6 Things To Look For In A City Car
City cars have become more and more popular in recent years. Where we once opted for big cars with big engines designed to chew up the miles, many urbanites are now finding that smaller, sportier cars are a better match for their lifestyle.
Thankfully, car manufacturers have noticed this trend, and are delivering more and more impressive options for those seeking a city car. Smaller cars of the past were fine for urban driving, but confronted with a long drive, they had a tendency to falter and wear.
Modern city cars like the Subaru Impreza and the Mazda MX6 have taken the positives from early cars and improved upon them, allowing for an incredible driving experience throughout your time with the car. Impressive models like these mean that if you’ve been thinking of making the switch to a smaller, city car, you’ve chosen the right time for it.
When you come to selecting the right city car for you, you’ll need to approach the purchasing decision slightly differently than you would with a larger vehicle. Below are the seven important aspects you will need to take into account; adhering to these will ensure you find the perfect city car for your needs.
1) MPG and fuel economy:
The MPG — miles per gallon — of a city car is tougher to judge than for a standard vehicle. A car may be capable of a very high MPG, but when you buy it, you will soon learn that the MPG is much lower than was advertised. Is this a sign that manufacturers are being disingenuous with their MPG claims? Not quite.
The problem is how city cars are driven. To achieve their MPG rating as described by the manufacturer, the measurement for new vehicles is usually taken when the car is going on a simple drive, usually at speed, in a sterile environment. In short, cars are tested for their MPG rating in the absolute best possible conditions. This is a common tactic; it’s been criticised as being unfair, but there’s no sign of manufacturers making their tests match real world conditions anytime soon.
The performance of a vehicle away from the best possible conditions, and particularly when driving in urban environments, does not produce the best results. City driving is particularly tough on fuel consumption, due to the relentless start-stop nature as you move from traffic light to intersection. This is murderous for fuel consumption; every time you have to brake, come to a stop, and then accelerate, you’re using far more fuel than you would be if you were just cruising at 60mph for the same length of time. As a result, driving in a city is just about the most expensive cars of driving that you can do– and that’s why your MPG isn’t going to come close to what the manufacturers claim is possible.
So how do you judge the MPG for a city car, if you can’t rely on the manufacturers’ numbers? Simple: ask other owners. There are thousands of car forums and blogs online, so ask existing owners how they find their MPG measures up when used for city driving. This isn’t a fool-proof method, but it is more accurate than what you can achieve if you make your decision based on the advertised MPG.
2) Collapsible wing mirrors:
Short and simple here: for city driving, you’re going to want collapsible wing mirrors. These are fairly standard now, but you don’t want to be surprised, so it’s worth checking prior to purchase. When navigating through tight city streets, collapsible mirrors can save you a small fortune in repair bills, so you’re going to want to check they are in place.
3) The size:
City cars are, in generally, much smaller than standard saloons and SUVs. This tends to mean that there has to be some kind of compromise; for the most part, the cockpit of the car will be far smaller than with larger models. Some people, especially those who have previously owned larger vehicles, may even consider city car cockpits to be cramped.
As a result of this, many of us look for city cars that have a spacious interior. This, in turn, tends to mean the exterior size of the car creeps up. This is a problem as, in a large city, the exterior size is what counts.
Cities require precision driving in a way that just isn’t seen when using other roads. The smaller your car is, the easier you will be able to navigate narrow lanes and — importantly — park in tight spaces on city streets. It just isn’t worth opting for a large city car because you want a more spacious interior; you’re effectively denying yourself one of the major benefits of buying a car in the first place.
With these types of vehicles, small is by far the best option. It is possible for cars to feel spacious without compromising the exterior size, so search around for an option that gives you the best of both worlds. If you can’t find the vehicle that perfectly meets your requirements for both the interior and exterior size, then the exterior size should be the deciding factor.
A city car needs to perform extremely well in terms of handling. In fact, it’s arguably the most important aspect of the actual driveability of a city car.
As has been mentioned, city streets are tight. They’re narrow. They have sharp bends, lanes that run together, and various obstacles that you’re going to need to avoid at short notice. As a result, handling is vital, and you’re going to want a vehicle that responds at the slightest shift of the steering wheel. This will allow you to both navigate your route and avoid anything unexpected that happens to cross your path.
You want to feel that the car is able to smoothly drive through corners, balanced perfectly– more of a glide than a drive. If you feel you have to put a particularly large amount of pressure on the steering wheel, or you experience any hint of drift, then move on and examine the next model of car.
5) Responsive brakes:
Highly-responsive brakes are an absolute must for a city car. The simple truth is that driving in a city means you are going to encounter pedestrians, and pedestrians… well… they have a tendency not to stick to the sidewalk. If you have driven in a city before, you will know all-too-well that pedestrians will walk out into the road without looking, and you’ll be forced to jump on your brakes to avoid them.
This is why you have to be sure that your city car will be able to respond immediately in those circumstances, as you’re likely to encounter such a scenario fairly frequently.
When you’re testing a car out, take your time to drive at normal city speeds and then suddenly hit the brakes. How does the car handle it? Does it come to an abrupt stop, or is there a delay? The delay may be less than a second, but could be crucial if a pedestrian has suddenly walked out in front of you while in a city.
You’re also going to want to ensure that your city car is equipped with an anti-lock braking system. This is commonly referred to as ‘ABS’, and most new cars will almost certainly have it installed, but you’re still going to want to double-check it’s there before you buy. ABS is essential if you’re at risk of needing to stop suddenly, and it can be a lifesaver when driving it on ice or in wet conditions.
6) Comfortable seats:
Finally, it’s important that you consider just how comfortable the seats are when choosing a city car– a fact that will surprise some people.
When we think about comfortable car seats, most of us imagine long journeys; hours spent on a motorway travelling far from our home. However, it’s important to factor the seat comfort in for city cars too.
There are two primary reasons for this. First and foremost, there’s no guarantee that you’re only going to be in a city car for a short amount of time. If you run into roadworks, you could find yourself stuck for a long period, and you’re going to want your seat to be comfortable and supportive for the duration. Secondly, you’re also going to be in a city car frequently – for most people, that will be at least five times a week, if they use their car to commute. As a result, if the seat is uncomfortable, the cumulative effect of all that exposure to the seat is going to cause no small amount of pain and discomfort.
It’s tough to judge just how comfortable seat will be, especially when restricted to the short time frame of a test drive. However, look for some form of lumbar support, as well as the ability to move the seat up and down as well as forwards and backwards, so you can position yourself perfectly.
Buying a city car is very different from buying a larger vehicle. By ensuring you take all of the above into account, you can be certain you find the right car for your city, and for your personal needs.