Home » I’m Jealous Of England’s Small Cars, Even If I Get Why They Don’t Work Here

I’m Jealous Of England’s Small Cars, Even If I Get Why They Don’t Work Here

Matts Uk Small Cars Ts
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There’s a lot about London to love, from its high density of pubs to its extremely bacon-forward breakfasts. It’s also a cosmopolitan city with a great transportation network, which means car ownership isn’t a necessity for most. And even those who do own cars can reasonably buy a small car and not have to worry about it.

It became a joke among my family while I was in London that I’d run past a brand new Ferrari SF90 or an Audi eTron GT to get a picture of a Mercedes A-Class or one of the cool Fiat 500 variants we didn’t get in the United States.

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I can’t help it. Not only is there the novelty of something different, there’s also an appreciation for how an urban center feels when most of the cars aren’t 5,000-pound Chevy Yukons. I love a big truck or SUV when I’m back in Texas, but even a Black Cab here (more on driving that later) felt like a lot on some of the narrow streets of London.

When it comes to pints or the aforementioned bacon, bigger is definitely better. I’m not sure that applies to vehicles in cities.

London Has Some Dope Small Cars

A Class Mercedes

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Right around the corner from our hotel was this second-generation Mercedes A-Class, which is about seven feet long and can seat four people and their groceries. I think these look great. We never got this one in the United States (unless you’re Doug).

Smart Car

There are Smarts in the United States, but we don’t have as many, we don’t have diesel ones, and we don’t have as many customized ones. I feel like every Smart I saw was customized.

Id3 Mazda

The Volkswagen ID.3 is technically a compact EV, I guess, but it weighs 4,000 pounds and is seemingly pretty large when you compare it to this Mazda wagon (which weighs less).

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More Small Cars

Even a Mini Cooper looks big in England!

Gta+alfa

I love old Alfas. Small is good. Small is fast. Small is beautiful. Look how much room there is for it in this parking spot. The flat tires aren’t a great sign.

Cool Color

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There were only 500 Fiat Rivas made, but it’s a gorgeous spec.

Fiat Seicento

The Fiat Seicento pictured here, I think, is a Fiat Seicento Sporting. It was the replacement for the Fiat 500 (Cinquecento) and, while it didn’t have any power, it only weighed about 1,600 pounds!

Bmw I3 Cop Car

When you make all the cars small you can even make the police cars small. The i3 looks great as a police car. Should David paint his car like this?

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The Problem

Not to go all new-urbanist on you, but there are numerous reasons why small cars are great in urban environments:

  • Smaller cars generally weigh less, which means they do less damage to roads over time, saving taxpayers repair money and saving other drivers from repairs.
  • A smaller car takes up less space, meaning you need fewer and smaller parking spaces.
  • Smaller cars are, generally, better for the environment, creating less emissions (ICE) and requiring smaller batteries (EVs).
  • Smaller cars are safer for pedestrians.

The inverse of this, of course, is generally true. SUVs have gotten better at protecting drivers while simultaneously making life riskier for pedestrians. They take up more space in cities and they’re bad for roads. Arguably, heavy electric vehicles also pose many of the same risks (a Tesla Model Y also weighs about 4,400 pounds and it would suck to get nailed by one of those).

Again, if people want cars they should be able to have cars. They should just be charged relative to the impact and cost to the local environment. In the case of London, that’s congestion pricing and other parking restrictions.

Like, if you want this please have this:

Jaguar Xkr

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While not a big car, it’s at least a super looooooong car.

If I lived in London I’d probably try to get something vintage or weird and it would be nice to know that, given many cars are small, I could feel fairly safe even taking my kiddo around in something like a Twingo.

I’m simultaneously desirous of something smaller and aware of the physics of it all. It’s not like I won’t end up buying a Citroën 2CV one day, but not to put my family in one in a city full of blind corners and massive trucks. The average vehicle is getting so big–on average a new car in America weighs about 4,200 pounds–that my E39 suddenly feels like a small car.

There’s a sort of mutually assured destruction when everyone else has a bigger vehicle and thus I’m worried that the average weight of a vehicle I’m going at risk of colliding with is approximately equivalent to a storage container full of Twingos. Do you know how many Suburban Ubers I see on a daily basis? The average Uber in London appears to be a Prius with a scuffed bumper.

I think as we rebuild and redesign our cities here in the U.S. it’s helpful to think about the reasons why it’s generally nicer to walk around places like London (or Paris) than it is to walk around most big American cities.

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Plus, a place that’s more conducive to small cars is also more conducive to vintage cars.

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Starhawk
Starhawk
25 days ago

I have a simple solution. Instead of writing an article like this, import such a small car, and advocate for it. Start a blog or a YouTube or something. Show it off. Show how everyday people CAN live with a car like that. Sooner or later, the “problem” will solve itself — because it’s largely a matter of perception, not statistic.

I live in a tiny Southern US town, one where you can’t go anywhere without getting on the local highway, and honestly the best vehicle for me would be a Piaggio Ape.

No, hear me out. I live alone and hardly go anywhere. I need something simple and basic and reliable, that isn’t complicated to operate, because I get overwhelmed easily by too much to keep track of — which, really, is more than a literal couple of gauges and lights. I don’t need to be fast… in fact, I startle super easy, and my reflexes are AWFUL. Tree wheels, a seat, a roof, and a flatbed your wife could play Bridge on, wirh minimal controls and a scooter engine, is absolute perfection… especially because I physiologically can’t balance on a two-wheel.

Mopeds and scooters already run that podunk four-lane. So do Escalades and semis. Kindly do not insult my intelligence by claiming that a GY6 is fine and an Ape will get me killed in a week.

It’s perception, nothing more — and it’s stupid.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
26 days ago

I never drove anything as small as the cars in this article but but I went 30 years driving A1 Jetta sized cars and a compact pickup before I bought something larger, and that was with two children and a fleet of bicycles. Something most of neighbors would think warranted an SUV or minivan.
I like mini MPVs like the Citroën Picasso or the Mazda5 as balancing big capacity with smallish footprint. I had a Mazda5 for a while and loved it but am currently stuck in a crossover. I do appreciate the AWD and ground clearance in the back country but wsh it was better packaged.
I like small cars and keep meaning to buy one but my other ride is currently a 20′ long pickup. Fortunately I live in the sticks

OM613
OM613
26 days ago

I’m trying to work out what the rose joint type fittings are on the nose of the Fiat Seicento. The number plate and bumper trim have been modified to accomodate them.
I think it might be for flat towing behind a motorhome.
The MOT history on the Seicento is bonkers. Talk about having one foot in the grave.

Rock Burner
Rock Burner
25 days ago
Reply to  OM613

Yes – they’d be for a towing “A” frame arrangement.

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