As a nation, we’re accustomed to drive huge cars. The SUV became kind of a standard and a status symbol.
But things change. During the last several years, we’re seeing more and more people talk about economy and ecology.
It seems like a new age has begun. The age of light and small, smart and cheap, fun to drive – cars.
Italian Fiat 500 – Comeback of an Icon
Let’s start from Italy, the land of soccer, fashion, elegance and bad economy. New Fiat 500, heir of the same-named miniature car which was produced from 1957 to 1975. It earned respect as an affordable, practical and agile vehicle.
It was (conveniently) launched officially on July 4, 2007 and instantly gained huge popularity among customers. The millionth unit rolled down the assembly line in 19 November, 2012. Its sales went equally successful in the United States, although it can be considered to be a little bit tiny in size for America’s taste. So, what’s so special about it?
Well, have a look on this link to get some idea. With 101 hp 4-cylider engine in basic variant, power is on the lower limit of acceptable. But that’s why Fiat created a new turbo-charged engine with five-speed manual transmission. You won’t feel underpowered during a city ride, but if you’re considering hitting a highway and you decide to do it, crosswinds will probably make you wonder why the heck did you put your life in danger for no reason. Then again, only desperate people would decide to take a road trip with car this small. Where it really shows its potential is downtown, in cramped streets full of traffic. Steering is piece of cake, especially when it comes to parking. But thinking of stuffing it with wife/husband and three kids with all the necessary gear would mean that you need a lot bigger car. With 31 mpg in city and 40 mpg on highway and almost breathtaking 6-speed transmission (in automatic or manual config) it showed that Italians really mean business.
In the end, let’s face it. With almost a thousand available accessories and options (12 base colors, 9 wheel options, 15 interior trims…) this car is sheer fun. I don’t know why, maybe because of that commercial with J Lo, I think this car was intended for younger people and, don’t mind me for saying this – girls. To be completely honest with you, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable on a driver’s seat of this nimble little bird. With starting price over $16k price/quality ratio is more then good. But to me, the overall X-factor from 1 to 10 is still somewhere around 8. Should you choose to buy it, you’ll not be disappointed by this little fellow.
The Never Ending Party
I know, I know, F-150 is the one that won your hearts and minds. But we can’t always write a story about the United States’ most popular and sold vehicle for the last three decades. During the last ten or more years we’re witnessing growth in sales of small cars due to their better fuel economy and possibly to what I call the “European influence”. American car manufacturers traditionally prioritized other vehicle categories, but in order to stay in race with others from around the world, they needed to adapt.
Like every serious company, Ford promptly came up with the solution. They already had Fiesta model, but they had to upgrade it to the 21st century standards. The new Fiesta is different in all but name from the old one.
The name of this car in Spanish means party, festival or carnival. Whatever word you choose, you won’t make mistake because this car is all like that. Full of fun, good looking and made so you can enjoy it.
Great fuel economy of 29 mpg in city zones and 39 mpg on a highway mean you’ll keep quite some money in your wallet for other needs. Under the hood you’ll find a little devil-engine with 120 hp @5000rpm that will make sure you can occasionally use the highway without a fear of being blown of the road by some wind or when you’re passing some big rig on your way. Available in both hatchback and sedan, it’s more versatile than the Fiat 500. It offers more space than 500 too, but don’t expect too much from it. Keep in mind it’s a small car. If you want more, consider buying a Focus, but be prepared to spend more.
I am imagining typical buyer of Fiesta as a young person, proficient in using 21st century technologies like PCs, smartphones, tablets, Internet and other stuff. And this car offers just about everything you could need so you don’t get bored during your ride. You won’t get all the extra gadgets in standard variant, but higher trims come with all kinds of accessories. Voice-activated infotainment system Ford Sync is also included, but you can see more about equipment on this link.
With starting price in a vicinity of $13k for a basic, 4-door sedan S, Ford Fiesta proves to be quite competitive in its market segment. But, maybe you want for your companion to be more than just a transporter of you and your stuff or maybe you have a deeper pocket. There’s a premium Titanium line with tons of stuff waiting for you to build a Fiesta according to your own specific needs.
Between 500 and Fiesta being reasonable would probably mean buying Fiesta. No one can deny Fiat’s unquestionably stylish design and scent of some previous, better times. But, if you care more about what’s under the hood, I propose going with the Ford’s little baby. If you still decide to take Fiat 500 in the end, it’s completely understandable – its magic is evident.
Grandpa Strikes Back With Style – Mini Cooper
Save the best for last – they say. Anyway, what’s to say about the car with influence so great it was only surpassed by the Ford’s Model T? With around 50 years of production and over 5 millions sold on the markets worldwide, this car achieved almost legendary status. And today, in 2013, it still looks classy. Maybe even a bit arrogant but stylish for sure – like every true British.
It traveled a long way to the car we see today. On this link you can read a lot about its history, but take note that this car was initially intended for mass-market. Today it’s simply an icon. But, let’s be honest and just say that it’s not the same car.
After the “mini” name reverted to BMW ownership, the newly produced BMW mini was technically much different than the old one. At first glance, it doesn’t escape the eye that this car is made for excitement, not for distant journeys into the unknown. With great fuel economy and excellent driving characteristics it is stunning. So stunning it could make a driver forget his luggage. And maybe his kids. But that’s just fine ’cause there’s not much room for stuff in the trunk anyway. All the stuff a driver carries can be put on a back seat anyway because this is not a car for a family trip. It’s very unlikely that two grown persons would agree on driving in the back of the Mini.
If I said Fiat 500 is a retro looking car, well, multiply that by 2 and you’ll get it how the Mini Cooper looks from the inside. With some switches hard to reach, and not too much user-friendly programming of stereo, nav (GPS) and climate systems, it can be found to be frustrating by some drivers. Good side is that Mini comes standardly equipped with HD radio, Bluetooth and USB port. But I suppose it’s not as much of the use to you if you don’t know how to put them to use.
Anyway, Mini was never about the looks, accessories and gadgets. The most fun-to-drive car in the class of small cars needs to be exactly that. Fun. And how do you achieve that? By putting inside the demon of an engine, and making sure that driver could control it. Mini Cooper comes with a variety of engines, starting with the weakest, 121 hp strong, 4-cylinder engine, to the strongest 208 hp, turbocharged engine in John Cooper Works Engine. It got a lot of appraisal from owners regarding its 6-speed manual transmission and optional 6-speed automatic transmission. With 29 mpg in town and 37 on highway it’s not a surprise customers love it so much. Besides that, excellent brakes and cornering abilities inspire drivers’ confidence. And confident driver that has a trustworthy car is a happy driver.
On second thought, Mini Cooper is actually a sports car built in the body of a small car. That and the fact it is full of sheer awesomeness would make it my first choice if I decide to buy a car in its category. Only if I had $20,000.00 on my account. For basic variant. Right.