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Superminis

Once the British-made Mini had shown how large the market was for compact four-seater cars with small engines, manufacturers worldwide stepped in to satisfy demand. With safety legislation becoming increasingly influential, the minis grew into superminis, which were larger, but still triumphs of packaging. Virtually all manufacturers followed the Mini’s example of having a transverse four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive.



Austin Mini-Metro, 1980

 

OriginUK
Engine998 cc, straight-four
Top speed84 mph (135 km/h)

Only 21 years after the Mini, in 1980 a new British supermini arrived. The car’s engine dated back to 1953, but it was well packaged and had comfortable Hydragas suspension.



Talbot Samba, 1982

 

OriginFrance
Engine1,360 cc, straight-four
Top speed87 mph (140 km/h)

Peugeot took over Chrysler’s European arm in 1978, so the Samba was no more than a dressed-up Peugeot 104. This meant it was a good car, with 954-1,360 cc options.



Ford Festiva, 1986

 

OriginJapan/South Korea
Engine1,138 cc, straight-four
Top speed93 mph (150 km/h)

The Ford Festiva was designed by Mazda on a Mazda platform for the United States, Australasia, and Japan. It was produced as the Kia Pride by Kia Motors of Korea.



Peugeot 205 GTi, 1984

 

OriginFrance
Engine1,905 cc, straight-four
Top speed121 mph (195 km/h)

The sparkling GTi was an impressive derivative of Peugeot’s 2.7-million-selling hatchback-even more so when it grew to 1905 cc, 130 bhp, and 121 mph in 1986.



Volkswagen Polo, 1981

 

OriginGermany
Engine1,043 cc, straight-four
Top speed94 mph (151 km/h)

The second-generation Polo sold 4.5 million from 1981 to 1994, the extra space and more powerful engines making it much more competitive. It was restyled in 1990.



Nissan Cherry Turbo, 1983

 

OriginJapan
Engine1,488 cc, straight-four
Top speed114 mph (183 km/h)

Nissan’s Cherry hatchbacks sold an impressive 1,450,300 between 1983 and 1986. Top of the range was this 114 bhp Turbo, but it suffered from poor handling and turbo lag.



Nissan March/Micra, 1983

 

OriginJapan
Engine988 cc, straight-four
Top speed88 mph (142 km/h)

Nissan’s starter car had durable mechanics and 1.0- or 1.2-liter engines. It was not the most elegant supermini, but it was easy to drive and sold two million in nine years.



Sinclair C5, 1985

 

OriginUK
EngineElectric motor
Top speed15 mph (24 km/h)

The C5 was a brave attempt to convert the world, starting in the UK, to light electric personal transportation. The converts were few, however, with just 12,000 made.



Opel Corsa/Vauxhall Nova GTE/GSi, 1983

 

OriginSpain
Engine1,598 cc, straight-four
Top speed117 mph (188 km/h)

The “hot hatch” GTE joined the Corsa family a bit later than the other 1.0/1.2/1.3/ 1.4-liter models and was by far the best looking. Like Ford’s Fiesta, it was built in Spain.



SEAT Ibiza, 1985

 

OriginSpain
Engine1,461 cc, straight-four
Top speed107 mph (172 km/h)

There was some Fiat influence in SEAT’S new hatch, although all of its engines were designed by Porsche. Engines ranged from 950 to 1,714 cc.



Fiat Uno, 1983

 

OriginItaly
Engine1,301 cc, straight-four
Top speed104 mph (167 km/h)

The 127’s successor was a great all-rounder, and sold 6.5 million by 1994. This was thanks to its good packaging, crisp styling by Giugiaro, and nimble handling.



Renault 5, 1984

 

OriginFrance
Engine1,108 cc, straight-four
Top speed90 mph (145 km/h)

This second-generation Renault 5 had 956-1,721 cc engines turned transverse for more interior space. It was one of the best-selling European cars of the 1980s.



Autobianchi Y10, 1985

 

OriginItaly
Engine999 cc, straight-four
Top speed88 mph (142 km/h)

Built by Autobianchi and sold in some markets as a Lancia, this compact city car had dramatic styling and good interior space for its size. However, it was a little cramped for long journeys.



Honda Civic CRX V-TEC, 1987

 

OriginJapan
Engine1,590 cc, straight-four
Top speed129 mph (208 km/h)

Honda’s Civic supermini was easily adapted to produce this coupé. With the 150 bhp, V-TEC, variable valve timing, twin-cam engine, it was astonishingly quick.



Citroën AX, 1987

 

OriginFrance
Engine954 cc, straight-four
Top speed83 mph (134 km/h)

Available at first as a three-door, then as a five-door model in 1988, the AX shared its running gear with small Peugeots, but had its own chic styling.



Geo Metro/Suzuki Swift, 1989

 

OriginJapan/USA
Engine993 cc, straight-three
Top speed88 mph (142 km/h)

Built by Suzuki as the Cultus, or Swift, and still produced 20 years later in Pakistan, this “world car” was sold by GM in the United States and built in seven different countries worldwide.

 

It is a quote. The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile 2011



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