QOTD: Thank Heaven for Little Cars?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd thank heaven for little cars

I nearly bought a Suzuki Swift once. If memory serves me correctly, and who knows if it does, it was a 1991 model. Or a 1993. Black, with two doors and the big, honkin’, pavement-pounding 1.3-liter inline-four. A real brute!

Alas, without much money in my pocket (I was, what, 18?) and a pressing desire to not be seen as the guy in the Geo Metro, I made a fateful choice. That Swift stayed exactly as I found it, slowly decomposing in the back corner of a sketchy used car lot, and I turned my attention to another. Sadly, the affordable object of my affection turned out to be a total lemon that soured me on Chrysler Corporation for many years.

But enough about the Plymouth Sundance.

Once in a blue moon, I wonder how different my life might have turned out had I purchased that Swift and become a card-carrying member of the subcompact crowd. Maybe you don’t have to imagine the experience, though. Maybe a very small car wormed its way into your heart and never really left.

I’m pretty damn sure I wouldn’t have almost immediately paid for a valve job, fuel pump, catalytic converter, and God knows what else had I purchased that Swift. While the Sundance offered a roomy cabin, comfortable seats, oddly solid steering and suspension, and 93 rampaging ponies, perhaps I missed a transformative experience by passing over the smaller vehicle. I’d at least have had more spare cash.

A fellow at my high school owned a 1990 Swift Turbo — three-cylinder turbo — and he couldn’t shut up about it. Yes, he was probably just happy to have his own wheels, and his ironic delivery made it pretty clear where he was coming from. But compared to our three-speed GM sedans, that blown featherweight egg really moved off the line (and kept going and going).

I think of this oft-overlooked segment because of the rumors swirling around the Chevrolet Sonic and Spark. The bottom of the automotive food chain. Is it a segment you think of with fondness? If so, why? What little car proved its worth in your life?

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2 of 98 comments
  • Mcarr Mcarr on Apr 11, 2018

    The one I miss most was the 1993 Nissan Sentra SE-R. Loved that little car. Currently drive a Sonic Turbo. None of the soul of the Sentra, but a better car in every other way.

  • Opus Opus on Apr 12, 2018

    Won't count my '68 VW beetle, or my '72 240Z (subcompact interior room, but not really in the segment). Helped my gf/wife get into a '79? Plymouth Champ LS (with the Twin-stick) which was later traded on a new '84 Civic S. Both of those were much funs. Later on, the Civic went toward a '91 Protege. All manuals, all goood.

  • 2ACL If you weren't throwing away your Mercedes after the warranty expired, this will fix that. This is an overly complex answer to the AMG question I don't think will endure the test of time.
  • Kwik_Shift Looks like what a redesigned Nissan Murano would be. I believe Murano is done.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is a Volvo EX90 with swoopier styling and less interior room. I'm really not sure I understand the target audience.
  • Stuki Moi If government officials, and voters, could, like, read and, like, count and, like, stuff: They'd take the opportunity to replace fixed license numbers, with random publicly available keys derived from a non-public private key known only to them and the vehicle's owner. The plate's displayed number would be undecipherable to every slimeball out there with a plate reader who is selling people's whereabouts and movements, since it would change every day/hour/minute. Yet any cop with a proper warrant and a plate scanner, could decipher it just as easily as today.
  • Dukeisduke Is this the one that doesn't have a back window? Like a commercial van?