Good things come in small packages, even very small packages. Made for agile maneuvering in crowded cities and squeezing into tight parking spaces, miniature cars are not for everyone. In fact, the decision to buy one often comes more from the heart than the head—because they’re just so much fun.
The first of these cars to tickle my fancy was the smart, which came to North America in 2005. Several years passed before this German Lilliputian (smart belongs to Mercedes-Benz) was confronted with serious competition, the Chevrolet Spark, Fiat 500 and Scion iQ. While the Mitsubishi Mirage and Nissan Micra (which will be offered as a 2015 model) could be considered in the same category because they appeal to the same small-car logic, these vehicles are a little bigger and therefore lumped in with the sub-compacts instead.
The smart may have the most years of experience in the category, but it isn’t necessarily the best in its class. Top marks actually go to the 2014 Fiat 500. With or without a turbo engine, in regular or sporty Abarth trims, this piccola italiana is pleasant to drive and offers the best value for money. While the 500 is not the most comfortable of the bunch, it makes up for it with dynamic performance. The silver medal goes to the 2014 Chevrolet Spark, which was designed to make life easier for everyone with four doors. Meanwhile, the Scion iQ scores well for appearance, but the fact that its back seats are unsuitable for regular-size human beings puts this car out of the running. Last but not least, the 2014 smart is sure to capture some hearts, but only among those willing to live with a finicky transmission, chronic lack of power and over-sensitivity to cross-winds.