COVER STORY

Down­siz­ing is the next big thing, it seems, with Aus­tralians in­creas­ingly swap­ping large cars for com­pacts

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Inside - BILL McKIN­NON bill.mckin­non@cars­guide.com.au

As we go for small cars in ever greater num­bers, there are ever more to choose from. Cars­guide gives the low­down

IT’S a sure thing: as the price of petrol goes up, the size of new cars on peo­ple’s shop­ping lists comes down.

Many driv­ers are also down­siz­ing to do their bit to give the planet a hand. It’s as good a rea­son as any and you can save se­ri­ous money, too.

What’s the point of fork­ing out for big-car fuel bills and pro­duc­ing big-car CO

2 emis­sions if you hardly ever carry any­body in the back and have no need for a boot the size of the MCG?

Only a masochist would try to make a lit­tle hatch­back work as fam­ily trans­port for two or three teenagers but some small cars can per­form the role bril­liantly if you have one or two young chil­dren. A-graders in the class now have the re­as­sur­ance of five-star crash test rat­ings.

When the kids leave home (even­tu­ally), many peo­ple look around their largely va­cant house and SUV and ask: ‘‘ Do I re­ally need this any more?’’

For an in­creas­ing num­ber, the an­swer is no. An added at­trac­tion of chang­ing to a smaller car, es­pe­cially for older peo­ple, is that it’s much eas­ier to drive than a big sedan or wagon and you gen­er­ally have much bet­ter vi­sion as well.

It’s eas­ier in traf­fic and in the shop­ping cen­tre grand prix.

If you’re down­siz­ing pri­mar­ily to pare your bud­get, it’s prob­a­bly a good idea to steer clear of Euro­pean-made ma­chin­ery.

Sev­eral affordable Eu­ros have fab­u­lous, fuel-efficient tech­nol­ogy, won­drous gad­gets and the brag­ging rights that come with the badge but there are ma­jor down­sides.

Ser­vic­ing and spare parts costs are usu­ally much higher than for Ja­panese, Korean and Aus­tralian-made cars. All Euro­peans run on 95 or 98 oc­tane pre­mium, or diesel, so you’ll be stung at the pump.

Re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues also seem to arise more fre­quently. The

‘‘ just out of war­ranty blues’’ syn­drome seems to be par­tic­u­larly com­mon among Euro­pean brands.

Here, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der, are Cars­guide’s picks.

The new Suzuki Swift runs a more fuel-efficient 1.4 litre en­gine, which has am­ple per­for­mance for run­ning around town, av­er­ages just 5.5L/100km on reg­u­lar un­leaded (man­ual) and scores five stars out of five in the

Green Ve­hi­cle Guide.

The Swift is com­fort­able, smooth and quiet, its high roof de­sign gives the cabin an open, bright feel, and there’s rea­son­able space in the back seat and boot. It has a five-star ANCAP crash test rat­ing and seven airbags are stan­dard. Prices start at $15,990 for the five-speed man­ual GA; a four-speed auto adds $2000. The other ace of space is the

Honda Jazz (pic­tured right). The cur­rent model has been around since 2008 but the 2011 up­grade in­cludes a five-star NCAP re­sume ´ ´— six airbags and sta­bil­ity con­trol— across the range, plus USB and Blue­tooth as stan­dard.

The Jazz is amaz­ingly com­fort­able and roomy for its size, with a clever rear seat fold­ing ar­range­ment that can lib­er­ate ex­tra vol­umes for gear. It’s also a reg­u­lar win­ner of re­li­a­bil­ity and owner sat­is­fac­tion sur­veys. Prices start at $16,990 for the 1.3-litre GLi man­ual, which av­er­ages 5.8L/100km and is an­other five- star green car. A five-speed auto adds $2000.

If you need more cabin and boot space than the Swift and Jazz pro­vide, you move up a class, where there are nearly 30 in­di­vid­ual mod­els to choose.

Stick­ing with our value/ re­li­a­bil­ity/low run­ning costs theme, the Toy­ota Corolla is still a tough act to beat.

Avail­able as a sedan or hatch, both priced from $20,990 in base As­cent spec­i­fi­ca­tion, the Corolla is com­fort­able, well screwed to­gether and com­pletely bul­let­proof and has now up­graded to five-star AN stan­dard, with sta­bil­ity co and seven airbags.

The Corolla sedan also works bril­liantly as fam­ily trans­port, be­cause it has heaps of rear seat space and a huge boot.

The 1.8 is still one of th most fuel-efficient en­gine in the class, av­er­ag­ing 7.3L/100km with the sixspeed man­ual, and 7.4 wi op­tional four-speed auto ($2000). An added at­trac with the Corolla is fixed-p

price

$12,490

price

$24,490

Holden Barina Spark

EN­GINE 1.2-litre 4-cylin­der petrol; 59kW/107Nm

DI­MEN­SIONS 3595mm(L); 1597mm(W); 1522mm(H) WEIGHT 981kg THIRST 5.6L/100km

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