Until he was in his 50's, my Dad bought 6-cylinder cars. He wanted the family cars to impact the family budget as little as possible. He didn't cave until 1971, when he had an executive job. Maybe he finally felt he needed air-conditioning for taking important people to lunch. He bought a Chrysler Newport with a 318 V-8, possibly the worst car he owned (in my estimation).
I learned to drive in 1961, in my Dad's light green Plymouth Valiant with a 101 h.p. (claimed) slant-6 (The best thing about that car was its 3-speed floor shift.) The Valiant, and Chevy's Corvair, and Ford's Falcon--all 6's--were Detroit's first cut at import fighters. They were called "compact cars" then. Today they would be considered mid-sized.
Aside from the Valiant, most of my youthful experience was with 4-cylinder cars at the imported car store where I worked summers. My young adult experience, with (new) cars I bought myself, was mostly with 4's too: a VW Beetle and a Datsun 510. I took a pass on Detroit's second generation of import fighters, the Chevy Vega and the Ford Pinto.
In my mature years (ahem) I've gone back to 4's: a Ford Escort that "put my kids through college" and my current Honda Civic Si, which I wanted. I like a 4. It's cheap to run. In the pre-computer age, it was cheap and easy to maintain. A 4 is often short-geared, both in the box and the final drive, which makes you feel like you're going like the hammers of hell, even if you're just keeping up with traffic. In a hot 4 like the Si, you can leave traffic behind at will. Modern 4's are engineered to operate as smoothy as a 6 or an 8. And of course they're Interstate-capable.
When I was young, 4's were exotic, in the sense that you didn't see them often. Now they're in maybe 30-40% of the cars on the road. You (I) don't really need more than a 4. More isn't better--although it can be more fun.
|The most powerful 4: the BMW 1.5 turbo that powered some Formula 1 cars in the 1980's. It made (as I recall) 800+ h.p.|
in race trim, and 1100+ h.p. in qualifying trim.