Happy Honda

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Photo: Klein Honda in Everett

Bee, my small friend, I’ve found the perfect car for you. It’s got everything you’re asking for (other than a fun color, but white isn’t so bad!). The Honda Fit will fit into your life perfectly. It’s not too bit, but it’s still got plenty of room to fit all of your stuff! It’s sporty enough to be fun around town and its chock full of all the tech you could want.

It’s got a backup camera, sideview camera, push button start, keyless entry and Bluetooth/USB! On top of all that, it’s even got the manual transmission you’re looking for. And, you’re in for a treat. Honda’s manuals are some of the best in the industry, so you won’t have any problems having a good time on your daily commute!


This particular Honda Fit has just under 66,000 miles. That’s hardly broken in for one of these babies. It’s also dead nuts reliable. You won’t have to worry about any excessive trips to the repair shop! Hell, it even comes in well under your $20,000 budget. Think of all the fun stuff you can use that money for.

Bee, make the right choice. Buy this Fit. It’s so god damn cute.

Expert 3: Lawrence Hodge - Most of What You Want

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Image: Lexus

I think I found the car with everything you’re looking for save for two things: being zippy and having a manual. Consider the Lexus CT 200h. At first glance they looked pretty sporty, especially in F Sport trim. But it’s a hybrid so you get excellent gas mileage, 42 mpg combined. Downside is you won’t be winning any stoplight races.

It’s also a Lexus. So you’re going to get your sunroof, heated seats, Bluetooth, etc. You get a decent-sized cargo area for your stuff too, 14.3 cubic feet with the seats up. And it won’t break your wallet. Since Lexus doesn’t make them anymore they’ve gotten cheap.


This particular example I found near you has just over 102,000 miles on it. It may seem like a lot, but consider that this car is nearly 10 years old now. Someone didn’t drive it much. But it’s within your budget at just under $19,000.

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