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Hyundai i10In the past six months, American car buyers have fled from buying SUVs and oversized pickups in favor of small, fuel-efficient cars and hybrids (if they can find one on the lot, that is). But car makers still feel that some small cars are too small for our roads.

Hyundai, for instance, is making a global push to establish itself in the small-car market. But not so much in the U.S. Its tiny five-door hatchback i10 model, for example, won’t be sold on American shores.  They’re looking instead to bring the larger i20 and i30 cars rather than the i10, which was designed with the European market in mind.

Though nothing is set in stone, not bringing the i10 to the small-car-starved dealerships here in the U.S. is a curious move for a company whose sales have been constrained by the limited availability of its current small cars, like the Elantra. Not even the i20, which is slightly larger and makes its debut in Paris next week, is officially set for import to the U.S.

Now that Wall Street and shifty mortgage schemes have the U.S. economy tanking and financing is hard to come by, the American car consumer’s wish for small, inexpensive, gas-sipping cars could become a demand. Everybody stand up and wave what few dollars you have in the direction of the i10 and the Ford Fiesta Econetic.

October 4 is opening day at Mondial de l’Automobile, or the Paris Auto Show to most Americans. Europe has long had more small cars that get better gas mileage than what we can buy in the U.S., and a wider array of clean diesel cars. We can certainly expect to see more of these kinds of autos in Paris this year; the difference is that now we want them, too.

Here’s a list of debuts and concepts to look for at Mondial de l’Automobile as the reports start filling the blogosphere next month.


  • Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, 65 mpg and not U.S.-bound
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid, with lithium-ion batteries
  • Nissan Pixo minicar, one foot shorter than the Chevy Aveo


  • Citroen Hypnos hybrid
  • Honda Insight hybrid, poised to battle the Prius
  • Lexus LF-Xh hybrid, based on the concept LF-X SUV
  • Nissan Nuvu EV minicar
  • Opel Insignia EcoFLEX sports tourer, clean diesel on sale in Europe next spring
  • Peugeot hybrid
  • Renault Ondelious diesel mild hybrid
  • Suzuki SX4-FCV fuel cell vehicle, already certified in Japan

We Americans have it pretty good — freedom of speech, religion, and the press; pursuit of happiness; pulled-pork sandwiches — but not when it comes to green cars. Here’s a rundown of the latest models we want, but can’t have:

  • Diesel-powered Ford Ka This little number will get 56 mpg from it’s 1.3-liter engine, and put out 75 horsepower. At the Ford presentation I recently attended, someone asked speaker and powertrain expert Dan Kapp about Euro-spec clean-diesel Fords coming to the U.S., and he said not in the foreseeable future.
  • Ford Fiesta ECOnetic Another small, diesel-powered Ford. This one, which goes on sale in the U.K. in November, gets 65 mpg and would be priced similarly to the Toyota Prius, if it ever made it to these shores. Which it won’t. Ever, according to Business Week.
  • Honda Fit Hybrid So Ford says it won’t bring its diesels to the U.S. because we’re all about hybrids, so why has Honda decided not to go forward with its Fit Hybrid? Competition with itself. It wants all the hybrid love to go to its new Insight, due next spring. So no one gets the Fit Hybrid until the next redesign, a Honda spokesman told
  • VW BlueMotion Diesel Golf The latest TDI-powered Volkswagen to come down the pike is a quick little four-door hatchback that gets 52 mpg, according to a VW press release, while still achieving 103 hp and a top speed of 117 mph. Luckily, VW did deem the U.S. worthy of the new Jetta SportWagon TDI, which gets 40 mpg on the highway and emits a mere 6.4 tons of CO2 annually.

Ford Fiesta ECOnetic

After a disastrous second quarter, Ford announced that they’re going to build fewer trucks and SUVs and import six small cars that the company’s been selling in Europe. Consumers, and the dealers who can’t move SUVs off their lots, are chomping at the bit to get these more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Ford Focus and Fiesta sedans and hatchbacks currently on the streets of Paris and London will be available in the U.S. in 2009-2010. At the same time, three truck plants — two in the U.S. and one in Mexico — will switch over to building the small cars that are currently in such short supply. I can’t help but think that a little bit of foresight on Ford’s part could have saved them from their worst quarter ever, which just ended with a total loss of $8.7 billion.

If we’re lucky, we Americans will get the latest Fiesta, the ECOnetic, which debuted in London July 22. It gets the best fuel economy in the company at 3.7 l/100 km, which on this side of the pond is an amazing 63.5 mpg. It also has the lowest CO2 output in its class, at 98g/km, yet it still has a top speed of 110 mph.