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Deciding which new vehicle to purchase is made more difficult by the wide array of engines available for each model. A buyer might think small engines offer better fuel economy while larger engines will deliver performance. In truth, fuel economy isn't always proportional to engine size, and big engines don't always provide the best performance.
To better understand which engine is best for your needs, it helps to understand the relationship between engine size, horsepower and torque. It also helps to understand government fuel economy guidelines.
Horsepower, torque and engine size
Horsepower is the amount of force an engine can produce. Torque is how that force is applied to turn the wheels. In almost all cases, increases in horsepower and torque come at the expense of fuel economy.
Small engines, with fewer cylinders, traditionally have less horsepower and torque. As a result, they burn less fuel. Because they are smaller and more fuel-efficient compared to their large-displacement counterparts, these engines often weigh less. This allows the vehicle to handle better. Smaller engines will have fewer parts to service and be less expensive to maintain during the life of the vehicle. Small engines should not necessarily be considered underpowered. Turbochargers or superchargers can make smaller engines very powerful, while consuming less fuel than larger engines.
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