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Which Engine Is Right For Me?

3 min read
Tips for selecting one that suits your needs.

Buying a car used to be simple: it looks good, you can afford it, and that’s that. Deciding on one these days concerns issues like performance, fuel economy, tax liabilities, the COE, and other miscellaneous costs.

Petrol Or Diesel? 
The main component of a car — the heart of the vehicle — is the engine. Cars of yesteryear came with a small number of engine choices that had either a petrol or diesel option. Today, with the evolution of motoring, we get to pick from a range of engine sizes and technologies. So what type of engine do you want or need in your new car?

Petrol engines come in three main sizes: small, medium and large. A small engine typically has less than 1.4 litres capacity, and puts out about 110 horsepower (hp) or less. Medium engines would be between 1.4 litres and 1.6 litres, and give less than 130hp. A large engine has more than 1.6 litres of capacity, and gives more than 130hp.

Diesel engines have similar size classifications, but they don’t come in anything smaller than 1.0 litre, unlike a petrol engine.

Small-engine cars are popular for first-time buyers as they usually cost less and are more economical to run. Many of these engines run on three or four cylinders, and you can find them in sub compact cars, such as small hatchbacks and sedans. These small cars can be quite fun to drive. They’re zippy and easy to park, given their small size, which makes them suitable for a built-up environment such as ours. A smaller engine means fuel top-ups are cheaper, though your driving habits and style will play a part in the frequency of these top-ups. The downside is that small engines lack power and speed, which will be evident when you ferry your friends and family around or get on to the expressway. Popular examples of small cars are the Honda Jazz and the Volkswagen Polo.

Medium-engine cars typically have four cylinders; some are even turbo-charged for added spice. Cars running on these engines are definitely roomier than a sub compact, which is great if you need the added space for passengers, or to carry extra cargo around. You’d think that fuel economy may not be as good as that of a smaller car, but shop around and you should be able to find some mid-sized models that actually fare better in this aspect, given the advances in car engine technologies. Diesel options for this size category are great for better fuel economy; they also provide better torque in general, which is useful for day-to-day driving. If you have the extra budget and need the space, this should be in your shopping cart. The Honda Civic, Toyota Altis and Mazda 3 are good examples of a mid-sized family car.

Large engines can be found in large saloons, SUVs and performance cars; they come in anything from four-cylinder turbos up to eight cylinders or more. The range of cars in this category is usually marketed as executive or luxury because they typify that kind of buyer and budget. These cars have options for lots of space or lots of power, and some have the best of both, such as the Audi Avant RS. These cars are usually fuel guzzlers; some, like Range Rover, are really large and notoriously hard to park, especially in smaller and older parking lots. However, most of the cons are forgotten when you put the pedal to the metal and experience the power and exhilaration of the drive!

Long after your purchase, it is the cost of ownership that determines long-term satisfaction. The more powerful and bigger the engine, the higher the road tax and insurance you have to pay. And don’t forget to tally fuel, maintenance and repair costs further down the line. Premium cars demand premium fees, so if you are on the edge of your budget, always go for one size smaller.

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