Of course, euphoria crashed when I got cocky and parked in a nobody-else-can-fit space that my friendly local meter maid deemed too close to the end of the block. Small car, big ticket. Feh.

THE VERDICT: Smart Fortwo is a blast, but unless you have a second car, pack light for road trips, or really want it just for popping around town, it's not the most useful vehicle on the planet. I'd still consider buying it, though - it's so cute, and I'm a sucker for good packaging.


THE VEHICLE: TOYOTA YARIS
THE LENGTH: LESS THAN 13 FEET
THE PERSONALITY: NOT FLASHY BUT DEFINITELY A HARD WORKER
MSRP: $11,300

Alas, poor Yaris, I didn't get to know you quite as well.

Winter weather was not kind to the Yaris test. A day or so after I got the keys, a storm dropped ice aplenty - even SUV owners had trouble getting around. But after the sounds of spinning tires died down a bit and some shovel-wielding guys in my neighborhood helped me unearth the car's tires and pushed me out of the spot, Yaris gave me a fine day outing and a couple of good errand days. First, I headed out to Brooklyn for a winter tour of the Coney Island boardwalk. Yaris handled the bumps and serious potholes of the winter-worn highway very well. And, the head-roomiest car of the lot, it felt a lot airier (in a good way) than any of its test competitors. But Yaris really shined when I went on the big-box shopping circuit in my borough. This car holds a ton of stuff.