What Was America's Greatest Small Car?

Illustration for article titled What Was America's Greatest Small Car?
Image: Smart

We asked you about your favorite land yachts yesterday, but now we’re going in the other direction: What was the best lil’ guy sold on America’s shores?


Naturally I had to put a Smart up top, or else face the wrath of our writer Mercedes Streeter, but it is a great little car when you stop and think about it. It was even the subject of one of our Redemption Garages:

The use of space in the Smart was good—it was only just over eight feet long, but allowed room for two people and a reasonable amount of luggage, and was capable of being driven in a city, or even highway speeds if needed.

Remember, they were essentially building a microcar, something that had been built in Europe for decades—think Isetta, Messerschmitt, Scootacar, Goggomobils, and so on. Almost all microcars had clever design elements, but they also were terrifying to drive on highways and, most significantly, tended to be deathtraps.

That right there is the Smart’s greatest technical achievement: they made a tiny microcar that wasn’t a total deathtrap.

Excellent use of space AND it won’t kill you? What a vehicle! Of course, in the land of loud TV, cold beer and big ass trucks, such tiny vehicles don’t sell terribly well, but that doesn’t make them bad cars. The perennial favorite, the VW Beetle, also falls into this category, for instance.

So what tiny crumb of a car sets your heart ablaze with delight?

Managing Editor of Jalopnik.



This car in this color. 1979 Honda Accord hatch. It made Americans believe that a small car was worthy. Good build quality, good mpg. It was like nothing we had seen before.