RE: The downsizing disaster discussion

RE: The downsizing disaster discussion

Wednesday 24th January

The downsizing disaster discussion

Downsizing is inevitable in 2018; PH reflects on or two of its less successful previous attempts



Great to see a Jensen FF adorning the home page of PistonHeads. The FF/Interceptor is a big car, even by today's standards, but that's OK because it also had a big engine - 6.3-litres worth of eye-streamingly inefficient Chrysler V8.

The Peel P50 recently tested by Autocar has a 49cc engine, but that's OK too because the P50 is so small you don't so much get in it as wear it.

What's annoying is the car that promises a lot but delivers little. Dressing disasters up as good ideas is an art form in which the auto industry used to excel. A while back Autocar famously ran a picture of the then-new Range Rover Sport being towed off the test track. Turned out it wasn't a breakdown at all, though. In fact, according to an LR spokesman, it was "the Sport's towhook being tested". See what they did there?


A few years previous to that, I was at the test track (very possibly the same one) crashing a Japanese sporting hatchback into a stupidly-parked MoD Land Rover. At least, that's what it might have looked like to the ignorant observer. What I was actually doing, of course, was "testing the hatch in an impact situation". Along similar lines, my last speeding conviction should never have reached the courts, as I was not speeding. I was actually amassing test data on the feasibility (from a safety perspective) of a 138mph motorway maximum.

In the industry's defence, most of motoring's major letdowns - Ford Edsel, Chevrolet Corvair, Jaguar Polecat (you may have missed that one) - are long since forgotten. There have been more recent ones though. Like the Alfa Romeo 166 Ti.


A road tester once tossed me the keys to one of these. I was immediately suspicious. It's best to be suspicious when a road tester tosses you the keys to something with big wheels, fat tyres, lowered suspension and a swoopy body that looks like it's breaking the speed limit even when it's standing still. Why? Because if the car was any good, the road tester would be keeping it for themselves. That's how it can work on car mags.

The key-tosser's motives were soon revealed. As the tossee, I found it difficult to detect much difference between the Ti's 'standing still' and 'going along' modes. Even with one's big toe firmly embedded in the carpet, the Alfa struggled to shake off a pizza delivery moped, a well-driven double-decker bus and an OAP on a circus unicycle.

Only by peering under the Alfa's bonnet did I discover the awful truth. Not the 'awesome' (to quote Alfa's website at the time) majesty of the 243hp 3.2-litre V6. Not even the 'mighty' vision of the 223hp 3.0-litre. No, this dandied-up mountebank featured the 'unique' disappointment of the 152hp 2.0. It was hard to imagine how a dealer test drive of any 2.0 166 Ti would convert into a sale, even to the most masochistic company car tax dodger.


That muttony Alfa reminded me of a Volkswagen Type 2 microbus I used to own. Its 1.6 flat-four engine seemed a bit too flat, so I had a recon replacement put in. On the van's return I immediately noticed no change whatsoever in its performance, or in its appalling 18mpg fuel consumption figure - a figure which I decided to report, in person, to the mechanic responsible for this frankly rubbish transplant. The follow up plan, which involved ramming an inlet valve up his nose, was cut short by his response. '18mpg?' he marvelled, with total sincerity. 'Really? That's brilliant.'

That mechanic might have been impressed by the Alfa 166 Ti. Generally though, it's not a good idea to put a titchy engine in a big vehicle. I could easily be persuaded to eat a blue loaf, or even to drink bacon-flavoured milk, but I'd never buy a small-engined big car.

A big-engined small car, now that's different. Who wouldn't pay £45k or more for a 444hp RS4-engined Audi A1? How much would you pay for a 500hp Aston V8-engined Fiesta, a 600hp AMG S 63-powered A-Class Merc, or an Alfa Mito (yes, they still sell them) with a 700hp Ferrari 488 GTO lump shoved up its miniskirt? Soon, if the market continues in the way it's going, we may have the chance to test out this sort of proposition.

Author
Discussion

E65Ross

Original Poster:

21,370 posts

147 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
Clearly this author has different thoughts than the one who said smaller engines make for more enjoyable and better cars.

Fastdruid

5,593 posts

87 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
E65Ross said:
Clearly this author has different thoughts than the one who said smaller engines make for more enjoyable and better cars.
Well in general I'd rather lighter cars...but with decent engines. The headline power figure doesn't matter as much to me as the power to weight and I'm less bothered about capacity (although there is no replacement for displacement wink ) as much as being interesting with decent characteristics.

I mean for example for a daily driver a V6 1.8 making 160hp would be great in a <1200Kg car... That would be a sub 7s car.


LandRoverManiac

285 posts

27 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
I think sticking a small engine in a large car is pretty daft and a false economy. I was once in a Skoda Octavia (not a small thing as cars go) with the 1.6 diesel - utterly wheezing, gutless and had to be thrashed to make any kind of progress.

The owner said that it got nowhere near the mpg it was supposed to - likely because you had to work it's socks off to actually get anywhere. See also the PSA 1.6 hdi for another feckless engine bolted into vehicles far larger than it should be.

A bigger understressed engine will generally be nicer to use, in many cases slurp less juice in the real world and probably be a damn sight more durable and robust than the little strimmer motors people seem to opt for.

None of the above applies to a small, light car, where a small revvy engine can be fun. However modern cars are getting fatter and heavier all the time - so that category is getting smaller all the time.

Rant over! =)

Toltec

5,543 posts

158 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
Doesn't always work out that way, way back I had a Mk2 cavalier with the 1.6 engine and I'd average 35 -38 mpg, the loan Sierra 2.3D I had for a while after that never bettered 31mpg in the same use conditions even though it was supposed to do 34mpg in town and 42mpg combined.

More to do with the 1.6 petrol having a fair bit more power (for the time) and not being on WOT whenever any acceleration was needed.

Do the modern small turbos run stoic when cruising, but on boost?

sgtBerbatov

776 posts

16 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
LandRoverManiac said:
The owner said that it got nowhere near the mpg it was supposed to - likely because you had to work it's socks off to actually get anywhere. See also the PSA 1.6 hdi for another feckless engine bolted into vehicles far larger than it should be.
Can confirm. I've a 3008 with a 1.6 HDi and while it pulls alright, especially up a steep hill, it doesn't return the intended MPG and quite frankly could do with a 2.0litre lump.

But, small cars with small engines are bloody great fun. My 107 is a fantastic car, like a go kart. The Corolla I have with a 1.3 litre engine does move fairly well too (better than the 3008 actually). I can't wait to put a 1.8 lump in it one day.
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Jackspistonheadsaccount

76 posts

35 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
More confirmation, I've got the TwinAir MiTo, 875cc two cylinder turbo. Need to wake the turbo to go anywhere at all, alfa claimed 60+ mpg. Computer is currently reading 30.7 mpg &#128580;

Uncle John

1,799 posts

126 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
Jackspistonheadsaccount said:
More confirmation, I've got the TwinAir MiTo, 875cc two cylinder turbo. Need to wake the turbo to go anywhere at all, alfa claimed 60+ mpg. Computer is currently reading 30.7 mpg ??
Wow that is disappointing!!

I'd be upset at that.....

IanCress

4,357 posts

101 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
I was only saying the other day that i'd quite like a go in a 1.0 Mondeo. It's a gutsy little engine in a Fiesta, and I reckon it would still be an interesting proposition in a Mondeo. It would have to be an estate, for full effect.

CDP

5,572 posts

189 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
Toltec said:
Doesn't always work out that way, way back I had a Mk2 cavalier with the 1.6 engine and I'd average 35 -38 mpg, the loan Sierra 2.3D I had for a while after that never bettered 31mpg in the same use conditions even though it was supposed to do 34mpg in town and 42mpg combined.

More to do with the 1.6 petrol having a fair bit more power (for the time) and not being on WOT whenever any acceleration was needed.

Do the modern small turbos run stoic when cruising, but on boost?
But the 2.3D was awful and only really meant for minicabbers and the French. 66bhp against 90bhp from the 1.6 Vauxhall in a very light car.

Those Vauxhall 1.6 engines were quite pleasant things to rev and having had to manhandle a GM engine (for a Locost) I'm amazed how much lighter it is than the equivalent Fords.



DiscoColin

3,328 posts

149 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
Is it really just a matter of the downsizing of the engine though? For me you cannot ignore that with a large portion of the market the entire drivetrain has been compromised to game economy and emissions statistics. Engine mappings designed to sip fuel and deliver marginal flexibility on an even throttle coupled with absurdly tall gear ratios have made cars that could have been decent into - basically - dogs.

It isn't even a new phenomenon. It was about a decade ago now when I had to use a 2 litre Golf GT TDi for most of a fortnight while my car was being fettled and I discovered a horrible thing to drive with a binary throttle (choice of on-boost or frankly nothing) which genuinely used more fuel doing the same basic urban pootling about than a 3.6 litre 996 GT3. And the tractor mafia were proclaiming that Golf to supposedly be a decent car at the time - I dread to think what a cooking spec one would have been like (almost certainly worst than the last diesel I drove, which was a 1.6 Astra with a hopelessly compromised drive train).

The short version though is that IMHO surely they should be building cars to real world standards and only putting small power plants into cars than don't actually weigh very much?

Toltec

5,543 posts

158 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
CDP said:
But the 2.3D was awful and only really meant for minicabbers* and the French. 66bhp against 90bhp from the 1.6 Vauxhall in a very light car.

Those Vauxhall 1.6 engines were quite pleasant things to rev and having had to manhandle a GM engine (for a Locost) I'm amazed how much lighter it is than the equivalent Fords.
Just checked, I hadn't realised the Cav was so light, the Sierra was light at 1200kg by modern standards, but lardy in comparison.

* and tight Yorkshiremen

LandRoverManiac

285 posts

27 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
DiscoColin said:
Is it really just a matter of the downsizing of the engine though? For me you cannot ignore that with a large portion of the market the entire drivetrain has been compromised to game economy and emissions statistics. Engine mappings designed to sip fuel and deliver marginal flexibility on an even throttle coupled with absurdly tall gear ratios have made cars that could have been decent into - basically - dogs.
Pretty much this - a lot of it comes down to hitting progressively harder targets set by regulators/legislators who want boxes ticked at all costs. Reducing engine size is just one notable symptom of this, along with all manner of emissions gubbins that can and do go expensively wrong (ironically an old-tech 'inefficient' diesel is probably a safer used buy then a modern thing with DPF, etc.)

I have no doubt some of these small engines can and will hit the 60/70/80 mpg figures in a lab or on a 'real world' test route where the roads are free of traffic/hills/roundabouts/junctions/overtaking/stop-start queues/ stuff that most cars actually contend with. So a considerable number of engines are jolly efficient in terms of power and fuel use when used within particular conditions but utterly pants when asked to operate outside of that window.

Then the regulators get shirty when some boffins at VW decided to adopt a more creative approach....

(I'm not condoning it by the way - just pointing out that if you ask engineers to solve a puzzle where the rules are set by people who have no clue - then the solutions that come back might not be to their liking.)

CDP

5,572 posts

189 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
Toltec said:
Just checked, I hadn't realised the Cav was so light, the Sierra was light at 1200kg by modern standards, but lardy in comparison.

* and tight Yorkshiremen
Approximate 1050kg, about the same as a current supermini.

JohnoVR6

682 posts

147 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
'Downsizing is inevitable in 2018'

Big claim there in the standfirst...and a particularly wrong, outdated one as well. We covered the topic of downsizing twelve months ago;

http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/b8b29879#/b8b2...

And the general consensus then was it was the wrong direction - hence Toyota's 'upsized' TNGA engine, VW's 1.5 Evo lump...and a plethora of less stressed, marginally bigger units. The switch toward RDE and WLTP testing methods toward the end of last year should ultimately kill off any notion that a downsized engine is a good thing, as they are more representative of how a car is actual used over a typical drive cycle.

  • Mods - as always, feel free to delete the mag link if it's against house rules.

TurboHatchback

3,274 posts

88 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
My personal experience is that there is no point fitting small engines to cars, real world economy is largely dictated by the size and weight of the car, the drivetrain and the fuel used. Maybe the EU test cycle gets great numbers with these 1.0 Mondeos and SUVs but I'm willing to bet in the real world they're no better than the 2.0 or 1.6T they are replacing.

Petrol Diesel
Small car 40mpg 55mpg
Medium car 35mpg 45mpg
Large car 30mpg 40mpg
Large 4x4 19mpg 30mpg


Obviously this varies a bit but having driven quite a lot of different cars ranging from incredibly slow to rather fast the above always seems to be about right.



Ron99

741 posts

16 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
IanCress said:
I was only saying the other day that i'd quite like a go in a 1.0 Mondeo. It's a gutsy little engine in a Fiesta, and I reckon it would still be an interesting proposition in a Mondeo. It would have to be an estate, for full effect.
I can see a use for it for someone needing a large car that will spend most of its time in town.
Cars don't need much power to reach 30mph (in theory 30mph requires about a quarter the horsepower of motorway driving).





Max_Torque

12,836 posts

152 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
Downsizing? er, that's a bit 2012 isn't it!

In case you have missed it, the next gen of passenger cars are going to be 'downsized' to zero cc !!!

(because they will all be electric......)

GroundEffect

11,027 posts

91 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
Max_Torque said:
Downsizing? er, that's a bit 2012 isn't it!

In case you have missed it, the next gen of passenger cars are going to be 'downsized' to zero cc !!!

(because they will all be electric......)
No they won't. The next generation - i.e. the ones to comply with Euro 7 - will be heavily electrified petrols. With some BEVs. Expecting high-voltage PHEVs to take centre stage.


LandRoverManiac

285 posts

27 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
GroundEffect said:
No they won't. The next generation - i.e. the ones to comply with Euro 7 - will be heavily electrified petrols. With some BEVs. Expecting high-voltage PHEVs to take centre stage.
It's alright.

He pops in occasionally to threads and heralds the arrival of the EV to all of mankind - how it'll solve all of our problems, world peace, hunger, poverty, the usual stuff. They're also great for those early morning milk-runs.

=)

Max_Torque

12,836 posts

152 months

Wednesday 24th January
quotequote all
LandRoverManiac said:
GroundEffect said:
No they won't. The next generation - i.e. the ones to comply with Euro 7 - will be heavily electrified petrols. With some BEVs. Expecting high-voltage PHEVs to take centre stage.
It's alright.

He pops in occasionally to threads and heralds the arrival of the EV to all of mankind - how it'll solve all of our problems, world peace, hunger, poverty, the usual stuff. They're also great for those early morning milk-runs.

=)
And soon after, some sad looser with a massive chip on their shoulder about how "the internal combustion engine is the best thing in the world and can never be replaced" comes along to spout total b*ll*ocks about why it won't happen!


Simple fact, electrification coming, and coming far faster than anyone realised. It no longer matters if you want it too, you would like it too, or whatever. It's happening, end of..........