Friday, July 04, 2003

Smallest Cars

Smart is a car company based in Germany that has made a name for itself by making some of the smallest cars in the world. For example, the Smart City-coupe is the smallest production car available today. It is only 8.3 feet (2.5 meters) long and weighs just 1,600 pounds (730 kg). For comparison, a Mazda Miata (which is a tiny car by U.S. standards) is over 4 feet longer and weighs almost 800 pounds more than the City-coupe. The Smart City-coupe gets about 60 miles per gallon. It's not available in the U.S. yet, but can be found all over Europe.

The Smart City-coupe

In April, Smart released the Smart Roadster. It's powered by what is essentailly a turbocharged 700cc motorcycle engine that produces 80 horsepower. It is a bit longer at 11.2 feet and weighs 1,730 pounds.

The Smart Roadster

If you live in the U.S., probably the closest thing to the City-coupe today in terms of size and fuel efficiency is the Honda Insight. It is the same length as the Miata (12.9 feet, 3.9 meters) and weighs only 1850 pounds (840 kg). It is a hybrid vehicle with a 1,000 cc engine and an electric motor that shares the load. It gets 61 miles per gallon.

Just out of college I had a blue 1986 Chevy Sprint (like this one) and I have been fasinated with small cars ever since. The Sprint had a 1-liter 3-cylinder Suzuki engine and routinely averaged over 55 miles per gallon. It was a bit smaller than a Miata, but it could hold four people. With the rear seat folded down it had a decent amount of storage space inside. Despite all the extra room, it weighed only about 100 pounds more than the City-coupe. It is interesting that this car got such good mileage 17 years ago without any special technology.

There's some very interesting stuff on the horizon. The best example is the Vortex from Volkswagen. The prototype car weighs only 588 pounds (267 kg) and is powered by a tiny 0.3 liter diesel engine that produces 8.5 hp. The amazing part is the efficiency -- 260 miles per gallon.

The Volkswagen Vortex is largely carbon fiber and weighs just 588 pounds

See also this, this and this.

Nice post on Smallest Car.
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