A subcompact car is a car in a vehicle size class smaller than a compact car but larger than a microcar (see supermini for European small cars). Such cars usually have four or more seats (whereas microcars such as the Smart tend to have two) and in North America, subcompacts are usually considered to be those cars that have a wheelbase of 2.54 metres (100 inches) or less or between 85 ft³ (2400 L) and 99 ft³ (2800 L) of interior volume (though popular usage of the term frequently ignores these boundaries). Subcompacts/superminis are most commonly sold in Europe and Japan where they enjoy enormous popularity, and are reasonably popular in North America.
This type of car was first seen in North America in the 1950s with the introduction of the Nash Metropolitan and similar vehicles, although the subcompact did not see wider adoption until the 1970s with such cars as the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega. Today numerous models of subcompacts are sold, including the Toyota Vitz (also sold as the Toyota Echo & Yaris), the Scion xA, the Kia Rio, the Chevrolet Aveo, and the Hyundai Accent.
In 1970, as Ford and GM planned their subcompacts, AMC threw itself into the fray. Of the four large American companies that were making cars at that point, only Chrysler sat out the subcompact war (it did not release their subcompact, the Dodge Omni until 1978) and was thus in a spectator position when the other three produced vehicles which are now legendary lemons. The AMC Gremlin, Ford Pinto and the Chevrolet Vega placed 4th, 3rd and 2nd, respectively, in Car Talk's Worst Car of the Millennium contest. The 'winner' was another subcompact, the Yugo. Another note is the fact that Chrysler's subcompacts (The Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon) were also huge successes, with a long life, while Ford, Gm and AMC's subcompacts lived reletively short lives.