Despite being generally more complex and luxurious than their predecessors, cars were notably lighter in the 1980s and 1990s compared to today's models. For instance, the compact 1985 Honda Civic weighed in at just around 820 kg. Similarly, the 1995 Volkswagen Golf had a kerb weight of approximately 1,035 kg. These cars were celebrated for their nimbleness and fuel efficiency, a stark contrast to the heftier models that populate our roads today.

Fast forward to 2024, and the average weight of a new car has surged. A clear illustration of this trend can be seen when comparing a 1990s car with its modern counterpart. Take the 1995 Toyota Corolla, which weighed about 1,150 kg. In contrast, the 2024 Toyota Corolla tips the scales at around 1,400 kg and is still considered to be a lightweight car by modern standards. This increase reflects a broader industry trend driven by various factors, including enhanced safety features, technological advancements, and changing consumer preferences.

Recent data from Autocar highlights a significant weight gain in new vehicles over the past seven years. Between 2016 and 2023, the mean average kerb weight of new cars increased from 1,553 kg to 1,947 kg. This 400 kg rise can be partly attributed to the growing popularity of SUVs. In 2016, SUVs and crossovers tested by Autocar averaged 1,722 kg, significantly heavier than the overall average for that year.

Interestingly, by 2023, not only had the number of SUVs tested increased, but their average weight also rose. The average SUV tested in 2023 weighed 1,906 kg, contributing to the overall heft of new cars. However, it’s notable that the weight difference between SUVs and other car types has narrowed. In 2016, the Skoda Kodiaq was 246 kg heavier than the Skoda Superb, while in 2023, the weight gap between SUVs and the general car population was just 38 kg.

This shift suggests that while SUVs remain a significant factor in the overall increase in vehicle weight, the trend extends across all types of cars. Electrification also plays a big part in this trend, as well as enhanced safety features, more robust structures, and advanced technologies, which all contribute to making modern cars significantly heavier than their predecessors.