Technology of all sorts involves a process of trade-offs, and automobiles are no different. If you increase comfort, you may sacrifice some performance. For more practicality, you’ll be in a smaller vehicle.
In many cases, those choices are the consumer’s to make. You decide you want a high-performance vehicle and just won’t let the fuel economy bother you. In other cases, government regulations put the squeeze on the manufacturers and create standards that must be achieved without regard for a car’s other selling points.
Environment Vs. Endurance
One of the most heavily regulated characteristics of a car is emissions. Government standards for maximum pollutant levels released by a car have done a great deal to drive vehicle characteristics over the last four decades. While many decry this is a uniquely American condition, it’s going on worldwide. Because so many pollutants are broken down to acceptable levels with additional engine machinery, there is added work being done by the motor. That leads to greater fuel consumption and, more notably, increased temperatures. While flat Texas roads get MPG’s a bit of a shrug from drivers, the sweltering heat should factor into a buyer’s choice of car.
Safe vs. Sleek
Any NASCAR fan can tell you that safety is all about crumple zones. These are fluffy, sacrificial areas on a car that are designed to absorb and deflect energy during an impact. Modern vehicle safety standards mandate greater use of these built-in shock absorbers, but their bulk is making cars look a little fluffy. Front crumple zones in particular extend vehicle length, thin the front-most part of the car, and constrict space for air movement and radiator installation.
Because a bigger gulp of air for a car is better for cooling than a smaller one, hot-climate drivers lean toward a larger vehicle that’s likely to maintain required safety standards without paying a price via the thermometer.
Controlled Entry Vs. Rapid Entry
While government regulations rarely figure into security characteristics of a car, trends in vehicle theft are forcing manufacturers to be more creative and innovative in how you get in and out of your car. Remote keyless entry signals endured issues with fraudulent remotes permitting thieves to enter cars. Copied keys were combatted with microchips and other technology. The counteractions were effective, but they made it harder for the legitimate owner to gain access. It’s nothing new; it dates back to the embarrassment of activating the alarm when using a coat hanger to gain access to locked-in keys. But the ramifications of various security measures are worth considering during the vehicle purchase process.
What you’re seeing here is two levels of trade-offs, then. There’s a trade-off by the manufacturer who is trying to meet either government regulations or consumer requests. Then there’s the trade-off by you as a consumer as you decide which of the builder’s outcomes you’re willing to live with and which are deal-breakers. That answer can come only from you, but you must have the right information to make it. A lot of this information can be found independently. The rest will come from a local dealership’s representative. For example, the reps for AutoNation Chevrolet have firsthand knowledge of which cars will fit the most of your preferences and will offer the best performance.
Ultimately it’s up to you, but one thing is for sure: buying a car is definitely more involved than simply walking on to a lot, pointing at a vehicle and exclaiming “I’ll take it!”…as exciting as that may sound. Good luck!