Petrol fuels its real return on to drivers' shopping lists
New engines make financial sense for low-mileage motorists, writes Martin Brennan
Petrol-powered cars are making a big comeback with motorists who find that, increasingly, they are making financial sense for low-mileage drivers. The improvement in low emissions and taxation and better economy from a new wave of three- and four-cylinder engines, combined with lower financial outlay, are the driving forces making urban drivers turn their back on the much-lauded diesel options.
At the recent launch of the new Toyota Auris and the Yaris Hybrid models, Dave Shannon, managing director of Toyota Ireland, said that petrol was now back on the shopping list. There are motorists who should not be driving diesel cars because they were not doing the mileage to justify the extra outlay, he said, and his view is reinforced by companies such as Skoda and Ford.
A five-door petrol Auris model is €2,000 cheaper than the diesel option, which means that the savings, taking the varying fuel returns into consideration, would fuel the petrol model for almost five years for motorists covering 15,000km a year. Skoda calculated that interest in its new Rapid model would be 70/30 per cent in favour of diesel but initial orders are 60/40 in favour of petrol models. Here the diesel/petrol price gap is a huge €3,450, and with similar returns in economy between the two engines, Skoda says that with the huge saving in outlay (and with similar annual mileage) there would be "free" fuel for up to 14 years.
And Ford, whose one-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine won International Engine of the Year 2012, said at the European launch of the new Fiesta that in the case of its Focus model, the first car to get its new engine, 80 per cent of motorists who did a test drive opted for the high-economy/low-emission petrol version.
Toyota has a real winner on its hands with the new Yaris Hybrid, which at €18,950 comes fully loaded with dual climate control, automatic transmission, full electric drive and stop/start technology. It is the ultimate urban car, capable of returning 3.5L/100km (83mpg) and, with 79g/km of C02, has the lowest emissions of any non-electric car on the market. It will attract the very lowest annual road tax after the Budget, and owners will get periods of all-electric driving with no nasty emissions of any kind. The Yaris has grown up – it now has more interior space and a smart exterior look. There are also petrol and diesel options.
The new Auris is stylish, has aerodynamic improvements, is lighter, and comes with improved engine performance, boosting economy. It comes with a Hybrid technology version, and there are four engine options. Prices start at €18,995 and there are three grades of specification, with two levels of trim for the Hybrid version.
Dave Shannon said that 2012 had been a difficult year, with just 80,000 registrations expected. Next year would be more difficult for the industry, with a forecast of 74,000 new car sales. But for the consumer, the upside is that importers are now offering better value in models on offer.
He criticised the epidemic of pre-registering by some companies to boost their "sales" figures. The losers here are the customers, who will eventually see a loss in residual values of their cars.
Industry insiders say that if pre-registering was not so prevalent, Toyota would be number one for car sales for the year. Next year will see the arrival on the forecourts of an additional version of the Prius – the Prius Plus, a seven-seater Hybrid, and the Auris Tourer, an estate. The three-door version of the Auris is being dropped.
On the commercial front, Toyota is re-entering the medium van segment with a Hiace replacement called the ProAce, a joint venture with the Peugeot PSA group. The ProAce arrives on the forecourts in mid summer.