Is it any surprise that Japanese carmakers are planning to bring some of their small cars – which are already best-sellers in most parts of the world – to North-America now that gasoline prices are rising and that SUVs are finally losing steam? Of couse, our European and Asian readers won't find these cars particularly small, but to most people in the US, they are. Here is some of what you can expect to see on the roads of N-A in the next months and years: First, there's the new Suzuki Swift pictured above. Three engines are offered, 1.3 liters, 1.5 liters and 1.3 liters turbocharged diesel, getting respectively, on average, 6.1l/100 km, 6.5l/100 km and 4.6l/100 km (38.5 mpg, 36 mpg and 51 mpg). We'll have to wait and see if the diesel makes it to North-America, though. You can read a review of the Suzuki Swift here, visit the official Suzuki Swift page here (warning: flash animation and music) and get more information on the three engines here.
The Toyota Yaris, also known as the Vitz in some parts of the world, and as the Echo Hatchback in Canada, is a small hatchback with a 1.5 liters high-tech engine. As a reference point, the 2005 Canadian Echo Hatchback gets 6.7 liters per 100 km in the city and 5.2l/100 km on the highway (35/52 mpg) according to the Canadian Energuide. The 2006 model will be redesigned (the same one that the US will get as the Yaris) and will possibly be even more fuel efficient. It's also possible that idle-stop technology will be available as an option, which would mean that the engine would turn itself off and restart automatically in certain situations to conserve gas (read about it here). Finally, here you can find an overview of the Yaris (although they call it "Vitz").
Another "big" player in the small car world is coming: The Honda Fit (known as the Honda Jazz in many parts of the world – we think Honda didn't call it the Jazz in North-America because they already have a motorcycle with that name). When introduced in Japan, the Fit/Jazz sold more than the Toyota Corolla, a car that has been at the top of the best-selling list in Japan for 33 consecutive years! You can find incredibly in depth reviews of the car here and here. It is not clear exactly what engines will be available for North-America, but the 1.5 liters VTEC version of the Fit is officially rated at 5.0l/100 km (47 mpg).
Nissan is also working on an all-new small car for North-America, but few details are available. It is known that it will feature the new HR15DE 1.5 liters engine (more about it here), which is 30% lighter than a comparable engine from Nissan and, when used in combination with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) transmission, could improve fuel economy by 28% while increasing torque. The car will use the chassis of the Japanese March model (pictured above). More details here.
Of course, there's also the 2006 Honda Civic hybrid that is coming soon...
Update - October 3rd, 2005: An entry that could be titled "Small German Cars are Coming to North-America": the Mercedes B-Cass car is now available in Canada (and soon in the US, probably).