The evolution of car size

Published 11 October 2019

Do you struggle to squeeze your car into parking spaces? Dread driving down narrow city streets or country lanes? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. 

Zuto Car Finance has analysed some of the UK's most-popular car models, from when they were first launched, to the present day to determine just how much they've evolved in size and style. 

The not-so Mini Cooper has evolved since the 1950s when lorry drivers struggled to see the motor in their side view mirrors. Thanks to safety regulations it’s now 61 per cent bigger than the original. Weighing in at 865kg, the Fiat 500 has seen the biggest weight increase, up 73 per cent on the 1957 model.

Mini - 1959 MINI Cooper S

The Ford Mustang has increased the most overall, being a whopping 63 per cent larger than the original model launched in 1964. And experts think cars will get even larger, as manufacturers look to tailor their global line-up’s for the US and Chinese markets.

"In China and America, the largest car markets, the roads are much wider, meaning cars can afford to be quite a bit bigger. As they aren’t designed for UK roads, it’s a tight squeeze when they’re imported," explains Automotive Design expert, Sam Livingstone.

Car Size Evolution

"Safety is another reason why cars are expanding in size. Crash beams, airbags, and the crumple zones need space, so cars have grown in width and length over the decades to accommodate these features — we end up with larger cars as a result, but they are far safer than they were twenty years ago."

But can we expect cars to keep getting bigger? Rather than cars getting wider, we’re going to see them getting slightly taller instead. The rise of electric vehicles will impact on how cars change in size in the next 10 years because in an EV the battery sits under the seats in the car - meaning cars are expected grow in height by around 5-10 cm. More at

BMW 3 Series 1983 01_bmw _3_series


Micky Myers    on 11 October 2019

Interesting article. I drive a Hyundai i10. It's small, does the job and I bought it with my own money. Most other people I know drive huge SUVs part paid for on personal contract deals. Part of what is making cars bigger is the perceived affordability of these cars. And don't get me started on the self employed Van/family car brigade...


MarkWintle    on 12 October 2019

The increase in car sizes, whilst inevitable in improving safety, begs the question 'why are the government failing' to look at increasing the mandatory minimum sizes of car spaces in car parks?'.

A minority of cars still fit into single vehicle garages and the narrow minor rural roads that have passing places are all but impassable, especially if you meet the greatly enlarged modern tractors and trailers, or even the modern SUVs. The resolution of these problems - changing car parks and widening narrow roads - would cost billions but sooner or later some action will need to taken otherwise we're going to have to start fitting sunroofs so we can climb in and out of the roof....

dave46    on 23 May 2020

I drive a Hyundai i10 as well as quite a large SUV - a Honda CRV.

I find very little comfort or performance difference in practice in making journeys in either - but then the i10 did grow quite considerably over its predecessor which really was a small car. The current i10 is not actually very small - it is an excellent car in my view, and mine (2016) has a great automatic box and was recommneded to me by Honest John..

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