Unlike Europe, America has never really embraced small cars. In the midwest large cars rule, in the south its the pickup. God help you if your driving a Smart Car on the Interstates .
In America, people buy small cars because:
A. They live in urban areas where space is limited.
B. Because they are economical.
C. They’re fun to drive
If you live in nidtown Sacraemento the answer might be A . If you live in Placerville and work in Rancho Cordova , its probably B Finally, if your under 30 it might be C
I fall into B and C.(I’m a few decades older than the typical person who buys a small car.) Recently, I wedged myself into a Mazda Miata (ouch) I own a small GM car, the car averages 23 miles to the gallon in the city and on the highway it average about 31 miles to the gallon. I feel less pain at the pumps than most people. Seven dollars will get me to San Francisco. My Car is nearly 10 years old, with the exception of a worn interior, it drives fine but I’m thinking about a change.
MPG MPG MPG MPG
40 MPG Highway
2013 Fiat 500
38 MPG Highway
32 MPG Highway
2013 GMC Terrain
31 MPG Highway
2013 Audi A4
25 MPG Highway
2013 Ram 1500
While you were sleeping,cars, SUV’s and trucks have become more fuel efficient. Auto manufacturers quietly replaced six cylinder engines with turbo charged four cylinder engines. V12’s with 8 cylinders turbocharged engines and 8 cylinder engines with turbocharged sixes. Land Rover to BMW’s– Mercedes to Jaguars all offer 4 cylinder engines. Ford is developing a 3 cylinder and clean burning diesels ,common in Europe will be optional on many 2014 cars.
The average MPG for 2013 mid size cars sold in the US and Canada is 35 miles per gallon. This is more than my much smaller four banger. Non hybrid Honda Accords, Nissan Altima and the new Mazda 6 are getting nearly forty miles per gallon . While many smaller car like the Fiat 300(turbo) and the Mini Cooper get 34 and 35 miles per gallon.
The higher mileage is often achieved by weight reduction . Six, seven and eight speed transmissions, and Continoeusly Variable Transmissions (CVT) .
Six Speed Transmission
A Nissan CVT Transmission
Unlike a standard transmission that uses gears the CVT uses belts. On a standard transmission you start in first gear, then second, then…….. The CVT can constantly change the relationship of engine speed to car speed. So you don’t feel the car shift as you would with a conventional transmission. The controls for a CVT are the same as an automatic. As you can see the CVT is smaller and lighter than a standard transmission.
The next change is steeering
This is a standard Rack and Pinion Power Steering
With an electric motor, mounted closely, providing the assist, they have small packaging; they’re mechanically simpler; they’re touted as more reliable; and they weigh a lot less. And because EPS only uses energy when you’re turning it boosts fuel economy and lowers emissions.
Finally the Start Stop Systems. In the US and Canada this system was first seen on Hybrids. When ever the car came to a complete stop, the engine would turn off. Step on the gas the engine would start. The Start stops system is said to boast fuel economy by 10 percent. and reduces emissions.
Last year, I reviewed many of these cars The CVT is a learning curve, press the accelerator hard and briefly there is a lot of engine noise, almost like accidentally putting the car in neutral without the clang or the jerk . But the noise is disconcerting.
I am not a big fan of the electric steering. Nissan and Ford seems to get it right, however in some cars like the Camry, there was no feel. (For those of you old enough to remember it was like driving an 50, 60ish car with power steering).
The stop start systems was seamless in nearly every car except the new BMW.
Back 2 Me
As many of you know I am a big man. ( Duh-BIG MAN RIDES!) . Because of my size, people often ask why don’t I drive a larger vehicle. I like small cars because they are fun to drive. The cars are often tight but not uncomfortable. For instance, I wouldn’t buy a Ford Fiesta, Toyota Corolla, or Fiat 500 they’re all fine cars but for me it would be the equivalent of pulling hairs out of my nose. On the other side of the spectrum, I’d rather wear bulletproof mint green polyester pants with a Velcro stays then drive a Camry ( Note: to Camry Owners-its a fine car ) Malibu or Taurus.
This year I have driven two midsize cars that were entertaining (close to fun) to drive and a powerful compact that was outrageous to drive. A few of years ago my decision would be easy. This year not so.. Both of the midsize cars get better mileage than the small car. Having the extra room would be nice. My friends would actually talk during the drive instead sitting in angry painful silence. ……The world has gone mad.