Thursday, September 15, 2005


Lesson #2: Americans have screwed up sense of car class size(s).

One thing I've always found of particular interest is the size-queen attitude of Americans as a whole. The "bigger is better" mentality whether it is houses, cars, refrigerators or stereo speakers.

This all came about when looking at the recent announcement from BMW regarding making a bigger "Mini" for America. What many people don't realise is that the original/1st generation Mini Coopers could fit INSIDE the current mini-coopers.

People here see them as "mini" cars, meant for two small people when in reality the original Mini Cooper which is considerably smaller was meant for 4 adults. I'm 6'3" (1.9m) tall and I fit into first geneation Racing Mini's fine (and that's wearing a helmet, and maneuvering around a roll cage).

The concept of car as being something you use for transportation of people is foreign to many Americans. It seems that people feel a car/truck is meant to be an extension of their house/garage/storage locker, and as such has to have room to house everything from kids to pets to boxes upon boxes of crap which really isn't being used for anything except taking up space in the oversized vehicles which are only necessitated by said boxes/mentality of storing them in an automobile. Stupid.. yes.

Back on topic. The current Mini Cooper is a "Compact Car" in the US. There is no equivalent to the "Micro" car class in the US. For a better example of sizing, look at the VW Bora (1999-2005.5 Jetta). In the United States, it is a compact car, in Europe it is a mid-sized car. I use the term "in Europe" loosely, as I'm going by the general motoring press which I read routinely beit French, Italian, English, Dutch, or German.

If we want to talk Micro-Cars, we need to start talking about the Ford Ka, the VW Polo (which is getting larger as each generation progresses), the Smart car, the Nissan Sunny, the Fiat Cinquincento, etc. ad nauseum.

Many of those cars listed above are what most Americans really need for their everyday business whether it is commuting to work over the vast expanses of land we have here (my commute is 39km (a little over 24 miles) each way through long winding single lane country roads, including some pea gravel and short bursts of highway expanse. The concept of driving an SUV which weighs in at 2.5 tons (2.2 tonnes) getting something like 15mpg (almost 6.4 kilometers per liter) is outlandish, yet Americans as a whole don't see anything wrong with this.

It boils down to the issue of what they need vs. what they've been conditioned to think that they need.

I smile when I see a family driving in a VW Golf TDI because it tells me that they have more common sense than the next person, driving alone in their monstrosity of an SUV. I personally am quite happy with my most recent automotive purchase, but I'll leave that for another discussion.


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