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Bigger Is Better - Offcamber - James Tate Editorial

James Tate
Jun 1, 2006
0606_sccp_01_z+bigger_is_better+james_tate Photo 1/1   |   Bigger Is Better - Offcamber - James Tate Editorial

Cars are getting bigger and it pisses me off. It's great that Honda is releasing the Fit, because it fits into the hole left by the ever-expanding Civic, but should the Civic really have grown so damn much in the first place? And how small is the Fit anyway? It's actually about half an inch longer and about the same width as a 1991 Civic hatchback.

And speaking of the Civic, that car is now just two inches shorter than a 1987 Accord LXi, and more than two inches wider. And for that matter, an Accord is now the size of a small ice cream truck. What's happening? The next thing we know, a Civic is going to be the size of an S-Class and a Fit will compete with an ES300.

Sports cars are no exception either-do we need a Porsche 911 that's twice the size of the original body-draped-around mechanicals design? The current car needs NINETEEN-inch wheels just to look correctly proportioned. Nineteen-inch wheels are inherently compromised, for a number of technical reasons that are beyond the scope of this column, not the least of which being the management of massive unsprung weight. One has to wonder if there are really people out there who are saying with each new model year, "I just wish it was a little bit bigger, oh, and heavier too.

The same madness that began when the Hummer became available for civilian purchase in 1995 rages on in the truck segment. If your F350 isn't big enough, you can always buy an International CXT, which is a crew-cab-dwarfing 21 feet long and a King Kong smashing 14,500 lbs. on the truck scales. That's longer than three 6-foot people lying head to foot, and just shy of six Honda Fits heavy.

So how could this expansion be happening in a time when, more than any time in history, we should be conserving? Barring a few environmentally friendly exceptions, bigger cars need bigger engines. And bigger engines need more fuel. There are more big, heavy cars on the road now than ever before, and they seem to be multiplying like spores. So it would seem that we need to create space on the road, not occupy as much of it as possible.

Maybe we asked for big cars. Maybe everyone likes them and I just have my head in my dark place. But did anyone ever really complain about the Civic being too small? I thought its size was one of its most endearing characteristics. And besides, those who needed more space could always buy an Accord.

I'm not sure this onslaught of massive automobiles is entirely the fault of the American people. Admittedly, we're a portly bunch, statistically speaking. But we're not too fat to actually fit inside our cars. Not yet, anyway.

Getting back to the small car segment, we should enjoy Honda's new Fit as a relatively small car while we still can-before the day it balloons to 760Li size, Civics come with 22-inch wheels, and Accords have three axles.James TateAssociate Senior Editor

By James Tate
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