Small Cars in America



It is well established that interest in small cars is increasing by leaps and bounds in America and, consequently, interest attaches to a recent issue of their greatly respected Consumer Reports which contains an article on six imported small cars.

This article makes some interesting observations on small cars from. the American angle before reporting impartially on six typical specimens. Remarking that, with General Motors’ decision to market the Vauxhall Victor and Opel, it looks as if the small car has come to stay on the U.S. markets, the writers go on to make the sage remark that often the driver enjoys a small vehicle more than his (comparatively cramped) passengers!

After explaining that small cars are small because weight is the enemy of economy and that they will never compete with “the high power and acceleration, the luxurious ride, roomy interior, or the vast trunk space” of U.S. cars, Consumer Reports, basing their experience on about 20 small cars tested by them to date, believes that, except for specialised uses, any car less powerful or any car larger, heavier or more expensive than what they refer to as the Volkswagen class, will discount the major dividends offered by this class.

Looking at the six cars reported on collectively, the rigidity of their unit construction, their quick steering, and the fact that “unlike almost all U.S. cars,” they can be filled with passengers and luggage without exceeding the tyres’ rated capacity, making for low upkeep, has obviously impressed the testers. They state that they have no data relating to the durability of such cars, apart from the fact that the Volkswagen has proved to be very good in this respect, based on evidence, over three years in the Annual Questionnaire. So far as service facilities in America are concerned, they report that “VW dealer service is fairly widespread and well organised, Renault and Fiat are busily setting up thorough-going service organisations, and parts stocks for Ford and Morris are available, service outlets less so.” They regard the small cars as safe as large ones given good driver judgment but warn against other drivers simply overlooking the presence of a small car in their orbit! They conclude with the pleasing statement that small foreign cars form “a welcome antidote to the domestic road locomotive.”

The cars reported on are the Volkswagen, Ford Prefect, Morris Minor 1000, Fiat 1100, Renault Dauphine and VW Karmann-Ghia, all bought in the open market and tested without bias. Briefly, Consumer Reports‘ findings are :—

Volkswagen: Unquestionably the Best Buy in the foreign small-car class.
Ford Prefect: No match for other cars in this group, either in staunchness of construction, controlled riding qualities, economy of fuel, handling or performance. The least satisfactory and the poorest buy.
Morris Minor 1000: For more or less local use, a pretty advantageous vehicle. Lacks the looks and quiet of the Renault, the quality and features of the Fiat and the over-the-rod ability and ride of the VW. One of the few respect-worthy British sedans tested, however, particularly in the low-price field.
Fiat 1100: On a par with the VW in workmanship, but seemed less inspired mechanically: engine not so smooth, total noise level not much less rind riding qualities don’t compare with VW’s. An alternative choice more to the Renault Dauphine than to the VW, which is superior to both.
Renault Dauphine: Scored generally as a slightly less capable, less roomy, less robust—though better handling—car than the VW, and must be rated second in the class.
VW Karmann-Ghia: The prospective buyer most decide whether paying 900 dollars more than the price of Plain Jane VW is to squander money on a pretty face or to complement fittingly the tough, trouble-free, readable VW chassis with a solid and very handsome body. C.R. consultants “liked the Ghia fine.”