Battle of the Microcar: Elio Versus Tango


Gas prices continue to fall, and guys like me, who lumber through town in big SUVs that swallow fuel as quickly as we suck down carmel macchiatos, are smiling, because fill-ups have gone from almost $90 to just over $50.

Saving money at the pump makes us happy, and we spend the saved money on extra macchiatos.

Yes, even macho SUV-driving guys drink macchiatos. We may not like to admit it, but we’re also interested in microcars. Why? Because sometimes we just don’t need the capability and room that giant utes offer. Sometimes we just want to drive to work quickly and cheaply.

A few microcars are hitting the market to fill that need. Two of them in particular are addressing the need for tiny driving in drastically different ways.

The Elio is officially classified as a motorcycle, but comes with the comforts of an enclosed cabin. It has three wheels, one door, a 0.9-liter gas-powered engine, a 5-speed transmission, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, a heavy-duty roll cage, side intrusion beams, a windshield wiper, stabilization controls and antilock braking. Other than that it has no luxurious features.

The Elio is marketed as being able to provide up to 84 miles per gallon with a starting price of just $6,800.

That’ll certainly grab attention and headlines, but will it do anything to address the bigger problem of traffic congestion, too? Nope. That’s where the Tango comes in.


The Tango, which is an ultra-narrow electric car, has four wheels, two doors and seats two; has a full roll cage and a luxurious interior; and is about as wide as a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. It’s legal to lane-split with the car in California, which means drastically shorter commute times. Here’s another kicker: It can scoot from 0-60 miles per hour in under 4 seconds and has the rollover threshold of a Porsche 911.

If the Elio is a Volkswagen Beetle, the Tango is an honest-to-goodness supercar. The problem, for now, is that it also has a supercar price. Until funding is secured for higher production, individual models sell for more than $200,000.

The Elio meets a need for an average commuter, while the Tango could change the way we commute.

Which microcar would you choose, the Elio or the Tango?


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