America likes living large, including their vehicles. But there are a delightful assortment of small, worthy cars available for 2018. We pounded a few for a week each; here’re our results.
This little $55,400 monster, slightly refreshed for this year, blasts from 0-60 in 4.0 seconds courtesy of its angry 3.0 litre,365 horsepower turbocharged inline 6 with a 7-speed (optional) manual transmission. It’s all grippy tires and grabby brakes and nothing but fun handling-wise, though the steering’s a tad less sharp than we would prefer. Some of the updates include revised infotainment technology, a retooled dashboard design, and futzed-with LED head- and taillight designs. It’s somewhat loud inside and the seats lack the coddling of, say, BMW sedans, but you can still use it as a daily commuter and not feel as though it’s being wasted in traffic. It’s also available in just one trim so there’s no real drawn-out thought process as to which is “best” when buying. We do recommend, though, the M Driver’s package which will help you best use this powerful little star to its best advantage. A high roof and seat position makes this a questionable ride for the tall, but of course it depends how tall. You’ll have fun either way.
Despite mixed reviews due to its bizzarre layout – two doors on its passenger side, one on the driver side – the Veloster is still in production six years after launch, so Hyundai’s obviously doing something right. The all-new 2019 model, starting at around $18,500, packs more than a few more punches than previous versions via a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-four replacing the 1.6-liter engine of old; the new port-injected engine makes 147 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 132 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. There’s an optional direct-injection turbo 1.6-liter engine making 201 horsepower at 6000 rpm, as well as an “overboost” function that allowing you 202 lb-ft when flooring it, so it’s fun little car despite its unorthodox looks. It’s also got a revamped center console, your ignition button is moved closer to the steering wheel and the shift’s been redesigned.
There are two things making this hybrid worthwhile; one is its vast interior improvements compared with previously cheapo models, and, of course, Mini’s signature, snappy looks. Though its electric range is but 12 miles, that works for many people living in cities who simply want to dash across town in the rain or drive when it’s too far to walk or make the trip via bicycle. The SE Countryman All4 is also a tad expensive for what’s delivered when loaded – $36,800 – especially when compared to similar cars in its price range, but Mini lovers have always had to fork over a bit more for their little gems, whether at the dealers or when paying for repairs. It weighs in at at quite-the-hefty 3,915 pounds, so it’s not a rocket despite a combined 221 horsepower (delivered from a 134-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-three motivating the front wheels and an 87-hp electric motor for the back wheels.) but it was still a load of good fun over a week’s test.
“Ugh, yellow,” we growled upon sight of our banana-colored tester. But by the end of the test, the very thing we hated became something we loved, especially after instantly pegging it in big parking lots several times. The Fit combines an especially efficient powertain, a reasonably comfy interior and a low starting price of $17,080, making it a great student car or second car – or first, if you wish. Three trims are available; the LX trim is equipped with a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, rearview camera, infotainment system with 5-inch display screen and Honda’s “Magic Seat,” configurable in four ways, which provides flexible cargo space. The Fit offers up to 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space. All trims are equipped with a 130-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The comfortable interior includes generous backseat legroom and supportive seats.
Many have attempted to topple the Mighty Mouse-ish Miata and failed – the Toyota MR2 Spyder, Honda’s S2000, for example. Yet the Miata not only endures, it thrives – sales have more than doubled since 2014. And why not? With its pleasing varoom, its quick, small shift and a specially tuned rear-wheel-drive chassis, it makes summer that much more summery, whether by oneself or with a partner. Just don’t plan on taking golf clubs, an acoustic guitar or a suitcase much bigger than its dinky trunk. For 2018, four new colors are available, the soft-top models can be outfitted with a dark red cloth roof, and the interior’s all brown leather. Standard features are improved, too, such as HD radio compatibility, a 7.0-inch infotainment display with rotary controller, and a “proximity” key with push-button start all come with, as do heated seats. We’ve had nine Miatas and loved every one. The soft top Miata starts at $30,045 and the Club trim at $32,800; a six-speed automatic is available for an extra $600 in either model.
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