18 December 2011

Small cars: Yaris and Mini

Next year our Toyota Yaris will be six years old, and I've always thought of it as amazingly roomy for such a small car. It fits five people comfortably, more comfortably than they fit in many bigger cars.

It reminded me of the Mini. I thought the Yaris was probably today's equivalent of the once-ubiqutous Mini, a small car that was bigger inside than it looked from the outside.

When it first came out sixty years ago a friend of mine, Mike Preston, and I went for a test drive in a Mini. The salesman took us up a mine dump in the middle of Joburg. Our verdict was that it made every other small car look obsolete. Here's what I wrote in my diary at the time (25 February 1960)

After work Mike Preston and I went to Connock's to look at the Morris Mini-Minor. We went for a test drive in it up the Park Central mine dump past Autodiesels. The cornering seemed good, due to the front-wheel drive, but the most fantabulous thing was the suspension. The salesman took us up onto a piece of open land and drove over all the bumps he could find and we felt nothing. He then drove off the kerb back on to the road at about 30 miles and hour and again we felt nothing. He made two circles in the middle of the road and then demonstrated the brakes, which were compensated so
that the back wheels would not lock before the front ones. Mike and I were both most impressed with it, and also it outperformed both a Volkswagen and a Renault Dauphine, although it had a smaller engine. It had more space inside than either of those cars, although it was only ten feet long. It made every other small car seem obsolete.
And today, for the first time, we parked our Yaris next to a Mini, and the Yaris looked enormous.

It was only when seeing them side-by-side that I was reminded how small the Mini was, the "Puddlejumper" as we used to call them.

Last Sunday our son Jethro took us to church in this:

It's bigger than the Yaris, and its engine is almost twice the size. It goes faster and more smoothly and more silently. But there's less legroom, and it's much harder to get into, and impossible to get into while wearing a hat. The Yaris, though smaller, is still more roomy inside.

But, for a sixty-year-old, the Mini still takes a lot of beating.

In some ways, it still makes other small cars look obsolete.


Chris H said...

When you get into cars from the 60s and 70s the first thing you notice is how 'thin' the doors are. Much of what we see as a bigger car is really down to safety, improving our safety in an accident. Don't know if I could ever travel in a Mini again without feeling a bit unsafe.

I did have one in the 80s, an old model with a dynamo, holes in the floor and a rotted subframe.

jams o donnell said...

We thought about getting a Yaris at one time. We had a Starlet whch. although small was quite sufficient for the two of us. We ended up with a Corolla instead

Moggsy said...

If you want a vehicle that is small and nippy then I think you would not find anything much better than the Ford Ka.

It is small maneuverable and you can get away at the lights in it before bigger vehicles.

It is great for parking in car parks. It has 4 seats and a hatchback boot, you can drop the back seats and get a really surprisingly big load in it.

Economical and great for town driving and shopping.

I do like the look of the latest mini tho, cute.

Erwin Calverley said...

The Minis have distinctive features, but the most evident is its diminutive size. But despite their size, they are very nimble and quick, which is why Minis are always entered in rally competitions. The Yaris also has a unique physique, and both of them are certainly appealing in their own ways.


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