Recently by Eric Peters: V2V: The End of Driving . . . ByYou,Anyhow
If you’re trying to decide whether to buy a bigger – or smaller – car, you might want to consider some of the following pros and cons:
Small cars usually perform better with manual transmissions
This is because they usually have smaller – and lower torque at higher RPM – engines. This means you have to get the engine revving to get the car moving. Or at least, moving quickly. With a manual, this is easy. You raise the RPMs, let out the clutch – and off you go. With an automatic, not so much. It takes a moment for the engine to build up speed (RPMs) after you push down on the gas pedal with the transmission in Drive – a moment or two for the engine to get into the higher range of its powerband, where it makes its power – and torque. In the meanwhile, other cars are passing you by.
Most small (four cylinder) engines have torque peaks well above 4,000 RPM – and don’t make much torque at all in the idle to 2,000 or so RPM range – the engine speed you’re starting out at from a red light.
As an example, the ’12 Kia Soul I recently reviewed (see here for that) had a 1.6 liter engine with a torque peak at 4,850 RPM. It also made very little torque – at any engine speed. Maximum torque from this engine is just 123 ft.-lbs. – not a lot to get 2,615 lbs. of vehicle moving.
The result of a small engine with not much torque at all – and whatever torque there is way up there in the powerband – teamed up with an automatic transmission – is usually sluggish performance. Especially when accelerating from a standstill.
Bigger cars, in contrast, usually have bigger engines – sixes and sometimes eights. These engines produce more torque – and at lower engine RPM. For example: The full-size Chrysler 300?s big V-8 produces tremendous torque – 394 ft.-lbs. – at 4,200 RPM. Much of this prodigious torque is also available at lower speeds – making it ideal for pairing with an automatic transmission. A big car with a stick can be plenty of fun to drive – but you usually won’t lose much in the way of performance by going with the automatic, if you prefer to let the transmission do your shifting for you.
Smaller cars are usually less crashworthy
This one’s obvious – or ought to be. But the way crashworthiness ratings are published can be very misleading – because they don’t rank cars in absolute terms but only against other cars within their class of car. In other words, a compact is compared to other compacts – and a full-size car compared to other full-size cars. Compact cars are not compared with full-size cars. So, a compact with a 5 Star rating may be superior to another compact with a 4 star rating. But it’s still probably inferior to a full-size car with a 4 star rating. As a rule, the larger (and heavier) the vehicle, the more crashworthy the vehicle.