2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco
While many Americans may still scoff at the idea of driving a reasonably sized car with an engine not much bigger than that found on a motorbike, sales numbers are showing that the tide is starting to turn and this archaic negative perception towards smaller engines may soon alleviate altogether.
As fuel prices increase, American car buyers may have no choice but to accept downsizing to smaller engines. Vehicle sales numbers are already starting to show increased demand for four-cylinder engines over V-6 and V-8 powerplants, and this trend is only set to continue.
GM is one automaker with a wide variety of fuel efficient four-cylinder models, ranging from crossovers and SUVs to mid-size sedans and compacts. Now the automaker has announced that strong demand for fuel efficiency and advancements in engine technology have moved four-cylinder models to the top of buyers’ shopping lists.
In 2007, four-cylinder models represented 23 percent of Chevrolet retail sales in the U.S., which at the time was less than the percentage for V-6 or even V-8 models. Fast forward to today and four-cylinder models now account for 46 percent of Chevrolet’s total sales.
Essentially what is happening, former buyers of V-8 models are downsizing to V-6 powered cars, while former V-6 buyers are now picking up fuel efficient four-cylinder models. Top selling four-cylinder models have been the Cruze and Malibu sedans, as well as the Equinox crossover.
One of the big catalysts for the downsizing trend is rising gas prices but that does not explain the whole story. Recent advances in engine technology means that small four-cylinder engines are now outputting as much as V-6 engines from just a few years ago.
Some of the new features boosting engine output while curbing fuel consumption are turbocharging, direct fuel injection and variable valve timing (admittedly, they have been around for a while but only recently have been applied more in mainstream cars). But the good news is that automakers have even more advancements in store, with some technologies even enabling four-cylinders to performance like V-8s.