Can a miniature car gain a foothold in America, land of the super-sized everything? That’s what B.M.W. plans to find out: Last month, the company started selling the Mini Cooper, formerly the flagship vehicle of a British company, in large U.S. cities. So far, the car has done well — you’d have to put your name on a waiting list if you wanted one — but the jury’s still out on whether it can compete against the ever-popular (and, it would seem, ever-growing) sport utility vehicle. The tiny car, which since the 1970s has been the vehicle of choice for celebrities ranging from John Lennon to Kate Moss, is just 12 feet long and 5.5 feet wide, and sells for about $17,000. In cities like New York, where crowding, competition for limited parking, and heavy gasoline taxes make a small car desirable, the Mini Cooper has a niche market. But the question remains: Will it play in Peoria?

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