Supermini car

From WOI Encyclopedia Italia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
FIAT 500

A supermini is an European hatchback car category (for American cars see subcompact car. Today their size is around 3,90 m and have seating for four adults and a child. The first superminis were the Fiat 500 of 1957 and the Austin Mini of 1959. Today, superminis are some of the biggest selling cars in Europe. In 2004, the best selling cars in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal were all superminis.


50s and 60s

In Europe, the first supermini is considered to be the Italian Fiat 500 of 1957, and the design was further popularized by the British Austin Mini two years later.

The Mini was the first successful mass production mini-car in Europe, going on sale in 1959 as the Austin Seven or Morris Mini Minor. It was the only major choice in the mini-car sector until the Rootes Group launched its rear-engined Hillman Imp four years later. Around the same time, an Italian rival - the Fiat 500 - was also launched. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Mini was a huge successful for the BMC and later BL combines which produced it. The Fiat 500 remained hugely popular in Italy and most other European countries until production finally halted in 1974. Mini sales began to fall after 1980 following the launch of the Austin Metro, a larger and more modern alternative to the Mini, but it actually outlived its 'replacement' and remained on sale until the year 2000. During that time it took its place as one of the most iconic cars of all time.

70s - Oil Crisis

By the 1970s, small cars were getting bigger and hatchback bodystyles were favoured over the traditional saloon. The 1973 oil crisis forced buyers to choose more economical, less powerful, lighter cars, The first successful compact hatchback in Europe was the 1971 Fiat 127, which was a strong seller in Italy but struggled to find homes elsewhere because it had such a notorious reputation for being rust-prone. Other successful superminis from the 1970s included the Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta, Opel Kadett City (Vauxhall Chevette in the UK) and Peugeot 104.


The 1980s saw the compact hatchback market reach its peak. British Leyland began the decade by introducing the revolutionary Austin Metro, which was sold as a more practical alternative to the ageing Mini. 1983 saw two major mini-car launches on the continent: the stylish Pininfarina-penned Peugeot 205 and the Giugiaro-styled, spacious Fiat Uno. Both cars lasted well into the 1990s and were hugely popular all over Europe. Vauxhall/Opel replaced the Chevette/Kadett City with the all-new Corsa.


The first major compact hatchback launch of the 1990s was the Renault Clio, which arrived in 1990 as successor to the long-running R5. The R5 continued until 1995 but its sales slumped after the launch of the Clio, which shot straight to the top of the supermini class and set the benchmark for style, build quality, comfort and driver appeal. Peugeot launched two major mini-cars during the 1990s: the compact 106 in 1991 and the larger 206 in 1998. The 106 was Peugeot's first step in phasing out the hugely popular 205 range, which finally bit the dust seven years later when the larger 206 went on sale. Nissan launched a curvy all-new Micra in 1992 and the new car, built at its Sunderland plant, was the first Japanese car to be voted European Car of the Year. The Fiat Punto replaced in 1994 the long-running Uno, and the new car set class-leading standards of style and economy. At the same time, the third generation Volkswagen Polo was launched.


The 21st century has seen several major supermini launches. In the year 2000, Volkswagen completed the transformation of the once-maligned Skoda company by launching the well-built, comfortable and economical Skoda Fabia. Within two years, the Fabia's chassis had spawned all-new versions of the Volkswagen Polo and Seat Ibiza. 2000 also saw Vauxhall/Opel launch the completely new Corsa which became hugely popular largely thanks to its spacious and comfortable interior which gave it a big-car feel. Citroën replaced the Peugeot 106 derived Saxo with the five-door C3 in 2002 and the three-door C2 in 2003. Both cars were strong sellers thanks to their competitive asking price, low running costs, distinctive styling and spacious interiors. Renault launched its third-generation Clio in 2005, and 2006 will see new versions of the Vauxhall/Opel Corsa and Fiat Punto.

See also List of recent superminis

See also