At the other end of motoring appeal, one car that certainly did push the envelope of vehicle design and ability right to the limit is the Jaguar XF diesel This Grand Tourer with four seats and all the traditional attributes for which Jaguar is renowned remains our personal favourite. And yes. it does come under the ECO banner, even with a price tag hovering around the $115,000 level.
The XF handles beautifully and with its 3.0 litre V6 diesel engine it returns fuel consumption figures that can be as low as 5.5 l/100kms. In terms of value for money and driving appeal it's unbeatable, but when it comes to winning the big award of ECOcar of the Year, it's a contender at the edge of the judging criteria, rather than in the centre.
The same can also be said of the BMW 7-Series. Although the pricing level is twice that of the Jaguar, the economy returns from this engine, which it shares with the 3-Series, brings it into consideration for low fuel consumption, low emissions, superb comfort and overall safety. This was confirmed through a Melbourne CBD to Sydney CBD non-stop drive completed by ECOcar where the 7-Series averaged 100.00km/h for the complete trip and yet returned an overall fuel consumption figure of 5.6 1/100 kms. A hugely intelligent car, the 7-Series is not the solution for eco-friendly motoring on a mass market scale.
And now for a brief run through the Australian car market as we bring the ECOcar Magazine view of the good, the bad and the boring to find ECOcar of the Year 2010.
It has to be fuel efficient, it has to provide an innovative and environmentally sound approach to motoring, It has to be practical and it has to be affordable. There is one other important factor. It has to be fun to drive. That doesn't mean high performance or the ability to race ahead at the traffic light Grands Prix. It means that co-existence between the car and the driver has to be an enjoyable experience. Good but boring is not an option.
At Suzuki we've seen the launch of Australia's first Indian produced car, the Alto, With a 1.0 litre, three cylinder engine and choice of manual or auto transmissions it's a well designed and executed urban commuter. With competitive pricing It's certainly a contender for ECOcar of the Year but when placed into context, it follows an engineering path that was established decades ago by Daihatsu with the three cylinder Charade. It's competent, but It's not pushing the envelope of vehicle design.
Ford's Fiesta Econetic came with a triumphant entry to the Australian market, boasting the best fuel economy, even when compared to the hybrid Toyota Rhus. It's a nice, well built small car but with all its attributes for low cost motoring it remains simply a 1.4litre, diesel-engined, reliable and economical compact product. Mothing more.
It's pretty much a similar comment about the Fiat 500 range, although the styling is unique and the car is a design icon. Highly distinctive and very fuel efficient its appeal has to be limited by its size and ultimate pricing structure. You buy a Fiat 500 because that's what sets your driving passion in motion. You also probably dress with the latest fashion and sport gold accessories and pleasant fragrances.
Moving up in size within the Ford range brings the Focus and Mondeo diesels and the E-Gas Falcon derivatives into play. Both the Focus and Mondeo have great credentials but neither is now breaking the mould, preferring to stay with the traditional fuel economy benefits available from a diesel alternative. Expect a new, more efficient diesel due onto our market shortly to substantially lift the appeal of the Mondeo.
There are very compelling reasons to look at LPG fuelled vehicles under the ECOcar banner. Ford's Falcon XR6 and G6E running on E-Gas cut the cost of motoring but with new technology and better fuel economy and performance just a stone's throw away from Introduction, both must wait for a possible award until the new technology is made public, early in 2011. It's also necessary for the car maker to upgrade the transmission options from the old four-speed auto into the six-speed alternative.
Mazda is realising the advantages of diesel performance and economy and with the Mazda3 and Mazda6 it spans a broad range of reference for those looking to combine its traditionally high build quality with additional economy gains. Fuel consumptions of 5.7-5.9 l/100kms are not however spectacular and the limitation of six-speed manual transmissions reduce their chances for an award. Mazda 2 is a bright little hatch, but again Its 6.4 l/100kms isn't record breaking.
Back up the ladder to the prestige market and the most economical Mercedes-Benz is actually the A180CDI diesel. At a combined figure of 5,2 l/100kms it can be matched in economy by the B180CDI but buyers would be looking at the E220CDi for long runs in greater comfort. The Smart range does offer much reduced fuel economy figures but remains almost a social outcast, never achieving anywhere near it's intended potential.
If you are after a cult car and demand economy at the same time the MINI Cooper D almost ticks all the boxes. Price is a little on the high side but there's no dismissing its overall appeal. If you are young, trendy and live in the city it's a no bralner. But Is it the best of the best? Unfortunately not.
It's ironic than Mitsubishi's current car product range is lifting this Japanese car maker to record sales levels in our market. A situation i! failed to achieve when it manufactured locally.
Into the Mitsubishi equation comes the Colt and the Lancer. The inclusion of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is a big plus for Colt and Lancer and the company is quite active behind the scenes when it comes to the recyciabllity of the overall vehicle. The influence of the CVT shows in the fuel economy figures where it outperforms the 5-speed manual's 5,9 1/100 kms figure by a further 0.3 1/100 kms.
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