There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to engine size. Are you more concerned with performance or fuel economy? Will you have to face a huge tax bill if you opt for a larger engine? And of course how you use your vehicle can be a big factor too. With all these elements to think about, along with all the other components that go into a car, picking out a new vehicle can be challenging! That’s why it’s often sensible to do a little research first. To help you get started, we’ve outlined the basics of engine sizes below!

What Engine Sizes Are Available?

Not too long ago, cars didn’t have a particularly large selection of engine sizes, and you only had a choice between petrol and diesel. But with technological advancements and the introduction of hybrids and electric cars, there is much more variety to choose from. Most engines can be split into four categories though:

1.0 Litre and Below

When it comes to 1.0 litre engines and under, diesel cars with an engine smaller than 1.6 are less common, and they don’t exist under 1.0 litres. Thus if you’re looking for a small engine, you’ll probably need a petrol vehicle. Bear in mind though that you may need to push the engine quite hard to build up speed or overtake other vehicles. And if you regularly carry a few passengers, the engine may struggle, so you may want to consider something bigger.

Engines of 1.0 litres or less generally have three or four cylinders, and may feature turbochargers for additional power. Many small city cars, as well as slightly larger vehicles like the Ford Focus, have engines of this size. 

car engine size

1.0-2.0 Litre Engines

With an engine of between 1.0 and 2.0 litres, the vehicle will generally have four cylinders. A turbo may also be added for extra horsepower. For petrol engines, the most common size in this category is 1.4 litres, while for diesel engines it’s 1.6 litres. 

This engine size is typically used for mid-sized family cars, such as the VW Golf and Peugeot 308, as well as larger SUVs like the Skoda Kodiaq.

2.0-3.0 Litre Engines

An engine of between 2.0 litres and 3.0 litres tends to be a four cylinder turbo, with many larger cars opting for this engine size. The BMW 3 Series, as well as vehicles like the Audi Q5 and VW Golf R have engines in this category. 

With bigger engines up to 3.0 litres, your car is bound to have a lot of power, but you do need to be conscious of your fuel consumption. These vehicles are not very economical when it comes to fuel!

3.0 Litre and Above

A car with an engine over 3.0 litres will obviously come with a lot of horsepower, featuring six, eight, or even twelve cylinders. As with the cars in the previous category though, their fuel economy isn’t the most efficient. 

It’s not just supercars and high end vehicles that use an engine of this size - big saloons, estates and SUVs like the Range Rover and Mercedes E-Class also have engines over 3.0 litres. 

What Size Engine is in My Car?

If you’re not sure what size engine your current vehicle has, you can easily check this in the owner’s manual, or you can use the car’s VIN. The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) can be found on the driver’s side of the dashboard, and can be used to get loads of stats about your car. You can either call up the manufacturer or simply type the VIN number into a search engine!

When it comes to buying a new vehicle, it’s good to check what size your current engine is, as that should give you a good idea of what size engine you’ll need next. If you’ve found that you don’t have enough power on motorways, for instance, you may wish to opt for a bigger engine. But if you have too much horsepower presently, especially if your car is mostly used for city travel, perhaps it’s time to downsize. 

Fuel Economy and Road Tax

As a general rule, the smaller the engine, the more fuel efficient it is. For instance, the Ford Fiesta, which has a 1.0 litre engine, gets around 55 miles per gallon, while the Audi A6, with its 3.0 litre engine, only gets about 40 miles per gallon. However, MPG isn’t the only consideration with fuel economy. 

If you’re driving in cities, then the rule above applies, but with motorways, the reverse is typically true. A smaller engine needs to work harder to maintain speed on a motorway, so won’t be as efficient as a vehicle with a larger engine.

In terms of road tax, the engine size isn't the only factor - how much you pay will also depend on things like CO2 emissions and the car’s list price. You’ll need to decide whether paying a bit more road tax is worth the benefits of getting a certain make or model of vehicle. 

sports car powerful engine

What Engine is Right for Me?

When answering this question, it’s best to ask yourself what you’re looking for from your car. Are you trying to get the most cost effective car on the market? Or perhaps an outstanding driving experience is more important to you. 

Another big thing to consider is where you’re driving. If you primarily drive in town, a smaller engine should suit your needs, even if you occasionally do longer drives. You may even want to consider a hybrid or electric car, which can be incredibly efficient. If most of your driving is on the motorway though, you may wish to opt for a larger engine, probably a diesel. Even if the purchase price of a diesel vehicle is higher, they have some of the best fuel economy rates for lengthy journeys, so you’ll probably save overall in fuel costs. 

Overall, the best engine size for you will depend on your personal circumstances, and you’ll need to carefully weigh up your options before buying a new car.