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