What’s with the obsession over size? While the fixation is kind of inescapable, especially so when dealing with parts of the human anatomy, to have that mindset applied seemingly to just about everything else, car engines included, sort of boggles the mind.
In this case, it’s about disparaging a car simply because of its engine displacement, or for the lack of it. The long-running subject cropped up again following a couple of new car debuts locally, specifically the Nissan Almera Turbo and the 10th-gen Honda Accord 1.5 TC/TC-P.
There have been enough comments questioning the size of the engines on these two cars, specifically a 1.0 litre turbocharged three-pot and a 1.5 litre VTEC turbo, in relation to their asking price.
These have ranged from “too expensive for 1.0/1.5” and “RM90k but smaller engine than Saga ah” to “200k for 1.5cc car?” and the usual “can move ah?” First of all, be proper about it, it’s 1.0L/1.5L or 1,000 cc/1,500 cc, not 1.0 cc/1.5 cc.
Anyway, making a summary judgement based on an engine’s displacement in relation to the car’s asking price shouldn’t be a starter, really. The days of cubic centimetres being the yardstick as to how a car is judged – and performs – is all but over, because the world is a different place than it once was.
Just as cars are inevitably going to become more expensive, so too will their engines get smaller. Motorheads can lament the passing of big naturally-aspirated V12 mills, and we’ll all share a moment of silence there, but to view scaling down from a 2.0 litre unit to a 1.5 or 1.4 litre one as sacrilege and a downgrade without looking at other parameters deserves a cuss or three.
The thing is, you’re really not losing out in terms of output, despite the scaling down in displacement, because turbocharging (go read up about the tech) makes up for the loss in cubic centimetres, and there’s no shortchange in output or efficiency. If anything, there’s usually an improvement.
Consider the Accord’s 1.5 litre VTEC Turbo unit, which develops 201 PS (or 198 hp) and 260 Nm. That’s more than the 174 hp and 225 Nm available from the K24W4 2.4 litre Earth Dreams Technology twin-cam i-VTEC unit on the previous ninth-gen Accord. And let’s not start with the 153 hp and 190 Nm 2.0 litre SOHC i-VTEC engine, shall we? In this case, the numbers make short shrift of the “bigger displacement has more” line of thought.
Having sampled the new Accord, my take on it is there’s more than enough power. No, it’s not a barnstormer, but as an executive sedan, it doesn’t have to be. Neither does the Almera, which Hafriz has said has enough torque to not make it feel underpowered, putting the idea that a 1.0 litre turbocharged three-pot can’t perform as well as a NA 1.5 (or 1.6) litre away for good.
My colleague Danny once said that it would be foolish to equate headline figures with real-world drivability, because they do not always go hand-in-hand. I’d add engine size to that equation, because as it stands, there really is a replacement for displacement.
You certainly won’t find me complaining about the similar-veined L15 turbo mill on my CR-V Turbo. Not only does it move the car infinitely better across the entire speed range compared to the NA 2.0 litre (the R20A) on a third-gen we lived with for seven years, it’s also far more fuel efficient. And, the road tax is cheaper.
Curiously enough, you don’t hear that many comments about the CR-V being underpowered as there are about the Accord, and they’re about the same weight. Also, while there is the case of not enough, there’s also too much, because you don’t exactly hear anyone clamouring for a 2.5 litre unit (“road tax mahal, bro”).
Seemingly, 2.0 litres seems to be the Goldilocks choice, replete with turbocharging of course. There is less issue about that particular displacement when it comes to premium brands, where you find most playing in that category running 2.0 litre turbos.
Even that particular landscape has changed, sometimes dramatically. Up to five years ago, it would have been far fetched to imagine something like a BMW 7 Series with a 2.0 litre mill, albeit hybridised (the pre-LCI G12 740Le), but there you go.
The point is this, downsizing isn’t just simply a trend anymore, it’s the way things are shaped in general now. It’s a necessity based on efficiency, emissions and helping to conserve that depleting resource known as fossil fuel, this despite there being enough to get us well into the age of electrification. Yet, smaller isn’t necessarily lesser.
It really is about time we move on from looking at engine size alone as a measure of what a car is or should be. Look at output figures, do some research, heck, get behind the wheel to determine if there’s enough pep before simply dismissing it based on its engine size. Sure, argue on whether a car represents value based on its price and kit, there’s no contention with that, but don’t bring the engine displacement into it.
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