Swift, Yaris, Livina, etc

I’m now finally transfered to Taipei. I’m going to Nanfangao nearly every day and don’t want to deal with the politics of a company car. I’ve been looking at small cars here in Taipei. I want to buy new because I’ve seen the damage the local mechanics do to vehicles here and want to avoid inheriting years of owner neglect and mechanic abuse.

I have assigned parking at home and work but want something that I can easily park out in public.

I’ve been looking at the Suzuki Swift, Toyota Yaris and the Nissan Livina. The cutenes factor of the Swift and Yaris is appealing. The Livina seems too dowdy. As for other stuff like engineering - I’m looking for practical rather than handling or power.

For reference, my current vehicle in the US is a 3/4 ton Dodge Ram 6.0 turbo diesel, so it’s no reference at all – expect I think I could fit an entire Yaris in the back of the truck.



Hi Paul,

We had a Nissan March in Taipei, my wife bought it from new and it was fantastic for getting around town and parking in tiny places. It was also very reliable, cheap to run and had all the bits you could want CD player, air-con, power tinted windows etc.

The only problem was that it was a little bit short of space for me under the steering wheel, even with it fully up there were only millimeters of space between my legs and the wheel. It was a pain for long drives e.g. Taroko or Tainan. I’m 5’10, so it might be worth baring this in mind if you go for a March. Highly recommended though.

Hope this helps,


You could save a bunch of money and buy my car. It has been regularly maintained since I bought it new 4 years ago. With just over 13000kms, it’s still like new. Check my signature for more details.

SWIFT. Great to drive, looks good & cheap to buy and run. No better choice for anyone looking to buy a new small car in Taiwan IMO.

The Swift is a little cramped if you’re tall. Other than that it’s a great car for Taiwan.

I’d suggest a Mazda 3 if you’re over 6 feet tall. Mine’s done me well - though after 13000KM the shocks aren’t quite as good as they used to be.

I’m currently (read: still effin’ stuck with) a Nissan Verita, the March’s “upscale” cousin and man, I gotta tell you, it’s real tight squeeze in there. I’m 180 cm and I can just, only just, get in. That size car definitely is not built for tall people. The steering wheel is about 1 cm away from my knees when I drive and I have about a half dozen extra blind spots thanks to the positioning of every thing. If you’re on the tall side, I wouldn’t recommend the March or Verita.

I’ve driven the Yaris and it is incredibly roomy inside. However, unless you pay the ridiculous amount for the S-series, you’re going to get a car with incredibly cheap looking silver trim inside. I’m talking Night Market KO plastic quality. No joke. I couldn’t believe how crappy the trimming looked. Also, once you leave the E-series, the price quickly climbs to levels of larger and safer cars. I would give the Yaris a pass unless you’re willing to drop 600k plus on one. Also, the centre-dash display is incredible disorienting if you’ve never driven a car with that layout before. It was taking me an extra 3 - 5 seconds to find out what my speed was because I couldn’t find anything. Not a good thing to have to do, especially with Taiwan traffic to deal with.

The Livina now, that is a nice car for the price. I’ve yet to drive one, but man, do they seem sweet. Plus, the fully loaded version is only 575k or so. They are supposedly really good on fuel and don’t take up much space at all. I drool over the one at the local Nissan dealership every time I go past it and it’s honestly not that much bigger than a Colt Plus, it just has some extra head room to it, which, in my case at least, is a good thing.

That’s another decent choice is the Colt Plus. Only problem is only the loaded version has air bags but the loaded version is only about 620k, but still, that’s a lot of money for the size, IMO.

So, in summary, I’d go with the Livina if you want a decent car for a decent price. Or, you could go with the always sexy Buick Excelle, but it’s not a small car when compared to the ones you’ve mentioned. But incredibly loaded for the price!

Thank you for all the thoughtful replies. I’m 5’8", so I can fit into most of the mini-cars. The Yaris does have an incredibly nasty interior – worse plastics than GM back in the 1980’s. Is the price jump to the next size level of car that great? I’ll probably be able to get about US$25,000 when I sell my truck back home, so I was wondering if it’s worth it to get a larger car.

I’ll have plenty of time to think about it. I think my consulting position here in Taipei is gone. The boss looks like he’s going with Taiwan-sourced equipment rather than American/European equipment which means my position has suddenly become redundant. Nothing like walking into a meeting with the boss and seeing your return ticket on the desk.

I think I’ll be coming back as a student after the lunar new year, in which case the whole car argument gets difficult since I’ll lose my corporate parking spots. But since I’m scared to ride a motorbike here (I can’t think in the heat) maybe I’ll have to get a car… But with parking being such a nightmare is it just cheaper to take taxis everywhere?

Thanks again.

Hi Hippo,

If you’re single and living in metropolitan Taipei I don’t see any practical use in owning a car. Outside the city it can get very difficult to live without transport so I guess it depends where you plan to live and how often you will have company.

I was driving a 3.2L truck in Taichung and it was sucking about NT$30k/month out of me (that’s what, nearly US$1000 a month :s). About NT$12-15k/month in gas, NT$10k-odd/month in maintenance and a few k in parking/freeway expenses. I didn’t regret buying it because I enjoy driving and it meant I could show friends and family around Taiwan in safety. In the end though I figured that 30k a month could be better spent elsewhere so I sold the truck and bought a big bike. If it rains or someone comes to visit we just get a taxi and all things considered I’m saving NT$25k/month. After 5 years that would make a reasonable deposit on a house… scary.

Another thing is that driving every day put my blood pressure through the roof. I don’t really have any problems on the bike - I think driving a big truck is guaranteed to make you aggressive on Taiwan’s roads.

As far as small cars go in Taiwan, the best on offer is the Toyota Yaris with a versatile interior that can make lots of room for four, with almost as much leg room as a Camry, but with a tiny boot/trunk when being used for legroom. The rear seats can slide forward though allowing for a larger boot if needed. Toyota will be the best for reliability and fuel consumption and the ride is very good, if not slightly spoiled by engine noise at higher revs. There is the option to change the cheap plastic grey interior trim to the shiny black which is on the s model, but there isn’t a simply way to change the entire strip on the door trim, resulting in a slight mis match between dash board shiny black and door grey.

The Swift is probably the best value for money car of the ones you mentioned, with a sportier ride and handling than both the other cars, but with a more limited amount of interior leg room, and less versatile interior than the Toyota. The Swift has a nicer put together feel than the Toyota too, although the Yaris of late has been tinkered with and fits together a little better than earlier models. The Swift can come with climate control whereas the Yaris version is unavailable.

The Nissan Livina is a car I haven’t scrutinized yet, but initial reports are of a nice quiet ride with plenty of interior space, although not quite as good in the economy section managing about 7.2-litres per 100km, which isn’t bad, but you can bet that’s probably a lot better than reality. The Swift would better that, and then the Yaris would top them both.
The Livina also apears to have a slight niggle which is that you can only seem to fit four people with luggage and six people with with no more than a handbag. It also has no slide panel door at the side which would allow the better use of the mid compartment for loading. I’m dubious as to the usefulness of the vehicle really and would probably go for the Mazda 5 for practicality. Imagine too that Livina packed with people and a tiny engine. Only the largest 1.8l of the engines would do without screaming around at low speed. So small engine for economy with no pull for loading (which defeats the reason for the size really), or large engine for loading people, but with no luggage space for carrying more than four people? It seems easy to me,don’t buy one!

Quality wise, I would put my money on both Suzuki and Toyota being the more reliable of the three and with the Lavina being an altogether new model in the range I would let it run for a while whilst the niggles are worked out on Taiwan’s roads. If you want something with a lot more room then I would recommend the Mazda 5 which is versatile, a good ride with good reliability and at a reasonable price.

Have you looked at the Suzuki SX4?

It’s a model available in Taiwan although completely assembled in Japan. It comes with six airbags, an interior similar to the smaller Swift and is a great ride on Taiwan’s bumpy roads. Although it is only available in Taiwan with front 2 wheel drive, the larger tyres and slightly taller suspention make for a very smooth and responsive drive on the poor road surfaces here and I have found it so far to be one of the best rides in town. It is heavier on fuel than the smaller Swift, but I think worth the extra pennies. It’s a larger car than the Swift, but with most of the extra interior room being taken up in the boot/trunk. Check it out if you haven’t already. It only comes in one option in Taiwan, with auto windows, doors, CD stereo, cloth interior, climate control, six airbags and the other conveniences. It’s a good price too at about the same as an upper range Yaris.