Supermini Explained

A supermini is a British car classification term that describes automobiles larger than a city car but smaller than a small family car. This car class is also known as the B-segment across Europe, and as Subcompact in North America.

In 2004, the best selling cars in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy and Portugal were all superminis. Overall in 2005, of the fifteen best selling types of car in Europe, six were superminis.

Origins of the term supermini

The term "supermini" appeared around 1985. The influential Consumers' Association first used the term in its annual Car Buying Guide in October of that year. Because the term was a new one, it gave an explanation at the start of a section entitled Small Hatchbacks. It said small hatchbacks were known popularly as superminis and while similar to the Mini they were more spacious inside and more versatile. This definition made clear that a "supermini" was something larger than a Mini yet smaller than a typical car of the time. In its 1985 report, it included such cars as the Austin Metro, Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta. Smaller or more basic cars were grouped under a Bargain Basement heading and included the Mini, Citro├źn 2CV, Fiat 126 and Renault 4.

The 1986 Car Buying Guide, published in June of that year, was more confident of the term and this time headed the section Small hatchbacks or 'superminis. The Mini and 2CV were still relegated to the cheaper category of Bargain Basement. By the time of the 1989 Car Buying Guide, there was no longer any need to explain what supermini meant and the title appeared without comment. In its introduction, the Guide said superminis were available as three-door and five-door hatchbacks, and sometimes as saloons with a boot. The Mini and Renault 4 were still grouped separately, this year under the heading Cheapies.

By 1990 the demand for the cheapest cars, a number of them from low-cost economies in eastern Europe, was fading. For the first time the two or three remaining examples in the new car market, including the original Mini, were grouped under the heading superminis along with the couple of dozen true superminis that now dominated the cheaper end of the market. However, in its separate guide to car reliability in June 1990, the magazine grouped the smallest cars under the heading "Minis and Superminis", indicating that the smallest cars were still perceived as being distinct from the larger and better equipped "Superminis". These smaller cars are now called city cars.

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