Choosing an economical vehicle
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SMALL CARS ARE NOT ALWAYS THE CHEAPEST TO RUN
The 1.8 litre Honda Civic, above, and Toyota Corolla make sense as good choices for limited budgets.
Emily is a student who works part-time as a veterinary assistant while she completes her veterinary science degree. She has to commute about 100km to her job, three days a week and 60km to university, at least four days a week.
To save money, Emily lives at her parents’ house in a small New Zealand town. To drive to work and university without breaking the bank, Emily needs a car that is safe and efficient on fuel.
It’s a bit of an old wives’ tale that smaller cars are more economical. In fact, fuel economy is usually a combination of factors and it’s dependent on use.
A car that has a larger engine isn’t always less economical. For example, earlier models of the Toyota Prius initially had 1.5-litre engines, but now it’s fitted with a 1.8-litre engine, which is more economical than the previous model as a result of its improved technology. Vehicles continue to improve with innovative design and the technology behind cars plays a large part in determining how economical it is.
Nowadays, manufacturers create a vehicle to meet the needs of a specific market so it’s important to understand what you are buying.
Small Japanese imports with engines between 1.0-1.3 litres are designed for getting around town. They often have CVT transmission which is perfect for economical, city running and they are lightweight with good acceleration. However, on open roads these pocket rockets often have to work their engines hard to be able to reach 100km/h, meaning heavy fuel consumption.
To save on costs, small Japanese imports also tend to have smaller braking systems and sometimes they have simplified suspension as well. Although this is well-suited for city driving, these systems are pushed when on the open road and, if used for an extended time, they can lead to increased service costs for brakes and overall wear. So, unless you’re an urban driver, this car wouldn’t make the cut as an economical vehicle.
Most of us drive our cars in and outside of the city, and for those who have only one car, a 1.8-litre Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla – both medium sized cars – would make good, economical choices. Both models have a good level of power, safety and reliability, which means they are more suited to all types of driving. The engines run at a relatively lower rpm than the small Japanese imports and their gearboxes are good for both highway and city use.
While larger cars aren’t the most practical within cities, they are great for the open road. Generally, they have good safety features and provide lots of comfort, but inevitably the engines tend to be quite large, increasing the overall weight of the vehicle.
If you spend most of your time in urban driving environments, than on the open road, then having a large car will end up costing you, and unless you require a car with extra space, there’s no point in getting a bigger one.
The servicing bills can be slightly higher for large cars as sometimes they have six cylinders to take care of rather than the traditional four – just something else to consider. When choosing an economical car for use on New Zealand roads, it’s a good idea to determine what you will be using the car for. Once you have determined its purpose, you can then consider other factors during your search such as servicing costs.
If you’ve found an economical European car, remember that servicing costs tend to be higher because of parts availability.
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