Like many others, I’ve downsized my car. My travelling needs changed and so did my vehicle. But while I looked forward to the cost-saving benefits, I didn’t think my driving style would change so drastically.
Despite working in Which? Car, I am one of the 4.8% Brits who has switched to using the railway as my main way to get to work in 2011. My 80-mile-round commute by car has been replaced by a 20-mile drive with the remainder covered in the comfort of First Capital Connect’s standard class.
The switch makes complete sense. Whatever car I drive it’s going to spend most of its time sat neglected in a loose-gravel train station car park that’s a paint-chip hotbed – a location not best suited to the vulnerable Alfa. More importantly, my financial burden has been significantly reduced: insurance, tax and maintenance costs are all much lower with my Yaris.
A change in driving style
What I hadn’t considered was how my driving habits would sway, and by how much.
Its endless torque, cruise control and an ultra-comfortable interior made the Alfa stress-free, which transferred directly into my driving technique. I had presumed that this was due to my natural and maturing driving style. It appears not.
The Yaris, in contrast, offers a much more ‘basic’ package. The interior is focussed on practicality over comfort, making it a tool to get me from A to B, rather than a place to settle down in and enjoy the ride.
And since the 1.5-litre petrol engine needs to be worked hard to get up to speed, I’ve found myself trying to eke out every ounce of performance from its armoury.
I’ve now started to refer to this as “small-car syndrome” – a motoring version of short-man syndrome, where you drive the car harder to make up for your car’s inadequacies in scale.
Because I’ve essentially lost 75 brake horsepower switching to the smaller Yaris, I’ve found myself trying to make this up by entering corners notably faster, braking later and accelerating much more aggressively.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly no Lewis Hamilton. In fact, I’m not even Christine Hamilton. And I want to stress that I drive well within the limits of the law. But I’ve been left mildly appalled with my driving in recent weeks, especially as I’ve seen my average miles per gallon figure diminish dramatically.
So I want to know – is this just me? Or has anyone else noticed a change in their driving style after they’ve downsized their car?