Cars are getting bigger and bulkier: why?

Cars are getting bigger and bulkier: why?

Cars are getting bigger and bulkier

Over the last few years we have witnessed a real growth in terms of size, but also of price, of cars of all kinds; from city cars to small cars, from sedans to SUVs. Even if the increase in overall dimensions was recorded on a large scale, we believe that it was the more compact cars that paid the most.

Let's take a look at the 1974 Volkswagen Polo, the very first built; the difference with the current model is important, but to give you more context the current Polo is as big as the first Golf from 1973. In almost 50 years, the Polo has grown by 40 centimeters in length and 20 in width. Ok, 48 years of difference could actually be too many, let's analyze the 1999 Polo 6N2 with the 2021 6W: the images below made on the comparison site we believe they speak for themselves.

--> Very similar speech for the very famous Volkswagen Golf which, since its inception until today, as well as gaining a pair of goalkeepers, has gained several kilos and centimeters:

--> Still remaining in Germany, another striking example of "grown up" cars is given by the Porsche 911; you will surely have seen some images in recent years, but here the differences are truly abysmal, so much so that the current 992 looks like a sporty "bison" on wheels. Without going too far back in time, between a 1993 993 and a 2022 992 there are almost 30 centimeters of difference (in length) in favor of the more recent model.

And in the Bel Paese? In Italy it is impossible not to mention the legendary Fiat Panda (we have put two 4×4 variations under the magnifying glass) and we don't have much to tell:

--> But what are the real reasons behind this growth?

The first of all is certainly safety: modern cars must (fortunately dare we say) pass a series of tests and to do so they must integrate sensors, wiring, airbags or simply "resist" impacts with a studied deformation at the table. Collisions, as defined by EuroNCAP, are not only frontal but also lateral, active and passive; in addition, the car must also offer good protection for pedestrians and cyclists. In short, all elements that weigh on the design and oblige the manufacturers to follow a precise pattern, an element that tends to make new generation cars rise.

A second point, as surreal as it may seem, is linked to the habitability and dimensions of people from the post-war period to today. A first testimony of this aspect comes from Richard Parry-Jones, Ford developer, who in 1998 declared to the press of the time that the Focus was significantly larger than the Escort "because" of the size of the people who, after the war, were less slender and more fleshy. The Ford Focus is just one example, but Range Rover has also grown tremendously, gaining inch by inch throughout its generations.

The design is certainly another aspect that has weighed heavily on the dimensions of the cars; over the past few years the wheels have continued to grow in size to offer an increasingly "aggressive" and sporty overall appearance. It doesn't matter what type of car is considered, nowadays almost all of them boast large alloy wheels, superior to the past, combined with tall and necessarily wide tyres. Tires and alloy wheels move hand in hand, if you weren't to increase the width of the wheel as well as the height, you would end up with motorcycle wheels. Little intriguing on a 2-ton SUV. Big tires mean large wheel arches which inevitably widen the track of the car if you are looking for a worthy turning radius.

Car manufacturers almost always follow each other and the expansion of a model is guided by the strategy devised by another brand or competitor. From time to time there are courageous manufacturers who try to break "this vicious circle" by maintaining the width of a model (the new Evoque has almost identical dimensions to the old one) or even by slightly reducing its dimensions, which Peugeot recently managed to accomplish .

It is a real paradox; roads have an almost fixed width and the imperative to reduce CO2 emissions, and increase the range of electric vehicles, should surely invite manufacturers to create more compact, lighter and more agile solutions. The batteries weigh, cutting through the air with increasingly prominent front sections is counterproductive and having a large mass to move aggravates performance; is it really worth it?

Ironically, as if all this weren't enough, the last few decades have been marked by the idea of ​​"offering a lot for a little". Now the market is in total countertrend, every year the models grow in size, in length and in width, offering less and less but a higher figure. While on the one hand an increase in length could have a limited impact on buyers' pockets, an increase in width instead requires a much more in-depth study which must involve many aspects, such as the dashboard, the crash structure, the wheels, the tyres, the suspension arms and more.

Finally, soundproofing is another fundamental point not to be overlooked; even if the desire is now to switch to mostly silent cars, such as some compromises linked to tire rolling, modern cars have had to follow precise soundproofing processes to be less noisy in everyday driving. The passenger compartments are therefore "more padded" to offer a more pleasant drive in all situations.

The call of the EuroNCAP

The greater the weight of a car, the more force is required to brake it. It goes without saying that, in the event of an accident, as weight increases, the risks for the occupants of any other vehicles involved may increase. Precisely for this reason, EuroNCAP has recently emphasized the problem relating to the weight of new cars, highlighting how it has increased over the last decade. For example, segment D cars (the sedans par excellence) have grown, on average, by 200 kg: crazy, isn't it?

Such a substantial difference can have an impact in the event of a collision and for this very reason EuroNCAP has underlined the need to adopt adequate shock absorption structures, together with increasingly effective driving assistance systems, to avoid possible unpleasant events. Of course, the batteries play a very important role here and we could almost say that the weight of the electrics is closely linked to this element; a clear example is represented by the numerous Plug-in SUVs that touch the limits of the B license due to the presence of a battery with the same capacity as a small (electric) utility vehicle.

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