Vauxhall Insignia alloy wheel

New fuel economy regs could signal the death of the big wheel

Vauxhall Insignia alloy wheelThe trend for even mainstream cars to wear big 18-inch or 19-inch alloy wheels may soon be about to end – and it’s upcoming new WLTP fuel economy regulations that are behind it.

The size of wheels and width of tyres have a significant impact on the CO2 emissions and fuel economy of cars. The current, outdated NEDC fuel economy test has long failed to expose this, which is why wheels have grown so much over the years.

However, early evidence of the new WLTP test suggest it is much more clearly revealing the effects big wheels have on emissions and economy – and experts at Kwik Fit believe this could reverse the trend for ever-larger wheels.

Vauxhall Insignia

The effect will be particularly obvious to company car drivers, who pay tax based on the CO2 emissions of their car. Fleet sales director Andy Fern predicts “we may see vehicle manufacturers end the trend for larger wheels”.

And if they don’t, user-choosers could force them to. “Company car drivers may think twice about ticking the larger rim size option when specifying a vehicle as it will ultimately hit them in the pocket.”

From 19 to 120

The choice of tyre sizes has increased enormously in recent years

Fern used Kwik Fit analysis to illustrate just how out of control the proliferation of wheel and tyre sizes has become. “In 1997, 19 tyre sizes accounted for up to 90 percent of company car tyre fitments.

“Today, 120 tyre sizes account for 90 percent of fitment – with the remaining 10 percent comprising a staggering 1,030 sizes.

“Tyre choice has increased by around 10 percent per year as vehicle manufacturers have chosen to fit bespoke tyres to their new vehicles.”

All of which spells a bit of a headache for tyre companies such as Kwik Fit – never mind drivers, who may easily be stranded through the now-commonplace practice of not fitting a spare wheel and not easily being able to source a tyre in the correct size…