The Good Life: Quest: Smaller Is Better


Sayonara, SUVs. Whether you’re a commuter, a Center City dweller, or just a sufferer from Gas-Price Anxiety Syndrome, you may finally be thinking that big, bulky, petroleum-drunk boats are passé. So we put a bunch of practical, compact cars to the tough Philly test.


Sayonara, SUVs. Whether you’re a commuter, a Center City dweller, or just a sufferer from Gas-Price Anxiety Syndrome, you may finally be thinking that big, bulky, petroleum-drunk boats are passé. So we put a bunch of practical, compact cars to the tough Philly test.

TOYOTA YARIS LIFTBACK
From $11,150; 37mpg

This cute, Bug-gy ride has been all the rage in Europe for years, thanks to a nerdy-cool design that doesn’t slack on practicality. Think of it as the new Beetle.
Road test: Four of us jetted comfortably to the A.C. Boardwalk and back. Only really, really tall people would find this surprisingly roomy car cramped.
Size matters: The Yaris is just 12 and a half feet long, so sliding into tight city spots is a breeze. To hell with Central Parking!

LEXUS IS 350
From $35,705; 25mpg

Sure, you could buy three Yarises (left) for this much money, but the Lexus has three times the horsepower (at 306hp) and three times the speakers. Rawk.
Road test: Zero to 60 in under six seconds we liked in Lancaster County. Overly cramped backseat we didn’t. And the rear-wheel drive is no match for our Philly-style ice storms.
Size matters: It’s longer than most compacts, but the optional rearview camera will make friends envy your parallel-parking expertise.

DODGE CALIBER
From $13,725; 30mpg

One of those new crossover things, squashing the best of an SUV, a station wagon and a compact into one car.
Road test: Thanks to lots of interior space, we did a mad amount of shopping, from KOP to Ikea to Reading Terminal. This is one of the safest compacts on the market, complete with standard full-length side curtain airbags.
Size matters: The Caliber might look large, but it’s just cleverly designed for the Supersize-happy American consumer, who typically doesn’t feel safe in a small vehicle.

MINI-COOPER S CONVERTIBLE
From $25,400; 29mpg

Seven years after its modern relaunch, the much-adored Mini has been completely overhauled, inside and out.
Road test: The Mini is the best of all possible worlds: small, sporty, and easy on the gas. Whether we were zipping around Northern Liberties, the Italian Market or Rittenhouse Square, we felt like head-turners. (And not in that midlife-crisis kind of way.)
Size matters: This may technically be a four-seater, but we’re really talking about two adults comfortably. The Mini is, truly, mini.