Most folks start expanding sideways after a certain age, but why do cars have to do the same?
Other examples abound – Honda Civic, VW Golf, Renault Clio, Audi 80/A4, Mercedes-Benz 190E/C-Class, even Ferrari’s mid-engined V8 supercars (compare a 1980s 308 GTB with a current 488 GTB).
This inexorable expansion is likely down to some customers reporting that they would like “more space”. To this I say: These people should just buy the next model up instead.
Clueless folk like them are missing the point of a smaller car and its virtues such as agility, efficiency, ease of parking and general handiness about town. Why choose a compact car and then complain that it’s too small?
Which is why I love the thinking behind the new Mazda MX-5. The original MX-5 is brilliantly small and lithe, but with each successive generation, it has grown slightly but inexorably.
However, Mazda has cried “enough” and reversed that trend, so that the new fourth generation model is even shorter, lengthwise, than the first.And it’s been done very cleverly. The seats, for instance, use a type of resin webbing for support instead of the usual coil springs, allowing them to be thinner and lighter. A smaller folding top eats up less space when folded, so the boot is now bigger despite the rear overhang being shorter.
Because of all this, the roadster is lighter, wieldier and more efficient, and it outperforms its predecessor even with engines which are no more powerful.
PARK any modern car next to its predecessor of two, three generations back, and without exception, the latter will look dwarfed.
Take BMW’s 3 Series, for example. It’s a great car, but it has long abandoned its original remit as compact sports saloon.
The first version, the 1975 E21the 1975 E21, is 4.35m long, but the current F30 model has stretched to 4.62m. That’s bigger even than the first-generation 5 Series (which stands at 4.60m).
That perennial enthusiast’s favourite, the Porsche 911, exhibits this mid-life bloat as well. From its pocket-sized, wieldy 1960s original, it grew massively in 1996 when the water-cooled 996-generation arrived with its all-new larger body, and it expanded yet again in 2012 with the current t 991 edition. So much so that space has freed up
(literally) for Porsche to slot in a smaller model below, the Cayman. It’s odd that if you want something with the handiness of the original 911, you don’t get a new 911 but its junior sibling instead.