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Automatic buyers stung by special deals

Getting an automatic transmission in the Yaris can add up to $2800 to its 'on special' price.

Several big brands have a new way to raise prices on cheap cars - even when they're 'on special'.

Researching hot deals on the cars in this week's light hatch comparison we were gobsmacked to discover two reputable brands having a lend of us on the prices of automatic hatchbacks.

This month on the respective websites, Honda has a $16,990 drive-away deal for the Jazz and Toyota promotes $15,990 drive-away for its Yaris.

But tick the box for one with an automatic - as more than 75 per cent of us do in this category - and the price jumps by more than the usual premium. The self-shifting Jazz normally adds $2000, the Yaris $1600, according to the manufacturer price lists.

There is nothing illegal about this but that it doesn't make it right

But during this month's 'special', automatic transmission adds $2650 and $2800 respectively. Ouch. There is nothing illegal about this but that it doesn't make it right. In coming weeks we will canvass the response of consumer groups and the corporate watchdog to this new practice.

Is it fair to lure consumers to showrooms with a bargain manual when in fact the most popular choice is one with automatic?

Is it reasonable for consumers to expect the price premium for an automatic not to increase when it is on special?

On the flip side, other brands are doing mega deals and not charging a dollar more for automatic.

Suzuki and Hyundai both have 'free auto' deals, with savings of between $2500 and $5000. At least those deals are more transparent than others.