Many people think that cars have to be big and spacious. However, small size does not mean unsuitability for everyday purposes. There is a special category of mini-cars, deservedly popular and desirable for motorists.
The Ford KA or the original Mini may come to mind, but there are many models that are much smaller than these supercompacts. They resemble toy cars, designed more for children than adults, although they are actively used on ordinary roads, sometimes even demonstrating enviable dynamics and speed. Most offer enough usable space to go shopping after work, but some are so small that you have to see them with your own eyes to believe it.
In today’s realities, with fuel prices skyrocketing and less and less space on the streets, many motorists are turning to the most compact models possible, whose size is an added advantage in cramped urban environments. Not surprisingly, the “small-capacity” market manages to remain stable from year to year.
However, not all modern supercompacts have the right to be called small: even brands like Mini and Fiat have long ago moved to larger versions that barely resemble their original cute micro-cars. To get an idea of how far we’ve come from truly small, here are just a few examples of miniature cars ever offered on the market-not the author’s designs, but full-fledged production cars.
The first will be an Indian baby produced by Mahindra – an electric car e2o with very modest dimensions and quite stylish design. Its creators took into account that electric cars create a lot of problems for the owners because of the lack of charging stations, so have given their baby opportunity to eat from simple household outlets. And charging is fast enough, without any special equipment.
The body of the baby is slightly longer than two meters and weighs about 830 kg. The torque of 54 Nm helps it to run up to an impressive 120 km / h, requiring a minimum of power and space for maneuvering. It is perfect for congested regions where heavy traffic does not allow full-size sedans and SUVs to move freely.
This two-seater is powered by the IsoMoto 200, a motorcycle powertrain. What’s interesting, the car’s name is chosen after the engine. The creators, Italian engineers from Velam, have made a unique design that allows the driver to carry a passenger behind him.
It is possible to get inside through the swinging door. A soft material was used as a roof, and the construction was designed in such a way that in case of an accident with a damaged “front door”, it would be easy to get out through the roof.
The Italians have nicknamed this interesting vehicle a “soap bubble” because of its rounded body shape. Energy it provides a mini-motor, generating about 10 hp, but even with it Izetta length of 2.3 m and a width of 1.37 can run up to 97 km / h briskly.
- Smart Fortwo
As the name suggests, we are talking about a two-seater car. Battery capacity is 17.6 kWh, which, according to the manufacturer, is enough for 160 kilometers. Maximum power is 82 hp / 160 Nm.
In terms of daily suitability for life in a big city, it’s hard to find a more suitable car, as it gives two travelers a surprising amount of space and leaves 260 liters for luggage. Remember, the 3-door Fortwo is shorter than its 5-door “big brother” Forfour – 2.7 meters vs. 3.5, but the latter can take on board up to 4 people.
- Renault Twizy
Many people don’t think of the Twizy as a full-fledged automobile, even if it is. It is a cross between regular cars, electric scooters and battery-powered bicycles. But Renault insists on clearly identifying it as “the perfect car for the city.”
Which brings us to the actual and reasonable scope of this mobility: practicality and range are not enough for long journeys with lots of luggage, but for urban conditions quite enough. The manufacturer gives quite realistic information on this point: “the actual range is about 80 km in exclusively urban traffic and about 50 km in intercity driving on hilly federal roads.”
The covered four-wheeled two-seater weighs more than 500 kg, stretching 2.34 meters long, 1.19 meters wide and 1.46 meters up. It offers room for two people sitting behind each other and a 31-liter luggage area, while the single-seat “cargo” version holds 156 liters.
Despite the lack of ESP, the Twizy drives safely. The steering is fine-tuned, the suspension is moderately soft, the ride is brisk, and the energy recovery is barely perceptible. Despite the lack of ESP, the e-car moves confidently and safely. The only thing is not to go out on autobahns, given the low top speed.
- Peel P50
Unlike American cars, European cars have always been smaller and sleeker. This may be a consequence of the fact that the streets in Europe are less wide, and large vehicles are inconvenient when parking and generally driving on the streets.
Back in 1962, the world’s tiniest car, the Peel P50, was built in the UK: 1.34m long, 1.2m high and 99cm wide with a ridiculous wheelbase of 1,270mm. This miracle of technology weighed only 59 kg. There was enough room in the cabin even for a slightly obese driver, who could load a decent bag of groceries and drive up to 61 km/h. The small tank could barely hold 8 liters of petrol, but at an average fuel consumption of 2.8l/100km there was no shortage.
The Peel P50 was simple and absurd to the extreme. The design is very minimalistic – 3 wheels, a door, one headlight at the front and a wiper on the windshield. It should be added that the company was originally engaged in the production of fairings for motorcycles and boats made of fiberglass.
The car, designed for only one person and a small suitcase, did not become mass-produced (only 59 copies were made – some of them went even abroad), but it still remains the smallest production car in the world. In the 1960s, it could be bought for £199 (just over 230 euros at the current exchange rate).
The surviving P50s (less than thirty left) are considered valuable rarities, with auction values ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 euros. Most of the rarities are in the hands of the British, they even have P50 owner’s meetings.
How does the younger generation know about the P50? The answer is obvious – from the popular program “Top Gear”. In one of the episodes of 2007, Jeremy Clarkson introduced the blue baby to the world – he drove it around the BBC headquarters, fitting in the elevator without any problems.
A relative of the previous hero was even weirder. The two-seater Trident is also the work of Cyril Cannell. “Younger brother” in status but “older” in size, it was designed for two people and had a transparent bubble-shaped roof. When ordered, the owner could exchange the passenger seat for… a removable shopping cart. The car was known as a “flying saucer” – when you see this car, you’ll know that’s a perfect description. Even after many years, it brings a smile to your face.
The Trident was powered by the same engine as the P50, but some examples were equipped with a 99cc Triumph Tina engine. The cherry on the cake was the electric version.
The 90-pound Trident was not much larger than the P50 – 1.83 meters long and 1.07 wide. It is said that it could run up to 74 km/h at the same fuel consumption as the P50, while costing slightly less than its “brother”. According to different sources, production ended with 45 or 82 copies.
It is impossible to judge which figure is closer to the truth, but with such a limited edition microscopic British cars managed to go around the world – one even made it to the U.S. and exhibited in a museum in Nashville. It is not easy to buy such a car: offers for sale appear very rarely, and the cost is many times more than P50.
If you think that the history of the “brothers” is in the past, you are mistaken. In 2010, three entrepreneurs – James Caan, Gary Hillman and Faizal Khan – established a program and raised £80,000 for their revival. Of course, their venture has nothing in common with the original company: handmade in Sutton-in-Ashfield, England, by micro-car specialists.
Today’s cars differ from their ancestors in direction indicators and brake lights, as well as full electrical equipment such as a starter, washer and wiper. They are pushed by a four-stroke, air-cooled 2.5 kW single-cylinder engine (3.4 hp), which rotates the rear wheel via a variable speed drive, like modern scooters. The top speed is limited to 45 km/h, but can be increased on request.
You can also buy electric versions: the first, with 1.2 kW (1.6 hp), reaches a speed of 24 km/h, the second is equipped with a stronger electric system (2.9 kW, or 4 hp) and, like the gasoline version, limits the maximum speed to 45 km/h. The range on a single charge is 80 km.
In 2018, it was announced that Peel Engineering sells about fifteen “modern” P50s a year plus about ten Peel Trident two-seaters.