It can happen to even the most careful driver: hurriedly squeezing into a parking space, you hear the sickening crunch of plastic scraping against another vehicle or object. No driving trip is complete without parking a vehicle, but it can be a chore that perplexes everyone from driving school graduates to middle-age commuters.
Perhaps you remember struggling to position your parents' car inside a box of traffic cones for your driving test. Carefully adjusted mirrors, slow movements, and repetitive practice help new drivers pass their test without crushing any cones. Given how often we see cars driving around with scratched or wrinkled bumpers, it's clear most drivers forget those skills after receiving their driver's license.
Fortunately, there are ways to make parking easier. Some modern cars are small and maneuverable enough to fit into spaces that SUV drivers can only dream of. Technology is helping, too, with camera and sensor systems to help drivers keep tabs on obstacles around their vehicle. And for the truly parking-impaired, some manufacturers even sell cars that can steer themselves into parking spaces automatically.
We'd like to think everyone has the requisite skills to safely maneuver vehicles into parking lots, but if you absolutely can't park without damaging your ride, check out these vehicles that could help you avoid another insurance claim.
Tiny Feet: Small, Maneuverable Cars
Driving a smaller car means you'll be able to fit into tighter spaces and still open the door without hitting the adjacent vehicle. They also open up a range of new parking opportunities that are off-limits to large sedans or SUVs. Modern small cars are no longer only suited for buyers on a budget, as most offer almost all the same comfort, safety, and convenience features as larger models.
The "Smart car" remains the vehicle most ideally suited to dense urban parking lots, thanks to its Lilliputian dimensions. At 106.1 inches long and 61.4 inches wide, the Fortwo is the smallest new car you can buy in America. A ballerina-like turning circle of 28.7 feet also makes it simple to slip between rows of parked cars.
Smart ownership does, however, force some compromises. The Fortwo takes 12.8 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph and can manage just 90 mph. The car only seats two people and doesn't have much luggage space for grocery trips. Yet if your only criterion is being able to park in the city's most miniscule gaps, the Smart Fortwo might be just the ticket.
Fiat's ownership of Chrysler means that new Fiat vehicles are once again on sale in America. The 500 takes up just 139.6 inches by 64.1 inches, which is less space than almost every other new vehicle on the road today and only three inches wider than the Smart Fortwo. The cute hatchback is meant to inject a bit of personality into the small-car experience while providing excellent fuel-economy ratings of up to 38 mpg on the highway. With seating for four and 9.5 cubic feet of luggage space, it's far more commodious than the Smart. Even so, its petite waistline and tiny 30.6-foot turning radius mean even the most ham-fisted driver should be able to park the 500 without trading paint.
Today's Mini Cooper builds on the heritage of the tiny, front-wheel-drive car that began with the British-built Mini back in 1959. This small hatch offers a compelling combination of engaging driving dynamics, retro-fun styling, and cutesy add-ons (like Union Jack mirror housings and rally stripes). Slightly larger than the similarly retro Fiat 500, the Mini Cooper is nonetheless ideal for constrained parking spots thanks to its 146.6-inch length and 66.3-inch width.
The Mini Cooper hardtop and convertible provide seating for four people, but the rear seats are quite small. Still, the chic Mini has gained favor with hip commuters, while weekend racers have gravitated to the more powerful S and John Cooper Works models. With a 35.1-foot turning circle and compact dimensions, the Cooper will easily slot into the tightest of parking spaces and look good while doing so.
You wouldn't guess from seeing it in person, but the Nissan Cube is a few inches shorter than a Mazda MX-5 roadster. And unlike the two-seat roadster, you can fit five passengers and ample luggage inside the Cube. Japan's quirky box-on-wheels measures just 156.7 inches long and 66.7 inches wide, casting a smaller shadow than the MX-5 and managing to pirouette in a dainty 33.4-foot turning circle. It's not as fun to drive as the Mazda, but the Nissan Cube could be a remarkably practical ride for anyone transporting lots of friends or cargo in a bustling urban environment.