Compact and sub-compact cars have traditionally fared poorly in North America where motorists have for long benefited from some of the lowest fuel prices in the world. Combine this with the fact that cars are much cheaper in North America than in most other parts of the world and it becomes easy to understand why people have turned their noses at tiny, economical runabouts.

However, rising fuel prices are starting to change the negative perception Americans have towards compact cars, and carmakers like Volkswagen, who offer a range of such models in fuel-conscious Europe, are now considering launching their fuel-sipping models Stateside for the first time. Volkswagen is currently investigating the feasibility of launching compact cars with turbocharged 1.4L motors that could be priced from around $13,000 for North America.

"Small cars like the Polo could be very, very interesting," Volkswagen Group of America Chief Stefan Jacoby told Automotive News. Other possible models "are attractive lifestyle cars that are a little bit SUV-looking and a little van," Jacoby revealed. There’s even talk of introducing the forthcoming minicar range developed along the lines of the RWD up! concept cars (pictured).

Jacoby wants to see VW offer models like the BMW Mini and new Smart minicar, what he calls “lifestyle” vehicles. The biggest problem, however, remains with the marketing of the cars. "Turbocharging is not easy to market. The U.S. customer thinks it is expensive; it is not reliable," he said. "But the future is downsized turbocharged engines" with 1.4L displacement and the new CAFE laws coming into effect over the next decade will likely cement their future in North America.