With the hike in fuel prices, car companies are expecting to see renewed interest in fuel efficient models, especially those priced below RM100,000.
If you are in the market for a new car and fuel efficiency is a priority for you, here is a selection of five affordable models which we think you should consider.
The keyword here is affordability. So although there are many models with highly efficient engines out there, many of these models are not included simply because it is priced out of reach for a majority of us that will feel the pinch the most.
For example, the traditional poster boy for fuel economy - the 3.9-litre/100 km (quite achievable in the real world) 2013 Toyota Prius starts from RM139,900. But you must be a special kind of miser to spend a D-segment category price for a C-segment hatchback, but at the same time is concerned about a twenty sen/litre increase in petrol prices.
The following guide is aimed at the average family. Here's our list of recommended low fuel-sipping cars.
5. Toyota Vios (starts from RM 73,200)
Manufacturer's claimed fuel consumption (for the outgoing model): 6.1-litres/100 km (Australian Design Rules, combined cycle)
Real-world urban driving (outgoing model): Around 6.5- to 7-litres/100 km
Very few other cars polarise themselves as much as the 2013 Toyota Vios does. It is the favourite target for boy racer/enthusiasts crowd, who often deride the Vios for its low list of features and its poor driving characteristics.
While we agree that Toyota needs to buck up in upgrading the Vios' specifications to match that of the competition, there is nothing wrong with a boring car. Not everyone feels the need to have a deep sense of attachment with their tool of transport. The sheer dominance of the Vios on our local roads is a testament to this.
An all-new next-generation Vios will be launched in October, but as it will carry over the current model's engine and transmission, fuel economy numbers published here are unlikely to change much.
The Vios comes in last only because of its relatively higher price and inadequate safety features. The cheapest automatic model is estimated at RM73,200. Even the highest grade model is not equipped with electronic stability control (ESC), or as Toyota calls it, VSC.
4. Mitsubishi Mirage (starts from RM 56,992)
Manufacturer's claimed fuel consumption: 4.8-litres/100 km (New European Driving cycle, combined)
Real world urban driving: Around 5.5-litres/100 km
The cheapest car on the list, this tiny little 2013 Mitsubishi Mirage may be small but it is nothing like a Perodua Myvi. For one, this is a global product, built at Mitsubishi Motors' plant in Thailand, which also exports the Mirage to many major overseas markets including Europe and Japan, so there is a strong reputation for quality.
Safety features like dual front airbags, ABS with EBD and BA, front seat belts with pre-tensioners, and ISOFIX child seat mounts are available as standard. It also scored a reasonable four stars at the ASEAN NCAP frontal collision test.
Legroom is surprisingly generous and Mitsubishi says it matches that of slightly larger models like the 2013 Suzuki Swift.
The secret to all this is its generous use of high tensile strength steel and an efficient pairing of a 1.2-litre engine and a CVT transmission.
The idea of a 1.2-litre engine may seem alien to many Malaysians, but hopefully higher fuel prices will make us understand why such engines are common in developed countries, where the Mirage is sold with an even smaller 1-litre engine.
The only reason it wasn't ranked any higher is because it misses out on ESC, which the FIA says buying a car without one is like buying a car without seat belts. To read more tips on shopping for a safe car, read our Guide To Choosing A Safe Car To Buy here.
Mitsubishi will be introducing a sedan version of the Mirage, called the Attrage later in November..
3. Honda City (starts from RM 85,980)
Manufacturer's claimed fuel consumption: 6.6-litres/100 km (Australian Design Rules, combined)
Real world urban driving: Around 7-litres/100 km
A local favourite, and it is easy to see why. After nearly four years in the market, the 2013 Honda City still looks fresh, with a mild hint of premium ambitions.
The higher grade E and E+ models comes equipped with ESC (Honda calls it VSA) and thus these two models qualify for the maximum five-star ASEAN NCAP score for adult occupant protection against frontal collision.
The best thing about the City is that it is an entry-level sedan that doesn't look, drive or ride like one.
2. Honda Jazz CKD (RM 74,800)
2. Honda Jazz CKD (RM 74,800)
Manufacturer's claimed fuel consumption: 6.7-litres/100 km (Australian Design Rules, combined)
Real world urban driving: Around 7-litres/100 km
Still the most practical hatchback, the locally-assembled 2013 Honda Jazz is like the automotive equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. Its seats can be configured in a variety of combinations, adaptable for anything from an Ikea shopping run, to a visit to your neighbourhood plant nursery. Don't let its small exterior fool you, this car packs Doraemon's magical pouch.
It also comes with VSA as standard.
In case you are wondering why we chose the conventional petrol engine powered Jazz rather than the 2013 Honda Jazz Hybrid, it is because we feel the Jazz Hybrid is too much of a compromise (lower specifications) without delivering significantly better fuel economy in real world driving conditions.
The Jazz Hybrid's claimed 4.6-litre/100 km is quite difficult to achieve in the real world.
As a mild hybrid, it still requires the petrol engine to be fired up when pulling away from stand-still and the frequent juddering from the engine start-stop cycle can be quite uncomfortable in heavy traffic.
Plus, it doesn't have an electric powered air-conditioning compressor and thus cabin cooling capacity has to be compromised when the petrol engine is shut down during idle-stop.
The regular Jazz is good enough for a majority of fuel economy conscious users and more importantly, it is about RM15,000 cheaper than a Jazz Hybrid.
1. Toyota Prius c (RM 97,313)
Manufacturer's claimed fuel consumption: 3.9-litres/100 km (Australian Design Rules, combined)
Real world urban driving: Around 4.5-litres/100 km
The 2013 Toyota Prius c is among the most fuel-efficient cars on the market, rivalling the more expensive Prius. Fully imported from Japan, it packs seven airbags, VSC, whiplash injury protection front seat headrests, cruise control, Smart entry, and, it could be yours for slightly more than the price of a much poorer equipped Vios TRD Sportivo.
It is a full hybrid, so it drives much smoother, can be driven off from stand-still in pure electric mode and with a beltless engine bay, the air-conditioning is independently powered by a battery. Thus, you continue to enjoy the maximum air-conditioning cooling performance even when the engine is on idle-stop.
In case you are wondering about hybrid battery replacements, we have mentioned it many times in the past that this is only a myth. More on that here.
The downside to the Prius c is with its interior, which is smaller and less practical than the Honda Jazz, and the layout of the cabin that although is practical, looks rather spartan when compared to the Jazz.
As a small hybrid, the Prius c is best used as a city car. For highway drives, you wouldn't want to be in this car for very long.
What are the Australian Design Rules and the New European Driving Cycle?
Fuel economy testing are conducted in a controlled lab environment, with a technician driving the vehicle over a rolling-drum by following a very specific driving cycle as displayed on the screen ahead.
As Malaysia has no regulation governing fuel consumption testing, there is no clear guideline for car manufacturers to follow on how to calculate their vehicle's fuel economy, so most of them don't publish the information.
If the model is offered in Europe with a similar specification, the manufacturer may publish fuel economy figures based on the New European Driving (NEDC) cycle test methodology. NEDC is based on the EEC (European Economic Commission) R101 regulation adopted by the European Union.
But some models like the Vios, City and even the Prius c, are not sold in Europe, so the data is not available.
As an alternative, we will publish the numbers based on the Australian Design Rules, whose testing is very similar to the EEC R101 standard. However this is only applicable if the said model is sold in Australia, with the same engine and transmission.