The European-built Smart Fortwo, with a 106.1-inch length, would fit upright in a home with 10-foot ceilings. Yet the two-seater costs $14,650 and gets 33 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway with automatic transmission.
Those aren't absolute reasons to run out to buy one. But the size and fuel economy are factors in choosing a subcompact car like the Smart, built by Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG.
Something of a niche market in a timeframe when SUVs and pickups dominate U.S. sales, subcompact models have sunk to just more than 100,000 yearly sales and just 25 percent of the entire small car segment, which accounts for about one in seven vehicles on the road.
Still, the models have their fans. And there are practical reasons to buy a car that's 14 feet or less, as are the 10 smallest in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.
RoadLoans.com, for one, cited "11 big reasons to buy a small car," noting that drivers in many countries lean towards smaller vehicles.
The online site pointed to parking: "you can fit into the smallest areas of street parking, which can be a novelty in most big cities or crowded towns;" fashion for their sleek looks; safety tied to electronic stability control and other high-tech features.
"A smaller car doesn’t necessarily mean you are losing out on what a larger car can give you," the online company said.
In the U.S. News and World Report piece last June, the list of 10 smallest cars started with the Smart Fortwo, followed by the Fiat 500 (more than 11-and-a-half-feet long); Chevrolet Spark; Mini Cooper; Toyota Yaris; Kia Rio Hatchback; Ford Fiesta Hatchback; Chevy Sonic Hatchback; Honda Fit and the Mini Cooper Clubman (at about 14 feet long).
By price, the Chevrolet Spark was lowest at $13,000 and Mini Cooper Clubman highest at $24,100. The narrowest subcompact was the Spark at 62.8 inches while the Fortwo interestingly was the widest at 74.5 inches. Most engines were in the 100-140 horsepower range, although the performance-oriented Fiat Abarth trim, at $19,995, boosts 160 horsepower. The Clubman gets just 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, while the Fiesta tallies the best at 31 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway.
The Fit offers up to 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space. And standard technical features on the base model Spark include a rear view camera, 7-inch touch screen with OnStar navigation, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
"People have long had a fascination with small things," wrote Karen Allanach for U.S. News and World Report. "We like our mini marshmallows, teacup dogs and iPad Minis. In the automotive world, petite cars like the Fiat 500 swivel heads because of their cute styling and retro appeal," she said.
"On the practical side, the smallest cars, categorized as subcompact, are great for city driving. They can weave and bob through traffic congestion and fit in the narrowest spaces with ease," Allanach said.