What Is Considered a Compact Car?by Rob Wagner
The compact car, identified as a small car in Europe, falls between the mid-size and the sub-compact vehicles. Typically a Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Chrysler PT Cruiser and the Audi A3 fall into the compact category. The compact can be a hatchback, two- and four-door model and a sports compact. They are generally factory equipped with a four-cylinder engine.
The compact has been available in some form since the inception of the automobile, but as cars grew larger, the compact made its formal debut with the 1950 Nash Rambler that sat on a 100-inch wheelbase.
The growing popularity of the Volkswagen Beetle in the 1950s prompted American automakers to introduce a series of compacts, including the Studebaker Lark, Chevrolet Corvair and the Ford Falcon.
Offered in configurations of a sedan, station wagon, coupe or convertible, today's compact measures no more than 181 inches in length with a wheelbase between 100 and 105 inches.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines a compact as having 109 cubic feet of cargo and passenger space and being able to seat up to four passengers.
The vehicle is powered either by a gasoline or diesel four-cylinder engine ranging in size from 1.2 to 1.4 liters.
By strict definition many sports cars, such as the Audi TT and the Mazda Miata, can be considered compact cars, although in some cases their engine size often exceeds the 2.4-liter limit.
Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.