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This Is Not A Dinky Toy

Sour_Apple_Elio_Revised_CAD.28-591x406There’s been a bit of trend towards downsizing for a lot of folks, especially given petrol prices, concerns about peak oil and attempts to reduce carbon footprints.  Small cars are no longer the preserve of little old ladies but are often the choice of the smart commuter, with hatchbacks being seen as fun, zippy and classy.  However, how small is too small?

It’s not a stupid question, as an American designer has come up with an extremely small commuter vehicle known as the Elio.  It’s an attempt to keep the prices down, both of buying a car and of running a car.  And, given the diminutive size of the vehicle, it’s probably going to keep the cost of parking down, too.

So what has the Elio got to offer (or, more correctly, what will it have to offer)?  For a start off, it’s got a price tag to match its size, with the estimated starting price of US$6,800 for a new car.  Not bad value, really, but what do you get for the money?  It has a teeny weeny engine (0.9 L) with single overhead cams and three cylinders. Presumably that is one cylinder for each wheel, as this is going to be a three-wheeled vehicle.  The maximum power is 55 kW so it’s not exactly going to be a heavy-duty workhorse, but that’s not what the designers had in mind. It’s supposed to be thrifty and thrifty it is: it has a fuel economy figure of 84 mpg (about 3 L/100 km) on the open road and 49 mpg (4.8 L/100 km) around town.

The Elio is going to be a three-wheeled vehicle and although it can seat two passengers, they’re sitting one behind the other, if the pics of the vehicle are anything to go by.  Each of them will have an airbag, and the body style does have a reinforced roll cage for protection.  Good to know, as this vehicle is knee-high to most other vehicles.  Because of its three wheel designs, it’s also technically a motorbike, according to US law, which probably affects the licence you need to drive one.

Yes, you can fit something into the boot.

Yes, you can fit something into the boot.

The Elio isn’t in production quite yet. Right now, orders are being taken and the maker is proposing to manufacture the Elio in an ex-MG plant in Louisiana.

Call me cynical, but I won’t be signing up for my Elio just yet, even if I was interested in importing one Down Under (which I’m not, as I’ve got teenagers to cart about the place).  You see, this isn’t the first time that a three-wheeled car with amazing fuel economy has been trumpeted around and orders taken ahead of actual production.  It happened about 40 years ago with the Dale (see my earlier post on the Dale Debacle). Now, it could well be that the makers of the Elio are above board and are genuinely trying to come up with a solution to the issues of congestion and pollution.  The Elio could be something along the same lines as the Smart or, looking further back in history, the Ford Model T in the US or the VW Beetle in Germany.  And good on them if this is the case.  But personally, I’d like to see a bit more of the Elio in action, and not just on the manufacturer’s website.  (OK, OK, I am cynical!)

However, you never know.  It could prove to be a big hit and it might even make it over here.  Maybe.  Have a look at the official Elio website and see what you think.


This should give you an idea of the size of the Elio.

This should give you an idea of the size of the Elio.