Performance vs. Utility: What’s the Difference & How to Choose

April 20th, 2020 by

2018 Mazda3

Performance vs. utility – which do you need in your next car? A new, high-mpg compact car might be the smart choice for some Gastonia drivers while others need a 4WD truck. The Kings Mountain family may want a more spacious minivan while a family business owner may need the capabilities of an SUV. We break down some key differences so you can find your next car, including:

  • Horsepower vs. Torque
  • All-Wheel Drive vs. 4-Wheel Drive vs. MPG
  • Off-Road vs. City Car
  • Interior Space vs. Cargo Room

Horsepower vs. Torque

Horsepower helps determine the top speed of a car, but if you’re looking to tow, torque should be a priority.

  • High Horsepower: Superior high-speed performance.
  • High Torque: Superior low-speed performance, able to tow and haul more, and more capable of getting out of sticky terrain.
Horsepower vs Torque

All-Wheel Drive vs. 4-Wheel Drive vs. MPG

Even as vehicles get more efficient, all-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive affect your fuel bottom line. Most drivers know what they get in exchange for a few points of lost mpg, but here’s a quick rundown for your priorities:

  • All-Wheel Drive: AWD typically sends power to all 4 wheels as needed while operating in two-wheel drive in normal driving conditions for improved mpg.
  • 4-Wheel Drive: If you want complete control of your vehicle’s driving behavior, 4WD is the best choice since you activate the different driving modes manually.
  • MPG: If your budget is the top priority, you should stick with a two-wheel drive car — likely front-wheel drive unless you’re eyeing a sports car or a truck — as the engine uses less power, and thus less fuel, powering two wheels.
2018 Mazda CX-9 AWD Driving Through Wooded Roads

Off-Road vs. City Car

Where will you be driving? It’s going to affect plenty.

  • City Car: Mostly sticking to cities and highways? A car that’s tuned for performance will make your commute or road trip easier.
  • Off-Road: You’ll need different suspension to cope with the demands, plus a host of further additions — and we recommend 4-wheel drive. Being off-road-capable is the domain of utility vehicles.
2018 Mazda CX-5 Driving at Night on Curved Mountain Roads

Your Car’s Interior Space vs. Cargo Room

Finally, measure up your desire for comfort against your need for cargo space:

  • Passenger Comfort: Some sport models are rather spartan, but most performance vehicles provide luxury fittings and materials. Smaller vehicles may leave you feeling cramped if you bring camping gear along, too.
  • Cargo Space: If your sights are set on utility, cargo space (both standard and available) should be a priority. If it doesn’t have a cavernous cargo area to start with, you’d better be able to fold down some seats.
2018 Mazda3 5-Door Interior Seating and Features

From Performance to Utility: Find What You Need at Mazda of Gastonia

Whether you need to talk financing, arrange a test drive, or simply find out more about performance vs. utility, the team here at Mazda of Gastonia is always eager to be of assistance – contact us today in Gastonia for any further help.


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