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Here’s How Much Bigger Modern Cars Get With Each Redesign

Car enthusiasts are constantly talking about how modern cars tend to get bigger with each successive redesign. The traditional complaint from car enthusiasts seems to be that modern cars are larger, less enjoyable, and less connected to the road than their predecessors — and that each redesign takes them further down that path.

But just how true is this? I’ve wondered just how much cars are growing — so I’ve retrieved the length figures, over time, of seven popular modern cars. Now you can see exactly how much bigger they’ve gotten over the last few years or decades. Are these increasing lengths really "ruining" the character of these cars? That’s for you to decide — or maybe it’s for me to rant about in a future column.

BMW 3 Series Sedan

1982-1991 (E30): 170.2 inches
1992-1998 (E36): 174.5 inches
1999-2005 (E46): 176.0 inches
2006-2011 (E90): 178.0 inches
2012-present (F30): 182.0 inches

Chevy Corvette

1963-1967 (C2): 179.3 inches
1968-1981 (C3): 182.1-185.3 inches
1983-1996 (C4): 176.5 inches
1997-2004 (C5): 179.7 inches
2005-2013 (C6): 174.6 inches
2014-present (C7): 176.9 inches

Dodge Grand Caravan

1984-1990: 190.5 inches
1991-1995: 192.8 inches
1996-2000: 199.6 inches
2001-2007: 200.5 inches
2008-2016: 202.5 inches
2017-present (Pacifica): 203.6 inches

Ford Explorer

1991-1994: 184.3 inches
1995-2001: 190.7 inches
2002-2005: 189.5 inches
2006-2010: 193.4 inches
2011-present: 197.1 inches

Honda Civic sedan

1984-1987: 164.0 inches
1988-1991: 166.5 inches
1992-1995: 173.0 inches
1996-2000: 175.1 inches
2001-2005: 175.4 inches
2006-2011: 177.0 inches
2012-2015: 178.1 inches
2016-present: 182.3 inches

Toyota Camry

1983-1986: 173.2 inches
1987-1991: 178.0 inches
1992-1996: 188.0 inches
1997-2001: 189.8 inches
2002-2006: 189.2 inches
2007-2011: 189.2 inches
2012-2017: 190.9 inches
2018-present: 191.3 inches

Volkswagen Jetta

1980-1984: 168.1 inches
1984-1992: 171.1 inches
1994-1998: 173.2 inches
1999-2005: 172.4 inches
2005.5-2011: 179.3 inches
2011-present: 182.8 inches

Of course, the automotive industry trend is largely "bigger, bigger, bigger" with each passing redesign. But there are a few noteworthy surprises. For instance, both the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Jetta have a period where they don’t really grow — even though the most recent versions of both models have grown substantially. The Toyota Camry ballooned in 1992 — but it hasn’t changed much since then. And like a Hollywood celebrity desperate to keep getting starring roles later in life, the Corvette never seems to get any bigger with age. Find a car for sale

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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23 COMMENTS

  1. There is a reason they do this, from a marketing standpoint…..manufacturers want you to stay with their brand, and they realize the easiest way to do that is to keep you loyal to the specific model you chose in the first place. Of course, as the average driver gets older and wealthier, they tend to want each successive car they buy to be bigger and more luxurious. So to accommodate that, X model gradually gets bigger, more opulent and more expensive, and eventually model Y is introduced to take its former place as the smallest car in the lineup.

    There is also evolving safety regulation to consider. Cars the size of the civic CRX and NA miata would never pass present day collision specs well enough to instill confidence in the average driver, larger size is a sure fix for that. Have you noticed that trunk lids are much higher off the ground than they used to be?…..rear end collision ratings.
  2. Would be interesting to compare the interior volume also.  When the 2015 Mustang came out it seemed to have about the same interior space as my 88 but the outside dimensions were much bigger.  I looked them up and the 15 had like 1/2″ more shoulder room but the rest of measurements were relatively the same as my 88. 

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