Recently we have reviewed the all-new 2012 Subaru Impreza, and the 2012 Fiat 500c. Both cars are designed for very different purposes and very different customers, but they both possess sticker prices within $500 of each other. With a recent used car purchase of a 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI by this AutoTalk staffer for around the same money, the question has been raised; which is the better option for who, and why?

Read on to find out what we discovered.

In the earlier reviews, the 500c was decided to be a fun little car to drive, but was lacking in space and was inflated in price. The Subaru Impreza is spacious and comfortable, but lacks the driving dynamics Subaru has become known for. So how does the VW stack up against the competition?

The car is question is a 2010 Golf TDI. Equipped with a smattering of options like HID headlamps, navigation and the upgraded Dynaudio stereo, our Tornado Red (because red ones go faster) Golf 2-door holds a retail sticker of $26,300. The car was purchased with 18,700 miles on the odometer, and after a bit of haggling, was picked up for the princely sum of $19,980. That is about a grand less than the other two cars here.

We here at AutoTalk enjoyed the Golf TDI back when we reviewed it in 2010, and we are pleased to say that little has changed over the years. This used model still drives with the verve and precision of its German roots, while maintaining incredible fuel economy. On more than one occasion we have seen greater than 50 mpg on the highway. The seats are some of the most comfortable we have ever spent time in, and the ride and handling compromise is nearly spot on. It is very easy to see why the Golf has been a perennial favorite the world over, but is it better than the other cars here?

This is where things get murky. The Golf is the best of the three cars, and by a large margin. It possesses the “Goldilocks” complex. It gets everything “just right” plus bests the other two in interior quality and pricing. It may not be the one you should buy though.

With most of its factory warranty over, the TDI will soon start accruing costs for all further maintenance, and this can become extremely costly. The Subaru would likely be the best choice to keep maintenance costs down over the long haul. Also, while the little red car may hold a phenomenal lead in the highway fuel economy race, it falls short during hectic city driving. It is not uncommon to see economy numbers drop to near 20 when the going gets busy, making the Golf severely impractical for someone living in the city. With its smaller size, and better city economy, the 500c would be the best choice for an Urbanite.

It is also hard to split them on driving dynamics. The Golf has the best ride handling compromise, but the Fiat is more fun to drive. The Subaru has the added safety of AWD which can be a very important factor depending on where you live.

What it all comes to the end, it is personal needs and preferences that decide the car. This is one of the reasons we have such a wide and diverse car culture in this country. Would we buy the Golf again? Of course, it is the perfect car for our perfect situation, but it is more than understandable why anyone could and would pick one of the other two cars here.

Moral of the story, the best car is not always the winner, and your true winner depends on you.

For us, the winner wears red.

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Photos Copyright Christian Moe © 2012