The Smart ForTwo microcar proved that some American car buyers—more than 37,000 of them, according to parent company Daimler’s latest sales calculations—like it small. And now, with the EPA proposing average fuel-economy standards of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, more car companies will begin relying on pint-size transportation to make their fleets legal. That will require convincing far more than 37,000 drivers that tiny can be cool. These four new cars are designed to do just that.
The Fiesta is already Ford’s best-selling model in Europe; now the charismatic subcompact is coming here. The 2011 model will have a 119-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and such options as the new PowerShift twin-clutch automatic transmission and leather seats. With a claimed 40 mpg, it’s a thrifty alternative to pricier hybrids.
LENGTH: 13 ft., 4 in. EST. MPG: 40
General Motors has long been notoriously small-car averse, but the Spark, positioned as a fashion-forward runabout for the urban hip, is the company’s attempt to show that it takes the small stuff seriously. GM hasn’t revealed many details, but it says the Spark will hit American dealerships in time for the 2011 model year and cost $12,000.
LENGTH: 11 ft., 11 in. EST. MPG: TBA
In 2007, Fiat decided to chase the success of the Mini Cooper with a chic update of its Cinquecento, as the 500 is called in Italy. A hit in Europe because of its distinctive shape and copious accessories, the 500 arrives in the U.S. next year as a result of Fiat’s investment in Chrysler. It will probably come in a hatchback, a convertible, a wagon and a sports model.
LENGTH: 11 ft., 7 in. EST. MPG: 45+
Mazda hasn’t sold a subcompact in the U.S. since 1985 , but it’s reversing course later this year, when American buyers get their first shot at the sporty 2011 Mazda2. Thanks in part to its fuel economy and surprisingly generous passenger head- and legroom, the Mazda2, already on sale in Europe, was named 2008 World Car of the Year by a jury of auto writers.
LENGTH: 12 ft., 11 in. EST. MPG: TBA
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.