Home » The Tiny Car Is An Endangered Species: COTD

The Tiny Car Is An Endangered Species: COTD

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In the not-too-distant past, Americans were able to buy some seriously compact cars. The Smart Fortwo, Fiat 500, Honda Fit, and Scion iQ were among the smallest modern cars money could buy. Heck, when you compare lengths, cars like the Smart Fortwo are even smaller than the micro machines you could buy in the past like the Subaru 360 or the subject of today’s Cold Start, the Honda N600.

Seriously, the American-spec Fortwo is 8.8 feet long. The Subaru 360 and the Honda N600 were both a whole foot longer at a touch over 9.8 feet. I suppose this also ties in well with Lewin’s post about a website that allows you to sit cars of varying sizes next to each other.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

While it might be a bit startling to learn your Triumph Spitfire sits under the beltline of a Smart Fortwo, it’s still sad to see all of these rockin’ small cars bite the dust. Perhaps it’s time we say something about these endangered species.

Screenshot (651)

Reader D-dub has just the thing:

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David Attenborough voice

This is the N600. A diminutive example of its kind, but not to be underestimated. It was introduced to the North American continent after stowing away aboard a trans-Pacific cargo ship, and had no natural competition on these shores. For decades it and its fellow Hondas have been rapidly consuming the native market. Breeding pairs of local varieties of the genus were first pushed out toward Mexico and Canada, then recently went extinct altogether. Only the larger truck and SUV native species still remain.

I would watch a show about discontinued cars narrated by Attenborough! For a second nomination, let’s take a peek at David’s drive of the MrBeast ‘Feastables’ Ford GT, where some lady told David this:

At one point, a woman pulled up next to me and asked me to roll down my window. The first thing she said was: “My son is going to be just like you.” She told me his name, and talked about how proud of him she was, and how she knows he’s going to be successful enough to own such a car. I told her the car wasn’t mine, but she just kept talking about her son and how he’s going to make it big someday.

I thought that was awesome. What a great mom.

She later helped me get out of a bit of a traffic jam, and waved goodbye as she sped off.

If only she knew David’s secrets. How would you process shower spaghetti, tools frozen to a garage floor, or an alternator under a tree? Leave it to EmotionalSupportBMW:

“My son is going to grow up just like you!”- Random Woman

“Ma’am, I’m international known for eating spaghetti in the shower.”- Hollywood DT

Have a great evening, everyone!

(Topshot: Honda, The Autopian, and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website – www.dfat.gov.au)

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Marques Dean
Marques Dean
2 months ago

I still have fun with my Fiat 500 Abarth.
Best $23,500 dollars I ever spent (in 2012). lol

Fjord
Fjord
5 months ago

All it would take for us to get all the tiny cars we could ever want would be to recognize European safety certification. Boom – instant access to VW Up!s, Renault Zoes, Fiat Pandas, etc. And don’t tell me they aren’t safe enough for NA streets, because I spent a few weeks driving around Italy earlier this year and these little guys were mixed in with endless semis at freeway speeds, and European traffic deaths are much lower than American deaths. Will never happen due to lobbying but I can dream.

3WiperB
3WiperB
5 months ago

I somehow derived joy earlier this year by telling a much younger co-worker that my MGB wasn’t even the small MG when he was joking about the diminutive size of the car.

Sundance
Sundance
5 months ago

After I sold my Suburban I bought a real Mini (1992, 1000cc). Eleven years an two Minis later (so three of them, all in all) and trying a Smart for one year, I had enough of tiny cars and I got my Merc CLK.I never before was so happy about heated seats and an a/c…

MrLM002
MrLM002
5 months ago

I want to get a small car but at the same time if I could get a single cab 6.5ft bed F-150 Lightning XL with a 3 seat bench I’d definitely get at least 1. I want a BEV Truck that can tow a small-ish camper trailer with seating 3 that won’t fall apart if stored outside.

With house prices the way they are (EVEN FOR TINY HOMES) for someone like myself who has no want or need for a house over 1000ft² a quality camper and a plot of land makes a lot more sense financially than a tiny home, let alone a regular sized home.

So while I’d love a tiny car it really only makes sense if I have a home.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
5 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

I’m in much the same boat. I actually own a house, but it’s not in a place I really want to be, and doesn’t have the garage/workspace I want. Also, it’s more living space than I need.

I’m in the process of buying a plot of land to build on, and I’ll put in a large garage/workspace and probably have a trailer or some other sort of living space sitting next to it as I build a little house myself. The contractors I’ve been talking to are so confused when I say, “I just want to put in septic and a well, and build a garage… house may come later.”

MrLM002
MrLM002
5 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

Exactly. Really the only reason I’d want a house is to have a massive claw foot cast iron bath tub, a quality toilet, and a pretty small garage/shop.

I can already fit my twin memory foam mattress in the bed of my Toyota and with a camper cap on it it is pretty dang cozy. If I got a “Full Size” truck with a bed cap It could easily fit my mattress so there are my luxury sleeping accommodations taken care of. All I really need is a kitchenette with 110V access, a basic toilet (probably go the incinerator route), a basic shower, etc.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
5 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Jeez… now you’ve got me looking at incinerating toilets… something I didn’t even know existed. Hmmm…..

Considering my long-term goal would be to go completely off-grid with at least the living space, this is of interest.

MrLM002
MrLM002
5 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

The main issue I see with them is that the incinerating takes a good bit of time, so if you’re having a properly problematic bowel incident that would require multiple flushes per hour an incinerator toilet wouldn’t keep up.

So personally I’d add a quality bathroom to your shop, no matter which way you go about it camper bathrooms leave a ton to be desired, but personally I’d much rather deal with emptying ash than emptying a “black water” tank.

MrLM002
MrLM002
5 months ago

Admin if you could delete this comment I’d appreciate it.

Thanks!

Last edited 5 months ago by MrLM002
Eggsalad
Eggsalad
5 months ago

My current car is one of the smallest and lowest cars you could buy in 2013. This weekend, I pulled up at a light next to a stock height 4×4 F-350. My roof line was below his door handles. I’m pretty sure this is how I’m gonna die, and he’ll think he ran over a Coke can.

Toecutter
Toecutter
5 months ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

“Was that a June bug?”

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
5 months ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

I feel this way around newer and lifted trucks, too… but then I visit a friend who dailies a ’97 Civic, and suddenly my car feels larger than it is by virtue of being more modern and upright.

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
5 months ago

I ended up with my tiny-but-not-tiny car by chance, but I’m a convert.

Incidentally, I’ve seen two N600s this year! One as art outside a local Ewe Pullet/Wee Pullet yard, and a lovely example outside Ocean Honda in Hanover, MA:

https://i.imgur.com/yduadS0.jpg
https://i.imgur.com/UFplr5Z.jpg

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
5 months ago

> Americans were able to buy some seriously compact cars. The Smart Fortwo, Fiat 500, Honda Fit, and Scion iQ were among the smallest modern cars money could buy.

No mention of the i3? Mercedes, you’re in a world of trouble now!

Toecutter
Toecutter
5 months ago

We’re one camel sneeze away from tiny cars making a comeback.

America might be experiencing a temporary glut of oil due to trading its future viable drinking water via fracking in/near its largest aquifers to get at its last remaining oil, but it is still a global oil market and the USA will not be spared from price spikes should there be significant disruptions in oil supplies in other parts of the world. Further, this oil is still finite, and unlike conventional oil fields which tend to show a Gaussian distribution of production vs. time, extraction via fracking tends to drop off a cliff without much warning. It won’t last.

The materials used in making EVs and their components are also limited in availability, not just in terms of raw materials available to extract, but also processing capacity of said materials. Building massive 100+ kWh crossovers/SUVs/trucks will greatly limit the number of electric vehicles that can be built and sold in a given time frame, which if the transition to these vehicles is exacerbated by any oil price spikes, this could eventually force the need to build smaller/more efficient EVs or else they too will suffer a similar price spike. It doesn’t help that the overwhelming majority of currently available EVs are deliberately built to be unrepairable with their battery packs designed with planned obsolescence in mind, and recycling infrastructure for the raw materials used to make the batteries and electronics is almost non-existent.

All of this needs to change. Smaller cars would certainly help things.

I built a one-seater that can do 150-200 miles on 1.5 kWh at 30-35 mph cruising speeds, and it has a LOT of room for improvement. It is almost half a meter longer than a Smart ForTwo, but about the same height as a Triumph Spitfire, and less than 1m in width. So if we’re ever suffering material shortages such that people face the prospect of not being able to get around in an economical manner, it will be due to sheer wastefulness combined with stupidity and greed, and little else…

Last edited 5 months ago by Toecutter
Eslader
Eslader
5 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

You know, 3 years ago I’d have agreed with you. I remember when gas prices spiked around 15 or so years ago. I was still driving an old rusty CRX as a winter beater, and I’d regularly get dudes in large trucks coming up to me at gas stations asking if I’d be willing to sell. People were desperate for fuel-efficient cars. GM went bankrupt and blamed at least in part their overproduction of large trucks and SUVs which were suddenly largely unsellable.

Then we started fracking, oil prices went down, and we were right back to buying the biggest goddamn vehicles we could get our hands on.

Gas prices spiked again during the severe inflation a year ago, and I didn’t see anyone trying to downsize anything. They mostly ran around blaming Biden (which was funny, since our inflation was lower than most other developed countries, and somehow I doubt Biden had anything to do with European inflation) and bitching about gas prices, but still paying to fuel their giant vehicles and still launching from stop lights with the pedal floored.

I think at this point Americans have largely lost whatever sanity they formerly had, and if gas prices soar again they’ll just fill up with Klarna and pretend their 7mpg truck isn’t part of the problem.

Toecutter
Toecutter
5 months ago
Reply to  Eslader

There will come a time where they cannot simply swipe the credit card again to “afford” to fuel their gas hogs. One can’t keep juggling increasing amounts of debt around forever. I predict in the coming years the auto industry will be in far worse shape than it was roughly 15 yeas ago. The bailouts that occurred coupled with boondoggles like “cash for clunkers” helped bring us to the situation we are in today. These massive overly-aggressive road hippos are creatures of bureaucratic largesse within both government and corporation, and reflect perfectly the sensibilities of those in control of these institutions. “Too big to fail” indeed…

Last edited 5 months ago by Toecutter
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
5 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Unfortunately I think were looking at an Idiocracy take on fiscal Darwinism. Somehow the rules we have been lead to believe should apply don’t.

I know, I know, just wait. Well I’ve been waiting since the Reagan administration. When’s it going to happen?

Last edited 5 months ago by Cheap Bastard
ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
5 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Every vehicle over 6000 pounds gross vehicle weight is eligible for treatment as a commercial vehicle and accelerated depreciation under the federal tax code if you have a business. People with retail business buy BMW and Land Rover SUVs and qualify for this commercial vehicle treatment.

The break won’t go away us small businesses and domestic automakers love it. So while we are subsidizing electric vehicles we are also subsidizing gas guzzlers.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
5 months ago
Reply to  Eslader

Yep – Americans two or three decades still had enough basic peasant intelligence to know that if something hurts, you should stop doing it. Now they’ll just blame trannies or avocado toast or the police (trying to be even-handed here, folks) and get another credit line.

Beatle
Beatle
5 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

While I am a huge small car fan (does that make sense?) I have a feeling the bloated vehicle size is here to stay, and we’ll likely see a rise in PHEVs to squeeze efficiency higher. For many, a range of 30 miles is enough to do most daily commutes on electric only which is pretty nice. Perhaps in another 10 years manufacturers will downsize – maybe if they fix the stupid CAFE calculation that turns everything on the road into a “light truck.”

Toecutter
Toecutter
5 months ago
Reply to  Beatle

The CAFE footprint rule was written by and for auto industry lobbyists. The name of their game is extracting as much profit margin out of buyers as possible, and have spent billions of dollars on propaganda/advertising to convince the public that this new SUV/truck paradigm is safer, and have basically purchased the government that makes the rules we are all expected to abide by decades ago. Except this SUV/truck paradigm isn’t at all safer, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. These heavier vehicles also have more kinetic energy they need to dissipate in a crash, making it more difficult to design everything for safety, with the consequence of driving the necessary mass of smaller vehicles up as well.

Last edited 5 months ago by Toecutter
ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
5 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Yeah the whole safety standard thing needs to be expanded from “surviving a crash” to “avoiding a crash” and “not damaging things you crash into”. How about negative points on the safety tests for damage inflicted to other cars/peds?

Usernametaken
Usernametaken
5 months ago

*in the voice of David Attenborough*

…Here we see the Torchinsky in it’s native habitat, engaged in its most frequent behavior, stalking tail lights.

Look! He’s caught a glimpse of a rare mid-year Alfa Romeo 164s rear end, his arousal level will be peaking in the next 60-90 seconds. After completing the mating dance, then will follow a conciliatory cigarette while reclined in any Volkswagen Beetle made before 1983…

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
5 months ago
Reply to  Usernametaken

I remember reading a long interview with Ronnie Peterson in which they rode in a car together at night, and there were some mysterious lights on a vehicle ahead. The people in the front were trying to figure out what they were; Ronnie gave one glance and said “it’s a Volvo Amazon with the trunklid open” – as with all F1 drivers, his vision and observational skill were outstanding. The closest thing we have today is Jason Torchinsky.

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
5 months ago

To be fair: there are worse aspirations than becoming a foremost expert on a beloved automobile, running the world’s best car site, being Torch’s friend, and having the capacity to enjoy the simple things (such as canned spaghetti) even in strange places.

Goof
Goof
5 months ago

Reminds me of 20+ years ago, when in my days of having absolutely no idea what I really wanted, I bought a 3rd generation Mitsubishi Eclipse with the 3.0L 24V V6.

A manager of a product line came and told me when I was having lunch on the shipping dock outside, “Wow, my son says that’s his dream car!”

Without hesitation I said, “Dream car? Well, at least the kid’s goals are realistic.”

For the record, the 3G Eclipse was fine as a conveyance. Practical enough with a liftback hatch and fold-down rear seats. Reliable. Could get out of its own way (mid-to-upper 7s to 60?), though it handled like the other vehicles (Dodge Stratus?) its core platform was shared with: Which is to say it understeered like an absolute pig.

Same place I worked with a woman who got a 4-cylinder 3rd generation Altima. “My husband said it was his dream car” was her thing. Again, being realistic?

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
5 months ago
Reply to  Goof

Set the bar low enough and you can always exceed expectations!

Usernametaken
Usernametaken
5 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I think once your face is that close to the ground near the bar, you should be cut off

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
5 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Better to die looking up at the sunlight through thirty feet of water, with hope in your eyes, than to drown looking down at the infinite sadness of the sea floor.

That’s what I’ve always thought when caught in an undertow.

Barry Allen
Barry Allen
5 months ago

As a fellow weirdo, this comment thread got out there real fast

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
5 months ago
Reply to  Barry Allen

Zero to sixty in… (who cares?) how fast.
Any fan of the absurd is a friend of mine.

Last edited 5 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
5 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I see that we haven’t met

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
5 months ago
Reply to  Goof

I used to know a Greek girl in Corfu who said she’d go out with any guy who had a Hyundai Coupé (that was the first-gen Tiburon in the US).

Goof
Goof
5 months ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Oh boy. I dated a gal that had that generation Tiburon. What a disaster she was! An extremely cute disaster (that actually asked me out), but what a disaster.

When I first went to pick her up at home (I had the Eclipse) her parents were so happy to meet me. Apparently her previous BF was habitually outside their home screaming his lungs out in the middle of the night after she broke off with him.

She was a complete flake, so I tapped out. Apparently she ended up going back to the psychopath, which I learned from her father when I went to a Home Depot (apparently he worked there) and he told me the rest of the story. Felt like I dodged more than a few bullets with her by avoiding eventual run-ins with her ex.

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