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Thread: The new European microcar

  1. #1
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    The new European microcar

    These cars are about the size of a Smart, but they're a lot less car. From Via Michelin, the tire company's magazine:


    How Do Minicars Fare Compared with Ordinary Cars?

    By E. Tresmontant

    With their can-like style and moped engine, minicars for long made people smile condescendingly. Today however they are seen as fully-fledged cars with good performance. They are appealing to the eye and also perfectly adapted to cities. More and more people are being won over to them in Europe.
    What is a minicar?


    http://66.230.220.70/images/post/microcar/01.jpg
    © ViaMichelin
    The Chatenet Barooder

    According to the European legislation in force, the license-free car must have: a maximum unladen weight of 350 kg, a maximum speed of 45 km/h, and an engine with a maximum power of 4 kW (4.6 HP). Such cars are therefore likened to four-wheeled mopeds, which is why they are officially known as motor-powered light quadricycles'. Since 1997, the European Commission has recognised the social utility and lack of danger of these vehicles. It has also defined their production standards (safety belts, components, signalling, brakes) and encouraged still hesitant Member States to open up their market.

    http://66.230.220.70/images/post/microcar/02.jpg
    ©ViaMichelin
    The Chatenet Barooder

    Legislation on the driving of this type of vehicle differs however from one country to another. In the UK, legislation from March 2001 states that any person who has passed the full motorcycle test before 1 March 2001 has automatic entitlement to drive a quadricycle. However, any person taking a full motorcycle test after this date is not entitled to drive such a vehicle on a motorcycle license. In France you have to be over 16 to drive a license-free car and all youths born after 1 January 1988 must hold the BSR (brevet de sécurité routière, option quadricycle léger—road safety certificate, light quadricycle option). In Italy and Spain, youths can drive this type of vehicle as soon as they are 14 but must pass a theoretical highway code test. In Germany, a specific S license is required to drive minicars. A draft European regulation is being drafted.

    300,000 minicars in Europe

    Invented in France in the 1970s, the minicar has today become a European reality and its market is a promising sector given the fact there are some 80 million Europeans without a driving license! Today, 30,000 new vehicles are sold on average each year and the registration rate has increased by 25% in Europe since 1993 (the 10,000 registrations threshold was crossed in France in 2004). With second-hand cars, 300,000 minicars are today on the roads in Europe, including 140,000 in France, 42,000 in Italy and 39,000 in Spain—the three main countries of growth. While Austria and Belgium have become stable markets, Germany, Great Britain and Russia are poised to open their market in 2005. Finland and Sweden, and also, in the longer term, Romania, Turkey and Hungary, form developing markets.

    A Handful of Producers

    http://66.230.220.70/images/post/microcar/08.jpg
    © ViaMichelin
    The Chatenet Speedino

    Thirty years after having launched the minicar concept, the main producers remain French for the most part.

    Aixam has therefore been the market leader in Europe since 1987 with 40% of market shares and 14,000 units sold in 2004. Microcar, a subsidiary of the group Bénéteau—world number one in the sailing boats sector—comes second with a 25% market share in France and 23% in Europe. It is followed by Simpa JDM, Ligier and Bellier.

    With a spectacular growth rate of 37.2% in 2003, the producer Chatenet, which presents itself as the upmarket minicar make, has managed to win over a clientele of young town dwellers, especially in Italy (in Rome and Milan) where the producer exports 70% of its production.
    The other main producers are Italian (Tasso, Grecav, Casalini and Piaggio, the European leader of motorised 2-wheelers), German (ATW) and Dutch (VBI).

    Who are typical drivers of minicars?

    The traditional market target for minicars are elderly people (70% are men aged over 50) living in rural areas and who need to drive short distances to compensate the disappearance of public transport. Many women driving-license holders, who have never driven, also buy minicars after the death of their husband, to be independent.
    The ageing of the European population therefore largely explains the development of this market.

    http://66.230.220.70/images/post/microcar/04.jpg
    © Microcar
    Pleasing appearance and sleek design, minicars now have the big-car look!


    Also, owing to their small size (2.80 m long), ease of use, low consumption and maximum speed (45 km/h), minicars also make excellent urban vehicles. They are therefore appealing to an increasing number of 16 to 18 year olds (especially in Italy and Spain). Many parents judge scooters and motorbikes too dangerous, and now encourage their children to choose a minicar. These now have an increasingly dynamic and sleek design like the Barooder by Chatenet (see below). Minicars also represent a good introduction to driving, allowing youths to become aware of the risks entailed and of the fact that there is no need to drive faster in towns.

    We have test driven the Microcar MC1, and the Chatenet Barooder and Speedino

    These three models are typical of the development of minicars in recent years. Their easy driving (automatic gearbox) helps you get used to the basics of driving and feel real pleasure... What's more, with their level of comfort, pleasing appearance and sleek design, minicars now have the big-car look!

    The Microcar MC1

    http://66.230.220.70/images/post/microcar/05.jpg
    © Microcar

    Equipped with a 3000 rpm 505 cc Lombardini twin cylinder diesel engine, the new Microcar MC1 with its very strong aluminium chassis reaches 45 km/h with relatively good acoustical comfort. Its external lines are fluid and harmonious and its cabin spacious. The individual seats can be adjusted and provide good back support. The equipment is upmarket (remote control electric windows, central locking, laser CD player/car radio, parking aid, antifog headlamps, possibility of a transparent roof) and the dashboard with a digital meter compares favourably with that of a conventional car. The MC1 is easy to drive and offers good visibility. The boot volume (800 litres) allows you to go shopping or fishing at week-end! Above all, the MCI boasts a passenger protection system unique to the minicar market with a shock absorbing engine frame (reducing 5 times the violence of impact at 45km/h), seat belt force limiters (decreasing risks of injury to the head and chest) and a driver's airbag. A fully-fledged small city car!

    Technical characteristics of the MC1 Preference

    Engine: Lombardini / four-stroke / diesel
    Cylinder capacity: 505 cc
    Maximum power: 4 kW / 5.4 HP at 3,000 rpm
    Transmission: front-wheel drive / automatic variable-speed drive unit / power shift gear / ball-bearing homokinetic transmission
    Dimensions (L/W/H in mm): 2788 / 1493 / 1420
    Wheel base (in mm): 1797
    Tyres: Michelin 145 / 60R 16 65 T
    Boot volume: 800 litres
    Retail price: 10 000 €
    Internet site: www.microcar.com

    The Chatenet Barooder

    http://66.230.220.70/images/post/microcar/06.jpg
    © Chatenet

    Launched in 2003, this minicar is the biggest in the market in its category: length 2950 mm, width 1555 mm, height 1450 mm.

    With a cool and powerful-looking design, it is the flagship vehicle of a producer who has striven for the past 25 years to win over a young public wishing to acquire a first experience of driving without taking any risks. Its 505 cc injection diesel engine boasts a maximum power of 4 kW (20.4 HP) without excessive noise. The ground clearance is high and the platform is in electro-zinc plated steel; the front brakes are fitted with a 212 mm diameter disc and the vehicle also features a hydraulic brake limiter on the rear wheels. The tyres are Michelin and the suspension boasts double effect shock absorbers with helicoidal springs. In short, fine mechanics! The Barooder comes in three versions (B2, S2 and X2), the upmarket model being fitted with a remote-control window opening and closing system, a precious reversing camera helpful in parking, a CD player/car radio and anti-fog headlamps (important in the country).

    Technical characteristics of the Barooder

    Engine: injection diesel
    Cylinder capacity: 505 cc
    Maximum power: 4 kW (5.4 HP)
    Maximum engine speed: 3600 rpm
    Gearbox: automatic
    Tyres: MICHELIN compact 145 / 70 R13
    Maximum speed: 110 km / h
    Dimensions (L/W/H in mm): 2950, 1555, 1450.
    Wheel base: 2070 mm
    Boot volume: 1100 l
    Retail price: 11,615.00 €
    Internet site: www.automobiles-chatenet.com/

    The Chatenet Speedino: a charming convertible

    http://66.230.220.70/images/post/microcar/07.jpg
    © ViaMichelin

    A real little bomb in its category, the Chatenet Speedino convertible is fitted with a 20 HP injection petrol engine capable of 100 km/h. For this reason, this more powerful model requires the B1 license. The pleasure of driving is optimal and, with its highly aerodynamic mini roadster' external design, this less than 3 m long minicar is an ideal partner for seaside holidays. With a 20 litre petrol tank, it can travel up to 400 km without refuelling. Turning to its safety, the Speedino features highly satisfactory equipment with its composite monohull structure, its double-sided electro-zinc plated steel chassis, its front disc brakes, its belt winders and its Securit windows. The Speedino is currently highly successful in Italy where it is seen as a chic intermediate between a scooter and a conventional car.

    Technical characteristics of the Speedino

    Engine: injection petrol
    Cylinder capacity: 523 cc
    Maximum power: 15kW (20.4 HP)
    Maximum engine speed: 5000 rpm
    Gearbox: automatic
    Tyres: MICHELIN compact 145 / 60 R13
    Maximum speed: 110 km / h
    Dimensions (L/W/H in mm): 2950, 1555, 1250.
    Wheel base: 2060 mm
    Boot volume: 356 l
    Retail price: 14,990.00 €
    Internet site: www.automobiles-chatenet.com/

    http://66.230.220.70/images/post/microcar/09.jpg
    © Microcar
    Microcar MC1

    Further information

    www.aixam.com(not yet available in English)
    www.ligier-automobiles.com
    www.bellier.fr
    www.simpa-jdm.com

    Created in 1996, AFQUAD is the European association of producers and importers of license-free cars.
    www.afquad.com
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 13 Sep 2005 at 2:34 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    I'd hit it.

    But seriously...I drive a Toyota Matrix in the land of full sized pick up trucks. I get looks of disbelief when I show up at the shooting range with it. But, I'm not paying $2.00 to drive 12 miles either. Put a flad bed on one of them micro cars and they will start selling in the midwest. There isn't much difference between them and a Gator anyway.

  3. #3
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Yup. Show up at the range on your gator and you'll be treated as an equal. Show up in your microcar and they'd think you are from California.

    Hmmm. A gator microcar might be a way to get the pickup crowd into better mileage cars.

  4. #4

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    An interesting article; I've not seen any of those around here yet.

    Last time I went to Rome there were loads of Smart cars everywhere; I'd imagine the same is true in most other western European cities.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian sal95's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by noj
    An interesting article; I've not seen any of those around here yet.

    Last time I went to Rome there were loads of Smart cars everywhere; I'd imagine the same is true in most other western European cities.
    I now reside in Germany and have seen a ton of Smart cars and my fav-- Mini Coopers. Sometimes in my Honda Accord I feel like I might as well be driving a Ford Excursion on some of these narrow streets through the villages.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Are these cars legal in the US? I saw one yesterday (my first) in Oregon, but it had BC tags. So I assume they're OK in Canada.

  7. #7
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by Otis
    Are these cars legal in the US? I saw one yesterday (my first) in Oregon, but it had BC tags. So I assume they're OK in Canada.
    Not sure if they're legal to sell in the U.S. I know DaimlerChrysler pulled back on their plans to market them in the U.S. but I'm not sure if it was due to legal issues or something else. They had plans to hit the U.S. market with a 4 door version and even a Smart "SUV". I think that's all been scrapped now.

    They seem to have done very well here - see quite a few roaming the streets of Toronto.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    They're a little ugly for my taste.
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    They're a little ugly for my taste.
    "We don't regulate ugly." That's what I tell people who complain about ugly buildings. There are afew kinds of ugly I would like to regulate, though.

    As far as ugly cars are concerned, there's so many to choose from. I think we've had a number of threads about ugly cars in the past. They're still crankin' them out.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    We have these smart cars all over the place here. (www.smart.com) They're cute, but I don't know how it would be to get hit by a semi on the highway!

    Edit: Smart cars look a bit different than those that you are talking about. At 130 km/h, it looks like that are built for hwy and city driving.

    Engine/type: 3-cylinder in-line engine at rear with turbocharger and charge-air cooler

    Engine capacity (cc): 799

    Rated output (hp): 40.2 at 4,200/rpm

    Max. torque (lb-ft): 73.8 at 1,800 -2,800/rpm

    Bore x stroke (mm): 65.5 x 79.0

    Boost pressure control: Mechanical

    Maximum charge pressure: 1.15 bar

    Compression ratio: 18.5: 1

    Fuel delivery: Common-rail direct injection

    CO2 emissions (g/km): 90

    Maximum speed: 135 km/h [1]

    Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s): 19.8

    Fuel consumption (l/100 km)

    City
    4.6 (manual), 4.6 (automatic)

    Highway
    3.7 (manual), 3.8 (automatic)

    Combined
    4.2 (manual), 4.2 (automatic)

    Engine position: Rear

    Transmission: Automated, sequential 6-speed transmission (softip)
    Last edited by nerudite; 13 Sep 2005 at 3:16 PM.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    Not sure if they're legal to sell in the U.S. I know DaimlerChrysler pulled back on their plans to market them in the U.S. but I'm not sure if it was due to legal issues or something else. They had plans to hit the U.S. market with a 4 door version and even a Smart "SUV". I think that's all been scrapped now.

    They seem to have done very well here - see quite a few roaming the streets of Toronto.
    There were articles within the past couple of months saying that two-seat Smarts will be available in the USA sometime in 2006. They mainly needed modifications to pass USA crash-test and emissions standards. A small handfull of test versions are already on USA roads in a couple of markets.

    Now, fit one with a trailer ball (I assume that they will be able to handle a motorcycle trailer to carry the luggage) and go roadtripping!

    As for theose European 'minicars', USA 'street legal' standards are much more strict than those in Europe and I have serious doubts that they will pass muster without changes in those laws. They will be otherwise be treated in a manner similar to how 'Gators' and other similar small utility vehicles are treated (they cannot legally operate on public roads in the USA). ALL powered vehicles (including mopeds and related small cycles) must also be registered in order to legally operate on USA roads.

    Mike

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