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Microcars for City Drivers

Not so long ago, boat-sized cars cruised the motorways of this wide-open country. If you wanted to see a tiny car, you’d have to go to Europe or watch a Mentos ad (which looked suspiciously like they were shot in Europe). But with the continuing interest in fuel efficiency and smaller carbon footprints, microcars have grown more common, with new compact concept cars springing up at every auto show.

While of fuel economy and environmental concerns provide much of the motivation for buying a small car, John Filiss of SeriousWheels.comcounts off some other motivations. “Very small cars can be quite endearing in appearance, and there are microcar clubs around the world for people who collect old Isettas, Messerschmidts, and other very tiny cars from yesteryear. Another aspect is that smaller cars are regarded by many as being more fun to drive.

"Of all the small car manufacturers today, MINI has probably succeeded the most brilliantly at making this a big part of their marketing. A small go-cart has a more visceral feel than a full-size car, including sports cars that may have better performance figures, and that same quality is definitely evident in smaller cars versus their larger counterparts.So long as you don’t have an intimidation factor of being surrounded by much larger vehicles, tiny cars are also easier to drive… traffic lanes always have plenty of width, you can turn on a dime, and almost any parking space will do.”

One concern that always rises when considering tiny cars is safety in the event of collision. This can vary greatly from vehicle to vehicle. “Manufacturers like Mini and smart have put a great deal of effort into making their cars as safe as possible,” says Filiss. “There are some basic physics that work against small cars in a collision that are hard to completely overcome, though. A large car will usually fare much better in a collision than a small car. On the other side of the equation, though, small cars generally have better braking, better handling, and better maneuverability than larger vehicles. So, your ability to avoid an accident entirely tends to be better in a smaller vehicle.”

Click ahead to see 10 unusual small cars selected by Filiss.

By Colleen Kane
Posted 28 April 2011

Photo: Volkswagen