Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Compact car is a largely North American term denoting an automobile smaller than a midsize car, but larger than a subcompact car. Compact cars usually have wheelbases between 2.54 metres (100 inches) and 2.67 metres (105 inches). Another definition specifies between 100 ft³ (2800 L) and 109 ft³ (3000 L) of interior volume.
Although small cars had been made in the United States before, the modern compact class is considered to have begun in 1959 and 1960, when the Rambler American , Studebaker Lark, Chevrolet Corvair, Ford Falcon, and Plymouth Valiant all appeared in rapid succession. Within a few years after that, the compacts had given rise to a new class called the pony car, named after the Ford Mustang, which was built on the Falcon chassis.
Today, although the general downsizing of all vehicles has somewhat blurred size class distinctions, the compact segment is still discernible as a class smaller than the average car but larger than the smallest models on the market. The Chrysler Cirrus and Chevrolet Cavalier would be examples. The term has also been adopted to describe smaller examples of the popular sport utility vehicles, such as the Ford Escape. Compact sport utility vehicles are sometimes called cute-utes.
This term is not commonly used in Europe, where vehicles tend to be smaller and use a different size class system.
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