How cars have grown over the years

Remember when the Mini really was a Mini and the Fiat 500 was genuinely small? We reveal how much bigger cars are than they used to be

  • Generations of Porsche 911

    Supersize me: cars then and now

    © Porsche

    We all know that cars are getting bigger. You can thank modern safety regulations and our desire to get comfortable for the increase in size. But just how big are cars becoming? We’ve crunched the numbers to find out.

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  • Classic Mini

    Classic Mini

    © Mini

    Length: 3,054mm; Width: 1,397mm; Height: 1,346mm

    Good things come in small packages, as ably demonstrated by the original Mini. Sir Alec Issigonis pulled off a minor (or mini) miracle when designing this groundbreaking car: a triumph of engineering, packaging and dynamics. Park an original Austin Se7en or Morris Mini alongside a current Mini and the difference in size is stark…

  • New Mini

    New Mini

    © Mini

    Length: 3,850mm; Width: 1,727mm; Height: 1,414mm

    A current three-door Mini hatchback is around 800mm longer than the original 1959 car, which is ammunition enough for those who claim the new Mini isn’t that ‘mini’ at all. The width quoted here is excluding mirrors, so you’ll need to be careful when negotiating tight city streets.

  • Volkswagen Golf Mk1

    Volkswagen Golf Mk1

    © VW

    Length: 3,705mm; Width: 1,610mm; Height: 1,395mm

    Now here’s a thing: the original Volkswagen Golf was smaller than the current Mini. Launched in 1974, this was a true game-changer, not just for Volkswagen, but for the entire car industry. Forget the ‘super Mini’, the Golf was a super supermini.

  • Volkswagen Golf Mk8

    Volkswagen Golf Mk8

    © VW

    Length: 4,284mm; Width: 2,027mm; Height: 1,492mm

    Goodness, how you’ve grown. Seven generations later, the Volkswagen Golf has grown longer, wider, taller and – dare we say it – fatter. That’s middle age for you. Of course, safety regulations have played a major part in this supersize shift, but the current Golf is almost unrecognisable from its 46-year-old ancestor.

  • Original Ford Mustang

    Original Ford Mustang

    © Ford

    Length: 4,613mm; Width: 1,732mm; Height: 1,298mm

    In the great scheme of things, the original Ford Mustang isn’t that much smaller than the current model, with only a marginal difference in length and height.

  • New Ford Mustang

    New Ford Mustang

    © Ford

    Length: 4,784mm; Width: 2,080mm; Height: 1,381mm

    But the most noticeable difference is the width, which is something that will be all too evident on Britain’s narrow roads and small parking bays. The first generation Mustang was 1,732mm wide, compared with 2,080mm for the current car. Watch those width restrictors!

  • Fiat 500

    Fiat 500

    © Fiat

    Length: 2,970mm; Width: 1,320mm; Height: 1,325mm

    The iconic Fiat Nuova 500, introduced in 1957, was actually a second generation car, but it’s the one most people remember. It was even smaller than the original Mini and perfectly suited to the narrow streets of an Italian city.

  • Fiat 500

    Fiat 500

    © Fiat

    Length: 3,546mm; Width: 1,627mm; Height: 1,488mm

    As you’d expect, the current Fiat 500 is significantly larger than the classic model, but unlike the modern Mini, it somehow manages to look small alongside its more conventional rivals.

  • Volkswagen Beetle

    Volkswagen Beetle

    © VW

    Length: 4,079mm; Width: 1,539mm; Height: 1,500mm

    Proper production of the ‘Original Volkswagen’ – later known as the Beetle – got underway in 1946, after the early prototypes were rolled out for Hitler’s ‘Strength Through Joy’ programme. More than 21 million Beetles were eventually sold.

  • Volkswagen Beetle

    Volkswagen Beetle

    © VW

    Length: 4,278mm; Width: 2,021mm; Height: 1,486mm

    The latest Beetle was discontinued in 2019, having failed to match the success of its forebears. Arguably, the role of ‘people’s car’ (the literal translation of ‘Volkswagen’) is now filled by the Golf.

  • Ford Escort Mk1

    Ford Escort Mk1

    © Ford

    Length: 3,978mm; Width: 1,570mm; Height: 1,346mm

    It’s hard to believe that production of the Ford Escort got underway at Halewood back in 1967, and that it went on to spawn six generations. By the time it was replaced in 1998, though, the Escort felt a little out of Focus…

  • Ford Focus

    Ford Focus

    © Ford

    Length: 4,378mm; Width: 1,979mm; Height: 1,471mm

    The Focus was better than its predecessor in just about every department, although it took some people a while to get used to its ‘New Edge’ styling. Note that the current Focus is exactly 400mm longer and around 400mm wider than the original Escort. Sadly, parking spaces have remained the same size…

  • Toyota Corolla

    Toyota Corolla

    © Toyota

    Length: 3,848mm; Width: 1,491mm; Height: 1,379mm

    The Toyota Corolla has come a long way since the first E10 model of 1966. Indeed, sales have rocketed past the 45 million mark, making it one of the best-selling nameplates of all time.

  • Toyota Corolla

    Toyota Corolla

    © Toyota

    Length: 4,370mm; Width: 1,790mm; Height: 1,435mm

    As you’d expect, the current car is longer, wider and taller. The Corolla name recently returned to the UK, replacing the unloved Auris. It’s available in hatchback, saloon and estate body styles.

  • Ford Fiesta

    Ford Fiesta

    © Ford

    Length: 3,565mm; Width: 1,567mm; Height: 1,360mm

    Ford’s first supermini will celebrate its 45th anniversary next year, with the first Fiesta rolling off the Spanish production line back in 1976. In those days, it was a tiny supermini, perfectly suited to Britain’s roads.

  • Ford Fiesta

    Ford Fiesta

    © Ford

    Length: 4,040mm; Width: 1,941mm; Height: 1,495mm

    In 40 years, the Ford Fiesta has grown in all kinds of ways. Today, it is Britain’s best-selling car, while it has also grown in length, width and height. Remove the door mirrors – which we don’t recommend – and that width drops to 1,735mm.

  • Porsche 911

    Porsche 911

    © Porsche

    Length: 4,163mm; Width: 1,610mm; Height: 1,320mm

    Place an original Porsche 911 alongside a current 991 generation 911 and it’s the difference in width that’s the most striking element. The classic 911 was just 1,610mm wide…

  • Porsche 911

    Porsche 911

    © Porsche

    Length: 4,519mm; Width: 1,852mm; Height: 1,298mm

    Which compares to the 1,852mm width of the entry-level Porsche 911 Carrera. Needless to say that, while the 911 has grown a little larger, it has also become a little faster. And a tad more expensive.

  • BMW 3 Series

    BMW 3 Series

    © Porsche

    Length: 4,355mm; Width: 1,610mm; Height: 1,380mm

    BMW launched the original 3 Series – the E21 – in 1975, cementing its reputation as the manufacturer to beat when it comes to compact executive saloons. The original 3 Series was pert, well proportioned and pretty.

  • BMW 3 Series

    BMW 3 Series

    © BMW

    Length: 4,709mm; Width: 2,068mm; Height: 1,435mm

    You’d struggle to class the current BMW 3 Series as pretty, but it remains the most successful compact saloon car on the market. Check out the difference in size, with the G20 a full 458mm wider than the E21.

  • Honda Civic

    Honda Civic

    © Honda

    Length: 3,551mm; Width: 1,505mm; Height: 1,327mm

    Of all the differences featured here, the Honda Civic is perhaps the most dramatic. The Mk1 Civic was the car that put Honda on the map and, back in 1973, it was small and almost petite. That 3,551mm length isn’t dissimilar to the current Fiat 500.

  • Honda Civic

    Honda Civic

    © Honda

    Length: 4,518mm; Width: 1,799mm; Height: 1,434mm

    The current Civic is nearly a metre longer than the original car. On the plus side, Honda’s answer to the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf is more efficient than ever before.

  • Mercedes-Benz 190

    Mercedes-Benz 190

    © Mercedes-Benz

    Length: 4,420mm; Width: 1,678mm; Height: 1,383mm

    The Mercedes-Benz 190 (W201) was Stuttgart’s response to the BMW 3 Series and by the time it finally arrived in 1983, it was already long overdue. That said, it proved to be incredibly popular and gave rise to the C-Class range of cars.

  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class

    Mercedes-Benz C-Class

    © Mercedes-Benz

    Length: 4,686mm; Width: 2,020mm; Height: 1,442mm

    Once again, the current C-Class has grown in all directions and has also been joined by estate and coupe versions. The V8-engined AMG models offer performance to scare some supercars.

  • Renault 5

    Renault 5

    © Renault

    Length: 3,521mm; Width: 1,525mm; Height: 1,410mm

    The Renault 5 was a small car that sold in huge numbers – well over 5.5 million, in fact. Its successor is also doing rather well.

  • Renault Clio

    Renault Clio

    © Renault

    Length: 4,050mm; Width: 1,798mm; Height: 1,440mm

    First launched in 1990, the Renault Clio is now into its fifth generation. The current range includes a hybrid E-Tech model for the first time.

  • Seat Ibiza

    Seat Ibiza

    © Seat

    Length: 3,683mm; Width: 1,610mm; Height: 1,395mm

    The Mk1 Seat Ibiza remains one of the Giorgetto Giugiaro’s most underrated designs. It helped propel the Spanish carmaker onto the world stage.

  • Seat Ibiza

    Seat Ibiza

    © Seat

    Length: 4,059mm; Width: 1,780mm; Height: 1,444mm

    The latest Ibiza is larger in every direction than Giugiaro’s masterpiece. It shares a platform and engines with the Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia and Audi A1.

  • Volkswagen Passat

    Volkswagen Passat

    © VW

    Length: 4,190mm; Width: 1,600mm; Height: 1,360mm

    Speaking of Giugiaro designs, the first Volkswagen Passat was also a good looking car. Launched way back in 1973, the B1 Passat was an Audi 80 saloon in a different suit.

  • Volkswagen Passat saloon

    Volkswagen Passat saloon

    © VW

    Length: 4,767mm; Width: 2,083mm; Height: 1,456mm

    Of course, the B8 Passat is significantly larger than the B1, but thanks to the use of Volkswagen’s MQB platform, it is shorter and lower than the B7 it followed. Fair to say the styling has lost some of the elegance of the original.

  • Audi 80 B1

    Audi 80 B1

    © Audi

    Length: 4,175mm; Width: 1,600mm; Height: 1,362mm

    The Audi 80 was the forerunner to the current Audi A4 and it can trace its roots back to 1972.

  • Audi A4 saloon

    Audi A4 saloon

    © Audi

    Length: 4,770mm; Width: 2,022mm; Height: 1,428mm

    The 2020 Audi A4 is significantly larger than the original 80. Its range is also far more extensive, including the Allroad pseudo-SUV and RS4 super-saloon.

  • BMW 5 Series

    BMW 5 Series

    © BMW

    Length: 4,620mm; Width: 1,690mm; Height: 1,425mm

    When was the last time you saw an original BMW 5 Series? It’s a shame the E12 has all but disappeared, because this was a fine looking executive express that was also great to drive. Looking at the dimensions, it was a big car, especially for the 1970s.

  • BMW 5 Series saloon

    BMW 5 Series saloon

    © BMW

    Length: 4,936mm; Width: 2,126mm; Height: 1,479mm

    Nonetheless, the gap between old and new is still wide. The current 5 Series is 316mm longer and 436mm wider than the 1972 version. At least, unlike other BMWs of late, its front grille is a reasonable size.

  • Vauxhall Nova

    Vauxhall Nova

    © Vauxhall

    Length: 3,631mm; Width: 1,549mm; Height: 1,360mm

    Remember the Vauxhall Nova? Of course you do, because everybody knew somebody who drove a Nova. Launched back in 1983, this was Vauxhall’s supermini before the arrival of the Corsa.

  • Vauxhall Corsa

    Vauxhall Corsa

    © Vauxhall

    Length: 4,060mm; Width: 1,765mm; Height: 1,433mm

    Alongside the Nova, the new Vauxhall Corsa will look like a giant. It’s a better car in every single way, but it lacks the rally-style blistered rear wheelarches. It therefore loses this battle on points.

  • Vauxhall Astra Mk1

    Vauxhall Astra Mk1

    © Vauxhall

    Length: 3,988mm; Width: 1,636mm; Height: 1,379mm

    The Astra was the first Vauxhall to be mechanically and cosmetically identical to its Opel sibling and production eventually got underway at Ellesmere Port. For years, the Astra would go bumper-to-bumper with the Ford Escort.

  • Vauxhall Astra hatchback

    Vauxhall Astra hatchback

    © Vauxhall

    Length: 4,370mm; Width: 2,042mm; Height: 1,485mm

    The seventh generation Vauxhall Astra is good. Like, really good. If you’re given one of these as a holiday rental at the airport, don’t be disappointed, because it’s a class act. It’s also around 400mm wider than the Mk1 Astra.

  • 1968 Mercedes-Benz

    1968 Mercedes-Benz

    © Mercedes-Benz

    Length: 4,680mm; Width: 1,770mm; Height: 1,440mm

    The Mercedes-Benz E-Class can trace its roots further back than the 1968 W114/W115, but this was when it started to look and feel like an E-Class. These were the days before the C-Class, so this model sat beneath the S-Class as one of two saloon cars.

  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class

    Mercedes-Benz E-Class

    © Mercedes-Benz

    Length: 4,923mm; Width: 2,065mm; Height: 1,468mm

    The E-Class name first appeared on the W124 of 1993 and we’re now onto the fifth generation W213. If you thought 4,923mm was long, Mercedes-Benz also offers a long wheelbase version with an extra 140mm.

  • Range Rover

    Range Rover

    © Land Rover

    Length: 4,445mm; Width: 1,781mm; Height: 1,801mm

    In all kinds of ways, the Range Rover has travelled a long way since its introduction in 1970. Although it’s become known as a ‘posh off-roader’, back then it was more about being a ‘wipe clean and wash down’ SUV; combining off-road ability with on-road manners.

  • Range Rover

    Range Rover

    © Land Rover

    Length: 4,999mm; Width: 2,220mm; Height: 1,835mm

    Today, it’s an altogether different story, with the current Range Rover presenting itself as a luxury vehicle and an off-roader. Not that many actually venture too far off the beaten track. Also note the length, which is just nudging the full five metres. Tick the long wheelbase box and that increases to 5,199mm.

  • Fiat Panda

    Fiat Panda

    © Fiat

    Length: 3,380mm; Width: 1,460mm; Height: 1,445mm

    The most practical and utilitarian of all the city cars, you’ll still see plenty of Mk1 Fiat Pandas enjoying active service in Italy. The ‘hit with a hammer’ approach to maintenance normally sees the Mk1 Panda returning to action.

  • Fiat Panda

    Fiat Panda

    © Fiat

    Length: 3,653mm; Width: 1,882mm; Height: 1,551mm

    The current Fiat Panda has grown in all different directions, most notably in length and width. It’s also a good alternative to taking the bus, particularly in promotional Inbetweeners spec – as seen here.