© INZEOS New Mini (left) is much larger than the original.
We all acknowledge that cars have evolved over the years. Perhaps the most overlooked change is the gradual increase in size and weight. During the 80’s the average ‘small’ car in the UK weighed around 1000kg. Now the average weight is around 1300kg. Cars manufactured back then were much simpler in design. A car was little more than a capsule with an engine and wheels that helped transport human beings from A to B. It had a steering wheel, pedals, dials, seats and little more besides. Fewer parts made them easier to repair. The cars of today are very different entities and we are to blame. Our expectations from a car have changed and so it is only natural that designers have had to change their philosophy too. We now expect luxuries like satellite navigation, air conditioning, heated seats, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity to name but a few. Incorporating these extra systems all add weight.
What is the problem with more weight? I hear you ask, well weight creates many problems. For example, it becomes increasingly hard to stop a car the more it weighs. Designers compensate for this by developing safety systems like ABS, but these costs are all transferred to us, the consumer. More weight reduces fuel economy, couple this with the ever increasing price of fuel and it is immediately apparent that it is the buyer that suffers the consequences.
Modern cars certainly have their advantages when compared to their predecessors. They transport us in greater comfort and with greater reliability. However if trends do not change then I worry that one day the car will no longer be a blessing for the masses, but the mode of transport for a privileged few. I believe the future of the car relies on a shift in attitude from us, the consumer. We must accept that our cars don’t necessarily have to encompass the technology we use in our homes. Only then will manufacturers be able to produce cars that are accessible to a wider demographic.