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When Bigger Is Better

OK, there’s been a lot written about small cars with small engines and how they can save you wads and wads of dollars because they use less petrol.  And there certainly are some thrifty little numbers out there, plus some amazing hybrids that are easy on the environment and on the fuel.  You might even wonder if the days of big cars with big engines are numbered.  Will we still see the likes of Land Rover and the Mitsubishi Pajero, not to mention all the big-engined Ford and Holden utes and stationwagons in years to come?

Yes, we will, and we’ll probably see some new numbers, too.  There are times when a small hatchback just won’t do, no matter how frugal it is.  So when is bigger better?

1              When you do a lot of towing.  Small engines just can’t cope with the hard work involved with towing heavy loads and if you try to lug something around, the motor is going to work so hard that it’s not going to be particularly frugal, and it will probably add a bit to the old wear and tear.  Truck companies know this, and realise that you don’t send your smallest unit out to tow a road-train, as this isn’t the most fuel-efficient way to do things.  While your average little Suzuki or Peugeot will probably handle a trip to the garbage dump – oops, make that the recycling and waste recovery station – and can probably take a three-piece lounge suite across town if you’re helping a mate shift house, if you tow a big trailer on a regular basis, it makes better sense to get a bigger vehicle that can handle the harder work.  This applies to owners of boats and horse trailers, and also to contractors.

2              When you have a big family.  And these days, “big” means three children or more, or two children plus a dog.  OK, you can cram three kids and two parents – just – into a Nissan Micra but it will be a squeeze, especially if you add in school bags or the shopping.  Double the squeeze if the kids are teenagers.  You might save on petrol but you’ll probably drive everyone bonkers instead.  If you really are pinched for cash and are trying to save petrol, there are some frugal sedans out there that will save you getting frazzled (which can potentially cause accidents) by the continual “Get your elbow out of my guts, you idiot!  You just trod on my foot.  I’m telling! Ouch!  Muuuuuuum, he hit me!”

3              If your work requires you to take stuff around with you.  If you are a contractor, as mentioned above, you probably want something that can tow a trailer on a regular basis, but you probably also want something that you can store gear in so light-fingered passers-by don’t help themselves to your paintbrushes, weed trimmers and hammers.  Utes and 4x4s are classic favourites for contractors, along with vans, and there are plenty to choose from.  Sales reps, providers of mobile services (e.g. hairdressing, dog grooming and cleaning) and even childcare workers often have to take lots of bits and pieces with them.  It’s more convenient to you and to any passengers you have to take (and we all take them from time to time, whether our work is suitable for car pooling or not) if you don’t have to shift your boxes of whatever, a diary, an invoice book and twenty biros off the passenger seat.  Something with a generous boot or a stationwagon is likely to be the best bet here.

4              If you actually need to go fast at times and need the extra oomph.  You will still need to be legal, but if your work often means that you have to go against the clock or else (midwives, for example, especially those specialising in home births) then having a bit of grunt for when it’s needed is always reassuring.  Or keep an eye out for a small engine with a lot of grunt – they are out there.