In the United States, bigger used to be better.  We wanted everything supersized, and we wanted homes where the deer and the antelope play. When you sold us a car, you had to make sure it had seats for at least seven, a big V8 and cup holders -- lots of giant cup holders.  We had Big Gulps to drink.

Oh, how times have changed. Now small is the new super size. Mix together a recession and high gas prices, and throw in a population with more empty nesters and urbanites, and you have a recipe for people who are finally ready for small cars.  And automakers, even the luxury-minded ones, are ready to oblige.  Check out the itty-bitty cars that may soon be taking over your local dealerships and have SUVs quaking in their radials

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Expected Release Date: Early 2011

Expected Price: Unknown

Mercedes is a premium brand no matter where you go, but in Europe and Asia, the company is known for more than its opulent sedans and SUVs. They also make surprisingly nice compact cars.  The Mercedes-Benz B-Class is a small people hauler that's already available in Canada.  With American buyers smarting from a recession and remembering $4-a-gallon gas, Mercedes thinks the time may be right to bring the B-Class south of the (Canadian) border. They're even using the B-Class to test fuel cell technology.

Tata Nano

Expected Release Date: 2011

Expected Price: Around $5,000

Of course, not all new small cars will be tiny luxury rides.  Tata, and Indian car maker, is also planning on bringing its subcompact, the Nano, to the U.S. Until now, the Nano has been known simply as the cheapest car in the word -- it costs about $2,000 in India -- and soon it could be the cheapest car in the U.S. The diminutive Nano has a 30 horsepower engine, and Tata is planning on bringing it to Europe in 2011, with a move to the U.S. soon after. The Nano won't be Tata's first time in the U.S. and European markets -- the company bought Land Rover and Jaguar from Ford a few years ago.

The Scion iQ

Expected Release Date: Late 2010

Expected Price: Just Under $15,000

The Scion iQ, which bowed at the 2009 New York Auto Show, has just 93 horsepower and slides in at just under 10 feet long, but Toyota's youth-oriented brand is betting it will be a hit.  The iQ is already sold as a Toyota overseas, but the company thinks its quirky, Smart Fortwo-esque looks will play better with younger consumers in the U.S.  One thing the iQ has over the Fortwo is a third seat; while the Smart Fortwo is just for two, the iQ has a single backseat. Reports indicate the iQ could make its stateside debut in early 2011.

Aston Martin Cygnet

Expected Release Date: Unknown

Expected Price: Unknown

You only have to look at the Aston Martin Cygnet to see that super smart cars have gone from being bottom-dollar options to full-on status symbols.  The Cygnet, which will first be only available to current Aston martin owners, is based on the Toyota/Scion iQ, though it features a nicer interior and its own range of colors. Aston plans to bring the little car out in Europe in 2010 -- they've already started an online campaign featuring urban free running and have been releasing photos to the press. No word yet on when or if the Cygnet might make it stateside, but we're betting the boys from Entourage will stick with their DB9s. 

Fiat 500

Expected Release Date: Early 2011

Expected Price: Around $16,000

Fiat left the U.S. in the 1980s, but with the company's merger with Chrysler, it's making a comeback, and the company has hitched its hopes to a Mini Cooper-sized compact.  The Fiat 500 is one of Europe's most popular cars, and Fiat is planning to bring four varieties of it the North America. When the Fiat hits our shores in 2011, buyers will be able to choose from a hatchback, convertible, sport model and even a station wagon.  The station wagon has a stretched wheelbase -- something that hasn't been available on the models sold in Europe. 

Audi A1

Expected Release Date: Unknown

Expected Price: Unknown

Audi already has a premium compact with the A3, but apparently even that’s just too big. While the A3 takes on compacts like the VW Golf, the A1 fights in the Mini Cooper's weight class.  Audi debuted the first A1 concept at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. The production model is expected to launch at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. Initially the A1 was headed for the U.S., but now reports indicate that Audi may delay, thinking that that A1 will be too expensive for the U.S. market.  However, if other luxury subcompacts sell well, you can bet Audi will rush to get in on the act.