The worrying increase in the width of cars: up to 20 cm more in six years

You don’t have to be a lynx to realize how cars have grown over the years. A first generation Volkswagen Golf, which barely measured 3,820 mm, has nothing to do with the current one and its 4,284 mm. This is the case with the vast majority of vehicles that have been on the market for several generations and it is a trend that has increased in recent years. In fact, it has been proven that they grow up to 20 cm wide in six yearsdata that continues to worry for several reasons.

In a recent study of Transport & Environment (T&E) it has been discovered that, in Europe, new vehicles increase in width at a rate of one centimeter every two years. It is the total average, but clearly in some specimens it is considerably accentuated. We see that in 2023 cars had a width of 1,803 mm on average, while in 2018 it was 1,778 mm. It seems that the trend may continue to grow due to the lack of regulation by the European Union, which barely has the width limit at 2,550 mm as in buses and trucks.

The most flagrant cases occur in large SUVs, where there is greater growth and they are already approaching or exceed two meters wide. For example, in just six years the Land Rover Defender grew 20.6 centimeters after its generational change. There are others like the BMW X5 which is also 6 cm wider. In general, there has been a very important growth that makes it complicate coexistence of these vehicles with the rest of the members on the roads. For example, when parking, because by law the minimum specified street parking space is 1,800 mm.

This already means that many cars protrude from the parking space if they are tight or that they have very little space to exit (the average of these spaces is 2,400 mm wide). Thus, space for others is reduced vehicles and cyclists. There have also been protests about the height, since 10 cm more in the front represents a 30% greater risk of death in the event of a pedestrian or cyclist being hit. From T&E they propose measures such as max width review of new cars. There are also cities like Paris that are studying whether large and heavy SUVs pay more when parking.

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