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Here’s Why I Like That Cars Are Getting Bigger

I recently had a revelation about bigger cars. If you don’t know about bigger cars, allow me to provide a little background: Every single time a car is redesigned, it becomes a little bigger, because people want more interior space and more trunk space and more room for their pets and their stuff and their kids than the old one. So each car grows by an inch or two whenever a new one comes out, and if you add this up over time, modern cars are like seven feet longer than they were just five years ago.

OK, that may be an exaggeration, but you get my point. The modern 5 Series isn’t too much smaller than a 20-year-old 7 Series. The modern Civic is the size of a 20-year-old Accord. You can apply this to basically any car from any automaker, and it’ll be true: They’re all growing, and they’re all getting so big that our definitions — "midsize" and "small" — are almost laughable, based on what these words defined 20 years ago.

Now, most car enthusiasts are wildly opposed to the large-ifying of cars, for a few reasons. One is that as cars get bigger you get less connected to the road, and you sort of enjoy the whole driving experience less. You start to feel like you’re sitting on a cloud — or maybe in a truck — rather than in a car. So you’re removed from the road, but it’s not just that: Larger cars mean more luxury, and more items car enthusiasts deem "unnecessary." Most car enthusiasts of today think the early- to mid-2000s was sort of the period where sizing should’ve stopped, and modern cars are just bloated.

And, to an extent, I agree with this. But I’ve just come up with a reason why bigger cars aren’t a bad thing: because they’re creating smaller cars.

Has anyone else noticed this? The Audi A4 has gotten so big that Audi now needs something smaller in their lineup — so we get the A3, which is a fun little compact car, and it’s about the size of the "B5" Audi A4, which was sold from 1996 to 2001, and which enthusiasts love so much. The C-Class has gotten so big that Mercedes has given us the small CLA, with its peppy little AMG variant. The 3 Series has made room for the 2 Series, the Civic has made room for the Fit, and this is even going on in the SUV world: Small is becoming hot, with the subcompact crossover checking in as by far the hottest segment in the industry today.

No, you may not love larger cars, but you have to admit this is pretty neat: the large cars you may not like are getting so large they’re making room for smaller cars you can love. And I have to tell you that I LOVE the Audi RS3, I LOVE the CLA45 AMG, I LOVE the BMW M2 and frankly I love this whole renaissance of small cars that are taking the place of the formerly-small-but-now-midsize cars. No, I don’t love the increasing size of everything — but for this reason alone, I’m OK with the ever-large-ifying automotive industry.

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

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16 COMMENTS

  1. I really wish car sizes had stayed the same.  The ’94 civic I had in college was plenty big enough in for people to sit in the backseat of a 2-door.  Plenty of trunk space as well.

  2. But Doug, these aren’t new cars. The A3, for instance, is basically what an A4 should have been. And the A4 is what the A6 used to be. They just get new numbers/names. The real new car is the A1.

  3. On the personal consumption side, I “downsized” from a Benz 1996 E320 to a 2012 C350.  The interior is noticeably smaller, especially in the back seat area, and the car fits into smaller parking spots so maybe I’m an outlier?

  4. Non car guys be like: the bigger the better and then they buy a pickup truck that scored poor rating in a crash test and then they crash cuz they drive horribly thinking the car is safe and DIE!!

  5. A prime example is the Cadillac CTS it went from a midsize car 03-07 to a executive size car. Then Cadillac brings out the ATS which is slightly smaller than the gen1 CTS and they call the ATS a compact car.

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