NZ drivers ditch gas guzzlers

Higher petrol prices and more fuel-efficient engines have prompted Kiwis to ditch bigger gas guzzlers in favour of smaller vehicles, industry experts say.

New data from the Motor Trade Association (MTA) shows the top-selling cars between 2009 and 2013 were predominantly four-cylinder models.

The results of a previous review, carried out in 2011, showed a much wider spread in the most popular types of vehicles.

Toyota's Corolla continues to dominate the new and used market, but traditional favourites - like the Subaru Legacy and Holden Commodore, the only car with more than four cylinders in the top 10 - have slipped in popularity.

MTA spokesman Ian Stronach said the price of 91 octane petrol in 2009 was $1.63 a litre, but by the end of 2013, it was close to $2.20 a litre.

"With petrol costs increasing around 35 per cent in that time, it was entirely predictable that there would be a swing to smaller-engined cars."

AA motoring affairs manager Andrew Bayliss said people had been turning away from bigger-engined cars in recent years.

"They're looking for something more fuel-efficient and obviously small four-cylinder are cars are very much in vogue. But also, so are SUVs - they suit the Kiwi lifestyle, but you can also have quite economic diesel engines in some of them as well."

Environmental decision-making had played a part in the shift.

"But I think the reality is people are being hit in the pocket with fuel costs, so why buy a car that does 14 litres per 100km when you can buy one that does 7 litres?"

Mr Bayliss said the Australian-made Commodore and Ford Falcon had historically been two of New Zealand's best-selling cars.

The Falcon has dropped off the list entirely, down from eighth place, while the Commodore is hanging in at 10th place, down from third, "probably largely due to the police fleet".

Other familiar names have dropped out of the top 10 altogether, including long-time favourites such as BMW's 3 Series and Subaru's Impreza.

Giltrap Group joint managing director Michael Giltrap is uniquely placed to observe the shifts in the market - his company's 14 brands include top-seller Toyota and dwindling seller Holden.

He said the statistics had shown a trend towards diesel vehicles and four-cylinder cars for a period. That was driven by both emissions and petrol prices, which was "part of the equation, but not all of the equation".

"The pure performance levels that a four-cylinder can deliver has increased so much more in the last five [to] 10 years, so the requirement for big engines is not so great."

Another trend was that people who used to buy mid-sized vehicles were now buying SUVs - both as a lifestyle choice and because they were fashionable.

Utes like the Toyota Hilux - now in the top 10 for the first time, at fifth place - were now being bought as "lifestyle" vehicles too.

Top 10 vehicles 2009-13 (top vehicles for 2006-11 in brackets)

1. Toyota Corolla (Toyota Corolla)

The 1.8L GX model with CVT transmission uses 6.6L petrol/100km, or 760km per $100 of petrol. Average annual running cost is $1850.

2. Suzuki Swift (Subaru Legacy)

The 1.4L automatic GL model uses 6.2L petrol/100km, or 810km per $100 of petrol. Average annual running cost is $1740.

3. Toyota Vitz/Yaris (Holden Commodore)

The 1.3L automatic YR model uses 6.3L petrol/100km, or 790km per $100 of petrol. Average annual running cost is $1760.

4. Mazda Axela/3 (Suzuki Swift)

The 2L automatic GLX model uses 8.4L petrol/100km, or 600km per $100 of petrol. Average annual running cost is $2350.

5. Toyota Hilux (BMW 3 Series)

The 3L automatic SR5 TD model uses 9.3L diesel/100km, or 740km per $100 of diesel Average annual running cost is $2630.

6. Mazda Atenza/6 (Toyota Estima/Lucida)

The 2L automatic GLX model uses 6L petrol/100km or 830km per $100 of petrol. Average annual running cost is $1680.

7. Mazda Demio/2 (Honda Odyssey)

The 1.5L automatic Classic model uses 6.8L petrol/100km, or 740km per $100 of petrol. Average annual running cost is $1900.

8. Subaru Legacy (Ford Falcon)

The 2.5L Premium model with CVT transmission uses 7.9L petrol/100km, or 630km per $100 of petrol. Average annual running cost is $2210.

9. Toyota Hiace (Subaru Impreza)

The 3L automatic TD model uses 9.2L diesel/100km, or 750km per $100 of diesel. Average annual running cost is $2610.

10. Holden Commodore (Nissan Primera)

The 3.5L V6 automatic VF Calais model uses 9L petrol/100km, or 560km per $100 of petrol. Average annual running cost is $2520.

* Sources: MTA combined figures for new and used imports; EECA Energywise vehicle fuel economy figures

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