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European cars are looking more like their American counterparts (sizewise), whereas American cars are looking more like their European counterparts.
 

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Agreed, I parked my Bertone Coupe once next to a BMW X5 which was twice as big in every plane, yet still had essentially the same accommodation. And my 1980's car, considered quite a porker in its day is now smaller than a current model 911.

The tradeoff is of course safety and equipment levels.
 

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European cars are looking more like their American counterparts (sizewise), whereas American cars are looking more like their European counterparts.
They really don't.

Even 500L looks relatively small on US highways compared to
other vehicles. ;)
 

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Agreed, I parked my Bertone Coupe once next to a BMW X5 which was twice as big in every plane, yet still had essentially the same accommodation. And my 1980's car, considered quite a porker in its day is now smaller than a current model 911.

The tradeoff is of course safety and equipment levels.
I struggle with the idea that it is all about safety and kit.

In the 70s, we had a Daimler (re badged XJ6). It had a 4.2 litre engine that looked like it belonged in a ship and twin fuel tanks that held something over 120 litres. It was huge - as a kid in the back, I felt like king of the world. In terms of spec, the only material difference between this and a modern car was the lack of aircon. Pretty much everything else is there, leccy windows, radio (OK, it's an 8-track...) with plenty of speakers. If I look under the bonnet there is a tonne of space to stuff features like ABS in. Air bags would fit in the seats and dashboard, and presumably modern CAD could make a much better fist of the chassis design.

Yet when you park it next to a modern car, it seems small. Park it next to a 159, and it is positively tiny. It has skinny little wheels (205/70 section - WTF?!), and is just, small.

When you sit inside it, it is still big. Mrs rxe revels in being able to sit cross legged in the passenger seat.

Cars are just massive today, and yet they seem more cramped on the inside!
 

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Side impact bars, air bags in ever possible panel. Really thick pillars. Stance is surely affected by pedestrian and vehicle impact legislation - bumpers, distance between bonnet skin and block. Sharp angles removed, padding introduced. Flab by a thousand additions.

If we banned cars above a certain size or weight, or taxed them prohibitively, would society be worse off? If the directive was to make cars lighter, smaller, less wasteful of resources (including in the longer term), with a longer lifespan (fuelling a long, cheap 2nd-hand market), reducing safety features, limiting outright performance (limit power outputs drastically via tax or tech), would it be a retrograde step?

Alternatively, we're absolutely heading on a road to nowhere. It can't continue.
 

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People seem to want huge cars, or lots of people do at least. Just look at how many Range Rovers are about...

Reasons for wanting these seem to be primarily to fill a void - status and self importance. There is no logical justification for driving around in tonnes of surplus metal and plastic, burning surplus gallons of fuel, wearing out the roads - other than to be wanting to send a message to others... "out of my way, I'm better than you".

Personally I can't stand SUV's more for social reasons than anything else.
 

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I think targeting weight would be a good idea. Doesn't matter if it is electric or diesel, shifting loads of weight about takes energy.

However we live in an age where one major manufacturer (Vauxhall) is basing their entire advertising strategy on the fact that you can get the interweb in their car. Now the interweb is not that heavy, but it does sort of show where people's priorities lie.
 

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Cars are just massive today, and yet they seem more cramped on the inside!
Good observation. I've been in a few new (well, modern era) cars of late that were big outside but a tad pokey inside. I know there's air con gubbins and an airbag behind it, but why does a dash need to be so big? Same with seats. Apologies, I don't remember what car is was, but I thought 'why are the seats so large/thick?' Ok there was probably a side airbag there, and maybe a bigger seat frame is stronger in a shunt (esp a rear impact), but the seats were so big they needed their own seats. Obviously there are reasons for this, so this an observation rather than a criticism.

Just as an interesting engineering exercise, I do wonder whether you could take a car like a Rover P6 - which is not too big outside, and roomy-ish enough inside and probably has pretty good visibility - and get a chap like Gordon Murray to talk us through how it could be bought up to date with modern engineering to make it NCAP safe, but light, quiet, smooth riding, frugal and economical. Can it be done? If it can't, is it because of the cost of strong but lightweight materials? Again, this is just a question based out of curiosity more than anything else.
 

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People want bigger cars with more room and prefer not to die if they hit someone

Todays cars are streets ahead of stuff from the 70s and 80s

From my own experience old cars can be fun as classics but for an everyday proposition moderns are far far better
 

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People want bigger cars with more room
fair point, but are they getting more room? (I only ask because I don't know. Maybe they are.) From recent experience, it seems like the interior exists to accommodate its overstuffed gubbins first, and people second.
 

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The current 500 above sits closer to the lens than the old one, so it'll look like a bigger difference than it actually is.

That being said, yes, the 500 has grown but unlike the mini it's still amongst the smallest cars you see on the road. The Mini is anything but....

Looks like the 911 passenger compartment width stayed about the same, doesn't it?
 

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fair point, but are they getting more room? (I only ask because I don't know. Maybe they are.) From recent experience, it seems like the interior exists to accommodate its overstuffed gubbins first, and people second.
i expect the creature comforts add some weight, but most of it was available back in the 80s as well it's just you only got all electrics, air con etc on a top of the range Mercedes or Jaguar were as nowadays these features are available on any car along with quite a few extra things like sat nav and even a degree of self driving autonomy like adaptive cruise or in tesla's case auto pilot (experiencing that really was like looking into the future)

Most of the weight probably comes down to engineering changes and safety requirements that add structural strength etc, + airbags, most 80s hatchbacks are probably about as safe as a G Whiz and I remember how messed up that looked after a simple 30 mph impact

While I don't plan on having an accident it's nice to know my current Alfa has a load of airbags and a stiff strong shell, just in case.

My previous car (a classic) just had a steal beam that ran through the door in case anyone hit me from the side
 

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I haven't done any research or analysis, which is always the bedrock of a good interweb argument.....

So here's the pitch?

Does the risk justify the cost, effort, aesthetic? How far would we go to further reduce the impact of accidents? Is there a point at which the sheer size of the solution becomes a negative factor overall (poor manoeuvrability, visibility reduced, over-confidence ecouraged etc.)?
 

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I think another factor may be that the cars that used to be considered as small runarounds (Fiat 500, Mini, VW Golf) have now become large brands that are marketed to a wider markets that prioritise extra kit levels and safety. This is no more evident in the larger models (Countryman, 500L, Golf+/estate). Also, don't get me started on Crossovers!

Other small cars are still available, including the Fiat Panda, Renault Twingo, VW Up etc. But they are aimed at the younger market and still have a few safety features and toys in them.

I feel the other factor is that our markets (EU and USA) are nit as massively different as they used to be. Steel is really cheap right now, look at what happened to Tata, and although fuel prices are starting to go up a little again, they're still remarkably low in comparison to the current cost of living. Small European cars, as much as we love them, were made that way out of necessity rather than desire.

Don't get me wrong though, when I used to park my old Volvo up to see that it was smaller than a neighbour's Mini (not quite in length), I had to giggle. It has become a bit of a joke.
 

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I haven't done any research or analysis, which is always the bedrock of a good interweb argument.....

So here's the pitch?

Does the risk justify the cost, effort, aesthetic? How far would we go to further reduce the impact of accidents? Is there a point at which the sheer size of the solution becomes a negative factor overall (poor manoeuvrability, visibility reduced, over-confidence encouraged etc.)?
I personally think that the negative factor point has already been reached with respect to your last point. There are, albeit a small minority, of drivers who seem to think that the size of their car will save then from injury, particularly in lower speed incidents, and push on regardless of who has the true right of way. Amber/red gamblers come to mind and mothers on the school run who are running late and of course those who cannot abide being out of (audio) contact with their friends and drive with their attention on the mobile phone.
 

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With all the safety constraints, pedestrian safety and emissions I do believe it is getting harder and harder for manufacturers.
I don't believe the cars are just bigger and heavier for the hell of it.

I still look at the Mondeo as the latest successor from my first car, a MKIII Cortina, which it is. We saw a Granada as a large car. The last Granada made and according to Wiki was 4572 mm and weighed in at 1430kg (probably the V6). The Mondeo is 4869 mm long and the heaviest is 1554kg. I suppose 125kg heavier is not that bad is it? The size though :eek:

The Cortina was of course the medium size car and the Granada a 'large' car. I suppose the Mondeo is now in the large car section since apart from SUV's they don't do a larger saloon in Europe.
 
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