Chris Cieslak and I had a good time with our first batch of composite overlays, comparing the 2020 Buick Encore with some cars from other vintages. So we’ve decided to do a few more, starting with compact/small cars. And what better way to start than with two compact cars from GM, about as polar opposites as possible: the 1960 Corvair and the Encore.
The 1960 Corvair pushed a lot of boundaries, starting with its rear engine. But it was also remarkably low, with a height of only 51.5″. That makes it the lowest mass-production sedan ever. But thanks to its flat floor and no frame, its interior room was actually very good, equaling or the full size 1960 Chevrolet in several key metrics. But the Corvair’s low height really stands out in today’s traffic, especially compared to the Encore.
The Encore reflects the current state of a compact passenger car. The term “CUV”, first applied by AMC to the XJ Cherokee, is becoming increasingly irrelevant, as it’s really just a tall compact car. And at 65.3″, it towers over the Corvair by a good 14″. And of course its seating is more upright, but that only results in a modest 1″ improvement in headroom over the Corvair (39.6 vs. 38.7″) and actually less front leg room than the ‘Vair (40.8″ vs. 42.8″).
Let’s compare the Encore with the immortal VW Beetle, whose shape was finalized in 1938. And with a height of 61″, it’s a lot closer to the Encore, but still comes up short.
Here’s a different coloration, if it helps to see the two better.
And here they are by themselves.
I suggested to Chris to include the Citroen 2CV, since it’s so tall. At 63″, it’s only a couple of inches shy of the Encore.
But in every other metric, the Citroen is dwarfed by the Encore.
But there is a fundamental similarity between them, in being unusually tall and narrow for their times.
Thanks, Chris. And we’ve got some more in the works, but without the Encore.
The Encore may be relatively narrow by today’s standards, but it’s a foot wider than the 2CV!
The 2CV made up for that by having doors about an inch thick. OK, three centimeters.
In the email thread that spawned this post, I remarked to Paul that I always wanted a 2CV growing up, but now when I see the one in my neighborhood, I can’t think of anything but “wow, what a total deathtrap.”
Any car built before 2000 is a death trap by today’s standards…
So, if you’re looking for safety, just buy a new car.
I find it very interesting that the “CUV” is so popular, since it’s really just a taller hatchback. American buyers are famous for avoiding hatchbacks, yet they gobble up these “CUV” things.
Longer, lower, wider had to end at some point. A taller car is simply easier to enter, exit and drive.
It’s the image. This past summer, my wife decided she wasn’t happy driving a pseudo-European sport sedan (2015 Dodge Dart GT), and she just had to have a 4×4 SUV or pickup truck. Because, after all, she’s a redneck country girl (not a wrong self-image, she definitely is).
OK, we need a pickup truck like a hole in the head, our Kia Sedona is enough of a gas hog, hasn’t seen the back two rows of seats up since the day it came home (other than the third row being used during NASCAR tailgating when it rains), and handles everything I can think of except for hauling motorcycles. I loathe SUV’s, if you’re seriously looking at that route I’d rather go for the pickup. At least you can do work with it.
Why do you need a 4×4? Being a lifelong Virginia girl, you’re terrified of driving in anything that passes down here for winter weather, I understand snow (have lived 2/3rds of my life between Johnstown and Erie, PA), and if we get so much as a threat of a snowflake, I’m driving you to work and picking you up.
That backed her down to a Jeep Renegade, front wheel drive. Not bad but overbuilt and heavy for a FWD hatchback with lousy gas mileage. Started looking at actual CUV’s
In the end we bought a 2020 Nissan Kicks SR. FWD, all the bells and whistles, and she absolutely loves it. Doesn’t notice she gave up four wheel disks for drums in the rear. All she notices is that she loves the color, and it looks like a real, mean, off-roading mutha that’s ready to tackle the Rubicon Trail. And, best of all, she can afford it.
Never mind that it’ll curl up whimpering if you go so much as six inches off a well-laid gravel driveway.
I see an oddly styled five door hatchback with really good gas mileage and a comfortable (I’m 70 years old) seating position, although it’s a few inches too high in the air for my tastes. Actually, I find it no different other than a bit of height from the 2019 Nissan Versa Note that we had for rental for two weeks last year, and I would have really loved one of those for my personal use if you could have gotten the five speed with anything other than the poverty spec “S” model.
Of course, the Versa Note was dropped for 2020. If you want one, you buy a Kicks. At $2-3000.00 more base price, of course.
Welcome to why CUV’s sell. Image, image, image. I despise them, but the wife’s happy, and the car is mildly impressive.
The Kicks has the smallest brakes I have seen in a late model car.
I’m going to guess that they look small to you because of its big wheels. They’re almost certainly the same size a Verso, which share the same platform.
I’ve noticed this effect more and more, on smaller cars with ever-bigger wheels. It makes the brakes look really small.
Per Car&Driver, they are 10.2″ on the front of a Kicks and 10.0″ on the front of a Versa. Stops from 60mph-0 were measured at TheCarHP.com as being 133feet for the Kicks, 131 for a Versa and for example 129feet for a VW Golf with discs all around, all apparently 2020 examples. (the Toyota Yaris kicked all of those butts with a 120foot score though although it has the same setup as a Kicks with 10.2″ fronts and drum rears.)
Rear disks on a nose heavy non high performance car/CUV is more of a fashion statement. The tiny drums on the rear of my Fit will get more than 100,000 miles on the original linings about twice as long as the front disks.
Boomers love the CUV’s because of the easy exit/entry as well as the driving position. I’d love to see the demographics of Rav4/CR-V drivers.
My 60 year old sister loves her RAV4. It replaced a Jetta.
I once stood next to an early Corvair sedan as an adult and was amazed at how low and petite it was. The cars looked a lot bigger when I was 7 years old. 🙂
I wonder if an early Lark might be the closest of the American compacts to the Buick’s dimensions.
Well, the Lark was 57.5 inches tall, so closer but not that close. The Lark wheelbase was eight inches longer, length 7 inches longer, and width only a bit over an inch more than the Encore. The Lark’s tires always looked really big though.
The 2CV is interesting. With a bit of scaling and stretching, it’s almost the same car. The others couldn’t be morphed into the modern shape at all.
Low, long and wide replaced by lumpy, dumpy and frumpy. Modern vehicles may be miles ahead in reliability and safety but most look like the design was lifted from athletic shoes (with the swishes and swashes too.)
I really don’t see it. Could you point out specific elements that look similar?
Aren’t running shoes the sportsters of the bunch? Good athletic shoes in general are comfortable, well suspended and cushioned, often have interesting designs in splashy colors, are easy to put on and some even have excellent all-terrain abilities while perhaps not offering the ultimate in hiking boot go-everywhere ability like a tall BOF SUV. That Nike looks like sort of a Crossover, uh I mean Crosstrainer. Your old pair of Chuck Taylor Converse though are more like a first gen RAV4, basic but will get you there.
What would be the long, low, and wide analogy? A set of flip-flops (nah, that’s obviously a convertible…) Wing-tips? Loafers? Lace-up regular Florsheims? Kinda boring and staid, and generally only available in various shades of brown as well as black these days.
Probably Converse low tops or Vans authentic, they’re lower than low top running shoes, though in my feet’s experience “wide” doesn’t ring true, but to get my toes to fit without blistering I do get them a half size “longer” than normal.
I wonder what impact Electronic Stability Control has on manufacturers’ ability to build taller, more top heavy vehicles while reducing the risk of rollover lawsuits. Certainly building vehicles with a higher H-point broadens a manufacturer’s potential market considering the aging of the global population.
Here you go.
Toyota Sentia; specifically explained as being designed after a running shoe per Toyota themself:
I can see that, with the upsweep of the window sill on a lot of new cars.
What fits inside Buick Encore? Corvair? AHAHAHA! It’s a shame to cover the beauty of greenhouse with it, but fortunately because of Encore’s enormous size, the windows aren’t totally covered! 🤣
Upvote mandatory for the SCTV reference.
And just for Curbsiders, here’s another bit the crazy CCCP1 show, featuring a great old Studebaker:
At a guess we get the Encore with an obsolete Holden badge on it all the Generals CUV/SUV failures seem to have been offloaded onto the police force now as thats what they are driving, poor bastards, but every other car maker is drowning us in the same sort of thing and actual cars seem to be hard to find except for the used imports from Japan or used cars in general, why anyone wants these awful CUVs or SUVs is beyond me a pickup with a closed reatr canopy is far more useful and actually offers some utility, I drove a LDV company pickup some 90kms the other day selivering an injured driver back to his personal car not a bad thing to drive either cheap to buy 4WD if you switch it on grunty turbo diesel passable ride and performance lots of toys as nice as a Ranger for half the money.
They usually drive SUVs of some sort out here in the country: used to use Ford Territories but now the local cops have a Toyota of some sort, think it’s a Kludger. But the other day I saw a Highway Patrol BMW 530d – nice.
I love these photo comparisons — I’ve thought about these comparisons often without executing the work. So thanks!
A significant upside for higher vehicles like the Buick, is their elevated H-points, the theoretical, relative location of an occupant’s hip — but also the relative relationships of the H-points to the vehicle floor and relative to the adjacent pavement.
The Corvair would have an extremely low H30 (H point to vehicle floor) as well as a very low H5 (H-point to pavement). H30 and H5 are SAE criteria, Society of Automotive Engineers.
There is a not often discussed advantage of SUVs and CUVs or whatever you want to call them: a high H30 translates to healthier seating posture — ask any orthopedist, the closer to a dining room chair, the healthier a seating posture. Its destructive to sit for long times with your knees higher or close to the height of your H-point. The Buick wins here. Likewise, the advantage of a high H5 wasn’t always so crucial, but now that there are so many tall vehicles, its more important and most of us “like” being able to see in traffic. The Buick et al, win here too.
Somewhere along this evolution, Subaru introduced its first Legacy sedans and wagons. These were low H30 and H5 vehicles like the Corvair. When they introduced the Outback, it still had a very low H30 and was only slightly lifted height off the pavement. Volvo did the same thing with its V70: lifting it slightly to create the XC70. Eventually all these, the Legacy, Outback, V70 and XC70 were more substantially revised to increase their vertical posture and increase BOTH their H30 and H5.
I have a request: to see the Buick in comparison to a succession of Italian small cars: the Fiat 500 (1957-), the Fiat Panda (first generation), the Fiat 500 (2007-) and the Fiat 500L — the company’s high-roof, B Class, mini MPV.
Fun and illuminating work. Thanks again.
Your points about the benefits of upright seating are spot on. Even at my age, I can spend 12+ hours behind the wheel of my Promaster van, whose seating is as upright as it can be. My xB is almost as good. Meanwhile, Stephanie’s TSX, although it has high quality “comfortable” seats, the seating position is so far from ideal, and I feel it after a long drive. In fact, I really don’t like driving it much anymore for that reason. It does not fell ergonomic to be in that semi-reclined position anymore.
Do you remember what it was like to drive a VW beetle? Upright and very accommodating for all. I’m small and by best friend is a real big guy. As teens, we both drove them comfortably. Today, he cannot drive my Fit and can barely squeeze in as a passenger.
Another fun comparison were the GM B Bodies after their size reductions… say a 1978-1984 Buick Electra… which are astonishingly low designs compared to today’s vehicles.
My wife and I test-drove an Encore during the summer. She loved it (“it’s sooo cute!”). I demurred and bought a 2016 Escape, which I don’t regret. A used Escape is about the same price of an Encore, but better in every conceivable way, in my opinion. However, I sense that she still wishes I went for the Encore though she likes her Escape.
I told my wife during the Encore test drive that the vehicle’s interor proportions and sitting position reminded me of my old Super Beetle. It’s been decades since I sat in a Beetle, but the Encore brought back floods of memories. Perhaps it was the close proximity of the dashboard and windshield to the occupants, the sheer compactness, the similar level of the beltline.
“The 1960 Corvair … height of only 51.5″. That makes it the lowest mass-production sedan ever.”
For a strict constructionist definition of “sedan”, maybe. The Ford Pinto clocks in at an even 50″ for non-wagon models and the trunked version was always referred to by Ford as a 2-door sedan, never as a coupe.