Jake lives in San Francisco where parking is a challenge he wants a compact city car that can squeeze into tight spaces, but there is just one problem: He is 6’5.” Most things feel a bit claustrophobic for him. What car should he buy?
(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )
Here is the scenario:
Parking in San Francisco, you see two things: tiny parking spots between driveways and people who don’t pull all the way forward when parallel parking to make efficient use of the space. My priority is ease of *street* parking over all else and maybe something interesting to drive, but my problem is that, at least in the U.S., small cars are almost always cheap cars in both price and quality.
I almost always drive alone, and due to my height (6’5″) I might as well not have a back seat since no one with legs is going to fit behind me.
Others have said that cars like the Mustang, Passat, Camry, CR-V, or CX-5 would be better suited for me, but I think those are too big, hard to see out of, or boring (pick two, am I right?). Is there anything that feels upscale and minimalist, but small? I can spend up to $35,000.
Budget: Up to $35,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: San Francisco
Wants: Small, Easy To Park, Upscale
Doesn’t want: Something too big
Expert 1: Tom McParland – Hear Me Out…
I can hear the comments already. “The dude is 6’5” and you are recommending a Mini?” But I have some very good observational evidence for this. I owned a 2004 Mini Cooper and I am a very average 5’10”. At some point, I needed to get the car inspected and I rolled into my local inspection station, the guy that was in charge of driving the car through was very not average height or width, he was big and likely was at least 6’5.” Anyway, I get out of the car, and he looks at me and says “I don’t think I can fit in there.” I jack the seat down to it’s the lowest point and he gives hops it with about an inch of headroom to spare, he looks around and says “Hey, not bad.”
The 2004 Mini was smaller than the one they make currently, so I figure with the right seat configurations you should do just fine. The Mini is a fantastic city car for zooming through the streets and squeezing into tight spots. Since it’s made by BMW it does give a more “upscale” feel than most compacts, but that is mostly because it is not cheap. However, like BMWs, these depreciate hard and lightly used examples with plenty of warranty can be had for great values, like this 2019 Cooper S 2-door with fewer than 4,000 miles for under $25,000
Expert 2: Jason Torchinsky – How Does Infinite Headroom Sound To You?
I should be absolutely clear and up front that I am not qualified to make this call for you, as I am quite short and entirely unaccustomed to the struggles of Long Daddies such as yourself, you tall, freakish monsters. Not you though, you’re great! And I think, Jake, you should think about this in terms of how you feel in the car. You won’t be happy if you feel all constricted, so why put yourself through all that? Why not get a car with infinite headroom? Why not, I’m asking, get a Honda Beat?
Honda’s tiny little Beat is a kei-class wonder, a fun little roadster with 660ccs of raw fun, pumping out 64 joyful horsepower. The thing is nimble and lithe, and can park in a spot that would make timid Smart Car drivers furrow their brows and pass by.
It would make a perfect San Francisco city car. Whip around, squeeze into tiny spots no one else would dare try, and you’ll finding yourself making up excuses to hoon the little bastard down Lombard street.
Sure, it’s tiny, but our six-foot-ish former Blog Master Patrick George drove one around with no trouble at all, and with the top down, it’ll be like wearing a pair of 64 hp pants, and the sky will be your headliner, the sun or moon your dome light, the horizon your dashboard.
When the top is up, maybe you’ll feel a bit constricted, but maybe you can have a custom head-dome sewn in?
Our pal Gary Duncan has a bunch of these, starting from around $6,000 and going up to over $20,000. One in the middle, like this $11,900 one with only 22,500 miles on it seems like a great choice, and I’m partial to yellow, myself.
Expert 3: Kristen Lee – You Can Have Both Room AND Fun
Jake, my man, I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to hear someone is looking for a small car for a change. The rest of America seems hellbent on taking up as much space as possible with these stupid, repurposed land-tank SUVs. You’ll be able to dart in between them all, and park where they cannot. There’s a power to that.
As the complete opposite of a Long Being, I can’t really relate, unfortunately. But, I can tell you that after driving and being in a Hyundai Veloster N, it’s a car that has plenty of front seat room and is quite petite on the outside, making it easy to place and simple to park.
But that’s not the only reason to get a Veloster N. The car is fun as fuck, a beloved staff favorite around these parts. It’s got a buzzy little engine that begs to be wound up and a snappy six-speed manual. The days of Korean cars rudely being labeled as “shitboxes” are over. Obviously, the interior is no Mercedes interior, but it’s also nicely laid out and doesn’t include a bunch of extra crap nobody uses.
And the beauty of it all? You can get this thing for, like, under $30,000. That’s a steal in my book.
Expert 4: Erik Shilling — The Answer Is Always Fit
Hey Jake, as the tallest person on Jalopnik’s staff (6’3″) I can almost without reservation recommend a Honda Fit. I own a 2008 Fit and its not only spacious, but you can also fold the rear seats down for a shocking amount of cargo space. You can do that in the 2020 Fit as well, but in the 12 years since they made my car it’s been updated with things like a backup camera and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
I would probably get the Sport trim, which comes with the bigger wheels and the six-speed manual, which will set you back around $22,000 if you get the Honda Factory Performance package, tightening the suspension and adding a titanium shift knob.
If you really want luxury, the EX-L trim has leather seats and fully-tricked out will still come in well below $35,000. But either trim should fit your frame just fine.
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