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What is "wrong" with these new subcompacts?



  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,408
    Question for you if you don't mind:

    In your estimation, what percentage of the time are all 4 members of your family in the car?

    What I'm driving at is that for some families, they might find that all 4 of them are only in the car 10% of the total use time of the vehicle, and yet they have paid 100% more (double) for a mid-size wagon over say a Honda Fit.

    Also, if a family were to be together only 5% of the time, and this 5-10% were only local driving, a Honda Fit would work fine for them. I take people around in the back of my xA all the time for 1/2 to one hour trips and I don't hear shreiks of horror and misery back there.

    HUMMER H2 MPG: the figure of 12 mpg is taken from an actual test done by Car and Driver.


  • thegraduatethegraduate Posts: 9,731
    What options are there for a midsize wagon now? For Freestyle? Mercedes E350 Wagon? I really don't know... the wagons went away, sadly. I have a feeling they'll be back soon. $38 to fill up my 4-cylinder Honda tells me that people will continue selling their SUVs.
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,676
    Saturday and Sunday my little family of four stays together, so 2/7 of the time, in general.

    Once or twice a month on average we take at least a 100 mile trip to visit family or friends. Several times a year, we take much longer trips in my wife's vehicle and it is fully packed to the roof in the back. About one week out of the month on average we have in-laws in town who travel with us to meals, entertainment, etc. raising the load to six people.

    My wife takes one or two kids in the morning and almost always picks up both. Even on weekdays, the kids take up more than a subcompact backseat with their two substantial car seats, the first-grader's huge rolling backpack (purchased against my objections), the little one's diaper bag, napping mat, blanket, and on a regular basis extra diapers, wipes, and other stuff I am always forgetting. Not to mention that my wife usually has the front passenger area filled with her laptop and client files. She often goes clothes/household shopping at lunch and/or grocery shopping on the way home, so add that crap to the pile and we use up our Pilot pretty fully on a daily basis.

    Before children I had a 300ZX and my wife had a two-door Integra, and that was plenty for us. I would love to get back close to that one day, but it isn't going to happen anytime soon.
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,676
    We had a Passat wagon. It met our minimum requirements with careful planning, but we couldn't haul extra relatives, friends, etc. Oh yeah, I forgot that we almost always find an extra child belonging to someone else in our vehicle on weekends, so that's another car seat that fits best in a third row.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,849
    I think small cars(even the MG Midget now)are the cars that are more handsome. Even cars from the 50's and 60's are better looking small, IMO. Take the '62 Chevy Nova SS for example. Economy but also power, if configured right. And how does it look? Well, simply spectacular.

    Still, looks are subjective. I think a '62 Chevy II is a good looking car, yeah. But I'd much rather have a '62 Impala. And I think just about everything GM made in 1962 looks good. I think styling and proportioning often play a bigger role than just size. For instance, a '62 Chevy II/Nova is bigger than a Falcon or Corvair, but IMO is a much better looking car. And compact Mopars were in a world of their own back then, and really wouldn't recover from their acid trip until the 1967 redesign.

    In the 50's, often they'd use the same roofline across several different cars. For instance, a 1955-57 Chevy and a 1955-57 Pontiac both use the same greenhouse. The Pontiacs rode a longer wheelbase and were longer overall though. I think the Chevies tended to have nicer details than the Pontiacs. There was some automotive critic that said the '55 Pontiac looked like it had been dropped on its face when it was born! That look carried over to 1956, and for '57 it just went ultra-glittery. The Chevies were pretty restrained in comparison. But I always thought the Pontiacs had nicer proportions, because the longer overall length just made them seem better balanced. In contrast, the shorter Chevies, with a shorter overall length but the same sized passenger area, just looked stubbier and ill-proportioned. It wasn't so bad on the hardtops and convertibles, which had a shorter passenger cabin, but it really showed up on 2- and 4-door sedans.

    Another car where this showed up was the '57-59 Mopars. Hardtops were varied a bit, but the 4-door pillared roof was shared among Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, and Chrysler. On a 218+" DeSoto or Chrysler, riding a 126" wheelbase, it seemed well balanced, and even on a 214" Dodge riding a 122" wheelbase it didn't seem too out of proportion. But on a ~206" Plymouth riding a 118" wheelbase, the passenger cabin just seemed too big.

    Now sometimes I do think a car can get TOO big. In the 70's, I started liking the 4-door versions of some cars better than the 2-doors, because the cars were so long that they really needed the larger 4-door passenger cabins to fill them out. This was especially evident with, say, the 1969-73 full-sized Mopars.

    But in the end, I don't think the Chevy II looks good simply because of its size. It looks good because GM's stylists knew what they were doing!
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    Outlaw, shmoutlaw.

    You lived through the seventies, boaz; there was more social pressure to drop those monsters than legislative pressure, though lawing did come about. My pet peeve to this day is that light trucks were not and have not become part of the CAFE equation. They absolutely, necessarily should be.

    But you couldn't give full-size cars away then, and the legislation was a very small part of it. Nobody wanted to be tarred with that ever-so-unhip "guzzler" brush. In high school I vividly recall the derision heaped on any poor slob who "suffered" the use of the family Gran Safari or Catalina rather than piloting a Celica or 510 (I rode a Peugot UO8 m'self!).

    We're headed that way again; a time when few will want to be seen as so socially irresponsible or environmentally callous that they would skipper a full-size BOF SUV or it's ilk. Back to a time when the creme's Caddies and Jags got dropped like so many pop flies at ATT Park for Preludes and Accords. And again, bigger displacement "sports" cars will be overlooked (socially) because of the proportionately small numbers in daily service and also the cool factor, which, of course, beats SUV cool factor with a big ol' fat honkin' stick...

  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,676
    My neighbor is shopping for an Escalade. People with money don't generally care what gas costs or what people on message boards think. Societal pressure to downsize is virtually nill in the South.
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    "My neighbor is shopping for an Escalade. People with money don't generally care what gas costs or what people on message boards think. Societal pressure to downsize is virtually nill in the South..."

    That's today, lemmer. Tomorrow is another story. I well remember the physician's lot at Sequoia Hospital, where my father was Chief of Urology, going from Caddies, Lincolns, Jags and Benzes to Hondas, Toyotas, Datsuns and Fiats (of all things) in the course of a few years. Were there holdouts? You betcha! Many? Nope; maybe 10-15%.

    Hint: it didn't have a whole lot to do with gas prices. Being stylish, or rather avoiding being unstylish, is all the pressure those with disposable need.
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,680
    Societal pressure to downsize is virtually nill in the South.

    Of course it isn't, how are earth are you going to put a gun rack on a Fit?

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,676
    I don't the late 70s and early '80s my Dad was driving a full-size Impala followed by a full-size Cutlass and my Mom had a Ford Truck with a big-block. My dad did eventually buy a Volvo diesel. I remember my neighbors at the time having big American cars and trucks with V8s. One family I knew had a Toyota truck and a Corolla but they were already highly suspect in the Atlanta suburbs as they were Democrats. When people here (now I am in suburban Birmingham) say they are going to get something small, they mean an Acura TL or a Lexus RX350.
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,676
    I have a perspective derived from a Southern upbringing by Northern parents, and I can tell you that my New York relatives can hold their redneck best with anyone in Alabama.
  • british_roverbritish_rover Posts: 8,476
    Yup I see nearly as many confederate flags on jacked up trucks in this part of New England and New York as I did in VA.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    But also remember that during the two gas crunches of the 1970s, availability, not just price, was a big concern.

    In many areas there was literally NO GAS at any price! Under those conditions, a vehicle that sips gas becomes attractive to even the rich.

    Today there is still plenty of gas, it just costs more. No doubt some people think it's impressive to be able to pay the higher gas prices (or, at least, LOOK like they can pay those higher gas prices, thanks to a credit card ;) ).
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    "But also remember that during the two gas crunches of the 1970s, availability, not just price, was a big concern..."

    True too, Mr. Beck, but the availability issue was short-lived and the repercussions quite the opposite.

    All y'all have short memories on the image factor I think! I still remember the Doonesbury strip where the roommate's boyfriend bought a new Electra 225 in baby blue, and the girlfriend damn near died of embarrassment and told him he should've bought a Gremlin!

    Guzzling was not cool, I tell ya!
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    wale_bate1: All y'all have short memories on the image factor I think! I still remember the Doonesbury strip where the roommate's boyfriend bought a new Electra 225 in baby blue, and the girlfriend damn near died of embarrassment and told him he should've bought a Gremlin!

    A Gremlin?! Sorry, but I can't let Mr. Trudeau live that one down.

    I learned to drive on a 1973 Gremlin. It did save lots of gas - primarily because it didn't use much on the back of a tow truck or in the service bay. It spent LOTS of time in those places.

    A Civic, a Corolla, or even a B210 - I could understand. Heck, even the Pinto had a better image - at least until the whole gas tank issue (if you'll pardon the expression) blew up.
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    You humorectomy scar is showing G! Or at least your sarcasmotomy! That was the point, that even a Gremlin was more image than a Buick.

    Gremlin: "Hey buddy, where's the rest of that car?"
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,744
    wale, The point is not that we were forced out of large cars. it is what happens when the pressure to look politically correct changes? People didn't go in mass towards Nissans and Hondas or Toyotas until Nissan, Honda and Toyota made Camrys, Accords and Altimas in the size people wanted. Drop the large detroit mastodons they did. But what did they move to? Mini vans, SUVs and now quad cab trucks. Will a sub compact ever sell like a F-series truck? In the US anyway? Does the American consumer care one whit about the european consumer? Do they care about the Asian consumer? I don't think they do. The F-series Fords are the best selling vehicles in the world and hardly any of them are sold in other countries. How did that happen? SUV and Light trucks got to over 50 percent of the market in this country. Do any of us see Americans willingly moving into a Sub Compact at anything even close to those numbers? While we may show open disdain in public for our consumption I haven't noticed contractors building smaller more affordable houses in Southern California over the last few years. The question remains the same, what happened to compact trucks? Gone, and no one cares one bit. Will SUVs and full sized trucks disappear? SUV don't have the cool factor? What reason is there for three Hummers then? Why did Porsche decide to make a SUV? How About BMW or MB making several SUVS? And how big are the current Sub Compacts? Are any of them much smaller than a Civic? If they hold such promise why do the manufacturers, who have access to all the studies on the buying habits of the American consumers, insist on only providing the compact or bigger cars? Why take years to release a sub compact to our markets and only months to release a new mid sized car? Because of long term preferences displayed by marketing trends that can be easily measured. How many years have they talked about bringing the smart car to our shores? How many crossover SUVs and AWD wagon-like cars have been imported in the same number of years?

    Sub compacts will always have one flaw, they will be cars people can move up from. They may be perfect at what they do but they will not be something to aspire to. The middle class in America has to have something to aspire to. Individually Americans can be the most generous people on the earth. But corporately we are consumers first, and we have the ability to consume more than anyone on earth. The French are rude, the British have bad teeth and we consume more than our share. That is simply how it is. ( warning, some of the previous was intended as hyperbole.) ;)
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    Trust me, those of us who lived through the experience of driving a Gremlin on an everyday basis found that our sense of humor was severely taxed, and hasn't quite recovered...

    The scary part is that the lousy reliability was the least of the car's problems.
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    Sorry, but the move away from full-size anything didn't end up in a larger-format for quite a while, and not until confidence recovered enough to overpower the stigma!

    Minivans were actually mini, and SUVs didn't catch on in earnest until the late 80's. Midsize was the new full-size. Reminders of how badly the full-size segment, even in the cushy categories, suffered would be the Cimarron and Skyhawk, I think.

    Not that all that didn't wear off, of course...

    G: LOL!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,849
    that once prices stabilized and the fuel was free-flowing again, people returned to their big cars with a vengeance. On the subject of the Electra for example, 1976 one of its best years in history! They ran off about 125,000 copies. I think the mammoth Olds 98 also had a record year in '76. Big cars may have been an embarrassment to many people, but there were still plenty who demanded them. Now these cars would see even higher sales with the downsized 1977-79 models (I think the 1980 recession ensured that the '80-84 models would never top 1976 sales, but I'm not positive), but at the time, sales were brisk enough for the '76 models that GM was probably starting to second-guess their impending decision to downsize.

    Also, those two fuel crises we had, while they were fairly short-lived in retrospect, at the time they were pure hell, and most people actually going through them probably didn't have the slightest inkling that things would ever return to "normal".
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