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A lament to the small car

1 year ago

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Gavin Green | Journalist


1 April 2023

The journey to our ‘green’ future is sprinkled and spattered with inconsistencies and incongruities. Perhaps most absurdly, the cars that almost certainly emit the least amount of carbon over their lifetimes – small petrol hatchbacks – are being eliminated, just as car companies are mandated to make greener vehicles. Go figure.

The death of the small petrol car is not just an environmental own goal, it’s a blow to those who enjoy driving, as well as those with modestly proportioned pockets. Few cars offer a purer behind-the-wheel experience than a small, light, manual petrol-powered hatch. It is my favourite breed of modern car.

But first, let us remind ourselves why the small petrol hatch is falling from favour. As my colleague Andrew English recounted two years ago on The Intercooler, it is expensive to engineer petrol (or diesel) cars to meet tough new emission regulations. The profit margin on small cars is thin, and the scope for price rises limited. Thus, car makers concentrate on building bigger and more profitable models – increasingly SUVs – while simultaneously engineering expensive new electric cars. As Stellantis’ Carlos Tavares points out, the legislation – absurdly – favours big cars.

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