Small Cars Making a Splash

It took awhile, but the 2008 smart fourtwo, a sporty two-door minicar built by Mercedes, is finally ready for its closeup. Although the actual cars won’t be available in the U.S. until the first quarter 2008, you can now reserve your very own smart fourtwo for just $99. The reservation program, available through the automaker’s website at www.smartusa.com, is open solely to autobuyers and enthusiasts; dealers and brokers cannot take part in the program. By the way, three models will be available, including the “pure” entry-level coupe, the well-equipped “passion” coupe, and the “passion” cabio (convertible), which is the most expensive of the trio.

The 8.8-foot-long smart fourtwo is currently sold in 36 countries. That’s right, the U.S. will be the 37th country in which the car will be sold. Obviously it took a long time for the smart fourtwo to reach these shores — but it’s not the only small car out there. Of course, BMW’s Mini is on sale here, but a quick look around the globe shows that there’s a lot more out there for lovers of these small, sporty, efficient vehicles. For instance:

>> Ford recently announced that just as it has reintroduced the Taurus, it is bringing back the Fiesta, or rather bringing the European version of the Fiesta to the U.S. Details are still sketchy, as is the final design, but word is that a two-door coupe version of the Fiesta will arrive in the U.S. in late 2008 or early 2009. The subcompact is expected to share a platform with the Mazda2 and feature aggressive styling. More info as it develops.


>> Although its currently not slated for sale in the U.S., the Suzuki Splash is certainly, well, making a splash. Scheduled to make its debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September, the Splash (above) is a Japanese car that will be built in Hungary and sold in Europe. The four-door minicar will be targeted at families and offer a choice of three engines, including an 86-horsepower four-cylinder gas engine as well as a diesel. It’s expected to go on sale next spring. Only time will tell if it reaches the U.S.

>> Finally, Italian automaker Fiat, which has a long history of building and selling small cars, recently unveiled its new Fiat 500 Cinquecento minicar at the Turin Auto Show. The short, snub-nosed vehicle, which will be sold in Europe as well as Turkey, Taiwan, and a number of other countries, will be a two-seat vehicle available in coupe and convertible versions, with four different trim levels and a choice of three engines. Although its cars are very popular in other parts of the world, Fiat hasn’t sold its cars in the U.S. since the 1980s, so there’s little to no chance of the 500 showing up here. But perhaps it will inspire American automakers to think small.

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