In the past decade, the size of the average car has swelled in the UK*. This growth isn’t limited to the luxury car market. The Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Polo and MINI are now much larger in comparison to their originals. The most recent Nissan Micra is reportedly 22% wider than its 1998 predecessor.
With former models increasing in size over the years, newly released additions to the market match these coveted dimensions. Car manufacturers attribute this increase to numerous factors, including safety and increased occupant size. British car manufacturers have studied and modified designs to suit consumers who are taller and larger than their ancestors. New launches also encourage size adaptation due to the need to differentiate them from other models. Audi launched the Q2 with the intention that buyers would view it as a premium small SUV, therefore the new Q3 was made larger to appeal to a slightly different market.
While cars have scaled up in size, roads widths have remained the same for decades. Small country roads or narrow streets are a challenge for the modern car, so it’s essential for them to take care to avoid car accidents. Less experienced young drivers are at a greater risk of damaging their cars during daily commutes, which may impact the average car insurance cost.
The automotive industry has responded by prioritising safety technology. Safety cells and airbags require space to function, and rigorous impact testing is carried out to evaluate pedestrian protection performance. The latest creations from mainstream car manufacturers, including BMW, Subaru and Ford, feature autonomous emergency braking systems which minimise the force of impact, or prevent it entirely. Drivers may be more prone to the odd bump or scratch when carrying out manoeuvres in larger vehicles, but blind-spot detection systems and reverse park assist technology can make all the difference.
Opinions about the benefits of larger vehicles vary, as some critics consider new models to be excessively sized. However, no longer are cars mostly employed for brief trips to the local greengrocer or school, but for cross-country journeys also. It’s not uncommon to see SUV features on non-SUV cars, as designers incorporate distinct traits to increase sales. As a result, consumers are buying bigger models and encouraging manufacturers to produce more to keep up with demand.
While there is a limit on how far dimensions of 21st century cars can expand, SUVs and crossovers continue to sell. Pressure to reduce CO2 emissions is being tackled through hybridisation and electrification of engines, allowing manufacturers continue to launch modified versions of popular models and new counterparts.
*Work cited: “Rise of the bloater-car - how popular models have ballooned in size” iNews, 11 October 2019, https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/cars/car-size-changes-how-popular-models-have-grown-805331