September 25, 2021
Times are forever changing, and this also applies to the motor industry. Modern engines are increasingly using a turbocharger in place of the old naturally aspirated engine.1
Because a naturally aspirated engine has fewer moving parts than a turbocharged engine, many expect it to be more reliable than the turbocharged counterpart. After all, the aspirated engine has a proven track record of about 100 years. But these engines are no match for their turbocharged equivalents when providing maximum torque at low rpm.
When going on a daily commute in a city like Johannesburg, driving a car with a naturally aspirated engine compared to a turbocharged engine is like comparing day to night. The turbocharger comes into its own when you require short bursts of speed to overtake or get into that precious gap in a row of cars. This kind of performance is just not possible with a naturally aspirated engine.
Motorists with naturally aspirated engines keep the rpm low when changing gears and when accelerating to save fuel. But, at low rpm, this engine cannot suddenly provide power on demand, even when accelerating at high rpm. This is especially true when on the freeway, where you can battle to regain speed once you’ve lost it. You may have to keep some distance between you and the lorry in front so that you have a sufficient build-up of speed before overtaking. On the other hand, a smaller turbocharged engine takes care of all these power deficiencies by providing great torque at low rpm.
A naturally aspirated Suzuki Vitara with a 1.6-litre engine delivers a power output of 86 kW and a maximum of 151 Nm torque at 4000 rpm. In stark contrast, a turbocharged 1.2-litre 3-cylinder Citroen C4 Cactus generates 81 kW of power and a maximum of 205 Nm torque at 1500 rpm. The latter means you can accelerate and access a burst of power at low rpm without changing down gears.
Compact cars with turbocharged engines are inclined to use more fuel, but the higher fuel consumption of the Citroen C4 was bearable. Recording fuel efficiency data using onboard computers revealed that after 3800 km, the Suzuki performed at 6.7 L/100 km. The C4 Cactus’s fuel economy was at 6.5 L/100 km after 5100 km– the same fuel economy as the Suzuki‘s but for a longer distance of 1300 km.
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