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Class struggle: how in 30 years the automobile B-class has outgrown the D-class

Almost every new or used car buyer is anxious to get “as much as possible a car” for their money. In other words, buy a car as high as possible class. Many are even willing to permanently abandon the idea of ​​buying a new car – after all, in the secondary market, you can buy a car for one or even two classes above for the same money. Let’s look at how car classes are defined, how they have changed over time, and why this whole system is not perfect.

In general, the idea of ​​dividing cars into classes is logical – but there is no uniform classification. Usually, when speaking of letter designations like A-class or C-class, we use one of the most popular conventional classifications, given back in 1999 by the European Economic Commission. The original document identifies 9 key categories: in addition to sports cars classified as class S, “multi-purpose” cars (mainly minivans) of class M and so-called SUVs (crossovers and SUVs) classified as class J, passenger cars are further divided into 6 classes – from A to F. The last 6 classes are ranked mainly depending on the length of the car – however, even the original document notes that “the boundaries between the segments are blurred by other features besides the overall dimensions,” such as price, prestige, level is equipped I and so on.

Nevertheless, even within Europe there is no absolute unity in the classification: for example, the EuroNCAP assessment program has its own distribution, where crossovers and minivans are also divided according to size. In the US, there are also several classifications, but the most popular one belongs to the Agency for Environmental Protection – this is the one where the D-class sedans, large by European standards, are rated as “medium-sized”. The main parameter for division into classes here is the total volume of passenger and cargo interior space.

Their classification of passenger cars also exists in other countries – in India, China, Japan … The essence of the division is sometimes not idle: for example, in Japan, the separately regulated class of “keijidosya” – kei-cars is the result of busy road infrastructure. Such cars have strictly limited dimensions, as well as the volume and power of the engines – but their purchase promises tax breaks and other advantages, such as the absence of the obligatory presence of a private parking space.

But you have probably already grasped the essence of all this world dissonance: there is no single classification, and its creation is not only meaningless, but also practically impossible. Nevertheless, let’s briefly get acquainted with the most popular European “letter hierarchy” and at the same time make sure that neat boxes with cars sorted into them are constantly cracking at the seams.

A-CLASS
Typical representatives: Fiat 500, Peugeot 108, Chevrolet Spark

The smallest A-class is at the same time the most “honest.” The fact is that here the observance of overall dimensions is in fact the essence of the whole class on which its limited popularity is based. Buyers of these cars are important precisely compact dimensions, coupled with a normal internal space and equipment. The main distribution of this class of car earned in Europe: in the United States there is no need for them, and in Russia the buyer does not see the point of paying for a small car as much as for a “normal” one. Europe, with its peculiarities of urban road infrastructure, parking and taxes, is a key consumer of tiny cars.

However, even the A-class of today is fundamentally different from what was meant by “supermini” a few decades ago. Just look at a few bright representatives to understand what we are talking about. Now the dimensions of the A-class cars fluctuate around the mark of 3.6 meters. For example, the modern Fiat 500, which is considered “shorty,” has 3,546 mm in length – and its ancestor, the Cinquecento, produced from the late 50s to the mid-70s, was shorter than 3 meters – 2,970 mm! For a machine of such dimensions, half a meter is a huge difference. And yet the Fiat 500 has since grown by 20%.

Another example is the Mini. The original Morris Mini was slightly larger than the Fiat mentioned above and longer than 3 meters: 3,054 mm. However, the first generation of the retro-style compact in the 2000s was already 3,630 mm long, and by now, the third generation, the three-door stretched to 3,821 mm — that is, over the years the car has grown by a good quarter. Strictly speaking, the compact actually went beyond the class, because 3.8 meters is almost the territory of the segment B.

But the B-class – this is perhaps one of the biggest modern “car fraud”. Strictly speaking, cars with a length of up to about 4.1 meters belong to it – that is, mainly those compact, but fully five-seater hatchbacks with some kind of trunk, which are loved in Europe and often bought for daughters and wives in Russia.

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