Small is sexy (and smart)

I’ve been seeing this cute new car around town. Turns out it’s the Toyota Yaris Liftback, appropriately named because it looks like it was just lifted straight outta Europe. It’s really small, which is always a boon in the city. Makes me wonder if this isn’t some kind of preemptive strike against DaimlerChrysler’s introduction of the Smart car to the US in 2008.

Toyota Yaris

Eyes can be deceiving, especially when zipping by on a Vespa at night, so I decided to check it out and see how it compared to the Smart Fortwo (and some other cars) lengthwise.

The first thing I discovered is that as much raw data as there is on cars out there, there’s no universal (dare I say Web 2.0), application for sorting and filtering cars by non-traditional, cross-make criteria like length (or mpg). I’m thinking of something like Kayak.com for cars. Or maybe there is, and I just don’t know about it. Here’s where I have half an idea to finally jump on the Ruby on Rails bandwagon and pound out Edmunds.com with a little Web 2.0 sugar this weekend. Nah.

To create the list below, I had to screenscrape like every car manufacturer’s website with my eyeballs. But now if you ever wanted a list of the shortest cars available in the US (sorry Twingo and Ka) circa 2007, here you go. My methodology for inclusion was whether I thought the car would be purchased primarily for its smallness, secondarily for its price. Hence no BMW. Keep in mind, the list is not exhaustive. The Civic is on there as a reference point. It’s the last car I owned, and is fairly short itself, so it makes a good ceiling (err, floor).

Make Model Length Doors
smart fortwo 98.4 2
MINI Cooper 145.6 2
Toyota Yaris Liftback 150.6 2
Chevrolet Aveo5 152.7 4
Scion xA 154.0 4
Scion xD 154.7 4
Pontiac Solstice 157.2 2
Mazda MX-5 Miata 157.3 2
Honda Fit 157.4 4
Kia Rio5 158.1 4
Hyundai Accent 3 door 159.3 2
VW New Beetle 161.1 2
VW GTI 165.8 2
Ford Focus hatchback 168.5 2/4
Chrysler PT Cruiser 168.9 4
Nissan Versa 169.1 4
Kia Spectra5 171.3 4
Mazda Matrix 171.3 4
Toyota Prius 175.0 4
Honda Civic 175.4 2/4

What I found interesting was just how damn small the MINI Cooper really is. Considering you can’t buy a smart in the US yet, the MINI currently holds the shortest purchasable car title, besting the Yaris by 5 inches. Let’s just hope Toyota used those 5 inches for some extra legroom in the back seat, as I’ve experienced the back of a MINI Cooper.

But the smart, man, it’s a full 52 inches (4’4″) shorter than the Yaris which I’d thought looked pretty smart-like on the street.

Hmm, I wondered, what would they look like side by side?

A Toyota Yaris next to a smart fortwo

Why might one prefer a Yaris over a smart? Four seats.

Update: check out my post, testdriving the smart fortwo for more info.

26 Comments

Kristina

Gah! That’s the first time I’ve thought, “Hmm maybe I should get a new car once I have a job, even if Ophelia isn’t dead yet,” in… well, ever. The Yaris Liftback is really cute. :-)

I love the Smart car, too, but I don’t know if I would want a 2-seater.

Ophelia is your dissertation? Well, you know, you can always go test drive a Yaris for fun.

Btw, Smart will be touring the Fortwo around the country for test drives this summer. They’ll be in San Francisco Aug 18-29, Raleigh Sept 14-19, and Austin Oct 27-28 (among other cities).

Eep²

The website is just http://toyota.com/yaris/ now. Don’t you love incompetent webmasters who don’t know how to redirect links?

Ha, that link worked as of yesterday. It’s like they actively don’t want to let me help advertise their products. Thanks for the heads up.

Josh Myer

The Escort ZX/2 is 175.2″ overall, but isn’t produced anymore. I can vouch that they’re reasonable cars, but wouldn’t recommend one at this point in their lifecycle. They’re overall decent, but eat tires and brake pads.

(Ophelia is K’s little purple Escort Sedan, somewhere around 174″.)

Erik

Justin et al, just a heads up. You can get the Smart Car at Eco Auto in Bozeman, Montana. They carry the Smart Fortwo convertible, as well as other eco-friendly car options. Check ’em out.

Added the hot Pontiac Solstice (essentially the same car as the Saturn Sky) which turns out to be the same length as the similar Miata MX-5.

Added the VW New Beetle, shorter than the GTI.

Justin this is very hand-dandy! Would you consider adding a column for number of doors?

We’re not quite shopping yet, but I know our next car has to have 4 doors to accommodate a baby seat some day.

My other big issue is having a hatchback with fold-down seats. I love that in my 2-door civic so much, I could never give it up.

Ruby, done! The Chevy Aveo is the shortest car you can buy new with 4 doors. It’s also apparently the least expensive car in the US right now, starting at just $10,560 (Jaysus! I sound like a frickin’ car dealer).

You also might want to consider the Scion xA or it’s replacement, the xD (which I added to the list), considering they’re engineered by Toyota to appeal to the young and hip.

And finally, check out this Review of the Honda Fit for some neat innovations in seat folding. Something about the Ruby and Brian I know just screams Honda Fit.

Thank you, Justin! And you are so right about the Fit. It’s like they’re watching us…

Pat

I just went through a similar exercise. I needed a new car, but parking is at a premium in my neighborhood. I ended up getting a Honda Fit. I wanted a Yaris, but you can’t get a Yaris with anti-lock brakes in the San Francisco area. And I’m not willing to drive without ABS.

Thanks for collecting this info in one place!

Pat, you’re welcome!

tc

I’ll add the Hyundai Tiburon at 170″, it’s a two door coupe with 4 seats, a hatchback, and fold-down seats. It also has sports car styling which is hard to find in a short car unless you spend 35K+

i almost bought the smart fortwo, but the dealer installed all these unless options, making it $18,950 w/o tax. that’s just too much for a car that won’t hold my golf clubs. i also found out it requires premium unleaded gas, which seems old if you’re going to use it as a commuter car.
and thanks for the table, i was looking for this exact list.

Nim

I really like this post as I am trying to find the shortest cars on the market. Would you upgrade your list, listing both 2008 and 2009 models as separate entries? I noticed the 2009 honda fit is longer/bigger than the 08 model. anyway, if you do update this list with suzuki and kia models and any other models that would be great. thanks much in advance.

Mike

Thanks for putting this list of the shortest cars together. Saved me a bunch of time.

Stef

Oh thank you for the short list!!!! You’re my hero!

s

Little did I know there were actually other people out there wanting to sort out the smallest cars in the market. THANK YOU!!

Here’s something that’s shorter than a smart car! Puma: GM and Segway take a swing at a small car

if/when you get in even the most mild accident it will end up costing you BIG TIME!

Mary

Thanks for this! I was trying to see if I could get a small enough car to get two cars in my garage on one side!

Tara

As a former owner of a small, easy to find parking, 2 door Geo Metro (RIP), I have been on the hunt for a small car for the past year. THANK YOU for the info in this blog! As you said, it is not easy to find info on car length. thanks!

Kendall

I was looking for a car that would fit in our 5th wheel toy hauler. We bought it for our Harley MCs but would like to find a four wheel road worthy ride that would fit in it.

Kendall, I’d hold out for the Fiat 500 that Chrysler is supposed to bring to the US sometime this year.

Barb

Short = easy parking. I’ve gone through 3 Geo Metros in my life ~153 in length and 45+ mpg….don’t know why they don’t bring those back (minus the support are problem). Could you do a historical list of short cars? say, since 1990? I’d like to see where the Fiesta and Escort would place. I prefer pre-broken-in vehicles. Thanks!

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