In America, where big is beautiful, small cars haven’t always been popular with motorists; although in recent years the advantages compact cars offer, including fuel economy and the fact that they are easy to find parking spaces for, has seen their numbers increase.

Small cars can also be just as powerful as some of their bigger rivals and if Shaquille O’Neal can fit into a SmartCar, then taller drivers shouldn’t have any concerns about headroom. Over the years there have been some innovative and unusual small cars designed with city driving in mind, though not all of them were successful…

Related: 10 Small Cars That Are Surprisingly Capable Off-Road

10 BMW Isetta – Laughingstock

BMW Isetta

The BMW Isetta is an extremely compact microcar, which was actually developed by an Italian company called Iso, who sold the rights to their creation to BMW in the 1950s. BMW took the original design and made it their own, launching the BMW Isetta in 1955.

BMW Isetta blue

Over 160,000 Isetta models were sold between 1955 and 1962 when production came to an end, and they remain popular with 21st century collectors thanks to their unusual and peculiar appearance, with vintage models changing hands for upwards of $40,000.

9 Mini Cooper – Powerful Machine

Mini Cooper red

One of the most successful and iconic small cars of all time, the Mini was launched by its creators, the now-defunct British Motor Corporation, in 1959. 60 years later, and the 10 millionth Mini was rolling off the production line, and the vehicle remains as popular as ever.

Mini Cooper

The marque has been owned by BMW since 2000, and the German manufacturer has recreated the Mini for the 21st century, creating sporty convertible models, the two-seater Mini Coupe and even an SUV version, the Mini Countryman.

Related: 15 Stanced Small Cars That Look Ridiculously Good

8 Peel P50 – Laughingstock

Peel P50 red

Another British small car, the Peel P50 did not enjoy the same commercial success as the Mini, though it has become something of a cult classic since its launch in 1962. Built by the Peel Engineering Company on the Isle of Man, the three-wheeled P50 was big enough for “one adult and a shopping bag” and in 2010 it earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest production car ever made.

Peel P50

Only 27 of the original models are still known to be in existence, but the Peel P50 has recently been relaunched as an electric vehicle.

7 Honda N600 – Powerful Machine

Honda N600 yellow

The Honda N600 was an export version of the N360, designed for the US and European markets who wanted more power from their small vehicles. It may not look like anything special – the boxy design is stereotypical of the automotive industry in the 1960s and 1970s – but it certainly packs an unexpected punch under the hood.

Honda N600

With a top speed of 77mph, the Honda N600 boasted an impressive turn of pace for a small car built in the 60s, and 25,000 models were sold in the US between 1969 and 1972.

6 AMC Pacer – Laughingstock

AMC Pacer red

The compact AMC Pacer remains one of the most unusual cars ever built in the US. Launched in 1975 by the American Motors Corporation, the Pacer’s iconic jellybean styling ensured that it always stood out in a crowd. This futuristic design also featured a lot of glass, including a rear windshield which constituted most of the surface area of the hatchback roof.

AMC Pacer

Despite being a compact car, the AMC Pacer was surprisingly roomy inside, and by the time production came to an end in 1979, 280,000 models had been sold in the States.

5 Suzuki Cappuccino – Powerful Machine

Suzuki Cappuccino red

Despite being named after a frothy coffee, the Suzuki Cappuccino was a much more serious car than it might first appear. Based on the Kei cars which were first seen in Japan in the years after the Second World War, and which remain popular on the Japanese domestic market, the Cappuccino was a very compact 1990s two-seater sports car.

Suzuki Cappuccino

The small but powerful 650cc engine still managed to generate a top speed of 93mph and could accelerate from 0 to 60mph in an impressive 8.5 seconds.

Related: 15 Small Cars You Should Never Buy Used

4 Goggomobil Dart – Laughingstock

Goggomobil Dart white

Another car with an unusual name, the Goggomobil Dart hails from Australia, where it was built between 1959 and 1961. Based on the chassis of the German Goggomobil microcar, the Dart was a two-seater sports car with a fiberglass body and, intriguingly, no doors.

Goggomobil Dart

Luckily there were no windows either, so drivers and passengers didn’t have to squeeze through the gap like the Dukes of Hazzard! The car weighed less than 770lbs, though there was a small luggage compartment in the nose of the unusual-looking vehicle.

3 Nash Metropolitan – Powerful Machine

Nash Metropolitan

When the Nash Metropolitan first went on sale in 1954, the term “subcompact” had not even been invented, yet this small but perfectly formed vehicle well and truly belonged in that category.

Nash Metropolitan blue

Assembled in England, the Metropolitan was sold in the US for almost ten years and was marketed as a second vehicle for families to buy with their increasing disposable income. Reviews at the time of the vehicle’s launch praised its unexpectedly impressive performance, with the Nash Metropolitan boasting a top speed of 75mph.

2 Suzuki X-90 – Laughingstock

Suzuki X-90 blue

Crossovers are all the rage in today’s automotive market, but the Suzuki X-90 was a crossover with an identity crisis. The X-90 was actually an SUV, although it is difficult to imagine this diminutive vehicle heading off-road. It was also a two-seater convertible, with a removable T-section roof – just to add to its list of peculiar automotive features.

Suzuki X-90

First launched in 1995, the Suzuki X-90 was in production for just two years, with fewer than 10,000 models sold in the US and only a few hundred being bought in Europe.

1 Renault 5 Turbo – Powerful Machine

Renault 5 Turbo

Renault is not a name that will be familiar to many drivers in the US, but the French manufacturer has always enjoyed commercial success in Europe. The Renault 5 was one of its most popular small cars, sold between 1972 and 1996.

Renault 5 Turbo red

It was also available as a high-performance Turbo model which was initially designed for rally driving before being made available as a production car. The Renault 5 Turbo has a 1.4-liter turbo engine, which generated enough power for a remarkable top speed of 126mph.

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