Wednesday 29 October 2008

Top 10 credit crunchers

Car sales across the world have been falling fast, especially in Europe. Industry figures for September show a 40% drop in sales of luxury cars and off roaders. In fact, sales of every type of car were more than 15% down on September 2007 – except for one. The city car segment is having a popularity boom, with motorists flocking to models with low running costs which are still big on character.

The Fiat 500 is taking the city-car segment by storm, thanks to its cool looks, high specification including 7 airbags and low price. The entry-level 1.2 litre Pop is available with a sticker price of less than £8,100.

Its small 69bhp engine only emits 119g/km of carbon dioxide, so it’s in Tax Band B with a cost of £35. Combined fuel consumption of 55mpg should be possible and it has a low insurance group 2 rating.

The current Ka surpassed its 500,000th milestone in the UK. If you don't like the original, then wait Spring 2009 for the all-new model. Both 1.2 litre petrol engine and 1.3 TDCi diesel engine attract a £35 yearly road tax and both return fuel economy of 55mpg +. Emissions slot below 120g/km. It should also be cheap to buy and own, with a predicted price tag of £7,000.

Toyota Aygo/Citroen C1/Peugeot 107:

For an extra £175 extra over the Fiat 500, you can purchase a 3dr Toyota Aygo instead. The 5 dr model commands an extra £350 over the 3dr. The lightweight Toyota Aygo packs a big punch in the fight against the Credit Crunch with group one car insurance and £35 tax band B. Add to this a combined fuel consumption of 61mpg and the Toyota Aygo is able to make money go further. You can also expect fun handling and surprisingly athletic acceleration around town thanks to its low weight, however, all 3 cars are going to get replaced in 2010.

The C1 and 107 are under equipped and over priced compared to the Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10 but are similarly priced to the Aygo and offers same consumptions. The 1.4 HDi in the C1 returns 68mpg combined but emissions are the same as the petrol variant.

Hyundai i10/Kia Picanto:

The Hyundai i10 is both cheap to buy at £6,495 and cheap to run. Both 1.1 litre and 1.2 litre petrol engines have a top speed of 96mph and can return an average around 56.5mpg. Its emissions of 119g/km place it in Tax Band B and it comes with a long five-year warranty. Avoid the automatic though, this slips into Tax Band C and is liable for a £120 taxation. It’s safe, with four airbags as standard compared to the Picanto's 2 airbags. Kit is impressive for such a small car and includes air-conditioning, six-speaker CD player, central locking and front electric windows. It's also the most spacious city-car in its class.

The Picanto starts from a mere £6,095. Like the i10, the Picanto averages around 57.6mpg for the 1.0 litre with a top-speed of 93mph and 53.3mpg for the 1.1 litre manual with a top-speed of 96mph. Compared to the i10, the Picanto skips on equipment. Insurance and general running costs should be very low. Out of the Korean twins, the Picanto is the best looking.

Unfortunately, the 1.1 litre CRDi diesel engines aren't available in the UK. This emits 114g/km of C02 while combined fuel economy is 65mpg.

Renault Twingo:

Renault has returned to the UK with its Twingo. It’s excellent value for money with prices starting from £8,295 and the most economical model comes with a 1.2-litre petrol engine.

Servicing is every 18,000 miles and the 1.2 litre Extreme is insurance group 2, while its fuel consumption of 50mpg and emissions of 132g/km, making it more expensive to run. The Tax Band B 1.5 dCi diesel engine isn't available in the UK, although it has emissions of 114g/km with combined fuel economy of 65mpg. Dynamique and GT grades come with sliding rear seats.

Volkswagen Fox:

You can buy into the Volkswagen brand from £6,590 and get yourself the successor to the popular Volkswagen Lupo. There is lots of space inside and the rear seats can split and slide forwards to give maximum boot space. The Volkswagen badge should help you get more money back when you want to sell and the 1.2 litre engine should return 46mpg combined. The baby VW pumps out 144g/km of CO2. The Fox is in Tax Band C, like the Renault Twingo. At all expenses, try to avoid the 1.4 litre petrol engine as this is liable for £145 yearly taxation and is in Tax Band D. The current Fox will get replaced in 2010 by a newly, European designed and developed Fox.

Smart ForTwo:

For city dwellers, the Smart ForTwo makes lots of sense, fitting into parking gaps normally left for bikers. All models, except the Brabus and CDi slot into £35 Tax Band B. The CDi is exempt for road tax and emits 88g/km of CO2. Combined economy should averages at nearly 80mpg but the small 1.o litre turbocharged petrol engine is capable of returning more than 60mpg and gives the tiny Smart fairly brisk acceleration.

When the Toyota iQ arrives, it will be the smallest four-seater on sale, being similar in length to a Smart ForTwo. The front passenger sits further forwards than the driver to free up space.

The 1.0 VVT-i taken from the Toyota Aygo but developed to be even more economical and emit just 99g/km of carbon dioxide, making it is tax-free and will return around 65mpg. Toyota has concentrated on making the interior a good place to be, so it should still appeal to motorists downsizing from bigger cars. As a Smart rival, the entry-level model starts at £9,495.

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