World Mini/City Cars 2014

The range of Minicars available to purchasers around the the world has never been greater than in 2014. From the ultra light cars classed as Quadricycles in Europe, the Kei cars of Japan, the City cars available throughout the world .

European Quadricycles
The definitions for quadricycles are:
Category L6e – Light quadricycle – Four wheels, with a maximum unladen mass of 350kg (not including the mass of the batteries in an electrically powered vehicle), a maximum speed of 45km/h, a maximum spark ignition internal combustion engine capacity of 50cm3, or maximum power of any other internal combustion engine of 4kW or maximum electric motor continuous rated power of 4kW.
Category L7e – Quadricycle - Four wheels, with a maximum unladen mass of 400kg or 550kg for a goods carrying vehicle (not including the mass of the batteries in an electrically powered vehicle) and a maximum net power, whatever the type of engine or motor, of 15kW. The construction requirements are those for a motor tricycle unless otherwise specified in a particular Directive.

The manufacturer of Quadricycles in Europe is mainly a French affair and is carried out by Ligier and Microcar, both part of the Ligier Automobile Company but produced in separate factories, also Aixam and Chatenet. There is also a well established Italian manufacturer, Grecav. I can find nothing of the technical specification of the Chatenat, but the Ligier , Microcar  and Aixam all with four seats appear to be in the heavier class of quadricycles and the Grecav with two seats in the lighter class. Two cylinder water-cooled engines are used by all makes, Microcar the Aixam both using a Lombardi petrol engine of 505cc and the Grecav using a diesel of the same make of 400cc or 505cc. The Aixam also offers a 600cc Kubuto diesel engine option. Constantly variable transmissions with the drive to the front wheels is used by all, as is an aluminium chassis frame covered with composite body panels. Power assistance for the steering or brakes is not needed due to the low weight keeping loads low, keeping the complexity and costs down.
Electric versions of the Microcar and the Aixam in the form of the Mega e-City are also produced.

Grecav     
 Ligier  Wikipedia page      Microcar   Wikipedia page         Aixam   Wikipedia page         Grecav  Wikipedia page


Japan's Kei Cars. (keijidōsha/Light automobile.)
This is a class of car unique to Japan and its crowded environment. Cars produced to comply with the Kei regulations are free of some restrictions and have tax advantages of larger cars. Basically the regulations limit the size of the Kei cars to a length of 3.4 metres, a width of of 1.48 metres and a height of 2 metres. The engines are also limited to a capacity of 660cc with a maximum output of 47 KW.  The formula has produced some useful and popular models, many of which are produced throughout the Asia and are sold throughout the world.
With one exception the Smart ForTwo, which has a mid/rear engine location and rear wheel drive, the cars in production at this time are universally front engined/front wheel drive, with four wheel drive versions of some available.  
Daihatsu are one of the most prolific producers of Kei cars, making five models in the class.  The Mira, mini car, also sold with other names, Cuore, Domino, Charade and Subaru Pleo, around the world. The present model is the seventh in a line starting in 1980. A version is also produced in Malaysia by Perodua as the Viva. The Move has a tall square body 1.77 metres high, on the Mira platform.  The other two Daihatsu models are Tanto and the Tanto exe are mini MPV's. The Tanto is almost as tall as the Move, with more rounded body with sliding doors. The Tanto exe, introduced in 2009, has styling similar to the latest Mira but at 1.73 metres is much taller. It is also sold in Japan as the Subaru Lucra.
TantoTanto exe
Daihatsu   Mira                                       Move                                       Tanto                                         Tanto exe
                                                                     

Suzuki is as prolific as Daihatsu, with five models in the class. The Alto like the Mira is the latest in a long line of mini cars and is now manufactured in India by  Maruti Suzuki. It is also sold as the Nissan Pino and Mazda Carol in Japan.  The Wagon R and the MR Wagon are on a shorter 2.36 metre wheelbase and have a height of 1.6 metres, making them tall mini cars rather than MPV's.  The Wagon R was first produced in 1993 and the latest model is the fourth version. It is also produced in India  as the Maruti Wagon R. The MR Wagen introduced in 2001 is also sold as the Nissan Moco.
Wagon RMR Wagon
Suzuki          Alto                           Wagon R                                 MR wagon      
                                                  

Unlike Daihatsu and Suzuki, some of the Mitsubishi Kei cars are very different from each other.  The eK Wagon is mid-height version of the Minica with electric sliding doors  and The Toppo is a tall version. The latest Mitsubishi the Mirage  is a city car produced in Thailand.
Mitsubishi Mirage
           eK                                   Toppo                                                           Mitsubishi Mirage              
        
                      
Honda have only three Kei car models the Life and N-ONE hatchbacks and the  a tall hatchback.
         Honda N-ONE
        Honda         Life                                         N-ONE            

         City Cars
The Tata Nano produced in India, except for a small discrepancy in width, it would fit into the Kei car class. It"s specification is more about producing  an ultra low cost car for an emerging market in India with none of the high tech' refinements of most of the Kei cars.
To achieve  a low cost product, Tata chose to mount a two cylinder engine in a mid/rear engine chassis. Apart from it"s weight  of 600Kg ,due having a steel chassis /body, the Nano has more in common with the European Quadricycles rather than the Kei cars, having no power assistance for any of its controls.

Tata             Nano                        Smart        Fortwo                      Toyota           iQ

Another small car that has a lot in common with the Kei cars, except having only two seats, is the Smart "Fortwo". Made in France. In fact a special narrow version to fit the Kei car formula, the "Smart K", was produced  for a few year for sale in Japan.  The Fortwo is a two seat mid/rear engined car. The present production models have larger diesel engine of 800cc or a petrol  engine of 1000cc.There is also an electric version the Smart ED.

The Toyota iQ is another in a niche of it's own, being less than twice as long 2.985 metres, as it is wide 1.68 metres. A more common ratio for a small car is 2.25 to 1. The iQ is not an economy car, but a miniature luxury city car and although sold as a four seat car, it is in reality a 2 plus 2 children.

A simple study of models considered to be four seat city cars, show them to be between 3.4 to 3.7 metres long, between 1.5 to 1.7 metres wide and 1.4 to 1.6 metres high. Being less than 1000kg in weight, with engine's with some exceptions of from 1 litre to 1.3 litres capacity.
The following fit in to this category. They are all four seat front wheel drive cars, with three or four cylinder water cooled engines.

Manufacture of city cars has mostly moved to newly developing economies, ether by long established manufacturers or newer local companies.
The  Nissan March/Micra, the latest model the fourth generation, is produced at various locations throughout the world and it is truly a world car.
Produced in India by Maruti, the Suzuki "A Star", is a city car version of the Suzuki Alta, the name it is known by in Europe. In some other markets it is known as the Suzuki Celerio. It is also sold as the Nissan Pixo .  Maruti/Suzuki also produce a non Kei version of the Wagon R, with a 1.1 litre engine. The Wagon R has been replaced in the European markets by the Suzuki Splash produced in Hungary and is also sold by GM Europe as the Agila. Maruti also produce it in India as the Ritz. The Perodua Myvi is a second generation Daihatsu Sirion produced in Malaysia.
Myvi
Nissan March/Micra                       Maruti    A-Star/Alto                    Suzuki     Splash/Ritz              Perodua          Myvi                               

Korea has an expanding motor industry with three manufacturers of city cars. The Daewoo Matiz  also known as the Chevrolet Spark is also assembled in India and Uzbekistan. Hyundai  manufacture it's latest city car the "i 10", in India. The Kia Picanto is sold throughout Asia and assembled in Vietnam and Indonesia as well as Korea. There is copy of the Matiz produced in China by Chery Automobile, the QQ3. It is also assembled in Russia and Indonesia.


Daewoo/Chev Matiz/Spark        Hyundai       i 10                       Kia        Picanto                   Chery        QQ3
                   
The cost of producing a new design is very high and in Europe cooperative efforts have been a way of overcoming this. Add to this  producing the result in a lower cost economy  helps makes production viable. One such company is "Toyota Peugeot Citroën Automobile Czech," set up by the manufactures named in it's title in the Czech Republic. The models produced by this company are the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and the Peugeot 107.

Toyota     Aygo               Citroen              C1                          Peugeot         107

Another approach is have another company make you a car using their platform but with your machinery and a distinctive body. That what Ford did for the latest European Ka. Based on the Fiat Panda platform and produced at the Fiat plant at Tychy in Poland. Fiat also produce the Panda and the 500 a Retro model also on the Panda platform, at this plant,  The Panda platform is also utilised for the new Uno produced at Betim, Brazil.

Fiat PandaFiat 500Fiat Uno
Ford          Ka II                       Fiat                Panda                      Fiat                   500                          Fiat               Uno


Renault manufacture the latest version of the Twingo in Slovenia, the original Twingo is still being produced in Columbia. There are still a couple of city cars produced in what can be called traditional manufacturing countries, The latest generation of the Daihatsu Boon is manufactured in Japan, introduced in 2010, is also marketed as the  the Toyota Passo. The BMW Mini which has nothing in common with the original "Mini", except the name, is produced at Cowley in England. The BMW Mini has the physical size of a city car but is fitted with larger capacity engines than most of the other city car and is therefore heavier. 

Renault         Twingo                         Daihatsu      Boon                     BMW           Mini

VW UpSkoda CitigoSeat Mii
VW Up                                                  Skoda Citigo                                        Seat Mii

Three city cars that have on the market since 2011 are the VW Up, the Skoda Citigo and the Seat Mii. All are produced in Slovakia and the all the same with cosmetic variations. In Britain this known as badge engineering.

 

There may be more mini and city cars in production in the world and I shall keep looking for them.