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A 3D view of today's small cars

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By Caroline Ng and Fung Yu Contributors Author’s Note: The 3D images linked to this article uses Adobe Flash technology, which provides an immersive experience by means of virtual reality technology. Flash 9.0 is required to view the 360-degree, 3D images. I’m shopping for a new car, specifically a small one with an engine displacement of 1.3L or below. After seeing the purchasing power of my money getting weaker amid the rising pump prices that seem to have no end, costly automotive parts replacements and increasing maintenance cost, the perennial traffic problem of Metro Manila, I believe it’s about time I retire my aging car and switch to one that gives greater fuel economy, more creature comforts, environmental compliance, and plenty of available cup-holders. Car manufacturers who anticipate more increases in fuel cost but are also conscious of protecting the environment, have rolled out respective minis or compact cars. They range from the 0.8L Suzuki Alto and the Chery QQ to the 1.3L Toyota Vios/Avanza, Honda Jazz/City, and Nissan Sentra GX. In between, we also have the 1.0L Chevrolet Spark, plus the 1.1L Kia Picanto and the Hyundai Getz. Most cars run on petroleum products derived from oil, which is a non-renewable source of energy. Oil is formed by the compression and heating of ancient organic materials over time. The oil we use today was formed by the preserved remains of prehistoric planktons and algae over the past 200 million years (remains of prehistoric land-based plants and trees turn into coal). This is the reason why oil is called a fossil fuel. According to the report, "Crude Oil, Uncertainty About Future Oil Supply Makes It Important to Develop a Strategy for Addressing a Peak and Decline in Oil Production" by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), known world oil reserves is expected to be depleted by 2040. This could possibly lead to a global energy crisis if measures are not taken to find alternative energy sources. Crude oil is not just used to produce gasoline. It is also used as raw materials for a whole range of chemical products, including pharmaceuticals, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, and yes, the ubiquitous plastics. Oil consumption is affected by several factors. The most important of all is a country’s economy. Developing countries like India and China could soon outpace the United States in terms of oil consumption due to rapid industrialization. At the rate of growth these countries are experiencing, the increased purchasing power of each country's citizens will not only mean more cars on the road, but also increased consumption of petroleum based products, which will fuel further demand for oil. The global supply of oil is partly controlled by OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). It can increase or decrease oil production as dictated by demands from the world market. Oil prices change constantly due to the balance between world supply and demand. Other factors affecting oil prices include wars and volatile political situations. With the rising demand and dwindling supply, we can only surmise that the almost weekly wave of fuel price increases we are experiencing is probably here to stay. Oil accounts for one-third of the world’s total energy needs with almost 80 percent being consumed in transportation. Even a few liters of gasoline saved by each motorist can go a long way in the conservation of this valuable resource. For this article, I won’t trouble you with all these talk about torques, “rpms,” horsepower, among others. I will also spare you the comparison of one car over the other. All these information are readily available in the web and online forums. As in my past articles, you will be virtually ‘transported’ inside each car located in idyllic locations and immersed in full, 360-degree interactive view of the interior -- all without the need to leave the comfort of your seat. Click on the following links to view the interior of each compact car model. The 3D view of the car interiors, arranged in increasing engine displacement, feature edited windows and mirrors. Take note that the average fuel consumption (in kilometers per liter) was provided by the respective manufacturer or dealer, which came from tests conducted in controlled environments or from actual customer usage. A vehicle’s ‘mileage’ is influenced by many variables but load, tire condition, traffic situation, and personal driving habits affect the overall gasoline consumption. Now, have you ever wondered that given the compact size and attractive prices of these vehicles, certain important features are missing? Certainly not Passenger safety, personal comfort, and interior aesthetics come as standard features in some of these compact cars. Add-ons and set-up kits are readily available for the discriminate few who like to dress-up their cars. Several color variants of each model are also available for those who want to choose based on their distinctive taste. The ultimate test for these compact cars involves doing an actual test drive in a variety of road conditions. For now, however, you can just enjoy and imagine that you’re sitting inside this new compact car parked in very nice locations. Switching to a newer and smaller car can save you some gasoline money. But this decision also extends to a ‘greener’ movement. Advances in engine technology, such as Honda’s VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control), i-DSI (intelligent Dual and Sequential Ignition) and Toyota’s VVT-I (Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence), aim to provide greater power output while maintaining small engine displacement and fuel efficiency. For us consumers, these developments mean more distance covered for the same amount of gas, cleaner combustion, which in turn, translates to lesser emission and pollutants. Sure there are hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell powered cars already around. There is even a model that runs on compressed air. But until they mass produce these engines and make it more affordable to the general public, we might just have to make a more practical and logical choice by going compact. VRs taken and edited on July 2008 under time-constrained & uncontrolled shooting environment, minor edit flaws can be noted. You can email the authors at caroline@firefly.ph & fung@firefly.ph.

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This page contains a single entry by published on July 30, 2008 12:41 AM.

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