Small cars could be the right fit

However, some car companies are offering both luxury and fuel economy in a small package.

The Honda "Fit" flew under the radar when it first hit the United States a couple of years ago. However, when gas prices went through the roof, the car suddenly became a hot seller.

Now, Honda has come up with a redesign of the Fit for the 2009 model year. The base price for the Fit is $14,550. It looks similar to the previous model, but it really is a whole new car.

"We were looking at the fun-to-drive character of the vehicle, the great functionality of the interior and all the great feature content. So we just tried to enhance those and move them to another level, to further set the segment benchmark that we were holding previously," said Jeff Swedlund, Honda spokesperson.

Honda managed to keep fuel mileage high, between 27 and 35 miles per gallon. Plus, they were able to make it a little bigger inside. Designers also gave the car the option of an in-dash navigation system, which is unusual in this price class.

A lot of people would be surprised at how much room there can be in a small car. Efficient packaging is considered in these smaller cars. For example, a 6-foot-6 person can fit pretty comfortably in the Fit.

The Nissan "Versa" is another choice in the category. Sales for the Versa are up. In fact, Nissan has added a new sedan configuration to the Versa line to broaden the car's appeal.

The compact Toyota "Yaris" is also picking up an extra body style. A five-door hatchback will accompany the three-door and four-door sedan. The sedan models have been in great demand.

For any automotive company, this is a good time to be in the small-car business.

"We're seeing a lot of people shifting into this segment that previously would have never considered buying a car of this size. But what we feel with this car is we can provide them with everything they had in their larger, more luxury-type vehicle, and still get the great fuel efficiency of a smaller car," said Swedlund.

Small cars may have been overlooked in the past, but they are now getting much more attention. Their ability to travel many miles on each gallon of gas is a great reason to be front and center.


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