Do you get the sense that cars are getting heavier? Well, they are. There are a lot of reasons for this:
- More and better sound deadening
- Safety features such as front and side impact airbags
- More tech and luxury items
Despite the impression that old cars were more solid and heavier, new cars have them beat. A 1970 Dodge Challenger weighed 3800 pounds. A 2022 Dodge Challenger weighs almost 4300 pounds.
Why Lighter Is Better
There’s a reason Formula 1 cars don’t weigh 5 tons. Lighter cars have serious advantages such as:
- Better handling
- Needing less horsepower to go fast
- Improved efficiency
It takes less energy to move a lighter object, and this is true of all forces, whether we’re talking about accelerating in a straight line, turning, or braking. All things being equal, the heavier car is less efficient and slower.
So What Are the Lightest Cars?
Let’s look at the lightest cars for sale today and the lightest cars ever.
Lightest Modern Cars
The lightest cars you can buy are typically compacts or sports cars:
- Mitsubishi Mirage: 2,095 pounds
- Chevy Spark: 2,246 pounds
- Mazda Miata: 2,341 pounds
- Nissan Versa: 2,599 pounds
- Hyundai Venue: 2,612 pounds
- Hyundai Accent: 2,679 pounds
- Nissan Kicks: 2,686 pounds
- Mini Cooper Hardtop 2-Door: 2,711 pounds
- Hyundai Elantra: 2,725 pounds
- Kia Rio:2,762 pounds
So the majority of these vehicles are inexpensive vehicles meant for economy. The Hyundai Venue is an interesting one because it’s doing its best impression of a crossover, which makes its low weight impressive.
Of course, the most fun you’re going to have here is with the Mazda Miata or Mini Cooper. But what about the lightest cars ever?
Lightest Cars Period
These cars are either not produced anymore or are super low volume:
- LLC Rocket: 839 pounds
- Renault Twizy: 992 pounds
- 1957-1975 Fiat 500: 1,100 pounds
- Morgan 3-Wheeler: 1,157 pounds
- Caterham 7: 1,190 pounds
- Caterham Superlight R400: 1,258 pounds
- Murray T.25: 1,267 pounds
- Lotus Elan: 1,289 pounds
- 1959 Mini: 1,294 pounds
- DeTomaso Vallelunga: 1,601 pounds
Ah, this list is more like it. Far more sporting, far more exciting. Yes, there are some basic people movers here like the Renault Twizy, Fiat 500, Murray T.25, and original Mini. But it’s the performance cars that are so impressive.
Take the LLC rocket, which looks like, well, a rocket, but with four wheels attached. While it only has about 150 horsepower, it could accelerate to 60mph in the mid-4 second range.
The legendary Caterham 7 (based on the Lotus Super 7) is a track king and perhaps the most important car here. You’ll also notice the spiritual predecessor to the Mazda Miata, the superlative Lotus Elan, makes this list.
Are Heavy Cars Inevitable?
For the most part, yes. Modern safety regulations require features that add weight. Compare these lists, and you’ll see that the cars currently for sale are far heavier than their historical counterparts.
While there will always be light, zippy cars of some kind, the need to protect our fragile bodies will ensure that the cars you buy will be porkier than in decades past.
Most cars seem to be getting heavier and heavier. The average midsize sedan now exceeds 3,300 lbs.
Lightness is a huge advantage for cars. Even though cars are getting heavier, manufacturers are still trying to figure out ways to put their cars on diets to increase performance and efficiency.