The following article, written by Consumer Guide Publisher Tom Appel, first appeared in the “2018 Chicago Auto Show Official Show Guide.” Thanks to the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, producers of the Chicago Auto Show, for allowing us to share the text again here.
Thanks to easy access to ridesharing services such as Uber, Lyft, and Wingz, many urban dwellers have found that they can live free of the complications and costs of car ownership. On the occasion that short-hop transportation is needed, these car-free bon vivants turn to a smartphone app and order up a quick ride. Other times, public transportation suffices.
But the total population of Americans—even those living in large cities—who can satisfy all of their personal-transportation needs without a car is relatively small. Additionally, there are people (this author among them) who cannot imagine life without the freedom of owning a car.
For the latter group of urbanites, I have selected four vehicles that are especially well suited for city environments. Each of these vehicles is a 2018 Consumer Guide Best Buy—to see the entire list of Best Buys, visit Consumerguide.com.
So, what makes a vehicle a good city car? Driving around a crowded, bustling city presents a number of specific challenges for drivers—challenges that can be moderated by vehicles with the following attributes:
- Throttle response
Let’s look at the four vehicles here, and examine how they perform against the above criteria:
Best City Cars
Base Price Range: $16,100-$22,800
This subcompact hatchback packs an incredible amount of passenger and cargo space into a very tidy package. With its short front and rear overhangs (the amount of the vehicle that extends beyond the wheel openings) and tight turning circle, Soul is easy to pilot through congestion, and being just 163 inches long, this little Kia can park in spaces that most other vehicles cannot. Note: Taller drivers may occasionally find it difficult to see traffic lights, as the Soul’s roof extends farther forward than that of many other vehicles, obscuring upward visibility to the front.
Toyota Yaris iA
Base Price Range: $15,950-$17,050
This subcompact sedan is actually a Mazda product, assembled for Toyota to sell in the U.S. and Canada. That behind-the-scenes business arrangement in no way diminishes the charms of this affordable urban warrior. Despite being only modestly quick, Yaris iA is fun to drive, and its nimble handling is a boon for weaving in and out of traffic, as well as winding through crowded parking garages. Like the other vehicles on this list, the iA is relative short from front to back, making it easy to park in tiny spaces. Note: The Yaris iA falls short in rear-seat space, so if you frequently ferry more than one adult passenger, this car may not work for you.
Base Price Range: $20,110-$26,415
Mazda’s smallest crossover is a favorite of the Consumer Guide team, and it’s close to perfect for folks looking for stylish city-friendly transportation. The CX-3’s tidy size means snaking through traffic won’t be a chore, and the zippy 146-horsepower engine makes easy work of squirting away from stoplights. Add a classy, well-finished cabin to the mix, as well as available AWD, and you have a compelling option for dedicated urbanites. Note: Rear-seat passenger space is limited, so you’ll want to look elsewhere if you need to shuttle adult passengers on a regular basis.
Chevrolet Bolt EV
Base Price Range: $36,620-$40,905 (before federal tax credit)
This roomy, functional Chevrolet subcompact is a pure-electric vehicle that offers everything an active denizen of the city might want in a car—it just so happens to not use gasoline. The fun-to-drive Bolt EV offers plenty of power for scooting through traffic openings, while its small footprint means it’s easy to maneuver and park. Plus, with 238 miles of estimated driving range, you likely won’t have to worry about charging the battery every day. If you have ready access a charger—or can have one installed in your home—Bolt may be the perfect city car for you. Note: The Bolt EV is a bit pricey for its size if you don’t quality for the $7500 federal tax credit.