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Bowser wowsers

Filling up the car with petrol is the single biggest weekly purchase for most households.

Fuel prices have edged higher in the past week and that's the direction they'll keep going for now.

This week the Australian Institute of Petroleum fuel price report shows the national average for unleaded petrol rose by 1.5 cents a litre in the past week to 137.7 cents.The metropolitan average rose by 1.8 cents to 136.3 cents, while the regional average rose by 0.9 cents to 140.5 cents.

CommSec chief economist Craig James says: "The bottom line is that motorists should expect petrol prices to edge their way higher if the positive mood on financial markets continues.

Filling up the car with petrol is the single biggest weekly purchase for most households, so the future course of petrol prices will be keenly watched by any consumer-dependent business."

But surely not so closely as they're being watched by you. With that in mind, we've found the cars that on current prices can be fuelled for about $1000 in a 15,000km driving year.

These cars get Carsguide's Triple-F rating - they are all family and fuel friendly. We've used the manufacturers' claims for combined conditions, so if you're driving is mainly urban you'll go north of these numbers; if there's a good open road component it will be south.

We've taken broad averages to arrive at our round figures (see below) but they are indicative of what you can achieve with judicious driving and making your visits to the bowser on the days of the lowest pricing.

ANNUAL JUICE USE TAKES INTO ACCOUNT:

  • National average price in the 12 months up to Friday July 27 according to Australian Institute of Petroleum
  • 15,000km annual average
  • Manufacturer's claim for combined fuel use
  • ULP: 134.7 cents
  • Diesel: 137.9 cents

FAMILY SEDAN


Toyota Camry Hybrid
Price: from $34,990
Thirst: 5.2L/100km unleaded
Annual juice use: $1068.60



If Toyota is synonymous with sci-fi looking hybrids, its best one is cloaked in anonymity. Indeed it doesn't get much more anonymous than a Camry, the Hybrid version of which looks exactly like the common or garden petrol version.

It shares the good bits - seven airbags, five-star crash rating and a full-size spare wheel - but its economy is staggering: 5.2L/100km versus 7.8L/100km for the petrol Camry.  It's also quieter. In addition to using one-third less fuel, it costs $130 for each of the five services for the first four years or 75,000km.

The price premium - $1,500 more than an equivalent petrol-only model - might pay off but the Hybrid model can tow only 300kg and the boot is slightly smaller. The top version, with near-Lexus levels of luxury, costs $41,490.

FAMILY WAGON


Hyundai i40 Tourer diesel

Price: From $34,490
Thirst: 4.7L/100km diesel
Annual juice use: $1,001.10



In contrast with the gormless i45, Hyundai has done a great deal of local adaptation work on the i40 sedan. Even if the wagon does not yet have its specially-adapted-for-Oz suspension settings, it is a much better proposition than the i45.

That miraculous fuel figure is for the manual, the action of which is a bit like stirring a stick though thick mud. Yet while the auto is claimed to use almost a litre more per 100km, on open road run between Sydney and Brisbane Carsguide recorded only 4.4L/100km.

In any case, the sheer driveability of a diesel combined with a good auto makes it preferable. In solely city duty, the i40 is more likely to use above 8.0L, which is surely still worth it given the diesel's open road flair.

SMALL SEDAN


Honda Civic Hybrid

Price: $35,990
Thirst: 4.4L/100km unleaded
Annual juice use: $937.20



Honda does a couple of obvious hybrids and one that's far less so. And the Civic version is arguably the best of its breed. The new Civic is a big jump from its distinctly average predecessor. It is up on quality and is simply far better to drive.

It uses two power sources - petrol engine and electric motor - but unlike the Camry (and Prius) which can separate the two when needed, in the Civic Hybrid they work in tandem.

This is technically simpler but returns higher fuel figures. The Civic Hybrid gets 4.4L/100km against the Prius's 3.9. Still, it's more spacious than the old model and needs smaller batteries so the boot is bigger.

The rear seats don't fold down to increase luggage space. It gets a five-star crash rating, electronic stability and traction control, brake assist and six airbags, but a space-saver spare.

SMALL HATCH


Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion

Price: $28,990
Thirst: 3.8L/100km dieselUnlink
Annual juice use: $809.40

Golf can be played in a range of colours but the most efficient is blue. In VW-speak, it's BlueMotion, the in-house term for those selected models tuned for maximum economy and minimum emissions.

The Golf BlueMotion costs $28,990 $1000 more than the Golf 77TDI that it replaced but comes only with a manual gearbox. But you're prepared the shift for yourself in order to save the planet, aren't you?

A plethora of fuel-miser tech here  low-rolling resistance tyres,  stop-start system, brake energy recuperation, slippery aerodynamics, tall gear ratios and a gearshift prompt indicator  are added to the already frugal 1.6-litre turbo-diesel. It's also a brisk performer with Golf's usual excellent handling and ride comfort. It works as well in city traffic as it does loping along a country road.

COMPACT SUV


Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport diesel

Price: from $39,040
Thirst: 5.7L/100km diesel
Annual juice use: $1,214.10

This slips us well over the grand mark, but torque isn't always cheap especially not 420Nm of it. CX-5s are selling like cold beers at the cricket because they are at least in diesel form very lively, economical and practical wagons.

There's no doubt the CX-5's success is due to it enlarging in the appeal of the Mazda3 hatchback. But it's a better vehicle thanks to the SkyActiv tech that covers body, engine, transmission, suspension and platform. The bi-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine has class leading economy via its six-speed auto, despite the added weight of all-wheel-drive. Compact enough for comfort in city traffic, it's also very roomy with excellent rear seat leg and head space. The cabin could be a bit more stylish, but it’s simple and the controls are easy to operate. The rear seats split and fold flat. On the road the diesel version slaughters the petrol model.

CITY CAR


Ford Fiesta TDCi

Price: from $21,490
Thirst: 4.4L/100km diesel
Annual juice use:  $937.10

In any guise the Fiesta is well made, affordable and a driver's delight. As a diesel it's also lean running. Made in Thailand, it's big on value. The 88kW/200Nm make this lightweight city car something of a hot hatch, with steering and handling to match.

As with other diesels originally derived from Europe, you have to change gear for yourself, though with the arrival of the next EcoBoost petrol engines next year, Ford's excellent twin clutch automatic could become available. Sedan and hatch are identically priced.

Though the five door brings the extra load flexibility of its ilk, the sedan's boot approaches that of the next class up in terms of capacity. It'll swallow a monthly grocery shop all right. The diesel is specially calibrated for maximum fuel efficiency and features a coated particulate filter to keep emissions low. The Zetec spec, at $23,490, is worth the extra spend.

Pricing Guides

$13,850
Based on 195 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$7,888
Highest Price
$19,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Altise 2.4L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $12,990 – 13,990 2012 Toyota Camry 2012 Altise Pricing and Specs
Atara R SE 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,990 – 16,990 2012 Toyota Camry 2012 Atara R SE Pricing and Specs
Atara S 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,490 – 16,000 2012 Toyota Camry 2012 Atara S Pricing and Specs
Atara SL 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,900 – 18,995 2012 Toyota Camry 2012 Atara SL Pricing and Specs
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$8,990

Lowest price, based on 113 car listings in the last 6 months

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