Attack of the Mico Machines

Here Come the Micro MachinesNot too long ago it became apparent that I needed a new vehicle. In the few short years that I have been driving I had my fair share of hand-me-down vehicles. I started with a big pick up truck when I first turned sixteen. Then I moved on to an old Chevrolet Monte Carlo that was white with a navy blue top. From there I went to an Eagle Talon. It was a fun car to drive and the one that would eventually lead me to my first car accident. I went from that to a Pontiac Firebird Formula and then onto a second truck that was in much better shape than the first one.

The truck, when I took possession, was cool to drive. It had been lowered a little bit, had nice wheels, tinted windows, and a huge interior. But after the windshield wipers went out, the air conditioner stopped working properly, and the brakes started to go out I began thinking about investing in a new car.

Being the cheapskate that I am, price was the initial selling point for me. I headed out to various car lots to test drive an array of vehicles including a Honda Civic, a Honda Accord, a Scion XB, and even a Toyota Yaris. But none of these cars seemed to fit my personality or my budget. I was actually looking at spending less than $200 a month on a car payment. But that is when I decided to just head over to the Mercedes dealership and check out the price on those cute little Smart cars. After a few trips to the dealership, test driving one numerous times, and researching all of it’s safety features, I decided to take the plunge and purchase my very own Smart. It was one of the best decisions that I have made yet as an adult.

Since I purchased my car a ton of companies have been exploring the small-car market. Some are even calling this a “war of mini cars.” Smart was not the first compact car available, but it was the first to get this much attention. Not only is the car small, it gets incredible gas mileage and provides a talking point in conversations with friends and family. There has even been times where I have walked out from any given retail store or restaurant and had to converse with people staring at my car. Just the other night a gentleman was gawking at it when I walked out of Scotty’s Brewhouse. I approached the car and made a comment, “Sure is small, isn’t it?” He laughed and agreed with me still gaping at the car as he walked toward his own vehicle.

I have not had the chance to drive any of these cars; most of them are not even out yet. But I am sure the experience will be very similar to what it is like driving my car. I am not even so sure why people get so excited over these smaller cars. It makes sense to drive a car that gets better gas mileage, and they have been all over Europe for years. People over there embrace these smaller cars and for good reason. Hopefully with a slew of these coming out in the next few years that we can also embrace these smaller cars here in the United States as well.

2011 Scion iQ

I have always been a fan of Scion. Their cars are all priced to sell and they offer very few discount or deals on their vehicles. With their success from the XB series, it makes sense that edgy car companies like this break into smaller rides. This will start at just under $16,000 and will available in early 2011.

When looking at it, you almost get the feeling you are looking at a sports car. The back end is big, like most cars from them, and it almost looks like it could take off at any minute and simply fly you to your destination. Experts are saying this is going to be Smart’s closest competition due to the price point and the size as well as the features offered in the car.

The engine in the iQ is bigger than that in the Smart. It has a four cylinder under the hood and pumps out ninety horsepower while the Smart only pounds out just over seventy horses.  Another thing that makes the iQ that much better is that it fits four passengers, inline the Smart that only has two seats. And while the Smart offers more airbags than you can count, the iQ has six more airbags than the Smart. It even has a rear window curtain airbag. This is the first of its kind to offer a feature like this. Considering the price point, it does in fact seem to be an upgrade from the Smart.

2011 Mazda Mazda2

Mazda is known for making sleek looking vehicles and creating advertising. I have never driven a Mazda, not even sure I have ever been in one, but they understand what it takes to sell cars. You might remember the Zoom Zoom advertising campaign they ran a few years back.

The Mazda Mazda2 (not a very creative name if you ask me) will closely compare to the Toyota Yaris. While the Yaris pumps out over 100 horsepower, the Mazda2 will only push 100 horses. Not to mention the Mazda2 is much better looking than the Yaris. I was not a fan of the Yaris in terms of the general appearance, but this vehicle is much prettier to look at. I actually think it looks like a Toyota Prius before the Yaris.

The Mazda2 should be out sometime in the summer of 2010 and offers an unbeatable price tag. The ride comes in at under $14,000 but offers something that most dealers won’t. For instance, if you went to purchase a Yaris, you are going to have to pay extra for all of the features that make the car unique. You will spend extra cash for keyless entry, automatic windows, and a deluxe sound system. However, with the Mazda2 all of those things come standard in every ride.

2010 Chevrolet Spark

You know, not all of these cars are set out to compete with the Smart, but this little guy is as well. The 2010 Chevrolet Spark, which is actually not set to come out until sometime early in 2011, is a funky looking five-door hatchback with enough room for four adults.

The cost is also very affordable to coming in at just over $12,000. Also, this little guy comes with a four-cylinder engine. Although detailed specifications such as horsepower and top speed are not yet available; assume that it will be comparable to all of these other miniature cars.

Chevy has been hurting lately, as we all know, so releasing a car that will get almost forty miles per gallon will likely help their product line. However, it might be too little too late as the Smart is already even more fuel efficient and has three years on the Spark. Nevertheless, Chevy’s offering is a neat looking car through and I imagine will sell tons when it hits the line.

2011 Nissan Juke

Right off the bat I want to drive one of these. The name alone intrigues me and the look is unique and fitting to a modern lifestyle. It looks almost like an SUV and pumps out over 180 horsepower. For a car this size, and in a category like this, 180 horses is a lot of unexpected power.

Now, the issue here is that it is going to cost you quite a bit of money to drive one of these. Well, I say that realtively as all of these miniature cars are affordable. The Juke will run you just under $20,000. But, in the eyes of Nissan, they are trying to compete with the Mini Cooper from BMW.

The Juke will offer some insane features as well that you won’t find in these other miniature rides. For instance, you can add an additional all-wheel drive system. That is one thing that the Mini Cooper doesn’t even offer. (There are reports that Mini will actually be releasing a model with this option in 2011.)

Speaking of the design of this car, the folks that drew this model up took a lot of inspiration from motorcycles and even rally cars. That is partly why this ride gives you such a unique appearance. I might even call the look of this car sporty. Not sure if it is more sporty than the Mini Cooper though. Those things just look mean.

For all of you techies out there, this might be the ride for you. Another cool feature is that the Juke comes with a Bluetooth hands-free phone system and an iPod interface. Oh yeah, and the gas tank is in the center of the car, similar to that of a motorcycle. I can’t wait to see one of these bad boys. Expect this to hit car lots later this year.

As you can see, there are tons of potential competitors coming to the market for these smaller and more eco friendly rides. The Mini Cooper and the Smart are just two of the options when it comes to saving money on gas and impressing everyone you drive by on the side of the road. I have driven a Mini Cooper (my girlfriend has one) and I own a Smart so I can attest to the joy of driving a small car. I might drive this Smart until the wheels fall off. Get out there and test-drive one of these small cars. You might just find yourself trying to work it into your budget. Be safe out there everyone and happy driving!