As the cost of living rises and the world shifts towards becoming less dependent on fossil fuels, the world of motoring is emerging to become more sustainable and affordable – and one way to achieve this is to manufacture smaller cars. Some manufacturers, however, got into the small car market years earlier – and we don’t mean the Mini either! Read on to discover five of the smallest cars ever to be road legal.
1. Peel P50
The undisputed title for smallest ever road-legal car goes to the Peel P50 – it does, after all, hold a Guinness World Record to prove it. The miniature motor car was a three-wheeler with a wheelbase of just 50 inches, measured 134cm long, 98cm wide and 100cm high and weighed in at just 56kg – less than the average British adult. Despite this, it could reportedly fit one in comfortably, along with a shopping bag.
A grand total of fifty were built between 1962 and 1965 by the Isle of Man Peel Engineering Company, retailing at £299 when new (roughly £6,400 in today’s money).
First built by Italian firm Iso Autoveicoli and later under licence by BMW, VELAM and Romi, the Isetta is one of the smallest – and most recognisable – cars ever built. Famous for its bulbous egg-like form and front opening door, It was originally powered by a 236cc 10PS (7kW) two-stroke motorcycle engine, which was coupled to a four-speed gearbox complete with reverse (the Peel 50 had no reverse gear – just a handle to pull it with!). Dimensions varied slightly between models, but the original model measured 229cm long and 137cm wide.
The Isetta is believed to be the world’s first mass-production car to achieve a fuel consumption of 94mpg.
3. Revai G-Wiz
The Revai, better known as G-Wiz in the UK, was a tiny EV built by the Reva Electric Car Company between 2001 and 2012.
Despite measuring just 260cm long, 130cm wide and 150cm high, the odd-looking micro car could supposedly fit four occupants – provided at least two of them were children. The electric motor boasted 17PS (12kW) and also featured a ‘boost’ function allowing it to reach speeds of up to 50mph.
In 2009, a lithium-ion model was launched, reducing charging time to six hours, and extending the G-Wiz’s range to 75 miles.
4. Buddy Electric
The Buddy Electric is a three-seater Norwegian electric city car launched in the early 2000s. Brightly coloured and distinctive, it measured 244cm long, 143cm wide and 144cm tall, with a wheelbase of just 155cm.
Driving range is reportedly between 12 and 37 miles depending on the season, topography and driving style (and possibly the number of passengers), and a maximum speed of 50mph. While this may not seem like much, it’s worth bearing in mind that it is estimated most people drive less than 26 miles a day.
The Buddy takes six to eight hours to charge fully, or one hour to rapid charge for a range of 6.2 miles (10km) and combined with its predecessor, the Kewet, represented up 20 per cent of the electric cars in Norway until recently.
5. Tango T600
Last but not least in our list of tiny cars is the Tango T600, perhaps the strangest microcar of all. The single-seat electric ‘sportscar’, was designed and built by Washington-based Commuter Cars and measured 257cm long and just 99cm wide – little more than a motorbike.
The Tango was the brainchild of Rick Woodbury, who was motivated by the fact that 106 million people in the United States were driving to work alone. Originally designed to be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, delays in the technology meant it was forced to resort to individual electric motors on each wheel. Production of 100 units per year was promised from 2005, with actor George Clooney famously taking delivery of the first. The second model didn’t emerge until early 2008. By the end of that year, just 10 cars had been built and sold for an average of $121,000 each. Nine years after it’s introduction, fewer than 20 had been built.
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