cooperCity living often offers many challenges; in particular, driving in the city. If you’re out driving to run errands, trying to commute without using public transportation, or taking an out-of-town friend on a tourist excursion, finding parking, for example, can be a real hassle. But these days, there are some small cars that make “zipping through town” a whole new experience.

greenSmall is Beautiful

Let me be clear, I’m no car expert. As a matter of fact, I was perfectly content to leave Los Angeles to move to England, and then to New York, if only to avoid having to own a car and drive through massive traffic every day. But you don’t have to be an expert to realize that there are some practical reasons to make these super-subcompact cars (sometimes referred to as micro-cars) your car of choice—assuming you’re secure enough in your masculinity. No, I’m not talking about the latest roadsters or Porsche sports cars, I’m thinking more along the lines of Smart Cars, Mini-Coopers, the Fiat 500 or The Honda Fit. (And sorry, but I’m singling out the men, because I’ve honestly never heard a woman complain they’d be embarrassed to drive any of these.)

Less car typically means less money, so there’s a good chance, unless you chose to pimp your Mini-Cooper ride, you’re not going to be dropping a mini-fortune. Many of the small cars, hybrid and non-hybrids alike get decent gas mileage—good for both your wallet and the environment. And if you run out of gas, heck your car may just be light enough for you to push it back home all by yourself!

The Attributes

With plenty of competition in the car market, makers have been challenged to make sure the ride is as comfortable as possible, regardless of car size. We’ve showroom or road tested a few of models, and my husband, who charts in at approximately 6-foot-2 with some long legs, was shocked to discover surprisingly good head and/or leg room, thanks to taller roofs and longer wheelbases in the front seat of a number of popular models. Many of these cars appear they’d only seat two, but actually can seat three or four just fine for a short excursion.

Sporty, Cool and Clever Design

silverWho didn’t find it charming when the updated “Volkswagen Beetles” gave owners the option of putting a bud vase on the dashboard? (A VW rep said the original bugs had them too, but claimed they were phased out at some point in the 1970’s.) Ok, so maybe some of the fellas wouldn’t have wanted a bud vase, but it was optional. The Honda Fit’s fuel tank is fashioned forward, allowing for more space in the rear seating area. Smart Car’s new commercial reminds riders the 2013 model has 8 airbags, a “crash management system,” and “the world’s only Tridium Safety Cell, which can withstand over 3.5 tons.” I don’t know WHAT that is, but it looks pretty cool in the commercial to see the frame of that little car holding up a big ol’ SUV. All examples of thoughtful design.

The Personality Factor

Small cars come with their own personalities. Who could ever forget “Herbie the Love Bug?” And I dare you to tell me that you’ve never noticed the “smile” on the front of a small car—they all seem to smile. When people honk their small horns, it’s almost as if they’re letting out a little laugh. They seem to be saying things like, “I’ve got spirit! I’ve got pep! I’m so cute I’ve got roll in my step!” Sure, design may not be as important as safety, but many of these cars have surprisingly good safety ratings, considering how small they are, and chances are, when driving cars this size you’re likely more aware of yourself and others on the road, so perhaps you’ll drive more carefully anyway.

chillax

And as for finding that aforementioned parking spot, your chances go up, up, up of finding one when driving “small.” All of the sudden, you may discover you can sneak into the end of the block and NOT be covering the crosswalk. Some people, even park their little cars perpendicular with the sidewalk. But I’ve yet to see any traffic brownie issue a ticket for doing that. Evidently, they are big enough to think small.