Compact car

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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.[1]

American market[edit]

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.[2] 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.[3]

1952 Nash Rambler 2-door station wagon

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.[4] 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."[5]

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.[5] 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.[5]

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.[5] 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.[6][7] 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.[8][9]

Class[10] 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.

European market[edit]

Renault Scenic, 1997 Car of the year in Europe, is the first car to be marketed as a compact MPV[11]

The world's first hatchback,[12][13] the 1958 FR layout Austin A40 Farina Countryman model that was a co-development of BMC and the Italian design house Pininfarina at a time when this was unusual.

According to 2011 sales,[14] 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.

The Renault Scenic mainly and the Citroën C4 Picasso are the leaders of this segment in Europe over the 20 past years.[11]

Japanese market[edit]

This larger class is by far the most popular in Japan due to tax benefits stipulated by Japanese government regulations (Japanese Government's Road Vehicle Act of 1951).[16]


  1. ^ "Compact-car dictionary definition | compact-car defined". Retrieved 2016-07-29. 
  2. ^ "Code of Federal Regulations Sec. 600.315 - 82 Classes of comparable automobiles". U.S. Government Publishing Office. 1 July 1996. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  3. ^ Gasnier, Matt (12 August 2012). "USA 7 months 2012: Discover all 273 best-selling models!". Best selling cars blog. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  4. ^ Hearings Before The Subcommittee On Antitrust And Monopoly Of The Committee On The Judiciary United States Senate Ninety-Third Congress Second Session. S. 1167 Part 4 Ground Transportation Industries. U.S. Government Publishing Office. April 1974. p. 2480. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d Stevenson, Heon (2008). American Automobile Advertising, 1930-1980: An Illustrated History. McFarland. p. 214. ISBN 9780786436859. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  6. ^ McCarthy, Tom (2007). Auto Mania: Cars, Consumers, and the Environment. Yale University Press. p. 144. ISBN 978030011038-8. 
  7. ^ Ward's automotive yearbook. 22. Detroit: Ward's Communications. 1960. p. 92. 
  8. ^ Trout, Jack (2008). In Search of the Obvious: The Antidote for Today's Marketing Mess. Wiley. ISBN 9780470288597. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  9. ^ Lent, Henry Bolles (1974). Car of the year, 1895-1970: a 75-year parade of American automobiles that made news. Dutton. p. 115. ISBN 9780525274513. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  10. ^ "Vehicle Size Classes Used in the Fuel Economy Guide". Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Speer, Lawrence J. (20 March 2009). "Renault wants to be minivan leader again". Automotive News Europe. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  12. ^ Lewin, Tony; Borroff, Ryan; Callum, Ian (2010). How to Design Cars Like a Pro. Motorbooks. p. 185. 
  13. ^ Copping, Richard (2006). VW Golf: Five Generations of Fun: The Full Story of the Volkswagen Golf. Veloce Publishing. p. 17. 
  14. ^ "Europe Full Year 2011: Top 318 All models ranking now available!". Automotive News. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  15. ^ Gassier, Matt (7 August 2012). "Japan July 2012: New gen pushes Toyota Corolla to 2-year high". Best selling cars blog. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  16. ^ "Road Vehicle Act of 1951". (in Japanese). Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  17. ^ Gassier, Matt (6 August 2012). "UK July 2012: Mercedes C-Class hits highest ranking ever". Best selling cars blog. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 

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