Drivers spoiled for choice
Chic looks and turbodiesel offset a rubbery ride, writes PAUL GOVER
IN case you hadn’t noticed, there is a war going on. We’re all caught in the middle of the melee as car company troops battle for supremacy in a green conflict that runs to fuel economy, emissions, weight, drag and everything else that makes a car more efficient.
The good news is that the spoils of war are available to everyone, from large car buyers— who have a more fuel-efficient Camry and Commodore next month — to the hybrid buyers who will race for the new Toyota Prius and Honda Insight to the diesel drivers who have a broader choice than ever before. Which is why I’m sitting, again, in a Fiat. The cutesy little Italian zipabout has been a showroom winner around the world since it first hit the road but now Fiat wants to turn it into its economy spearhead.
Mini is doing the same thing with its diesel model and both are ranged against the hybrids soldiers, as well as rival diesels with every badge from Alfa to Volkswagen.
There is no denying the Fiat is economical. It consumed 5 litres for 100km during my test time and the baby 35-litre tank will take you a long way between fills.
Fiat claims even better, with 4.2 litres/ 100km in general running and as good as 3.6 litres on the highway, as well as CO2 emissions of 111grams/km. To put that in perspective, the baby petrol player in the 500 family, a frugal 1.2, makes 119 grams/km.
The 500 diesel also comes with a diesel particulate filter, an important anti-emission device that’s missing from Toyota’s vast range of workhorse and family SUV and 4x4 diesels, though nitrogen oxides are still not totally defeated.
But we’re getting far too far into the technical stuff, and most people who buy diesel are really going for the economy. And the range.
In the case of the 500, they are also buying into one of the trendiest cars on the planet today. Even Elle Macpherson has one in which to zip around London, though hers is a petrol version.
‘‘The economy car isn’t about just fuel economy. People are buying a car that’s small but don’t want to give up the features and equipment of a larger car,’’ Fiat’s Australian spokesman, Edward Rowe, says.
‘‘That stuff is not locked to the size of the vehicle. People want a convenient small car but they still want something stylish and fashionable.’’
There are six models in the 500 range now, from the basic petrol Pop at a driveaway price of $22,990 through to the Lounge turbodiesel at $29,990, though there is lots of extra stuff if you have extra cash.
The most popular choice is the Dualogic manumatic transmission, which costs $2000, but lots of people are going for special colours and stripes and alloy wheels.
Actually, the lack of the Dualogic gearbox is hurting the turbodiesel, which only comes with a five-speed manual.
‘‘The current sales rate for the diesel is around 15 per cent of our sales. But that is down to the lack of a self-shifting gearbox,’’ Rowe says.
‘‘The market sector the diesel sells to sees a self-shifting gearbox as an absolute requirement. The majority of what we sell is based around the 1.4 with the Dualogic gearbox.’’
the Fiat JTD Lounge turbodiesel is part of the popular 500 range.