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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Small Cars

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The two-passenger Smart Fortwo

The two-passenger Smart Fortwo

Advantages and Disadvantages of Small Cars

With rising gasoline prices and the current economic recession, many automobile drivers are considering changing at least one of their vehicles to something smaller that will provide better gas mileage. This is especially true if the driver has a long commute to work.

Smaller cars, often referred to as subcompact cars, have both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of a Small Car

  • Better gas mileage than larger vehicles, on average
  • Often cost less than larger vehicles
  • Easier to park and maneuver
  • Provide a fun and different driving experience
  • Popularity for resale
  • Sometimes are more reliable because they are more basic and mostly used worldwide

Disadvantages of a Small Car

  • Less horsepower so can take a longer time to get to faster speeds and will be slower going up large hills and bumpy terrain
  • May not provide as smooth a ride as bigger cars
  • May be more dangerous if involved in car accidents
  • Less space for drivers, passengers and cargo
  • You may feel self-conscious about how you look in a small vehicle, especially when the larger cars keep passing you by.

Smart Fortwo for You?

This two-door, two-passenger, rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive car is less than 9 feet long. It uses an automated manual transmission with a 5-speed, which enables you to choose manual or auto transmission modes without a clutch pedal.

The newer Smart Fortwo represents the 3rd Generation of Smart Fortwo automobiles. Main models currently sold in the USA:

Pure Coupe: $13,200 (starting). Lease $99/month, 36 months. ($1,393 at signing).

  • Solid roof, manual windows/side mirrors, auto air conditioning, 2-spoke leather steering wheel, 15 " steel wheels. No installed radio (antenna/speakers installed).
  • Engine: 3 cylinder, 1 liter, 70 horsepower. 34/38 miles per gallon (estimated city/highway)
  • Speed: 0-60 seconds in 12.8 seconds, Max. speed: 90 miles per hour.
  • Warranty: 48 month/50,000 miles.

Passion Coupe: $14,930 (starting). Lease $139/month, 36 months ($1,433 at signing).

  • Panoramic roof, power windows, power/heated side mirrors, 3-spoke leather steering wheel with shift paddles, 15" 9-spoke alloy wheels, smart radio with USB/AUX inputs.
  • Engine: 3 cylinder, 1 liter, 70 horsepower. 34/38 miles per gallon (estimated city/highway)
  • Speed: 0-60 seconds in 12.8 seconds, Max. speed: 90 miles per hour.
  • Warranty: 48 month/50,000 miles.

Passion Cabriolet: $17,930 (starting). Lease $199/month, 36 months ($1,493 at signing).

  • Convertible roof w/glass rear window, power windows, power/heated side mirrors, 3-spoke leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, 15" 9-spoke alloy wheels, smart radio with USB/AUX inputs.
  • Engine: 3 cylinder, 1 liter, 70 horsepower. 34/38 miles per gallon (estimated city/highway)
  • Speed: 0-60 seconds in 12.8 seconds, Max. speed: 90 miles per hour.
  • Warranty: 48 month/50,000 miles.

Electric Drive: $12,490 (starting). Lease $139/mos, 36 months ($1,433 at signing).

  • Coupe: Panoramic roof, Cabriolet: Convertible soft top, smart radio, 2-spoke leather steering wheel, power windows, power/heated side mirrors, 15" 9-spoke alloy wheels.
  • Motor: Water-cooled permanent 3-phase AC motor. Range: 76/59 (city/highway).

Other Small Cars

These other smaller car options may be bigger than the Smart Fortwo but they still offer many of the advantages of a smaller car. These cars have passenger room included so may be more practical for some drivers.

Toyota Yaris Hatchback

Toyota Yaris Hatchback

You and Your Yaris

Another popular small car which has an excellent mechanical history is the Toyota Yaris Hatchback. This 3-door hatchback is a fun, easy-to-drive car with many features that make it stand out among the smaller cars. It's priced well and has good resale value due to its popularity among young drivers. For a smaller car, it has a good amount of pep and delivers excellent gas mileage.

  • $15,845 (starting price). 3-Door L (Automatic Transmission). 15-inch steel wheels, rear window wiper and defogger, air conditioning/air filter, power windows, power door locks, 3-spoke steering wheel.
  • Engine/Transmission: 1.5 Liter, 4 cylinder, 4-speed automatic, 106 horsepower, 30/37 mpg (estimated city/highway)
  • Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
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Scion iQ

Scion iQ

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This small car built by Toyota has a surprisingly roomy backseat. It can comfortably seat 3 passengers (2 in the backseat) and the driver. It has plenty of pep to get around on level roads. Like other small cars, it lacks great performance going up hills and driving on bumpy roads.

  • $16,435 (starting price), 3 door, hatchback
  • Engine: 1.3 Liter, 4 cylinder, 94 horsepower, 36/37 mpg (estimated city/highway)
  • Drivetrain: Front-Wheel drive
Fiat 500

Fiat 500

Feelings for Fiat?

The Fiat 500 is another smaller car that offers good pep for its size. This car offers a Front Wheel Drive (FWD), 6-speed automatic transmission available with great gas mileage on all models. Turbo models give up to 135 horsepower.

Fiat 500 Hatch (Pop, Sport, Lounge, Turbo):

  • $16,445 (starting), 3 door, hatchback
  • Pop and Lounge have 15-inch wheels, Sport and Turbo have 16-inch wheels
  • Engine: 1.4 Liter, 4 cylinder, 31/40 mpg (city/highway estimate)

Fiat 500L (Pop, Easy, Trekking, Lounge):

  • $19,945 (starting) for the 500L Pop
  • 4 door model
  • 16-inch wheels for Pop, Easy and Lounge, 17-inch wheels for Trekking
  • Engine: 1.4-liter Turbo, 4 cylinder, 25/33 mpg (city/highway est.)

Fiat 500C

  • $19,945 (starting) for the 500c Pop
  • 2 models for 500C available: Pop, Lounge
  • 15-inch wheels, 2 door, Soft top convertible
  • Engine: 1.4 liter, 4 cylinder, 31/40 mpg (city/highway est.)

Fiat 500 Abarth

  • 2 models, Abarth and Abarth Cabrio
  • $22,195 (starting) for Abarth, $26,195 (starting) for Cabrio models
  • 16-inch wheels included with 17-inch wheels available
  • Cabrio has soft-top convertible
  • Engine: 1.4 liter Turbo, 4 cylinder, 28/34 mpg (city/highway est.)

Fiat 500E

  • $31,800 (starting)
  • Electric: 100% Electric Powertrain, 83Kw, 111 horsepower
  • 15-inch wheels

My Experience Driving a Smaller Car

In 2008, I purchased a new Toyota Yaris, 3 door hatchback. I chose the automatic transmission with manual windows and door locks. I chose this car because I wanted a unique, European look, in a car that would provide me with excellent gas mileage.

This car provided a unique driving experience. I could feel the road as I drove it on both highway and back roads. When I drove 55 miles per hour, it felt like I was driving that fast. When I drove on a wet, rainy road I could tell it was raining outside. In the snow of New England, I had to drive extra carefully.

These experiences were not bad, they were just different. With this car, I was able to experience driving with a unique experience. It was similar to driving a motorcycle with safety and protective cover from the elements.

I actually didn't just limit this car to commutes to work. I was comfortable enough to drive it cross country multiple times and was amazed at the great gas mileage and ability to maintain highway speeds going up and down hills. It may have taken longer than other cars to accelerate to these speeds but once there, it was easy to maintain these speeds.

It was not a very comfortable car for long trips but the sacrifice in comfort was worth the experience to me. The inside of the car felt bigger than it actually was, After a while, I began to forget how I must look on the outside, driving in such a small car.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 GMRichard

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