Compact cars to top sales in the United States this year image

American drivers’ preference for midsize sedans and pickup trucks might soon be history, as more people are choosing small cars like the Chevrolet Cruze and even smaller ones like the Honda Fit.

Compact cars are expected to outsell midsize ones as early as this year, for the first time in at least two decades, according to a forecast by J.D. Power and Associates. The change in trend is caused by high gas prices and car retail prices, but also by the fact that modern small cars are more spacious than in the past and have many of the same features as larger cars.

Five years ago, automakers sold nearly 250,000 more midsize cars than compact cars in the United States as gas was cheaper and model lineups were smaller. By 2015, J.D. Power expects compact and subcompact cars to reach 20 percent of sales, compared with only 14 percent for midsize cars.

America’s best-selling car for most of the past 15 years has been the mid-sized Toyota Camry, with the Japanese carmaker offering a new version since this fall, which is cheaper than the old model and offers 35 mpg. However, the Camry is facing tough competition from smaller cars such as the Hyundai Elantra, $5,000 cheape and 5 mpg more economical. Elantra sales rose 46 percent to 161,000 through October, while Camry sales fell 9 percent to 251,000. The Chevrolet Cruze and the Honda Civic are close behind the Elantra in the U.S.