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Teensy-tiny cars: Squeezing the Family In

Ccc1964 My kids and I have been chuckling recently over those teeny three-wheeled cars - they're so, well, cute.  And pretty awkward to look at if the only three-wheeled vehicle you're ever seen is a tricycle!  But I read with interest the recent issue of the O's Drive Time, which highlighted the teeniest cars ever.  And, just to really hammer it home for me, I keep driving by Ecomotion, Portland's very own teeny electric car dealership, on NE Sandy (@ 16th) - in my HUGE and totally inefficient 4-door sedan.  Thing is, we're a family of four!  How to pack us in one of these lean, green machines is beyond me.  But I want to.  Biking is great and all, and I dream often of Sarah's Xtracyle, but for many of us reality = car.  But the old 20-miles/gallon beast with huge (needed?) trunk is looking pretty BIG these days.  Anyone else wonder how we families can get in on this tiny trend? 

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Great topic! You know, in Europe, families of all sizes fit into cars this size! Reality is what we make it. We need to remind one another that we can do more and do it with less. Who benefits?--we all do! I secretly hope our 17 yrs. old car goes soon so I am financially forced to get a small car like these...what's holding us all back?
Next weekend at PIR there's a tiny car expo...FYI

I have a 21-year-old 4-door Camry that gets 30 mpg highway and about 25 city with regular unleaded gas. I'm sure if I put some time into it, I could drag that mpg up about 5 mph both city and highway but I'm not allowed to work on vehicles in my driveway per my lease. Into it, I can cram my 16" (speaker size) ported bass cabinet, two guitars, a bass, two PA speakers, various pieces of drum hardware AND another person. I have put five people in it with a ton of camping gear in the trunk. The extra weight pulls the gas mileage down maybe by 2 or 3 mpg. I love the car. Oh I hate it, too, but I love it.

Gosh I know how you feel! I have a Hybrid and a mini-van because I just can't let go of the notion that with our two little ones we must have a vehicle that can accommodate the double BOB, 8 passengers, etc. But in my mind's eye, our long term family goal is to leave Happy Valley and move closer in where we can be a 1 car family (and have that car be a teeny tiny fuel efficient wonder) and then use ZIP Cars in instances where we need a second (the cost of that being far far less than a 2nd car payment, insurance, gas, etc.)....and then wean ourselves down to no cars and just a Zip Car when we need it!!! That's my plan and it may just evolve from there.

I traveled from Brindisi to Bologna, Italy (about the length of California), and back....in a Fiat500 (looks like a VWBug only half the size) ....with 8 people in the car. This included a high speed police chase, where we managed to evade them. Four of my friends and I would hitch rides to the beach(still in Italy). We would generally get picked up by a motorcyclist. Five people, one bike. And the farmers would bring their wares to market on those tiny little three wheeled l'Ape(like a vespa with three wheels). They'd pile them so high they couldn't have cleared a bridge.
Gas in Italy was $9.00 per gallon twenty years ago.
So now I guess we will follow suit. We will figure out ways to conserve because we can't afford to do otherwise.
I think it is ultimately a good thing our gas prices are so high.
Convenience creates apathy....And necessity is the mother of invention.

True, Europe has been living with high gas prices for a long time. Maybe the prices we're facing will help us make a shift in our attitudes about cars. The risk, of course, is that those who can afford it will just keep driving!

Still, we're lucky to live in a city with decent public transportation, and so many people who bike. We recently decided to become a one-car family (over my husband's objections), because it's time to retire my 1993 Toyota Tercel... which still gets decent gas mileage. DH really, REALLY wanted to get another car, though... but he's willing to try it.

As for the tiny tiny cars.... well... when your man is 6'7", it's not that easy to find even a regular car he can comfortably drive, AND fit kids in the back...

I'm still waiting for the Back to the Future car that runs on garbage...and flies!

I saw one of those smart/teeny cars the other day and saw only two seats. Is that right? I can't see how you can transport kids. Or, maybe there are no airbags so one parent could drive one kid around. Or were there more seats that I didn't see? I think I may be able to haul more kids and stuff on my Xtracycle.

I love that this efficient car is making a US appearance. I hate to think that we have gotten here by making it "hip" to be green.

I stopped by ecomotion today because my partner and I are thinking about replacing if not both gas cars with an electric one. While ecomotion might be "earth friendly" they are certainly not woman friendly. I asked three times for help with my questions. The first two times the salesperson who came to help saw a male customer and went to him instead of me. The third time I got tired of waiting and being dismissed so I left.

So, are there any other electric car vendors in Portland? I really cannot give these people my money after today.

One of the reasons we picked this area to move to was so that we could have a more urban lifestyle. Little did we know that just finding a place we could afford that's near a MAX stop was not enough. Hillsboro is so far away from almost anything that we want to do if we take trains/buses. Add in a 1yo and a 3yo and it's a major issue. So, we judiciously decide when to not go and when to take our undependable gas-guzzling van and when to go ahead and ride the train.

Any suggestions for a good neighborhood for walking/biking to get groceries and go to parks? We would really like to be that biking and ZipCar family that Erika P. was talking about.

Although prices have climbed in the last few years, I think North Portland is still a great value as far as real estate prices are concerned here in town. We live in Kenton specifically and love it. We are within 5-ish blocks to the post office, park, MAX stop, grocery store, etc. and sometime within the next year or so we're getting our own public library too. Lots of families with young children have moved into the area within the last few years.

My family of 4 has been getting around in a Scion XA for about 4 years now. I think we get around 32 city/35 highway. The MPG is certainly not as good as a hybrid, but it was half the price (around 13,000 in 2004). It's small, but we've managed by buying a more compact double stroller (my kids are 4 and 2) and adding a roof rack for vacations. Honestly, I love it and if 32/35 sounds like good gas mileage to you, I highly recommend it.

Any suggestions for a family of 5?? We have a 5 y/o, 3 y/o and a 1 y/o...would love to downsize, but to what? Love our minivan and the space, but would like to explore other options..thanks!

Mary, I have friends with a Mazda 5. It seats six, but looks like a station wagon. Virtually no cargo space when everyone is in it, but with a good roof rack they manage well and seem to like it. Their kids are 8, 5 & 1 1/2 , and they often have grandma along for the ride...

We own the Mazda 5 and love it. I wish the gas mileage was a little better though, usually 23-25 around town. We are expecting #3 and a little worried about space for camping and visitors but will make so I am sure.

Before we think of any space-bending solutions to tiny cars, I think we have to assess this first: what do we use our car for? If we only drive it to the supermarket or to work, then we have no problem seating everyone in it. But if we usually use our car to go camping and we need room for our baggage, then we have to consider the more spacious car models.

The extra weight pulls the gas mileage down maybe by 2 or 3 mpg. I love the car. Oh I hate it, too, but I love it.

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