Compact car is an American car classification for cars that are bigger than a supermini and smaller than a mid-size car. They are defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency as having an interior volume between 100 to 109.9 cubic feet.
Compact cars usually have wheelbases between 100 inches (2,540 mm) and 109 inches (2,769 mm). The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a "compact" car as measuring between 100 cubic feet (2.8 m3) and 109 cubic feet (3.1 m3) of combined passenger and cargo volume capacity. Vehicle class size is defined in the U.S. by environmental laws in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40—Protection of Environment, Section 600.315-82 Classes of comparable automobiles. Passenger car classes are defined based on interior volume index or seating capacity, except automobiles classified as a special vehicle such as those with only two designated seating positions. In the United States, the compact car segment currently holds a 16% share of the market.
One of the first truly small cars on the U.S. market, in the sense that it was considerably smaller than the standard- size cars of its day, was the Austin Bantam that appeared in 1930. Production of the British-based city car lasted only four years with a total of 20,000 units. Although other little cars such as the Crosley focused on low price and economy, "Americans did not take easily to small cars."
The U.S. market after World-War II experienced growth in sales in standard-sized cars. By 1947, Chevrolet had prototypes of the Cadet, an economy car developed by Earle S. MacPherson. Ford also experimented with a "light car" and, unlike Chevrolet's Cadet, production ensued for the European market as a large car, the Ford Vedette.
In 1950, Nash introduced a convertible Rambler model. It was built on a 100-inch (2,540 mm) wheelbase to which a station wagon, hardtop, and sedan versions were added. Compared to European standards, they were large. Conceived by George W. Mason, the term "compact" was coined by George W. Romney as a euphemism for small cars with a wheelbase of 110 inches (2,794 mm) or less. The Nash Rambler established a new market segment, it became known as "America's first small car", and the U.S. automobile industry soon adopted the "compact" term.
|Class||Interior volume index|
|Minicompact car||< 85 cu ft (2.4 m3)|
|Subcompact car||85–99.9 cu ft (2.41–2.83 m3)|
|Compact car||100–109.9 cu ft (2.83–3.11 m3)|
|Midsize car||110–119.9 cu ft (3.11–3.40 m3)|
|Large car||≥ 120 cu ft (3.4 m3)|
|Small station wagon||< 130 cu ft (3.7 m3)|
|Midsize station wagon||130–160 cu ft (3.7–4.5 m3)|
|Large station wagon||≥ 160 cu ft (4.5 m3)|
In the 1985 model year, compact cars classified by the EPA included Ford's Escort and Tempo, the Chevrolet Cavalier, Toyota Corolla, Acura Legend, Mercedes-Benz 300, Nissan Maxima, and Volvo DL.
According to 2011 sales, compact cars are currently the second segment in Europe after the subcompact one (which in Europe corresponds to A-segment + B-segment), with approximately 3 million units sold.
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