Is Small the Next Big Thing?

America still loves large cars, but the auto industry is hedging its bets. With knockout style, a fleet of sexy little cars is on the way

Ryann Dekat felt like a petite in a Big and Tall store. Shopping for a new car, she wanted something small, cheap and fuel efficient--the last thing most carmakers want to sell, since the big profits are in gas-guzzling SUVs and sedans with large engines. Test-driving drab cars like the Nissan Sentra left her underwhelmed. Then she spotted the Mazda3, a sporty four-cylinder hatchback launched in 2003. You might think of hatchbacks as wheezy econoboxes from the 1970s. But Dekat, 22, a loan processor from Dallas, liked the Mazda's svelte style and pep; she pictured herself blasting U2 out the windows...

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