Cars are substantially less polluting, more efficient and far safer than their predecessors of 30 years ago, according to a new report published by the motor industry trade body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The Evolution of the Car highlights examples such as the current fifth-generation Ford Fiesta produces 98% fewer emissions than the original model did three decades ago.
Seven manufacturers participated in the publication, which saw current models compared against the same model from decades ago in areas such as safety, CO2 emissions and fuel economy.
The report found that a modern 1.9-litre VW Golf emits 78% fewer diesel particulates than a 20-year-old equivalent powered by a smaller 1.6-litre diesel engine. While the MINI Cooper has improved fuel consumption by 24% and lowered CO2 by more than a fifth in just one generation.
The report also found that 76 modern Fiestas emit the same amount of NOx exhaust gas as one 1976 equivalent, while 71 would produce the same quantity of hydrocarbons.
One of the key facts to emerge is an improvement in fuel consumption across all models, despite significant weight increases, particularly when comparing modern variants with models from the 1970s and 1980s.
“The benefits of today's cleaner, safer cars are beyond question, but it is important we understand that a price has been paid in terms of increased weight,” explained Christopher Macgowan, SMMT chief executive.
“Heavier cars reduce fuel efficiency and increase CO2, demonstrating the consequences that improvements in one area of car design can have on another. This is a particularly important lesson for European regulators and policy makers.