And of course the Italian Fiat Punto looks good too….
As fuel prices reach record heights official Government figures show that the new Fiat Punto – released 1 July – is the most economical conventional car in Australia with the Punto 1.3 JTD five door offering an official fuel consumption figure of 4.6 litres per 100 km, or a remarkable 61 miles per gallon.
In the showroom, the Punto is ‘line-ball’ at $22,990 with its normal rivals and significantly less costly than its hybrid competitors.
Luxury items – the Punto has cruise control, CD player with remote steering wheel mounted controls, remote central locking, air conditioning and power windows and locks – which are all standard.
Safety features – the Punto has ‘everything’, with a five star Euo-NCAP rating, six airbags and ABS brakes leading the safety equipment list.
On the road the Punto “offers the driving experience that would be expected of any car coming from Italy and its styling shows it has the appeal of its performance cousins from Maserati,” says David Stone, General Manager for Fiat cars in Australia.
Hybrid battery cost – owners of ‘environmentally friendly’ hybrid cars may face a bill for up to $7000 when their car’s battery dies less than eight years after purchase. The battery unit, which has a lifespan of 8-10 years – shorter in hotter climates like Australia – cannot be reconditioned. “A replacement battery on the Insight retails for $6840,” says Honda spokesman Mark Higgins. Honda began selling the Insight hybrid in Japan car in 1997 and in Australia in 2000. It sold 44 Insights before withdrawing the futuristic-looking two-door coupe from the market earlier this year. Honda has re-entered the hybrid market with the Civic sedan and aims to sell around 20 per month.
Toyota’s Prius four-door sedan has fared considerably better since it launched in October 2001. Nearly 500 Australians had bought the hybrid sedan by September 2003, and Toyota hopes to move a lot more of the second generation model released in September. Toyota divisional general manager – marketing, Scott Grant believes there is a market for around 50 Prius a month. “This product is no longer a science experiment but a mainstream car,” he said.
How do Hybrids work?
They combine small petrol motors with electric motors powered by batteries. In most driving situations the small capacity motor is all that you need. When more power is required the electric motor kicks in, and when the electric motor isn’t being used the petrol motor recharges its batteries. Come to a red light, the motor shuts down completely, restarting as you lift off the brake pedal.