Car Big Brother – 4 Reasons Why Size (sometimes) Matters


Let’s play car big brother! Is bigger better? It depends clearly. A bigger salary is preferable to a smaller one. However a bigger accident isn’t generally preferred to a smaller low speed nudge. The debate continues into car sizes, as vehicles continue to become bigger and heavier. There are a number of reasons for this. So is it a case of ‘go big or go home’? Here are 4 factors to take into account:

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Big car brother to the focus, the mighty MK3 Mondeo
Big car brother to the Focus, the mighty MK3 Mondeo

As consumers, we demand more equipment, such as cruise control, air conditioning and some of the other technology that’s now become commonplace in the car world. On top of this, safety regulations have become more stringent over the years. Creating a more protective body shell means adding reinforcement, and the inevitable weight. So much so that there are versions of the Mk7 VW Golf that weigh nearly twice as much as the original MK1. Even the current VW UP! city car, which is two sizes down , weighs more than the original Golf.

The extra weight in these cars is mostly justified by the safety and equipment reasons mentioned earlier, but there is another aspect to this. There is a trend towards buying large SUVs, some of which weight 3 times as much as a Mk1 Golf. Clearly this is no good for the environment. So are these bigger and heavier cars worth the extra outlay to most people? Should most people be sticking to family hatchbacks instead, like a Golf or Focus? Does the extra size make a significant difference?

I will try to answer this question by comparing my Focus to an equivalent Mondeo. I have run both cars for at least two years each, and they’ve both had to undertake similar journeys, performing similar tasks. The Mondeo is a long car, around the same length as the BMW 5 series at the time. This means there is a huge amount of space inside. 5 can easily get into a Mondeo, while maintaining appropriate social distancing guidelines. Buy one of these and the government will love you. The boot is easily big enough for a 6th person, so should one member of your family start to feel unwell halfway through a trip, they can self-isolate on the move. Ford really did think of everything.

The Mondeo drives very well, and I’ll go into more detail on this in the full review. It’s both comfortable and fun. Being larger than the Focus, it also feels a little bit more stable on the motorway. It’s not too slow either, easily sailing past 120mph with it’s 2.0 engine. The 3.0 V6 versions are even better, combining great performance with an excellent noise. So much so that Aston Martin’s old V-12 shares much of its architecture with the V6s. The Mondeo therefore is a great family car, but do you need the extra size over the Focus? Do you need the extra weight? Are there extra costs involved?

The Focus is obviously smaller than its big brother. This makes it easier to park, which you’ll know from my earlier post still causes issues for some. From a driving view point, it is lighter, which makes it more agile on country roads, but less stable on the motorway. It’s not going to suddenly be blown into a hedge like a 125cc motorbike, but crosswinds certainly affect it more than its big brother. Interestingly, even though the Focus is lighter, the mpg for both cars was about the same, as the Mondeo has a slightly more modern and efficient engine. If I upgrade to Mk2 Focus 2.0 with the more modern engine, I would expect to see an increase in fuel economy.

In terms of space, the Focus is clearly a bit less generous than the Mondeo. However, both easily manage to take 5 on a journey. I’ve had both boots full of hockey players and equipment, and so far no one has had to be left behind. I personally need to have the driving seat all the way back in order to feel comfortable, but whenever I’ve had people sit behind me, they haven’t complained. Maybe they are too polite, or they just appreciate not being asked to walk. Like the Mondeo, outside rear passengers even get an electric window to play with should things get too stuffy, because I went for the posh Focus.

A large rear means a large boot. Great for mobile self isolation
A large rear means a large boot. Great for mobile self isolation

At no point did I feel short changed on space when I went from a Mondeo down to a Focus. Width restrictions were easier. Parking was easier. Driving in the city was less stressful. Even getting stuff from the boot was easier due to its shape. However, the smaller doors do mean that access could be more of an issue for the less mobile. Fitting child seats could be more of an issue for the smaller cars.

I still maintain that some people could downsize their cars, and save a huge amount of money on fuel, component replacement, possibly even tax and insurance. This doesn’t all apply to the Mondeo, which is actually cheaper to tax and (in theory) fuel than the mk1 Focus. But the number of huge family cars and SUVs I see even just on my street with one or two poeple in them is immense. I feel that this is a debate that needs to be had. Larger versions of cars aren’t always safer than their smaller equivalents. Even if their passive safety is improved, there may be reduced responsiveness when taking evasive action.

What do you think? How do you feel about the larger car? Do you feel you’re making full use of the extra space? Or do you just prefer the extra stature and stability of a larger car? Join the family and let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

What are your thoughts?