By on September 7, 2012

The first generation Insight was a commercial failure. Eight years yielded fewer than 20,000 unit sold and a lingering doubt about the genuine interest in two seat commuter cars.

Honda tried again with the CR-Z, and apparently George Orwell’s early Animal Farm analogy about ‘four being better than two’ may be all too true for the American automotive marketplace.

Nobody wants an uber-frugal commuter car with two seats. It’s either four or no sale.

A lot of other two-seat vehicles have been unqualified failures as well. Chevette Scooters. Metro Convertibles. The Suzuki X-90 and the Pontiac Fiero. I’m sure that nearly every mainstream automaker has tried to sell some type of two seat commuter car with nary an Escort of sorts to be had.

This isn’t the only market where the fewer than four seat idea is struggling. Pickups have gone from three across as a near universal standard to an increasing exception. The Mazda Miata, a car that fetched price premiums and dozens of awards over the years, has experienced an avalanche of declining sales since the glory days of the early 90’s and now only averages about 10,000 units a year. In fact, last month it was one of the ten worst selling models in the United States… with the CR-Z performing even worse.

Even sporty icons like the Corvette and Nissan Z have little more than the crumbs of consumers past. The exotic and high end sports car markets may always have enough of a market to sustain themselves. But how about everyone else?

Is the two seat commuter car destined to be a historical footnote of automotive history? Will the Miata and Corvette ever be successful again? What says you?

 

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104 Comments on “Question Of The Day: Will There Ever Be A Successful Two Seat Commuter Car?...”


  • avatar
    cwallace

    The CRX certainly did okay– but is that because it was never construed as the commuter special Honda intended it to be?

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Less people can afford to own a second vehicle and practicality seems to be the general rule. For the one vehicle person, something like a 2nd row seating truck has the most utility, if you have to move or pick up something large for the house/apartment, it makes life a lot easier to just be able to throw it in the back of the truck.

    • 0 avatar

      I learned the truth of this by trying to stuff a projection TV into the back of a jeep, that I wanted to haul away for recycling.

      Thinking about buying a tow hitch and renting a trailer now. It’s basically what a car owner would do, too.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I’m confused. Are we talking about Animal Farm? When it ended the commandments were found to have been revised to ‘four legs good, two legs better,’ and ‘some animals are more equal than others.’

    The Miata is late in its model cycle. It is a luxury good marketed at the middle class, and the middle class is white-knuckling it until we get rid of the people trying to end its existence. The combination isn’t good for the Miata. Someone once said something like, ‘you can sell 100,000 of any sports car, but you need to have them all built on the day the model is introduced.’ I’m sure I butchered that quote, but the point is that many sports cars sales are driven by novelty and the dopes that buy novelty don’t care how worthy the car is. Once its been around a while, they have no idea why they’d want one.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      nice little boneheaded political snipe – 8 years of Bush and the treasury is empty,20% of the nation’s wealth destroyed by wallstreet, other people’s children are dying in futile wars and you’re spouting pure dumbass. What is it that you missed – i know you’re older than 12.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        To continue to point out political nonsense – I’ve more than recovered all my investment losses on Wall Street over the last few years.

        More kids have died in Afghanistan under Obama than Bush.

        All political tripe is just that–tripe.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I don’t think so. When you get a two-seater, you give up a lot of utility for not much savings on the purchase and not much better fuel economy.

    I do see lots of those 3-seat commuter vehicles, though (the pickups).

    Still, looking out at the expressway, no matter how many seats the vehicle has, between 7 and 9AM there’s almost always just 1 passenger in the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      tatracitroensaab

      two seaters will never come back. back in the day, to get serious performance, you pretty much had to get an impractical sport coupe. In an M3 and Camry v6 world, that’s no longer the case. what’s more, the gap between “super cars” and normal vehicles has gotten to be much smaller, so there’s not really a need to get a “super car” besides for sex appeal.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    Miata and Corvette? Too many used ones in very good condition are out there so a lot people just buy used.

    I can’t remember the last time a saw a current model Miata. There are a lot of 1st + 2nd gen Miatas on the road. Did see a Z06 Corvette a couple of weeks ago. Mostly C4 + C5 Corvettes,rarely C6es.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    With cars like the Honda fit why get a 2 seat run around to drive to work sports cars will have a spot in the market the new miata will sell when it comes out if done right

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      No need to sacrifice with an economy car when my convertible Saturn Sky pushes 45 mpg. Worst is 36 mpg in thw wintertime and can drop the top at will.

      • 0 avatar
        rwb

        That’s nothing. My chipped Silverado 3500 Duramax gets 75mpg while pulling a 2300 sq ft house off its foundation.

      • 0 avatar
        akitadog

        NormSV650, you must be calculating in Imperial units, or confusing your Metric with your English, because there is NO WAY you are getting those kinds of numbers in any of your standard ICE vehicles. Maybe you’re quoting your instantaneous readout, which means nothing. The only remaining option is you having a difficult relationship with what is true…

      • 0 avatar
        Cavendel

        rwb: That’s nothing. My chipped Silverado 3500 Duramax gets 75mpg while pulling a 2300 sq ft house off its foundation.

        lol, another milk through the nose comment. well done.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Naah, he just left out the part about the custom bellypan, LRR tires inflated to max sidewall pressure, zero front toe, clipped throttle mapping, and a turbo engine custom tuned solely for fuel economy at the expense of acceleration, sensible AFRs, longevity, and emissions.

      • 0 avatar
        akitadog

        Hah! Don’t forget the custom tranny with 3 overdrive gears.

      • 0 avatar
        Zombo

        Guess that sarcasm font can’t come soon enough for some .

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        It has a 2.4 Ecotec with Hahn Racecraft Turbo and 5-speed manual. Stock 18″ wheels with Michelin Pilot Alpin snow tires at 40 psi. I do loose about 2 mpg with the top down.

        Got to be one of the most funniest commuter!

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The Fiero was a failure because it was crap. Ditto the Metro Convertible, and niether was a “commuter car” anyway. The Honda Insight was expensive and wierd in an era of extremely low gas prices, so is it any wonder no one was particularly interested?

    But ultimately, I can’t see too much demand for a 2-seater commuter car. Four seats buys you additional practicality out of proportion to the increase in wieght and decrease in gas mileage. A Honda CRZ costs as much as a Prius, and I don’t recall it getting any better mileage. People that interested in mileage don’t typically care about sporty looks or driving feel. Or if they do, they buy diesel Volkswagens.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Agreed, the Fiero was just a barrage of random GM parts tacked together to create a car that could catch fire from just going left.

      No one wants the CRZ because hybrid owners aren’t interested in a “sporty” compact that isn’t sporty, isn’t very efficient, and that has a poor rear-view from inside.

    • 0 avatar
      18726543

      You’re right, the Fiero failed because it was crap, but it actually was originally intended to be a commuter car. It took 2 years of buff mags driving the car expecting mid-engine-rear wheel drive performance and finding nothing special for GM to develop the V6 “GT” model. In an ’84 model equiped with a manual and 4 cyl the car could actually achieve high-30’s fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        Pontiac Division’s original idea was to create an actual, 2-seat, mid engine, sports car but Chevrolet’s bosses went whining to corporate about how now other division should be allowed to have a sports car, since it would cut into the Corvette’s sales. It was the same pathetic internecine rivalry that blocked production of the Banshee in the 60s.

        This time around, GM basically threw both divisions a bone – Pontiac could develop a two seater MR, on the condition that it be pitched as an economical commuter car instead of a sports car, and the development budget was slashed to the bone to encourage a greater level of parts bin engineering. Basically, to appease Chevy, they dictated that the car be intentionally mediocre right out of the gate.

        GM has a long habit of developing cars they know are sub-par, then releasing them anyway. See Dan Akerson’s “[it] won’t blow the doors off [the competition]” comment about the XTS.

  • avatar
    Topher

    I too am confused. Isn’t there a difference between a 2-seater commuter car and a 2-seater sports car? For a commuter car to be successful, it has to save money over the long run, so it can’t be expensive (see miata and cr-z as counter examples). There hasn’t been a true 2-seater commuter car since the insight or smart fortwo. And both were/are flawed in different ways.

    • 0 avatar
      Topher

      After reading through, I realized that I had more I wanted to say.

      My wife and I have a car each. My parents have a car each (plus a Sunday fun-day car: 64.5 289 Mustang). My in-laws have a car each. The trend I see is a car for each working adult. The difference is that my parents’ and in-laws’ cars can each carry 4 or more people whereas my wife and I have a car for commuting (city commuting with a Smart ForTwo) and a larger car for when we need to carry more passengers or luggage (4-dr VW Golf TDI).

      If you’re going to have two cars anyway, why not have one be a cheap commuter car?

      • 0 avatar
        tkewley

        Short answer? Because it doesn’t make financial sense. The insurance cost alone for an additional car probably negates the fuel savings, and when you add in depreciation and maintenance…

      • 0 avatar
        Topher

        Did you read the last sentence? If you’re going to have two cars anyway (one for each working adult) do both of them need to maximize the number of people you can transport?

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M

        Going to your original statement, I too agree that I don’t believe there really is such thing as a “2 seat commuter” aside from the original Insight and Smart for Two as you stated. All existing 2 seat cars I believe are sold under the pretense of sports car or at least performance oriented, and that’s their reason for being. Passing as a “suitable” daily commuter happens to be a coincidence considering most commutes are single passenger anyway, and many small sports cars (Miata) get good fuel mileage to begin with is just a bonus.

        Now whether some people purposely buy a Miata with the express intent of it being their daily commuter car is the choice of the consumer. But do automakers continue to build them for that purpose? I don’t think so. And if the market for small two seat SPORTS cars totally dries up, I doubt any manufacturer will fill it with more Smart for Two competitors. Fiat 500 and Scion iQ don’t count as I bet neither company will risk removing those back seats at all.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        Well, the Smart is a very good in-town car, thanks to its maneuverability, parking ease, and dent resistance, but it’s not exactly a cheap car. There are plenty of standard-sized compacts and subcompacts that are priced lower, get better fuel economy, and carry more people and cargo.

        That’s the biggest problem with trying to sell 2-seater commuter cars. There are so many costs involved in designing, engineering, certifying, marketing, supporting, and producing a car that there’s only so much you can cut out of the price and still have a product that’s legal for sale and that people will want to buy.

        It basically means that the difference in production costs between a little two seater like the Smart and a bigger 5-seater like the Versa is pretty minimal, meaning that the two cars are going to be similar at retail.

        The average shopper will look at a car like the Elantra or Versa, check the sticker price, check the mileage; then look at a car like the ForTwo, check the price, check the mileage, then go buy one of the first two choices. Even if the typical person only has themselves and a briefcase on board for the morning commute, the IDEA that they can, someday, carry 4 other people and some luggage if they ever want to makes the other cars look like a more attractive deal.

        They don’t see having a few extra seats that they never use as a negative, since it doesn’t cost any more to have them.

  • avatar
    Petra

    A two seater is, for most buyers, a sacrifice. In the case of the Corvette and MX-5, it’s worth it because you’re getting a driving experience that a sedan can’t deliver. But for a commuter car? I’m struggling to think of any advantages a two seater offers a commuter. A slight improvement in fuel economy, maybe?

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    My theory: a “two-seat commuter” is a practical car, not a fun car. If you’re being practical, two seats isn’t practical. The marginal cost for the additional two seats is practically zero and the marginal return is much greater than that. Hell, I get pissed at the fact that I can’t even take my dog in my Z3.

    A certain minority of people will deal with the impracticality of two seats, if the car is fun — hence the sports car argument. Interestingly, Pontiac tried to evolve the Fiero from a practical car to a fun car, and, as with so many things GM, almost did it . . . except that the reputation of the car was already shot by then and the car was nothing but a cheap-ass parts bin special.

    Third, the performance gap between two seat sports cars and 4 seat sports sedans has narrowed a lot. Sports sedans have gotten much more competent in every driving respect. And “sports cars” have gotten almost as heavy as sports sedans, chipping away at their last advantage — that being that mass is mass and regardless of how potent the engine or capable the brakes in accelerating or decelerating the mass, making it change direction gets harder the more of it you have to deal with. The classic sports cars of the 50s and 60s were hardly fast, even by contemporary standards; but they were very light and this made them tossable and “fun to drive” especially at speeds that are not insane on public roads.

    Finally, I would note that there are a lot of “sorta 4 seat” cars out there doing quite well. By that I mean cars that nominally have 4 seats, but the back seats are suitable only for children or large dogs: the MINI COOPER, the Mustang, the Camaro, the BMW 1-series, the Lexus IS and so on. Arguably, the regular MINI COOPER is today’s “two-seat commuter.”

    And, if I were going out to buy a toy for myself, as I did in 2004 when I bought my CPO ’02 Z3, I’d probably be looking at a CPO 1-series convertible. (I’ve ridden in MINI COOPERS and would best describe the ride as “frantic”; no thanks.)

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      Yup, you hit the nail on the head. Commuter car = inherently practical, two seater car = inherently impractical, so a “two seat commuter” is a contradiction in terms.

      Anyone looking to buy a purely commuter car is coming at their purchase from a totally rational (read: boring) perspective, they are going to want maximum utility and maximum economy at minimum price, and a two seater will always lose on the utility point.

      The typical buyer of a two seater is generally looking for a sporty car that, even if it doesn’t offer much in actual performance, at least works as an image enhancer. A car designed purely as a practical commuter car will not appeal to that sort of person.

      The best commuter cars are going to be small, cheap, economical 4 or 5 seat subcompacts or compacts, while the best cars to appeal to Mr. Two Seater are going to be the highly styled sports or pseudo sports cars that trade utility and economy for aesthetics. The impracticality of them is actually a part of the whole image, its what makes stand out and sets them apart from more mundane modes of transport.

  • avatar
    ant

    insurance rates are higher on two-seaters.

    I think prolly a 100mpg scooter would be a better choice to commute back in forth in as a 2nd vehicle.

    The 1st gen honda insight was a pretty amazing car for what it was. But even today, the prius c would undercut it.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      +1! It’s the insurance rates and other fixed costs which are especially high for two-seaters. Most people don’t drive enough miles for any gas pump savings to overcome the fixed costs of having a 2nd car per driver. Long distances imply highway usage where the additional length and mass of a rear seat have less effect on fuel economy than the cross sectional area set by the front seat. Compare Civic highway fuel economy to that of the tall stubby Smart car.

      In addition to fixed costs, cars last so much longer in terms of miles of use that it’s difficult to wear out the engine and transmission faster than the paint. Driving the wheels off of one car lowers the cost per mile.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        People aren’t driving two cars for gas savings. They are driving it for convenience. The issue is your argument exists in a bubble. Both cars are going to cost money but why run two heavy SUVs or truck when one can drive a small light compact and the other drives the “family” car. I know most of my counterparts at the university do that. I know many have 2-door 3-series or similar compacts and then in winter I see they occasionally flip to their big hauler SUVs and drop off their spouse or something like that.

        For the record: Depreciation isn’t that big a deal as people make it out to be. Seriously, it’s a natural part of ownership and I hear it so overblown.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I think the problem is always price. If a Smart Car and a Corolla are the same price, have nearly similar efficiency, why not get the car with four doors and a back seat for when you need it? For the majority of car buyers who look at cars as just another appliance, there’s more value there. In the US, where the only penalty for a larger car or motor is fuel economy, there’s no good reason not to have a four seat car.

    My commute is twelve miles round trip and many times involves leaving the car sit for a few days while I’m away. A Smart (or similar sized) car would be perfect, but the rear seat in my Altima is a back-up for when one kid needs to go one place the other doesn’t. It’s not often, but it’s a convenience I pay for and one many others do too.

    It’s also hard to get over the bigger is better mentality. 4500+ lbs of SUV, truck or minivan driven by a texting, smoking, food-eating driver in a hurry is cringe inducing when viewed in the mirror of a normal mid size sedan. Having rented a Yaris and the like many times, it feels even worse.

    A friend of ours had a nasty accident in her 1st gen Fit, being rear-ended by a box truck and pushed into an large SUV. Crumple zones, impact protection,air bags are wonderful, but physics can only be kept in check for so long. Our friend survived, but was very beat up, taking months to recover. If her daughter,who had just been dropped at school, had been in the back seat, she would have been killed. Having two newborns at the time helped me make the decision to lease the Altima over the options I was considering.

    Also,with many of the Baby Boomers, who were raised in giant cars and who continue to buy most of the cars in the US, it’s a sentiment that won’t go away.

    So, I think the answer is no, not in the US. But as the CAFE increase looms closer, it will be interesting to see.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    There are now plenty of Smart 2-seaters on the roads of San Diego. At least half of them seem to be electric rental cars. They’re rented by the minute by people who appreciate novelty above all else. As for the privately owned gasoline ones, I’ve seen people climbing out of the trunks at least twice. They’re not sports cars, as they handle worse than Ford Excursions. They do return a MPG or two better than most non-hybrids economy cars in the city.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The costs to own and operate a vehicle in the US are high enough that it is almost prohibitively expensive to have separate vehicles honed for different mission profiles. Instead of a 2-seat hybrid for commuting, plus a minivan for ferrying the kids, and a pickup truck for weekend runs to Home Depot or the boat ramp, people end up buying a Grand Cherokee to do all of the above.

    About the only way to make 2-seat commuters viable is with self-driving cars in some sort of co-op carsharing arrangement, which would distribute the usage and ownership costs widely enough to be affordable on an individual basis.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    This weekend I spoke to a guy with a CRZ, and he really likes the car. Of course, we were in the parking lot at Lime Rock for the historic races. So there ya go.

  • avatar
    afuller

    I guess I’m in the minority.

    I love my 2-seater commuter cars.

    In the past 6 years I’ve had a 2000 Miata which was replaced by a 2000 Honda Insight which has now been replaced by a 2012 Fiat 500.

    I know the Fiat isn’t a 2-seater yet but I plan on removing the rear seats to give me some more cargo space since the rear seats really aren’t fit for human use anyway.

    We have a second car, 2004 Toyota Matrix, which is my wife’s car and we use that for anything that requires more space than my commuter has.

    Since “my” car spends more than 90% of its life with one person in it I don’t need anything with more than two seats.

    The Insight was probably the best commuter I’ve ever had. I got a good deal on a lightly used one and with gas mileage in the mid 70s that car was a money saving machine. There was plenty of cargo space for when I needed to stop by the store on the way home from work and the car was quite reliable. However spending two hours a day in it grew a bit wearing so I traded it in.

    • 0 avatar
      ivyinvestor

      afuller,

      We’re considering adding an original Insight to the CR-Z we have. Uniquely colored (some might say hideous…in a good way!), standard transmission, and low mileage. The owner had a kid, methinks.

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Momma

      I wouldn’t let my 2000 Citron (green) Insight go unless it gets squished in a wreck. Still has the best MPG of any car ever sold. I installed Dynamat and a “shoebox sub” sourced from Mr. Wayland so the tunes make up for not going very fast. It’s a fun car and I practice conservation of momentum on every on-ramp, off-ramp and hairpin turn. Dudes in trucks dislike it, sometimes they get right-up-on-my-bumper at lights and make a sour face as if to say my car challenges their manhood. Luckily I don’t have to make up for shortages in other departments (a-hem) like the local Texans who are all hat but no cattle. Maybe someday I’ll do a K-engine swap and have a 200hp 1800lb car, but until then I’ll enjoy averaging 60mpg and banking the savings.

  • avatar
    ivyinvestor

    I think I’m going to be remembered around here as “that guy with the CR-Z”…Seeing as there aren’t many of them around, however, I’ll chyme in with some “two-seater love” commends.

    The compromises inherent to the CR-Z’s chassis yields a significantly improved ride over CRXs of yore, though it’s tighter, and lighter feeling, in the corners than many expect. Visibility is somewhat hampered by a large dash (rearward viz is fine once the mirrors are properly adjusted), but it’s fairly easy to place in curves. It’s easily capable of accommodating Costco runs (no TVs!). No kids, so that works; one dog, and he’s easy to please. It’s also quieter than many Hondas…

    As my odometer rolls to 30,000 miles (over 14 months), reported economy is 48.64 mpg for the life of the vehicle, and I’ve posted many tanks over 50 mpg (hand calculated). Is it the most fun vehicle? Of course not. But we both enjoy it and have badged it the cruiser – although I doubt the folks in Suzuka would like that. Nice upgrades would have been the moonroof and leather available across the pond, and a bit more electronic gadgetry (given the target audience).

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Momma

      Another plus to the CR-Z is that they’re made in Japan. I’m still biased on this topic and would rather have a car screwed together by the magic elves in Suzuka Japan than some nimrod American clock-watcher. Or a nimrod American robot.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The sedan proliferation is part of whats wrong with the automotive marketplace in our time, IMO. For decades consumers were in love with personal luxury coupes and muscle cars… and what did it?

    Marketing!

    Consumers are pretty stupid creatures, how else could most of the lifeless beige crap being offered today be sold without an effective marketing campaign? Kia hamsters, Ryan O’Reilly as the Allstate mayhem character, and Vince the Shamwow guy (and prostitute abuser)… these products were able to create effective brand recognition through marketing (Ryan O’Reilly is an ‘Oz’ reference for the actor Dean Winters).

    I have seen one commercial for the Scion FR-S, which was ran quite a bit before its launch, and now I haven’t heard a whisper of it outside of TTAC. If manufacturers fail to try and sell their products, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

    Hell it doesn’t take much to show a Camcord or Prius on TV and suggest its owner is a tool, and then show your roadster/small coupe/midsize coupe with a hip driver (or T&A) and suggest its a fun alternative for similar money etc. Honda now has some clever commercials mocked up as fake film trailers, but the one for Civic (1) uses three doofi instead of a hip driver or T&A and (2) shows the lame sedan. Civic is one of the few small coupes out there people could somewhat afford and could be used effectively in commuter duties and they fail to show it.

    I noticed recently in a Chevrolet commercial where the salesman mocked a 2012 Camry as being old (commenting on a potential tape deck) and complementing a driver for wanting to come look at the new Malibu. While the commercial itself is obnoxious, it was actually nice to finally see somebody dare to suggest there is a driving world beyond Camcords (of course Chevy shouldn’t talk much on this since the new Malibu is a pile of beige Daewoo excretion with no V6 option and is pretty much inferior to its predecessor Malibu but I digress).

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “For decades consumers were in love with personal luxury coupes and muscle cars… and what did it?”

      The fact that your average sedan mops the floor with muscle cars and personal luxury coupes?

      We no longer need a rough ride or eight-foot long doors for “performance” reasons. Consumers aren’t stupid: they know what they want, and they’ll punish marketers who try to sell them something that serves no real need. Enthusiasts are the ones who seem to be stuck on the idea of being uncomfortable or compromised for no rational reason.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Well spoken psarhjin, some of us don’t want our backs broken when we go to the store.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “The fact that your average sedan mops the floor with muscle cars and personal luxury coupes”

        I have to agree on this point, but few aspire to own hum drum sedans. People did aspire to Corvette, Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger along with Cutlass/Riviera/Eldorado and Continental Mark III/IV/V at one time. Why did they care to own these ‘eight foot long door[ed]’ models as you put it? Proper marketing mixed with style and performance.

        The point with which I disagree though is this: consumers *are* stupid. Which is why the avg credit card debt in the US is $15,956 and Apple stock is $680/share in a world grappling with peak oil, food, population and coming soon, peak fresh water.

        Take a look at the average American, examine their spending, then total their assets versus their liabilities/debts and tell me consumers aren’t stupid.

        Cars are ultimately toys even if there is some utility and purpose to them… toys the commentators on the site love to death. But they are not and never will be assets and what kills me is even though they are toys consumers still want them to be as boring or bland as possible. Educate them otherwise and you could move better product again.

        Figures for avg cc debt:
        creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-card-industry-facts-personal-debt-statistics-1276.php

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Marketing? Give me something on the order of Dinah Shore driving a nice Chevy across the Golden Gate Bridge, singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet”.

      THAT’s marketing and was quite effective. Classy, too.

      (…of course, it helped that the cars were glamorous, too.)

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m not sure I was yet alive when that was done, but I’ll take your word on its effectiveness.

        Why is it all of the best selling cars today lack total glamor or style and still grace so many driveways… starts with an ‘m’ is a big part of it…

        EDIT: Another genuine factor could the the mass drugging of society in the past fifteen years (i.e prozac), and no I’m not kidding.

  • avatar
    THE ARCHER

    What about the Ford Escort EXP in the 80’s.
    That was a pretty successful car.
    And it def is more than nary an ESCORT.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I would have gotten a CR-Z….if it had four seats.

    While most people commute, it’s sufficiently likely that, at some point, you’ll need to squeeze kids, short-hop passengers, stuff or such that it’s not worth the hassle. Plus, as above, cars are good enough now that you needn’t sacrifice a row of seats, or indeed a pair of doors, for performance.

    The two-seater is a toy, and the two-door, four-seat coupe an anachronism.

    Again, I usually drive just myself, but I’d like to be able to take my kids, who are young enough that they’d fit in the CR-Z, around. I can’t do that in a two-seater, and I don’t often have enough notice to arrange for other transport. It’s kind of a pity that Honda didn’t bring the four-seat variant over here.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Isn’t a four-seat CR-Z pretty much the current Insight? Not that I pay all that much attention to the things.

      I find it amusing that even though I am single and have a couple 2-seat sports cars in the garage, my “commuter” is a VERY sporty station wagon. No compromises there, LOL.

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M

        Different engine/hybrid powertrains and chassis, body. Totally different market segments they’re attacking. Kinda like saying a four seat Miata is a Mazda3.

        One could argue that the CRZ is more the spiritual successor to the ORIGINAL Insight.

        But as far as sales are concerned, the current models of each pretty much identical.

  • avatar
    JMII

    My two seat commuter car is a 350Z. I debated getting a G35 but the rear seats are worthless unless you have little kids. Since the wife and I decided to not have children I get to drive a sports car to work every day. And like a ‘Vette a 350Z gets good highway mileage (26 MPG).

    Most people kept thinking they’ll need the extra seats/doors “one day” but its actually extremely rare. If I go to lunch with co-workers we take someones else car, it has never been an issue. We previously owned several four door sedans and other having a second couple tag along for diner, heading to a football game, or an airport run the rear seats just collected dust. It does help that I also have a Dakota Quad Cab for those rare four seats occasions, but given its poor gas mileage I only use it for towing duty (weekend fishing trips).

    I just shake my head at people driving eight passenger SUVs to work every day and then complaining about the fuel costs. However traditionally two seaters have been sporty and thus more expensive, especially in terms of insurance. Expensive and commuter car don’t belong in the same sentance. If there was a bare bones two seater it might sell, but as is the CRZ is an odd-ball machine: a sporty economy car? …no so, as it fails on both accounts.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I’m in your boat, DDing an S2000.

      We have another car that my wife drives for more practical reasons, and the S2k will eventually be relegated to fun-only status.

      However, what you say is true. It’s engaging to drive and gets decent mileage depending on my ability to stay off the big cam. If there’s a lunch run or something else, I’m just not the guy who gets stuck driving, and I really haven’t had a need for the back seat ever either. Hell, my wife likes to take the S2k as well for short trips unless we need to pick a bunch of things up or brign our dogs somewhere, since the top goes down and it’s more fun to be in.

      And yeah, commuting in anything with a 3rd row is kinda dumb. I also question people who commute in a 3-row car, since I would the number of kids that would necessitate that sort of car would also necessitate a parent who stays home with it wather than driving it to work.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        “And yeah, commuting in anything with a 3rd row is kinda dumb.”

        You don’t know every other driver’s situation and circumstances and are making way too many assumptions.

        “number of kids that would necessitate that sort of car would also necessitate a parent who stays home with it”

        As a parent of two kids I am left scratching my head. If I had four kids, the local park and playground would still be within walking distance. The grocery store would still be within walking distance. The school would still be within walking distance.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Will There Ever Be A Successful Two Seat Commuter Car?

    No, what’s the point? A car designed primarily for commuting needs to have good fuel economy and a good ride.

    A back seat does not substantially impact fuel economy, and a longer wheelbase improves the ride.

    Even the CR-Z is a four seater everywhere else on earth, but for some stupid reason Honda decided to make it a market failure by making it a two seater with a hard plastic parcel shelf in the US.

    Sports cars like the Miata, Corvette and Z can be used as commuter cars, but are an entirely different category than cars like a CR-Z or 1st gen Insight. The decline of the middle class will be bad for their sales, but retired boomers and less people having kids will be good for their sales.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Unless if I get great handling, a truck bed, a large van-like back-end or silly gas mileage I see 2-seats as just being pointless.

    I shy away from 2-doors as well just because they’re inconvenient, and in the world of classics underrated.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Funny I always rotate my thinking to tanks. In their beginning, the general agreement of purpose was primarily for infantry support. As such you had two main versions; the huge, plodding armored box that would waddle forward at a face-melting 5 mph and the caparatively zippy, light tanks who could cruise at 10 mph. The difference in both, as in the car world, was their design matched their function. The ‘heavy’ had guns bristling all over and were to take out gun implacements and other ‘hard-sites’ and had upwards to seven man crews. The ‘light’ tanks were two-crews, a driver and a commander who was also the gunner and loader, and its job was to strafe the trench lines and support the flanks while the infantry moved forward.

    Boring details aside, the two-crew rapidly fell out of fashion. It was very cost-effective, more efficient, very easy to mass produce, but were quickly out done by its design. A commander can’t be a gunner and a loader, too many variables. Same with a car. It not only needs to haul my and my friend’s butt around, but also our gear for a weekend and whatever else I buy at the big, box store, not to mention plentiful grocery sacks. It just doesn’t make sense as a commuter car and fills a very small sales niche.

    Prolly why I see so many people commuting on scooters to work.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I guess I am firmly in the multiple tank mode. I’d rather not compromise on my fun car, so a quality commuter fills the bill. But it is easy to get carried away. My wife and I have four actively driven cars…ready for battle.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I have a vintage two seater R107 in Mercedes parlence that I bought as a commuter car when I lived four miles from work. That job vaporized about a month after I bought the MB, and the new job is 70 miles away. Needless to say at 15 mpg, I don’t commute in the MB, but I keep it as a mid life crisis mobile and use it on weekends for such things as grocery getting.
    Plannning is good, but adapting is better.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    2 seaters will never be popular with the American driving public because “they aren’t good in the snow.”
    So the 364 other days of the year, they cart around the vast empty weight of their CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Some of us live in climes where it snows more than once a year. I had no problem driving an Mustang, MG, BMW, or Miata in the snow. Now if VADOT would do some exchange program with a Midwest state highway department and learn how to deal with snow.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        Want some salt or brine? I’m sure Pennsylvania can sell you some. First sign of a flurry, and PennDoT has the roads caked in that powdery crap. It hardly pissed snow here last year, but the roads were coated in pure white llello until spring.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    “I’m sure that nearly every mainstream automaker has tried to sell some type of two seat commuter car with nary an Escort of sorts to be had.”

    Well, the Escort EXP had only two seats. Was it a commuter? Sure, why not?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    If you can afford (or are rational enough to realize you can have) a dedicated commuter vehicle they you buy one. Unfortunately most people would rather haul around a vehicle full of nothing for the majority of the time than have a dedicated commuter vehicle.

    I am in a situation where even once my wife and I start having kids we could easily be a two vehicle family with one family hauler and one commuter. It would simply be the issue of whoever was hauling the kids that day would have to drive the minivan/CUV/SUV… etc.

    (BTW my wife would be THRILLED to get to drive a Miata/Corvette/{insert manual trans sports car here} 2 to 3 days per week.)

  • avatar
    alex_rashev

    1st gen Mr2 was a commuter car first and foremost. Essentially a Corolla backwards, it sold pretty damn well for a niche car – over 30K in the first two years, and 75K total. Has plenty of luggage space (2 trunks), was available with a T-top, and had a really nice interior.

    Manufacturers seem to be failing at taking advantage of 2-seat configuration – all the 2-seaters that came out in the past 15 years were impractical as hell. Insight was decent in terms of packaging, but it was an overpriced experiment that was never meant to be mass-produced in the first place. Finally, all the 2-seat commuters are GOOFY AS HELL, with the exception of the CRZ, which is just a bad, overpriced, under-performing also-ran of a hybrid, period.

    Shove a flat four in the back, under the “floor”, behind the seats, where it belongs, make it a sleek small hatch, lose as much weight as possible, and don’t charge for it as you would for a premium vehicle – and it’ll sell. Something strikingly stylish with a 100-140hp motor, 2200lb empty weight, 45mpg highway, and a $16000 base price tag will sell like hot cakes, imo.

    • 0 avatar
      Freddy M

      Sales of the MR2 dropped like a stone after its initial years of success.

      The mid-engine econohatch you speak of sounds appealing (sign me up), but I doubt it would sell like hotcakes. For it to only have 2 seats again negates great sales because of that practicality element. People already view hatchbacks as a size penalty, despite how well designed they are today. People would overlook it in favour of a similar priced and powered Honda Fit or Chevy Sonic, the leaders in that segment. The fact that it has only 2 seats would kill it in that market. (Hence the original question)

  • avatar
    eliandi

    The answer to the exact question is no. For all the reasons noted above, commuter cars have always had 4 seats. You could argue that the Miata on original launch sold enough copies to be called a commuter car, but I do not think there are other examples.

    That said, I think there are a ton of good 2+2 examples of commuter cars. The MINI, the V6 pony cars, the 2 door Golfs, etc.

    What I don’t get is the need for so much room in a CUV or SUV when a family is small (1 or 2 kids). Our family is my wife and 2 twin boys. The boys are 13 and both are approaching 6ft (my wife and I are 5’9″). We have 2 MINIs, a Cooper and a Clubman, and we all fit fine in one car. This includes roadtrips.

    Before I had kids I got a Mustang. I was worried about fitting a kid in that car, and a friend told me a story. His dad had driven him in an old 911 as a kid, and he loved that car even if he had to fold himself into the back. So I kept my Mustang even with the boys til I decided I wanted a MINI. You know what…my boys love our MINIs too.

  • avatar
    L1011

    Finding a good commuter car is frustrating. As others have said, it’s far too expensive to have a two-seat car (such as a CR-Z) as a commuter car, another car to haul around the kids/dogs, and a truck for the weekend runs to Lowes/Home Depot.

    I’m trying to find one car that has great gas mileage (35+ mpg, preferably closing in on 40MPG), AWD, the practicality of a hatchback, and has four seats. Such a vehicle does not exist.

    I’m hoping a CX-5 diesel rumored to be available next year will come close to meeting my needs. I’m disappointed Subaru’s new XV CrossTrek won’t be offered in a diesel as that car would definitely had been perfect for me. It gets 25% better fuel economy that the gas version.

    I followed the development of the CR-Z with GREAT INTEREST and I was a HUGE CRX fan (I owned two). The concept CR-Z was awesome but the final product got beat with the ugly stick and is hybrid-only. I need a car that can go 100,000 miles reliably and hybrids are still too new of a technology for me. I fear battery replacements are huge money, quite frankly.

  • avatar
    Topher

    I think people are failing to look at the big picture. The average number of cars per family is 2.28, which means that most families have at least 2 cars.

    The question is: within that system, would a 2-person car make sense?

    My answer is a resounding YES. I would immediately trade the 2nd row for a shorter car (easier to park), a lighter car (better on gas), and/or a more dynamic car (more fun to drive).

    Between the wife and me, whoever needs to carry more people or luggage gets the larger car for the day and the other drives the commuter car.

    • 0 avatar
      ezeolla

      2 door car doesn’t mean shorter or lighter (or cheaper)

      Disclaimer: Mazda is the first company that came to mind that had a 2 seater car that is resonably inexpensive

      Mazda MX-5 – 2480 lbs – 157″
      Mazda 2 – 2306 lbs – 155″

      Add about 400 lbs and 2 ft to the MX-5 for a 3

      and all of my numbers came from edmunds.com

      • 0 avatar
        Georgewilliamherbert

        It would be more useful to compare the SMART and the Mazda 2. The MX-5 is a performance roadster with a larger engine and a layout optimized for performance.

    • 0 avatar
      Freddy M

      Granted, that proposition does make sense. But I believe the majority of people in that position wish to maximize their options for a similar or reasonable cost rather than going with what is merely acceptable. Given the exact scenario you stated, a Honda Fit meets two of the three criteria you mentioned; smaller, and lighter (not as light as Miata, but still gets great fuel mileage), but does not meet the driving dynamics of a Miata.

      Therefore the only proposition the Miata offers would be for enjoyment. Which in itself is not really a requirement of a daily commuter (some may argue it is). All other factors can be served by a subcompact or compact car with the added advantage of practicality.

      There is certainly nothing wrong with your viewpoint of choosing to fill the commuter car duty with a small 2 seater. However, I think the buying public views it in a different light that more is still better, hence the decline in available 2 seater cars.

  • avatar
    Georgewilliamherbert

    To take a more extreme stance –

    Why are we not seeing one seater commuter cars that cost $10k (and are good performance cars to boot)?

    If one puts a person in the second seat once a month or less (and personally, I drive my RX-8 one occupant probably 350 days a year), why are we talking about 2 vs 2+2?

    The only reasons I can see are:

    Smaller is not always being done cheaper. Is this a rule of nature, or just the way it’s ben done? We’re seeing cars down to $10k now. Reducing the seat count and size should allow sportyness at that size/price range.

    Smaller is definitely not safer when it comes to dynamics of accidents with heavier SUVs and the like. Absorbing your own energy in a crash is one thing – you still need crush space (fie on you, SMART), but that’s fairly easy at any size range with steadily decreasing frame mass fractions. The hard part is that when you hit an oncoming much heavier SUV at equal speeds it’s like hitting a wall moving towards you, not a fixed object. Perhaps smaller cars that intentionally aren’t that much lighter would work (getting you compact size and low air drag) but I keep seeing the SMARTs bouncing or spinning away from impacts in the head on crash test videos…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “but I keep seeing the SMARTs bouncing or spinning away from impacts in the head on crash test videos…”

      I’m not big on the micro cars like Smart for just that reason I don’t want to be inadvertently responsible for someone’s death in an accident because of one… but I suppose in their intended environments of dense urban jungle they could make sense.

      Maybe we all just need to be a bit safer out in the world.

      • 0 avatar
        Georgewilliamherbert

        SMART did one thing very well – identified that they had a car that was going to get cornholed by physics, and built a really solid frame around it to compensate. And by SMART, we’re talking Mercedes’ engineering staff, so they know how to build tough.

        The weight issue is just against them. There are lots of SUVs that outweigh it 3:1 or more.

        Also, lack of crush space. They assert that their tough frame lets them use the other vehicle’s crush space, which to some degree is true. But that assumes you hit a soft other vehicle, and not a hard other vehicle (say, big rig bumper) or a fixed object like a concrete wall or barricade.

        They didn’t gain much by building a stub nose, with no frontal crash space. Anyone else building tiny tiny cars should reconsider that…

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Not to mention that the mileage of a smart is not really that great when you factor in all the compromised built into it. I get the added strength, and therefore mass bit, but if I have to make so many compromises and be this small, the one compromise just cannot be mileage. I’d consider all the tradoffs of this car to be justifiable if it delivered 90 mpg, but it is not even close. I’d buy a used Prius.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I find the “small is unsafe” argument quite amusing given that the roads are filled with 80,000lb trucks. That is what, 15:1 over a Suburban? I have seen WAY to up close and personal what happens when you head-on a Kenworth and a Chevy Pickup to worry about driving even my Spitfire into an SUV. If anything, I like being in a smaller more agile target.

      • 0 avatar
        CelticPete

        Yes if anything gets hit by an 18 wheeler – you are toast. But a bigger car will tilt the odds more in your favour in the car vs. car and very often the car vs. SUV/pickup truck collisions.

        Truth is these car safety prganizations crash vehicles into walls – and that assumes a crash into a similar size vehicle. You are going to do better in a Dodge Challenger then a Mazad 2 in a ton of scenarios.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        Those 80,000 lb. trucks are usually driven by professional drivers versus your average inattentive sedan,SUV or minivan jockey. Make whatever comment you will, but those folks DRIVE for a living. They are usually a bit more in tune with the road, their truck and other cars. 80k vs 2.5k isn’t a contest anymore than a motorcycle versus car or train versus an 80,000 lb. truck.

        But +1 to the small agile target

      • 0 avatar
        Georgewilliamherbert

        Some comments –

        One, there are a lot more car/SUV collisions than car/big rig. There are less big rigs and they seem to be driven better on the average.

        Two, “small and evasive” seems not to help much. I know a lot of people who missed some minor sideswipe or some such by evading. Statistics are that people generally don’t avoid accidents when they’re major rather than minor. Including performance drivers. Really paranoid defensive drivers, really alert defensive drivers, but even those of us with defensive driving experience tend not to be as paranoid as is required all the time, even though I see and back out of situations all the time.

        Three, there are cars that driven 100 mph plus into a solid wall will keep the driver alive. Some of them are road cars; The two big Italian marques have had some spectacular mid-hundred-mph road crashes that the occupants walked away from. A standard car at street (not freeway) speeds into a truck is comparable.

        Yes, it takes actually designing past the minimum crash test requirements to do that, but you can do that. It adds mass and cost, or lots of cost with carbon fiber or some cost with serious aluminum. That takes some mileage out, which the new CAFE standards are going to have a fit about. I’d do it anyways.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      “Why are we not seeing one seater commuter cars that cost $10k (and are good performance cars to boot)?”

      These already exist and are fairly popular. (Frequently there’s also a small extra seat behind the driver for occasional use.) Performance is generally far superior to most road cars that are within normal-person price ranges and fuel economy is frequently above 50-60 MPG without really trying that hard. You generally need an additional license certification but it’s fairly easy to get, and crash safety is significantly reduced but everyone is aware of this.

      It’s called a motorcycle. I ride one to work almost every day.

      Honestly, I see that as one of the barriers against cars like the Smart from gaining a foothold. If you’re looking for an “extra” vehicle anyway, which a two-seater is going to be pretty much by definition, and you really care about fuel economy, ease of parking, and performance/funfactor, there’s a way to “pick all three” right there.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Chevette Scooter? I know those were the stripper Chevettes, but I’m pretty sure they had a back seat…

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Chevrolet Chevette – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Chevette
      Chevrolet marketed the Chevette Scooter model with a MSRP of $2,899, without a rear seat or glovebox door. 9,810 Scooters were built, versus 178,007 regular …

  • avatar
    el scotto

    In some areas the two seater commuter is a small truck.

  • avatar
    msquare

    I’ve owned two MkI MR2’s and a Miata and I drive 24,000 miles a year. I can attest that they are GREAT commuter cars. Fun to drive and the worst gas mileage I ever got was 26 mpg in the Miata. The MR2’s were usually good for 29.

    I’m also single and had the luxury of being able to borrow a larger car from a relative whenever I needed one. And all of them had sufficient trunk room to carry groceries or a weekend’s worth of luggage. The MR2 Spyder was an utterly useless four-wheeled toy because it lacked any carrying space whatsoever. Even a sports car needs to be able to take you someplace.

    I now drive a BMW E46 coupe. I hardly use the front passenger seat let alone the back, but they’re there when I need them. And I could take home a 46″ flat-screen TV with the back seat folded down. Fuel economy is 22-23 mpg with an automatic tranny, my previous E36 328is gave me a solid 24 with a manual.

    But that’s beside the point. Or maybe that is the point. A person looking for a commuter car is looking for practicality and two-seaters just don’t fit the bill.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The only reason I didn’t buy an 02 Beetle instead of an 02 Passat at the time was that I have kids and/or friends.

    The Beetle was essentially a 2-seater due to the useless back seat. Today’s Fiat 500 is even worse.

    So although I’m usually alone or with just one passenger, I’d never consider a tiny 4/5 seater or a 2-seater.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    The old Honda CRX seems unique in its ability to draw smiles and fond remarks from anyone who ever owned one. Since then, our car choices have gotten more complex, and the bar has been raised by current performance and economy measures. I’m thinking the CRZ *might* have drawn more interest here if it had a normal, zippy engine…no hybrid complexity, cost. But when a new Kia Rio is a more compelling buy than a two-seat slow-mobile (CRZ)….well, you can improvise how this story goes.

  • avatar
    Zombo

    I’ve seen a couple of pictures on craigslist of first generation Insights with their rear fender skirts removed and replaced with body shop made fender well extensions . Those cars actually were a huge improvement from the stock versions visually since the stock alloy wheels are quite nice . Would that harm the gas mileage drastically and have you ever thought of doing that Steven Lang ?

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Don’t forget the Pontiac Fiero was originally designed to be a commuter car. Space frame with plastic body panels. Around 30MPG. Either by design or accident they became a mid-engine 2 seater sports car. Actually the 1st year, 84 was the Indy pace car.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      The Fiero was developed as a “commuter car” to get it past the suits at GM. ;)

      (Supposedly, GM didn’t want to approve another sports car design since it would cannibalize the F-body and potentially the Corvette.)

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Real bright of them :) Considering Toyota at the time offered the MR2 along with the Celica and “halo” sports car Supra as well as sporty GTS versions of the Corolla. I doubt they considered cannibalization of sales of the other models.


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