Modern cars are losing weight rapidly, and it has created a huge ‘heavier vs lighter car’ discussion. There are many misconceptions about both light and heavy vehicles. Let’s find out what these misconceptions are and figure out the facts.
Lightweight cars are unsafe
This is the most common perception about lightweight cars. It is commonly said that all the lightweight cars are highly unsafe. This assumption is completely wrong as car’s safety does not depend on the weight of the vehicle.
Every modern car, be it light or heavy, has crumple zones designed in its structure that absorbs the impact during an accident. If crumple zones are not present, all the impact from the crash is transferred into the cabin. Be it a lightweight or heavy car, if the crumple zone is missing or the structure of the vehicle is not solid enough, it’s unsafe. Also, safety depends on a number of other factors like airbags in the car, ABS, etc.
Unstable on the road
Lighters cars get affected by winds blowing and are highly unstable. This perception is also wrong. Lighter cars are as stable as heavier cars on the road. It will take really strong winds to unsettle the lightest car from the road. The Tata Nano weighs only 600 kg and yet, there is not a single report of the car flying around during a storm.
Nowadays manufacturers try to reduce the weight of the vehicle and that takes massive efforts. Lightweight vehicles have a better power-to-weight ratio that increases the performance. The engine also has to work less, hence increasing the fuel efficiency.
Made of flimsy materials
Not all cars are light because of the manufacturer using flimsy materials to save cost. Most manufacturers invest a lot of money on research and development of new materials. Such materials may weigh less, but they are as strong as their heavier counterparts. High-tensile steel is used in modern cars to bring down the weight and yet to keep strength up to the mark. Likewise, one of the lightest materials used to car construction – carbon fiber – is also one of the strongest.
Compromised on quality
This commonly accepted fact about lightweight cars is completely wrong. There are many lightweight cars that are better in quality than the heavier cars. There is a lot of engineering that goes into making a car light, and this has nothing to do with using poor quality materials. When was the last time you saw a Maruti Baleno disintegrating on the road, or a Mahindra Thar not rattling?
Lighter cars cannot take on bad roads
In fact, lighter cars are better on taking bad roads because their weight do not force them down into the ditches. Many hardcore off-roaders work to make their vehicle lightweight. If it is an SUV, the longer suspension travel may give it an advantage but weight is never a factor while taking on bad roads.
Built like a tank
A lot of people wrongly believe that all heavy vehicles are built like tanks, and that nothing can destroy them. A heavy vehicle can merely mean that manufacturer did not put enough effort in using lightweight materials or the vehicle is not smartly designed. While heavier cars may give you a built-like-a-tank feeling, but in real world conditions, the vehicle maybe very fragile.
Better grip on the road
In regular cars, weight is not the deciding factor of traction. There are number of other factors including the condition of the tyre, weight distribution in the vehicle and tyre pressure that decides the grip of the vehicle. Normal cars never reach high speeds where they will need extra downforce to get traction. Lightweight high-performance vehicles have special spoilers and wings that produce extra downforce to provide more grip to the vehicle. So, heavy doesn’t mean grippy.
Difficult to maneuver
It is commonly said that heavier vehicles are extremely difficult to handle. Well, the car technology has advanced a lot. Nowadays, even heavier vehicles have become easier to handle, thanks to technologies such as power steering and reverse parking assist systems. The SUVs, which are quite heavy do have some amount of extra body roll due to their high centre of gravity, but anyone can get used to that after driving it for a couple of kilometres. Heavier cars as just easy to drive as lighter cars.
Occupants are safer in the heavier cars
Heavier cars do not automatically mean that car is safe. In fact, heavier cars have quite a few disadvantages due to the excessive weight. The heavier cars can not change direction as quickly as the lightweight cars due to momentum. The same reason also go for their braking distance. Due to the added weight, the brakes have to work more to bring the car to stop and it increases the braking distance. As mentioned above, the safety of the heavier cars totally depends on the crumple zones and safety equipment the vehicle is carrying and not the weight itself.
However, say a highly safe heavy car and equally safe light car collide, passengers in the heavier one will be better off after the crash. This is because the heavier car would transfer some momentum to the lighter car.
Heavy cars are slow
Absolutely not! There are many heavy cars that can be lightning fast. Modern engines have become very powerful and even heaviest of the SUVs are now as quick as the lightest hot hatches. Big SUVs such BMW X5M and Bentley Bentayga are extremely heavy yet they can put many hot hatchbacks to shame when it comes to 0-100 km/h. The heavy on scale Range Rover SVR can do 0-100 km/h in just 4.7 seconds. Beat that!