The most frugal version of Fiat's baby 500 model, using a small diesel, consumes less than Japan's best hybrids, which can cost about $10,000 more.
A flood of imported new-generation diesel models has arrived, delivering fuel consumption of better than five litres per 100km — equivalent to 56mpg. Most are able to drive about 1000km without visiting a service station.
However, these bowser-beaters are small cars with premium prices. The new champ is the 500 diesel version, rated at 4.2 litres per 100km in official testing, and costing $25,990. Petrol 500s, which are slightly thirstier, start from about $23,000.
The most popular hybrids, using an electric motor teamed with a petrol engine, are the Toyota Prius (4.4 litres/100km, from $37,400) and the Honda Civic Hybrid (4.6 litres/100km, $32,990).
The first batch of diesel 500s for Queensland buyers is expected to arrive soon, but petrol versions are already here.
New owner Kitty Mackay, of New Farm in inner Brisbane, has just bought a Fiat 500 from a dealer.
“With me, it's a nostalgia thing,” she said. “I had a Fiat 500 when I was going to uni in the '70s. Also, I'm doing my little bit for the environment.”
She said it c to fill the tank, which was still half-full after five days of heavy use.
“It's fun, it's cute and it fits all the shopping in the boot, no trouble at all,” she said.
“It's a really handy little car for everything and a perfect, perfect, perfect town car.” The 1.4 litre 500 Sport has a list price of $26,990, but Ms Mackay's came with extras including red leather upholstery, red stripes, sunroof and tinted windows, making it $35,000 on-road.
“That's a lot to pay for a little car, but it's worth it,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Queensland Government, which has had hybrid cars on its fleet since getting six of the first Toyota Prius hatchbacks in 2001, is adding Honda Civic Hybrids.
The first 10 Hondas have just been delivered, with another 40 on the way this year to join QFleet's stock of 177 hybrids.
Premier Anna Bligh said: “The cars we buy are important as they not only end up in the government fleet but then in the community.”
Fiat 500 diesel 4.2L/100km
Citroen C3 diesel 4.4L/100km
Fiat Punto diesel 4.4L/100km
Toyota Prius 4.4L/100km
Audi A3 1.9 diesel 4.5L/100km
Citroen C4 diesel 4.5L/100km
Honda Civic Hybrid 4.6L/100km