Subcompact standards

Q&A with Sharon Peters

Q: We just drove a BMW M325i. Like it. Can’t understand why it’s classified as a subcompact. It’s a two-door and it’s not huge. But a subcompact? Never occurred to me. How does the classification happen and how big/small does a car have to be to qualify?

A: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified this car as a subcompact. According to

EPA standards — intended to classify vehicles of similar size so that fuel economy can be compared — any vehicle that has between 85 cubic feet and 99 cubic feet of interior volume is a subcompact (compacts have 100 to 109 cubic feet of interior space). Other subcompacts include Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and Nissan Versa.

It’s worth noting that lots of other groups and agencies do their own classifying. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, has a different system, based on curb weight; the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has yet another system, which takes into account vehicle length and wheelbase (and other things); and various vehicle-related organizations have their own classifications. So you’re apt to find a car called a few different things.

Whatever the size classification of this sporty two-door, it ain’t cheap: $40,000 and up.

Q: My mother is returning from six years overseas soon. She is 59 and hasn’t driven at all during those six years. I’m worried. What do you suggest?

A: I’m a fan of the AARP Driver Safety Course. It’s an eight-hour classroom refresher course conducted for people age 50 or older.

You can find a course near where she’s settling by typing the ZIP code of her new home into the program’s page: action.

If, for any reason, this isn’t the route she wants to take, you can always suggest she sign up for a few private driving lessons with an instructor. Some instructors can be very good coaches, and will notice and alert her to areas she needs pay extra attention.

Actually, in an ideal world, she’d do the driving coaching and the AARP course. The latter is very plugged into aging issues that might be problems — decreased mobility, less-than-perfect hearing and so on — so as to highlight possible danger areas and strategize compensatory actions.

© CTW Features

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email