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Why car buyers are thinking small?

Hybrids, diesels and small cars seem to be the main attractions at the Brisbane Show.
Stuart Scott

5 Feb 2008 • 3 min read

High-efficiency engines, diesels and hybrids — which have a small petrol engine assisted by an electric motor — are in the spotlight as buyers switch to smaller and smarter cars to avoid being slugged at the petrol bowsers.

Small four-cylinder cars with engines around 2.0 litres have become by far the biggest-selling group, and the smaller light-car class — mostly 1.6 litres — is on track to out-sell large cars this year.

New diesel models from several brands have been unveiled at the motor show.

With the focus on fuel economy, demand for hybrid-engined cars continues to increase. The most economical car on sale is the hybrid Toyota Prius (4.4 litres per 100km), followed by the diesel Citroen C4 (4.5 litres) and Honda Civic Hybrid (4.6 litres).

Hybrids have reached the luxury league, with upmarket brand Lexus demonstrating the self-parking system of its $233,000 LS600hL sedan.

The 10-day motor show comes as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issues a stern “please explain” to oil companies over recent high petrol prices.

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel last week said; “We're bewildered by the fact that they're just so insensitive to community anger and outrage at this sort of situation.”

As fuel economy becomes a must-have for many car buyers, the RACQ has made “going green” the theme for its motor show stand.

Club staff are advising showgoers on how to save money and help the environment when buying and driving a car, compare vehicle technologies and understand fuel consumption labels.

On the stand is the most economical car at the show, running on solar power instead of petrol. It is the University of Queensland's UltraCommuter entrant in last year's World Solar Challenge run from Darwin to Adelaide.

Dana Di Labio, 19, from Murrumba Downs in Brisbane's north, said she would consider buying an environmentally friendly car.

“Although they are a little bit more expensive, in the long term you save money on fuel, and it puts your mind at rest to know you're doing something for the environment,” she said.

RACQ general manager for external relations Gary Fites said; there was no immediate relief in sight for Queensland motorists hit by petrol prices which have doubled over the past decade, while the consumer price index has gone up 30 per cent.

Bowser wowsers

RACQ tips for money-saving motoring:

  • When buying a car, choose the smallest and most fuel-efficient model that suits your needs
  • Compare fuel consumption information
  • Consider the lower fixed, annual and operating costs of owning a smaller car
  • When your household has more than one car, try to use the more fuel efficient car for most travel
  • Choose local, close destinations where possible
  • Plan your journeys and activities
  • Avoid driving in peak hour congestion if possible
  • Walk, cycle or take public transport where possible
  • Where safely possible, cruise at a reduced speed
  • Minimise accelerating and braking
  • Change up through the gears as soon as practical
  • Use airconditioning only when necessary
  • Don't warm up or idle your engine
  • Fill your fuel tank only to the first click of the nozzle
  • Keep your tyre pressure up to the recommended figure
  • Remove unnecessary weight and roof racks
  • Service your car regularly

For more information on fuel economy.