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The Evolution of the Modern Ultralight Economy car.


Honda zest

Honda Zest

I began writing this book because no one else has covered the subject comprehensively, there are a lot of books and web pages on individual models that go into minute often extremely boring details but there is nothing to link all of this class of car together that show how the modern ultralight economy car we use today has evolved.  First I must explain what I mean by the rather long winded term ultralight economy car. The type of car or if you prefer auto-mobile, that I refer to below can be classified today by many labels, mini-car, economy car, city car, mini compact if you are from USA or a A-segment mini car if you are a European official. None of these describe exactly the type of car I have included in this text. Yes they were economy cars but very small economy cars with an engine capacity range with some latitude; from 360 cc to 1000 cc. Some could be classed as mini or city cars but not all are and some could be classed as micro-cars, but they were and are all a relatively low cost form of transport for a great many millions of people around the world in the past and increasingly so today.
 For those that are mainly interested in the present or the near past I have written this version of the book in reverse chronological order starting at 2014. If it retains your interest, in  succeeding chapters the story will unfold to the beginning. 


Chery QQ3

Chery QQ3
An engines configuration is a compromise between cost of manufacture, weight and refinement and for the first fifty years of the car ultralight economy cars usually had a twin cylinder engines at the cheaper end of thee range and four cylinder engines at the more expensive end with some exceptions; but from the nineteen forties there emerged the two stroke triple. First produced in Germany and then in Sweden and later by Suzuki in Japan who after producing two stroke twins began producing two stoke triples. At the beginning of the twentieth  century there was a short lived fashion for the four stroke inline three cylinder engine; but I cannot find any evidence of an engine of that configuration until Daihatsu began producing their CB10 engine as fitted in the 1977 Charade. Suzuki converted from the two stroke triple to the four stroke triple in 1981 with their F5A 543 cc engine and the F8B 796 cc engine both being fitted in the Alta. The changed was necessitated by their inability to meet emission standards with the two stroke engine then in production. Daihatsu went on to extending their range of triples with the 550 cc EB in 1985, the 850 cc  ED in 1986, the 660 cc EF in 1990 and the 989 cc EJ in 1998, the Toyota 1KR-Fe is also a Daihatsu design. As Daihatsu and Suzuki designs dominate the ultralight car sector and are the bases for Maruti, Perodua and the early Daewoo models as well as supplying engines for other makes, with the new Volkswagen and Renault models also using the same layout of engine, the inline four stroke three cylinder engine is almost universal in this sector.
I will mention the early history of the electric city car in a later chapter and their lack of success in the market place. Due to concerns about pollution in cities the electric car has had a revival in the twenty first century with models produced by small specialists and increasingly by major manufacturers. There are electric city cars but they could not be considered ultralight and due to the very high initial cost of the electric car they cannot be considered economic in comparison to city cars with an internal combustion engine, as the following examples show. The Volkswagen Up weigh’s 929 Kg and the eUp weigh’s 1139 kg, the Volkswagen Up costs £8,010 in the Uk and the eUp costs £19,270. The same comparisons for the Smart and the Smart Ed are 795 kg and 970kg and cost wise £9,220 and £15,395, and for the Aixam Coupe in relation to the Mega City electric is 400kg and 645 kg and 12,440 Euros and 17,708 Euros. They therefore are only a footnote in this narrative. If it wasn’t for the regulation defining the European motorised quadricycle’s and Japanese Kia cars I’m sure the manufacturers would as they replaced existing models produce larger, heavier replacements with larger capacity engines, its the way of the industry; but there is no restrictions on the other larger city cars and inevitably this is what happens when they are replaced, with well known model names moving into the bottom of the super-mini sector like the Fiat Panda and the Chevrolet Spark, fortunately there are other to  replace them such as the Volkswagen Group models and the new Renault Twingo. In the second decade of the twenty first century the ultralight economy car is flourishing whether its goes under the name of motorised quadricycle, Kia car, City car, A segment or small sub-compact. in production all over the world, although not now made in the affluent parts of western Europe as in the past that is except France; but in eastern Europe, Asia southeast and continental and south America, providing reliable cost effective transport to millions.

List of Ultralight Economy Cars in Production in 2014




Country of Production

IXO JS Line range 
Motorised Quad France
Microcar    M.GO    Motorised Quad    France
Coupe Motorised Quad France
Grecav Sonique Motorised Quad Italy
Mini car India
Mira Kia Japan
Move Kia Japan
Tanto Kia Japan
Tanto exe
Kia Japan
Alto Kia Japan
Wagon R
Kia Japan
MR Wagon Kia Japan/India
Mitsubishi eK 
Kia Japan
Mitsubishi Toppo Kia Japan
Honda Life
Kia Japan
Honda N-ONE
Kia Japan
Subaru Lucra Kia Japan
Karimun Wagon R City
Pax Suzuki Wagon R City
Maruti Wagon R City
Maruti A Star/Alta City
Fortwo City
QQ3 City
China and many others
C1 City
Czech Republic
Peugeot 108 City
Czech Republic
Aygo City
Czech Republic
Volkswagen Up City
Seat Miil City
Citigo City
Renault Twingo City

Links to Chapters

Chapter 1 The Twenty First Century

Chapter 2 European Decline

Chapter 3 The World in the Eighties

Chapter 4 Europe in the 1970's

Chapter 5 Japan Into The Seventies

Chapter 6 European Variety

Chapter 7 The Emerging Japanese Manufacturers

Chapter 8 The European Two-stroke Three’s

Chapter 9 European Divisions

Chapter 10 Alternative Advances

Chapter 11 The European Ultralights

Chapter 12 Postwar Progress in Britain

Chapter 13 Early Economy Cars