Affordable Compact EVs: Yamaha Sun Cruiser vs Western Country

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We made it! Time for another end-of-the-week rulebreaking session. Today we’re looking at compact electric vehicles – really compact electric vehicles. But first let’s settle up on our wagons from yesterday:

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Zzzz… Huh? What? Oh, sorry, I dozed off there. You voted for the Camry. That’s nice.

All right. So last week, my Friday special involved motor scooters, and there was some dissent in the ranks about two-wheeled vehicles being featured here. “Just for that,” I said to my colleagues here, “next Friday I’m gonna do golf carts.” I am a man of my word. You want four wheels? Here you go.

Yamaha Sun Cruiser – $3,700

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Engine/drivetrain: Electric motor, single-speed gear reduction, RWD

Location: Woodburn, OR

Odometer reading: Ha!

Runs/drives? Seems to

If I’m not mistaken, this is the same model of golf cart that our co-founder Jason Torchinsky was so taken with in the pits at Pebble Beach. These appear to have been available as either electric- or gas-powered, and I imagine the one Torch saw was gas. This one’s electric.

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Those headlights up high are its best styling feature, that’s for sure. And that little grille between them sort of makes that whole upper panel look like a half-scale first-generation Chevy Cavalier front clip. And that’s not a knock – I’m a J-car fan.

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Controls are minimal: just a steering wheel, two pedals, and a lever to select forward or reverse. Because this cart has full lights and turn signals, there is a chance it might be street-legal in some areas. But maybe not; no mention is made of its top speed, and a minimum speed is required in most places in order to drive a cart on the street.

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If it is street-legal, you can drive it to the supermarket, and carry your groceries home in the frunk. How cute is that?

Western Country Golf Cart – $4,000

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Engine/drivetrain: Electric motor, single-speed gear reduction, RWD

Location: Rancho Mirage, CA

Odometer reading: Ain’t got one

Runs/drives? Yep

Want something a little more upscale? Head to the Palm Springs area, where golf carts are common modes of transportation. There you’ll find this sweet Western golf cart, which features everything needed to make it street-legal, plus a stereo system and an air conditioner on the roof.

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Even better, this cart has been modified to reach a blistering 21 miles an hour. Yes, that’s right – you can just barely break the speed limit in a school zone in this baby.

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It’s got snazzy alloy wheels too, and a frunk of its own, the ad says. And personally, I like the color; were I to live in a place where I could use a golf cart to get around, I wouldn’t want a boring old white one.

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Bonus points for it looking kinda like a post-facelift Geo Storm from the front, too.

Everyone keeps saying we need small affordable EVs, but they’re here already. Here are two of them. You just have to live in a place where they make sense as transportation. And I suppose it helps to be retired, so you’re not in a hurry. Which one would you choose?


(Image credits – Craigslist sellers)

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35 Responses

  1. I actually like ’em both, but the Yamaha’s full windshield, great period teal-and-white paint (though Bob’s maroon-and-tan Western looks fine too) and that front end sold me. Mark sees an early Cavalier while to me it’s an Omni 024 without the grille split – either way, it works, and it’s funky. The Western’s creature comforts and those sweet wheels are nice, but the Yamaha has it.

    1. During a night of porch beers with some buddies, we found a golfcart with a snowmobile engine for about $450. Buddy said it would do 50 mph and had more oomph but he was afraid to take it any faster. We called him the next morning but it was already sold. Probably for the best.

  2. If I’m getting one of these it’s going to be a paddock vehicle. That means smaller and lighter is better. I’m getting the Yamaha and filling the front with tires when it’s changing time. Hope I can see over the open hood!

  3. In my work on various Hollywood studio lots, I’ve spent a fair amount of time pootling around in golf carts, mainly Yamaha or E-Z-Go ones. Don’t think I’ve ever had the pleasure of a Western. Anyway, I like both of these, but I bemoan the lack of a back seat (I’ve always driven four-holers). But though I really like the color of the red one, and I’m… shall we say… intrigued by its air conditioner, I’m gonna go with the Yamaha. It’s a spiffy aesthetic, and I can use the saved $300 to give it a halfway okay stereo (I already have a couple spare head units in my garage). I don’t see the point of the extra weight of the AC unit if all it can do is breathe a cool breath on the top of my brow before the utter lack of side doors and windows dissipate the effect away completely.

    1. The air conditioning is one of the stupidest options I’ve ever seen added to any vehicle, ever. And I knew someone who replaced all the aluminium on the bus they were living in with tongue and groove then sold the metal for beer money.

  4. WHY does the Western have a tinted half windshield? Is there that much glare from the hood? I don’t get it.

    Also: Air conditioner, but not enough enclosure to contain it. This is a lifestyle I do not understand. (Yes, I AM from the Midwest.)

    1. It looks like the Yamaha also has a stereo. And from the CL ad, it has “forced air duct on roof”! I mean, I don’t know what the hell that is supposed to do, but the Western doesn’t have it!

      Plus that frunk on the Yamaha looks like it could ice down a case of beer. Just enough to get through the front nine! No pics of the Western’s supposed frunk.

      Also note the arm rest/bar separating the two seats on the Yamaha. I like the idea of keeping my drunken golf buddy on his side of the cart.

      Yamaha wins for me.

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