The micro car trend is more of an overseas phenomenon.
Built after World War II, Europe and Asia developed these cars in response to a shortage of resources. Micro cars lived on attracting the attention of city-dwellers and they’re beloved for their impressive engineering.
Off the top of my head, early examples include the BMW Isetta popularized by T.V.’s Steve Urkel of Family Matters fame.
If you like your cars quick and darty, you’ll enjoy driving a Smart Car. Brought to you from Daimler AG, it’s like driving a Mercedes C-Class with a shortened wheelbase.
Regrettably, Smart Cars are no longer sold in the U.S. or Canada. But if you don’t need much space, checkout our list of alternatives to see how the Smart Car compared to other cars.
1. Scion iQ
Like the Smart car the Scion iQ only lived for a short while in America from 2008 to 2015.
At only ten feet long, the Scion iQ was a tiny four-seat hatchback. It wasn’t well received. Which is why it only lasted for one more year abroad before Toyota finally axed it.
It had a very good overall fuel economy of 34 MPG. And it lived up to the micro car reputation of being easy to park. But unlike the Smart Car, it was slow, noisy and uncomfortable.
2. Volkswagen ID.4
If you’re a fan of German engineering, this is a Smart Car contemporary that’s still produced for the U.S. market.
The Volkswagen ID.4 is an electric powered SUV with a maximum range 275 miles. Unlike the Scion iQ it offers comfortable seating for five. But it’s not as playful to drive as the Smart Car.
You can choose a rear-wheel drive option which will come with a single motor producing 201 horsepower. Or all-wheel drive with two motors producing a total of 295 HP.
3. Tesla Model 3
If you want an electric micro car that offers more performance, feast your scope on the Tesla Model 3.
This celebrated car lives up to its hype with impressive acceleration and athletic performance. The driving range is an impressive 358 miles between charging on the Long Range trim level.
But fit and finish is lacking when compared the Smart Car and Volkswagen ID.4, or even the Chevrolet Bolt.
Add to that the fact that like a Ford F-150 you’ll have to cough up more money for some of the more desirable features.
4. Chevrolet Bolt EV
Speaking of the Chevrolet bolt, you can pick one of for almost half the price of a Tesla Model 3.
Not only that, but it’s among the least expensive electric vehicles sold in the U.S. It features a slick out-of-the-mainstreaming styling that Chevy is incorporating into all its EVs.
The Bolt is power by a single 200-horsepower motor sending power to the front wheels – you can get 259 miles out of a single charge.
Like some higher end laptops, the Bolt EV has DC fast-charging capability which according to Chevy will give you a range of 100 miles in just 30 minutes.
5. BMW i3
With an entry price as high as the Tesla Model 3, the BMW i3 doesn’t measure up quite as well as other electrically motivated stablemates like the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt.
One reason is because they both offer larger batteries translating into longer driving ranges – the i3 only has a battery range of 153 miles.
To make up for it, BMW offers an optional gasoline-powered engine for additional range. On the plus side, the i3 offers a far more premium interior than its rivals.
6. Toyota Prius
My wife’s older brother owns a Prius which he’s been driving for over eight years.
Hard to believe but the Toyota Prius is already in its fifth generation. And likely to the indignation of most Prius fans, I’m going to say it for the rest of us: after five generations the Prius finally turns into an attractive vehicle.
The enticing exterior aesthetics of the latest Prius are courtesy of a wider stance, lower roof line and a seating position that promises to make driving as fun as the Smart Car.
Enticing too are the interior accommodations. Inside you’re treated to a more traditional layout than ever before, including available heated seats.
It even graduates to 196 HP, the most ever for a Prius.
7. Mini Cooper
Looking for a car from the micro car segment with a more traditional drive train?
Consider the Mini Cooper.
It was a car borne as a result of a fuel shortage in Britain resulting from the 1956 Sueze Crisis. The idea behind the MINI was to create a small, fuel-efficient car capable of carrying six feet tall adults.
The reincarnation of the Mini Cooper is bigger than the original. And subsequent generations have become bigger still.
While I understand the safety reasons behind the ballooning size. My preference is still for the first gen reincarnation – specifically the R53.
8. Fiat 500
Like the Mini Cooper, the Fiat 500 also received an update.
Although the Fiat 500 was discontinued in the U.S. in 2019. An electric version is staging a comeback set for 2024. It’s one of the most reliable Italian cars you can buy.
Like the Mini Cooper its available in both coupe and convertible models. The 135 HP gas engine is enough power to scoot you around town.
And like the Mini Cooper you can get it with either an automatic or six-speed manual transmission. But unless you option for an Abarth, there’s not much sportiness in the driving dynamics.
9. Mitsubishi Mirage
A neighbor of ours drives a Mirage hatchback in a color called Wine Red that looks more like purple to me.
If you want more cargo space, you’ll want the hatchback. The Mirage has a 78-HP gasoline engine that – as you might imagine – delivers good gas mileage.
For getting around town, the Mirage is adequate. The interior is well equipped with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and standard automatic climate control.
But if you’re someone that enjoys driving this wouldn’t be my first choice; I certainly wouldn’t brave freeway traffic in it.
10. Chevrolet Spark
But if you want more refinement, I’d opt for the Chevy Spark.
Chevrolet is doing a great job to ensure that you’re not making compromises for a car whose price undercuts even the Mitsubishi Mirage.
Like the Mitsubishi Mirage the Spark is a subcompact hatchback. But like the Mirage, this is a car that’s best used around town that at highway speeds.
Unlike the Mirage, it offers better quality interior materials. Regrettably, the Spark will be discontinued after 2022.
11. Ford Fiesta
This is the car my wife and I own; we’ve had it now for almost two years.
Although I wish it was the stout ST, it’s an SE model with 120 HP. Sadly, the Ford Fiesta was discontinued in North America in 2019. To me it’s one of the best cars that the company has ever built.
For simply getting around town, you couldn’t ask for better automobile.
I wish ours had a manual transmission. But the new automatic which debuted in the 2015 model year which is what we own is almost as fun to drive.
12. Mitsubishi i-MiEV
Discontinued in 2014, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV always looked more like a premium golf cart than a vehicle I would feel comfortable crossing the street with even in light traffic.
This perception is likely one of the reasons behind the slow sales that led to its eventual demise. When it was on the market, the i-MiEV was the least expensive EV you could get.
The steering is lively, the ride smooth and you even get upscale amenities like heated seats. But its snail speed makes the Smart Car feel like a hyper car.
And the i-MiEV only has a range of 62 miles which restricts its usefulness.
13. Nissan Leaf
This car was a big deal when it debuted in 2010.
Tax credits, tax credits, tax credits.
The driving range was only a little better than the Mitsubishi MiEV. And the outdated charging technology makes it just as useful.
Add to that the fact that not all public charging stations are compatible with its charging connector, and you can’t help but wonder why the Nissan Leaf didn’t go the way of the MiEV.
It’s proof that if you stick with something long enough, you’re bound to find an audience for whom you can tailor your product for.
And that’s why the Leaf, like this automotive segment endures.