Is bigger better? Not to the drivers of the world's most beloved small cars -- the Fiat 500, the VW Beetle, the Honda CRX ... well, the list could go on and on. Small cars have their drawbacks -- safety concerns and hauling capacity are two -- but small-car drivers consider them to be outweighed by the benefits. These include gas mileage, lower emissions, maneuverability and easy parking. (You've probably seen a smart car wedged in crosswise to a space where no car could parallel-park).
Not surprisingly, many of the cars in our quiz come from Europe or Japan, where dense cities make small vehicles desirable, and where people don't have to cover the wide-open spaces that rural Canadians and Americans often have to travel. Even so, North Americans have taken stylish little cars to their hearts in a big way. Just witness the success of the mini Cooper, the smart car, and the re-designed Fiat 500 in recent years. Even when gas prices aren't soaring, some people still want "less to love" in their cars.
How much do you know about the world's most popular little cars -- as well as the oddball microcars that didn't really catch on? We've got a quiz to test your small-car savvy! Buckle up and give it a try!
The UK show "Top Gear" frequently refers to "hot hatches" or "hot hatchbacks." You'll hear this term less in North America.
This seems surprisingly early to those who associate the Beetle with the 1960s. In fact, the Beetle was briefly marketed as a "Victory Wagon" (VW, get it?) to take the taint off its being a German car. WWII hadn't been over for very long, after all.
Fiat stands for "Fabbrica Italiani Automobili Torino," the Turin-based company founded by Giovanni Agnelli. When the Fiat 500 was re-styled for a new generation, TV commercials in America showed the little car emerging from the Atlantic Ocean onto a beach in America.
The first 500 was released in 1949. But it is most associated with the 1950s and 1960s, a colorful, swinging era in Europe in general, and Italy in particular.
The Fiat 500 was unveiled with great fanfare in 2007. It became wildly popular in the United States, surprising given that the US was the land of the SUV.
This movie boasted two things that were classically English: actor Michael Caine, and the three lively Minis that lead police on a wild chase through Turin. It also ends in one of cinema's greatest literal cliffhangers.
The Mini's unusual transverse-engine, front-wheel drive system was so rare it led to a popular prank: asking a mechanic to work on the rear differential. A front-wheel drive car has no rear differential.
A number of Citroen cars are light and compact. The company also ventured into "microcar" making with its Prototype C cars in the 1950s.
The "Golf" is a long-running product for Volkswagen. At times, it has been badged as the "Rabbit" or "Jetta" in North America, before being sold under the "Golf" name.
Morris is a British car. It's another name for the Mini.
Perhaps it's appropriate that this car has several aliases. After all, it was a star player in a classic heist movie!
The Karmann Ghia sports car was a joint project between VW and the independent carmaker Karmann. It's a classic symbol of the European "dolce vita" lifestyle of the mid-20th century.
A scirocco is an southeastern wind in North Africa and southern Europe. The car used the VW Golf chassis, but had much sleeker body styling.
The Rabbit replaced the Beetle in the US market. Although never as iconic, it was omnipresent in the '70s and '80s -- affordable and reliable.
To introduce the Honda Fit, the carmaker did a series of commercials modeled on Japanese anime, with bright, flashing colors. The slogan was simply "The Fit is Go!"
The name is a mashup of "ragtop" and "speedster." This concept car was introduced in 2005.
The modern Beetle had a good long run, from 1997 to 2011. You can still see plenty of them on the streets.
Dacia is the major carmaker of formerly communist Romania, and Yugo was, of course, from Yugoslavia. The brand marketed as "Yugo" in the US is more commonly known as "Zastava" in Europe, and is based in Serbia (since the breakup of Yugoslavia).
A "cabriolet" is a car with a fold-down roof. Several small cars in this quiz, like the VW Beetle, have cabriolet models.
Germany has quite a history of making microcars. Many didn't catch on, but the smart car did. And yes, the "s" is supposed to be lowercased. Really, smart, are you too cool to captialize?
The name stands for "Swatch Mercedes Art." Naturally -- it couldn't just mean "smart" in the usual sense. Honestly, smart, can't you do anything straightforwardly?
The Honda CRX was a "hot hatch" two-seater. Its HF model (for "high fuel efficiency") could, given proper tire inflation and regular filter changes, achieve highway mileage of 60 mph or more. Consumer advocate David Horowitz didn't believe this, and tested it -- getting an astounding 65 mph.
Compared to the CRX, the Del Sol was not well received. Its semi-convertible, removable-hardtop design gave it a reputation as -- well, the term "Malibu Barbie car" comes to mind. Production ceased in 1997.
Not to be confused with Alec Guinness, Issigonis was a Greek-British designer of cars. He was knighted in the late 1960s.
It later became popular to release fuel-efficient hatchbacks in bright green to underscore their eco-friendliness, but the CRX preceded that trend. They mostly came in black, red, white and silver, with a few models in bright yellow or a metallic aquamarine.
The last Karmann Ghias rolled off the line in 1974. Despite this, you occasionally see a vintage Karmann Ghia, well cared for, on the street.
Some people might guess the Prius based on its runaway popularity -- but the Insight beat the Prius to the market. It never became a huge success because it had only two seats.
The small-sedan-with-trunk model was sold in North America in 2001 and 2002. After that, Toyota switched to the better-looking hatchback design that now throngs California's highways like bison used to throng the Great Plains.
We're embarrassed to admit how long we looked at the "fortwo" and thought it was pronounced "fort woe." Frankly, "forfour" looks like a sexy Gallic word, as well.
They sure do! Consider the PeelP50, a three-wheeler so small that Jeremy Clarkson drove it around the halls of the BBC Television Centre. There's also the German "bubble car," the Toyota iRoad, and more. (We advise not taking corners very fast, though).
Yup, the lowest-powered model was "deux chevaux," or two horsepower. Why not just go back to a cart with two horses, in that case?
The 126 simply wasn't as popular. It did hang on through the 1990s in eastern Europe, though, where there was less choice in cars.
With some of the world's most densely-populated cities, Japan has good reason to value small size in a car. There are tax benefits to driving a "kei car," just like California offered special access to carpool lanes for hybrid cars in the 2000s.
The Corrado can be mistaken for the Scirocco by the uninitiated, but it has sleeker styling and a small rear spoiler. Fewer than 100,000 were produced, and it's still a favorite of car buffs.
According to IMDB.com, both Pitt and Norton disliked the idea of Volkswagen repackaging a 1960s classic with 1990s gloss for a new generation -- in other words, spoon-feeding a whole generation Boomer nostalgia. (Pitt has apparently changed his mind about the Beetle, however).