The Rise of the City Car


While there is no strict definition for a city car, at least in the Western part of the world, the most common understanding of the term is a vehicle designed for use in urban environments. Unlike a microcar, a city car’s size doesn’t limit it from reaching the speeds necessary to drive safely on a motorway, even if that isn’t what they were originally intended for. While compacts and supermini make up the bulk of the UK’s top selling cars right now, the city is growing in popularity.

Where Did It Start

While small cars can be traced back as early as the 1920s, it wasn’t until after the Second World War that we saw the precursors to what are now commonly referred to as city cars, such as the 1957 Fiat 500 or the 1959 Mini from BMC. As the economy improved, these kinds of vehicles were gradually phased out in favour of larger cars.

Japan has always excelled at the city car, known as the ‘kei’ car, due its large dependence on an urban focused population. In fact, regulations to define the standard were in place by 1949. The engine’s maximum displacement can be no higher than 660cc and the car’s length must be under 3400mm.

Increasing Popularity

As more parts of the world become urbanized the city car’s popularity began to return. By the late 1980s, there was a wide selection to choose from, with European manufacturers also developing similar types of vehicles again such as the Renault Twingo which remained highly popular among the continent. In the second half of the 1990s, other Asian manufacturers began to rival Japan in production of the city car.

South Korean manufacturers such as Hyundai and Daewoo started to introduce their own versions for both the Asian and European markets. What contributed to the popularity of these manufacturers was that they were much cheaper than similar models from European firms like Vauxhall’s Agila, the Volkswagen Lugo, and the Smart Fortwo. Even Ford wanted to get in on the action and first presented the Ford Ka in 1996, which went on to be very popular in the United Kingdom due its low price. By the new millennium, city cars had increased massively in popularity.

Due to their low prices and focus on fuel efficiency, city cars are often desirable for those shopping in the used market. City cars are perfect for those who spend most of their time driving in urban environments. of us now living in cities, they could be the ideal choice.

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