Did my taxes last night and realized I’ll be getting a good deal more back than I had expected. My wife and I had been talking about getting another small fuel sipping car to use for commuting/errands, and now we can make that a reality. I love my stage 2 outback XT, but my wife is a little less fond of its 19mpg on premium gas and droning exhaust on longer trips. Thankfully we worked it out and I’ll be keeping it as my fun car/winter vehicle/truck substitute (putting a trailer hitch on it too) - but I need to find a cheap to buy, cheap to run used daily for about $3500.

My first thought is a 5 speed Yaris hatch. I pretty much want something as minimal and basic as possible, and a Yaris is... well... a car, and nothing more. On our honeymoon last year my wife and I rented a 5 speed Opel Corsa in Ireland and had a ton of fun wringing it out on narrow back roads. Seeing as we can’t get one of those here I figured a Yaris might fit the bill. However, I haven’t driven one and don’t know much about them so I figured I’d ask the Oppo hivemind for ideas.

Seems like Craigslist has a number of them in my price range at around 95k-140k miles and I believe they are timing chain engines so no big service points to worry about. Is that true? Anything to look out for on these? Are there any handling mods out there for the Yaris? With my XT to deal with winter and give me my power fix, I might ultimately try to make a tarmac carver out of the Yaris because I find it hard not to modify things in some way...

Open to other ideas as well, as long as they are small, manual and good on gas. Bonus points for being a hatchback. The longer I can go dailying a car that doesn’t cost us much the better chance I’ll have of her being on board with me getting more out there cars on the side. It was a little tough when over the last year my XT lunched a transmission and needed a full exhaust replacement and I had to fix it right away just to keep going to work, yet my wife’s beat up old Hyundai has never asked for more than $25 brake shoes and a few $20 tanks of 87 octane!