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Compact cars getting bigger

This is a discussion on Compact cars getting bigger within the Talk Car forums, part of the Tech Support Forum category. Notice how the compact and subcompact cars from the 80's and 90's were a lot smaller than they are today?


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Old 02-19-2008, 09:27 PM   #1
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Notice how the compact and subcompact cars from the 80's and 90's were a lot smaller than they are today? A Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic compact nowadays is as big as a mid-size car from the early 90's. Sure, engines have become more fuel-efficient, but the increased size and power of the new compacts have all but erased the gains in economy!

In the late 1980's, GM created the budget Geo brand, and one of the first models was the Metro compact. It featured a 1.0L straight-3 rated at 55hp, and got around 50MPG. A 49hp model was also available, which got almost 60MPG.

So why is it that, despite better, more efficient engines, modern cars cannot reach that level of fuel economy? As I said before, compacts have grown in size, but nowadays, even the smallest cars have over 100hp (8th gen. Honda Civic has a 1.6L straight-4 rated at 123hp, up to a 2.0 with 198hp. A new Mini has a 1.6L straight-4 with 120hp.)

So why can't we build compacts like they did 15 years ago? With today's improved efficiency, combined with yesterday's design, I'm sure we can easily pass the Metro's 50MPG. Why not tune down the engine to 50-60hp, and make them smaller to early 1990's levels? It was perfectly adequate back then, and I'm sure speed limits haven't increased now to render the 100+hp necessary. For the everyday commuters that most of us are, why not?
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Old 02-20-2008, 06:08 AM   #2
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The EPA changed the way they measure fuel econonomy. Today's tests are reality based. In the older test, vehicles were tested under optimal conditions. Steady speeds, temperatures, etc. Today's tests take into account stop and go driving, uneven speeds, uphill driving, bad weather, etc. Much more realistic results.
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Old 02-20-2008, 02:09 PM   #3
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but there's also the user reported fuel economy, which, over all the years of the first generation, averaged around 47-50mpg. Even so, I still think it's possible. A 0.9 or 1.0 vee- or straight-4, and a size similar to a Mini or a Smart Fortwo (which are classified as superminis, but back in 1990 would be subcompacts, which are comparatively bigger).
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Old 02-21-2008, 07:44 PM   #4
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Well I think what is happening today is that the compact car no longer is the smallest available automobile.

You have Super mini ,Sub-Compact, Compact, then Mid-Size, Full-Size Sedans.

For instance Honda finally released the Fit, smaller than the civic great power/weight ratio. Nissan released the Versa, meant to be smaller than the Sentra, Toyota released Scion brands and Yaris models smaller than the corolla.

Auto makers are making a clear boundary between the catagories.

Even Mercedes is thinking about jumping in below the compact range with the Smart cars like beefer1 mentioned.

But other than the stricter EPA test you also have the stricter safety standards.

The geo is probably can not pass all of the new safety test. Manufacturers are trying their best to keep the cars in the 4star+ range which = more weight

More weight = less fuel efficiency
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Old 02-21-2008, 08:01 PM   #5
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But the main point here is that they're getting more powerful as well. So why not tune down the engine, 70hp is a good place?

PS The Smart Fortwo has been in the European market since 1998, and launched in Canada in 2004. They have a 1.0 l3 engine rated at 70hp @ 5800.

PPS On NHTSA crash tests, the Metro got a 3 star racing on front impact driver safety and 4 stars on passenger safety. Pretty decent for such a small car.

PPPS subcompacts now would be compacts back then. And we hardy have any superminis around. (Mini Cooper could be one, but later models are quite powerful, and get only around 30MPG. Smart Fortwo. And that's pretty much it. They had much more subcompacts than we have superminis).
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Old 02-18-2009, 06:55 PM   #6
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Today’s engines are more efficient than ever. The problem is, those improvements in efficiency are negated as the engines and cars swell in size. I’d like to see what our current car models would get for mileage with smaller engines and bodies.
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