There was a time when most car buyers looked on small capacity four-cylinder engines with distain.

To them, unless an engine had 6-cylinders or more, it was over-stressed, underpowered and only fit for use in small European or Japanese economy cars. 

Nowadays, increases in gas prices, combined with a drive towards cleaner, greener engines has meant that more consumers than ever are choosing to buy cars with four-cylinder, small-capacity engines. 

And it's not confined to small economy cars either. Even some mid-size cars are now offered with four-cylinder engines. 

Now industry analyst IHS Automotive (via USA Today) has predicted that trend is set to continue as automakers from Ford to Volkswagen, Volvo and even Mercedes-Benz are ditching larger engines in favor of the humble four-cylinder engine.

In fact, IHS Automotive predicts that by 2022, 12.2 million vehicles in the U.S. will be powered by four-cylinder engines, up 74 percent from the 6.9 million currently in use. 

Lighter and smaller than the V-6 and V-8 engines they replace, modern four-cylinder engines include advanced features designed to give drivers the very best performance and power whilst returning excellent gas mileage.

Hyundai Gasoline Direct Injection Theta II Four-Cylinder Engine

Hyundai Gasoline Direct Injection Theta II Four-Cylinder Engine

Commonly, this includes turbocharging, direct injection, cylinder deactivation and the addition of start-stop technology.  The result is an engine that can produce as much power as a traditional V-8, but with a fraction of the emissions. 

“Americans are willing to accept smaller engines as long as there’s power,” IHS analyst Aaron Bragman told USA today. “This is where the industry is headed.”

At the head of the drive towards smaller, more efficient engines is Ford and General Motors, which have both invested heavily in the development of cleaner, greener engines. 

It’s no surprise then that both Ford and GM engines have won a place in Ward’s 10 Best Engine list for 2012.  

But even with the drive towards four-cylinder engines, the mighty V-6 and V-8 aren’t dead just yet. 

In fact, thanks to turbocharging technology, automakers like Ford are even managing to boost the efficiency of the V-6, giving the Ford V-6 Ecoboost engine V-8 power whilst dramatically reducing fuel consumption.

Even with turbochargers however, the V-6 can’t beat the fuel economy of the Four-cylinder, which is why more Americans than ever are seeking to get more with four.


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.