Reader Question: German Micro Cars?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Mark asks: I recently moved to Germany and noticed how many smaller car models are available than in the U.S. Have you reviewed this category? If so, please point me to it.  If not perhaps you may know what makes to avoid at least?

My reply: I only get to test drive the cars sold in the U.S. – because those are the only cars in the U.S. press fleets. However, some of the micro cars sold abroad are also sold here and those cars I do get to drive and review. Examples include the now-defunct Toyota Yaris, the Benz “smart” car and the BMW Mini Cooper, as well as some no-longer-made/sold small Fords and GM models.

In general, the same rules that apply to larger cars apply to the micro-sized cars: Some brands (e.g., Toyota) have historically been more reliable than others (e.g., Mini). You can easily find specific information about makes/models you might be interested in by doing a little online research. One of the boons of the ‘Net is that it’s very easy to suss out “problem” models – and makes. This distinction is important. It is not uncommon for a brand that generally makes good vehicles to every now and then put in a weak transmission or an engine that burns a lot of oil into one of their otherwise good cars. This sort of thing becomes common knowledge pretty quickly. People will publish complaints – and you may be able to find complaints in official publications.

Use search terms such as “lemon” and “problem” with the vehicle (make and model and year – which is also important) and see what comes up.

Of course, this will be more challenging if the make/model vehicle is new or relatively new. In that case, a problem may not yet be known. Which is why it is a good idea to not buy the first year of any make/model but rather wait until that make/model has been out on the market for a couple of years, at which point any underlying issues will probably have come to light.

Some “new” cars, by the way, are only “new” in terms of their model year – assuming the model is a carryover – a term which means no major changes have been made since the previous model year. Many “new” cars are actually three or four years old – in that they have not been significantly updated since they were first brought out as an all-new model.

This, too, is easy to suss out.

If the car you’re wanting is “new” in year only, you can safely buy it if the track record for the past several calendar years doesn’t indicate problems with the make/model.

. . .

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