Which Engine is More Economical and Compact?

Car manufacturers have worked tirelessly over the years to make the internal combustion engine more economical and compact. The idea was to build an engine that makes prudent use of resources. That is, the smallest power unit that can produce enough juice by burning less fuel.

All efforts have been geared towards achieving a reduction in weight and cost of the engine while maintaining or improving its overall efficiency. The result has been reduced costs for the buyer when purchasing and maintaining their car.

Which engine is more economical and compact?

A V-type engine with a capacity of between 1 liter and 1.9 liters tends to be more economical and compact. It achieves the perfect balance between performance and fuel economy while keeping exhaust emissions low.

Below is a detailed explanation of how smaller engines achieve fuel economy while producing the amount of power needed for day-to-day activities.

Engine type

Engines are classified according to the type of cylinder arrangement.

The V-type engine tends to be more economical and compact. Its cylinders take a V shape and are usually positioned at an angle of 600. These engines sit lower and boast a better center of gravity.

Their design is compact and makes good use of space even with a higher number of cylinders. They also operate smoother at high speeds. Examples of cars with the V-type engine include Honda Odyssey, Toyota Camry, Ford Expedition, and Ford F-150.

The second type is the inline engine where the cylinders are arranged in a line. These tend to have a longer crankshaft than other types of engines and can limit the number of cylinders used.

They are, however, less complex and the best for achieving a more balanced and uniform torque. Examples of compact and economical cars with an inline engine include Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Accord.

Lastly, we have the flat or horizontally opposed engine. Here, cylinders are arranged horizontally opposite each other.

This type of engine tends to achieve a higher output, higher speed, and better mechanical balance. Horizontally opposed engines can, however, be long.

They also tend to sit very low and wide, achieving a low center of gravity. Manufacturers typically fit them in the transverse direction inside the engine bay.

They also boast great handling, less weight, and better thermal efficiency. Examples of cars here include the Toyota BRZ and GT86, Subaru Impreza, and Porsche 911.

Engine size

Engine size is also referred to as engine displacement or engine capacity. It denotes the total volume of the engine cylinders expressed in cubic centimeters (CC) or liters. The bigger the volume, the more air and fuel the cylinders can take. More air and fuel means more power.

An engine with a capacity of 2,000cc or 2 liters should practically produce more power than an 800 CC or 0.8-liter engine. However, car manufacturers have managed to build smaller engines that can produce as much power as larger engines.

When looking for an engine that is more compact and economical, pay attention to numbers or phrases like 2.0 or 2 liters. A 2-liter four-cylinder engine will typically have four cylinders with a capacity of 500cc or 0.5 liters each.

It means that each cylinder can compress and burn about 500cc of air and fuel. The more fuel a vehicle burns, the less economical it will be. Engines that range between 1 liter and 1.9 liters tend to be the most economical and compact.

Performance and output

Previously, the larger the engine, the more power it could produce. This is no longer the case thanks to the use of turbochargers. These are forced induction devices that force more air into an engine’s combustion chamber.

More air and more fuel create a boost that increases the engine’s power output and efficiency. This allows small engines to compete with larger engines in power and torque ratings. The amount of power an engine produces is quoted in horsepower (hp).

The ideal horsepower for a compact and economical engine is around 100-150 hp. Some have less. The modest ratings help keep the vehicles fuel efficient, safe, and affordable. The power is enough for short drives and running errands in your day-to-day.

So, do not worry about power when you opt for a smaller engine size. Some of the car manufacturers that use turbocharging to boost power include Ford with its EcoBoost, Volkswagen with its TFSI, and Suzuki with its Booster Jet.

Vehicle size

The size of the vehicle also matters when choosing a more economical and compact engine. The heavier the car is, the more energy it requires to keep moving. Larger vehicles have greater rolling resistance and greater inertia which contribute to more fuel consumption.

This is why most large vehicles feature bigger engines. The engines provide the power needed to move the vehicle but tend to be less efficient. Their increased fuel and air capacity means they burn more fuel than smaller engines.

This is also common in cars built for quick acceleration and top speeds on long motorway journeys. However, over the years, the need for big engines in big cars has slowly dwindled. A high-displacement engine isn’t necessary and there are examples to prove it.

The Mercedes GLB SUV boasts a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine that churns about 160 horsepower. The Ford Mondeo comes with a 1-liter 3-cylinder engine that makes 123 horsepower. These two can be considered as larger vehicles running on small engines.

Petrol vs diesel

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), diesel-car drivers save about $160 a year when compared to those that use petrol. The savings range between $366 and $488 when it comes to bigger family cars.

Diesel engines tend to be more efficient. They consume 15-20% less fuel and offer a much better driving experience on the highway. However, they’ve had a bad rep for a while now due to the effect they have on the environment.

They also rely on compressed air rather than spark plugs to ignite fuel. This can cause excessive wear and tear in the long run due to the high forces generated inside the engine.

This, combined with the fact that the components used to make the engine are usually priced higher than those used to make petrol engines, makes it a costly affair for owners.

Diesel engines are typically more suited for bigger cars and longer journeys. They are not ideal for smaller cars or short journeys. The diesel particulate filters (DPFs) work better to burn the harmful NOx emissions when the exhaust is hot enough.

For these and other reasons, a lot of car manufacturers have done away with diesel. Sales have continuously hit a new low due to concerns surrounding emissions. Car brands like Toyota and Porsche no longer offer diesel options in their model ranges.

If you’re looking for a more economical and compact engine, petrol is the way to go. They measure well and are catching up to the diesel’s fuel-efficiency figures. Furthermore, they are better for city driving and short runs.

Hybrid technology

Many car manufacturers are equipping cars with mild hybrid technology to help in power deliver and take the strain off the engine. The technology typically includes a small electric motor or powerful starter motor that can deliver small torque boosts at low engine speed.

The electric motors use the energy stored in the battery. These vehicles offer a greener driving solution. They also boast improved fuel efficiency. Sometimes, the engine does all the work while other times, the electric motor takes over.

Car manufacturers offer different types of hybrid designs to achieve low vehicle costs or maximum fuel savings.

These range from “full hybrid” where the motor can move the car by itself for a short distance to “mild hybrid” which assists the gasoline engines. The result is reduced fuel consumption, better fuel economy, and increased performance.

On That Note

The decision on what engine to choose should be based on your driving habits. Most compact and economical engines are designed for city driving and relatively long journeys. They are not built for off-road excursions.

An engine with a capacity of not more than 1.5-liters should be enough for the average daily driver. With a turbocharger, it can provide enough power to cope with motorway drives. It’s small enough to also keep your costs low, including your insurance premiums.


What is good fuel economy?

The best fuel economy averages 35-40 miles per gallon. This translates to about 8-7 liters per 100 km or 60 miles. The generally accepted standard has also risen in the recent past to 50-55 miles per gallon or 5.6-5.1 liters per 100km/60 miles. Anything less than 6 liters per 100km or 60 miles is considered good fuel economy.

Which car consumes the most fuel?

Italian supercars record the highest fuel consumption. In 2020, the Bugatti Chiron had the worst fuel economy at 11 miles per gallon. Many of the automakers behind performance cars fit stop-start technology and cylinder deactivation alongside V-12 engines to control fuel consumption.

How much fuel does a 2.0 L engine use per km?

On average, a 2.0 L engine will consume 10-14 liters of fuel per 100km in urban city driving. It will consume 8-9 liters per 100 km in highway driving. This means that in city driving, it will consume 1 liter for every 7-10 km. It will consume 1 liter for every 11-12.5 km in highway driving.

How far can a car go on a full tank?

A car can travel 200-400 miles on average on a full tank. Smaller cars have gas tanks that can hold 12 gallons (54 liters) of fuel while larger cars can hold 15-16 gallons (68-72 liters).

What causes high fuel consumption?

The three things that cause high fuel consumption include accelerating too quickly, stopping too suddenly, and driving too fast. These actions strain the engine, causing it to burn more fuel to meet the driving demands.

What is the best speed for fuel economy?

According to the Energy Saving Trust, the best speed to achieve maximum fuel economy is 55-65 mph. Driving any faster can significantly increase fuel consumption in your car. Researchers observed a 40% increase in consumption when driving at 85 mph from 70 mph.