Monthly Archives: July 2017

Running on the smell of an oily rag

This is one saying that may not make any sense at all to drivers (if the term ‘drivers’ even means anything) in 25 years time. ‘Well, that was back when transportation devices needed to be topped up with fuel, son.’ might be the response from the dad of the future.

But since it does still mean something in 2017, as a follow up to one of our previous articles on the cost of owning and running a car, we thought we’d look at what most people see as the major cost component – the cost of the fuel.

Petrol pump

Fuel consumption per mile/km has improved significantly over the past 40 odd years – figures out of the US show that average fuel economy (for cars) went from around 13mpg (18 l/100km) in 1975 to 33mpg (7 l/100km) in 2010. The latest available figure for Australia is from 2013 when the passenger vehicle average was around 11 l/100km, perhaps reflecting the greater popularity of gas guzzling four wheel drives down under.

And with the not so new generation of hybrids and pure electric vehicles on the market in Australia or coming soon, the whole concept of fuel consumption is getting a bit more complicated.

There are essentially four different options you have if you’re buying a new car and you’re looking to get one that’s economical with fuel – diesel, petrol, hybrid and pure electric. All have their pros and cons – let’s have a look…


Despite the recent ‘fudging’ of the fuel consumption figures by some fancy footwork on the part of VW, diesels are still anything up to 35% more fuel efficient than the equivalent petrol engined car.

They can also run on more environmentally friendly fuels such as bio-diesel, and newer engines do not suffer some of the problems of older diesels eg smoky/smelly exhaust fumes and difficulty starting in the cold.

Servicing costs are generally lower too, as diesel engines require less maintenance that petrol engines. However, the difference in price between diesel and petrol isn’t as great as it used to be, and the fuel efficiency benefits are generally cancelled out if the bulk of driving is short trips or city driving.


The good old ICE (internal combustion engine) has improved considerably over the last 10-15 years. One of the leaders in this field is FIAT, that, by introducing new technology (including adding turbochargers) in its smaller 900cc engines has been able to get more power and more efficiency out of these tiny powerplants.

The highest ranking petrol engined car – not including hybrids – on the Green Vehicles Guide is the tiny FIAT 500 0.9 Turbo Twin Air Auto, coming in at 3.9 l/100km, the same as the Toyota Prius Hybrid.


Hybrid cars are those that have both an electric motor and a conventional internal combustion engine to power the car. In most hybrids, it’s the electric motor that powers the car at low speed and the petrol engine that takes over at cruising speed, which is when the petrol engine is operating at peak efficiency.

When the driver wants to accelerate quickly, both power sources are used and when braking or driving at higher speeds, the spinning of the wheels feeds power back into the electric generator. Finally, when the car stops, both engines shut off.

This is how the Toyota Prius and Porsche Panamera hybrids are able to hit 3.4 l/100km and 2.5 l/100km respectively. Hybrid cars are great, the only downside is that you pay a premium for these more technologically advanced cars – the Prius is $35,990 plus on roads and the Panamera (wait for it) is $242,000.


After a succession of electric only cars that clearly failed to inspire (think the Holden Volt and the Mitsubishi MieV), it looks like Tesla may be the car company to break through for the pure electric car. Unlike these predecessors, all Teslas have a good range – not that different from what you’d get out of a tank of petrol in a ‘normal’ car – and they don’t look like futuristic utility vehicles.

The luxury end Tesla S – at $125,000 – is outselling its similarly priced rivals and the new Tesla 3, the car for the masses, is due out in Australia next year with a moderately affordable price tag of around $45,000.

All electric is a great option if you just need to nip around the local area, however it’s still a bit of a risk for a longer trip unless you know where you’re going to stop and charge. And when you do stop it’s going to take one hour of charging for each 81kms of driving using a regular power outlet or half an hour for 270kms of range at a supercharging station.

You might have to wait a while until Tesla builds a supercharging station near you – currently in Australia there are just 12 of them in total. But they are conveniently located on the drive from Brisbane to Sydney and then on to Canberra and Melbourne.

Just don’t plan a trip across to Perth.

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What your choice of car colour says about you

Metallic purple. A strange choice for favourite colour perhaps, but inspired by a particularly spectacular Lamborghini Murcielago coming round Hyde Park Corner on a rainy late afternoon in London just as it was getting dark. And it looked a million dollars, especially from a vantage point in a long bus queue.

Your choice in car colour says a lot about you apparently, and most of the cliches are true – red is an assertive, dominant colour… and by inference the driver too, and an orange car is likely to be driven by someone who is ‘bubbly and spontaneous’. And if you drive a brown car ‘you may be considered frugal’, although in our opinion the exact shade of brown is pretty important – there’s a mid/light brown which, unless you’re aiming for camouflage, is a uniquely horrible colour.

Australia remains pretty conservative in its choice of colour when it comes to cars – 33% of respondents in a 2016 survey conducted by CarAdvice preferred a white car, with grey, black and silver the next most popular colours (18%, 13% and 12% respectively). White has always been a favourite in Australia, with any number of reasons being cited – highly visible, easy to clean, cool in the heat, good resale value – take your pick.

There hasn’t always been so much choice – the Model T Ford was famously available ‘in any colour you want, as long as it’s black’ and if you want to stand out from the crowd, you generally have to pay for it. Both Ford and Toyota charge you extra for any colour other than white on their main models (Focus, Camry, Corolla), so add ‘extra cost’ to the reasons why most cars in Australia are white – to the tune of $400 on average.

And if it’s a luxury end car like an Audi, BMW or Mercedes, triple that. The highest paint related ‘extra’ we’ve ever heard about was the $29,876 you’d have needed to pay if you wanted the ‘liquid silver’ paint job on your new Mercedes SLS AMG, now unavailable (that’s the car, not the colour option – you can probably still get that on its own).

But if you want to be in with the in crowd, it turns out that the colour blue is on the up. BASF Coatings, who supply paint to many car manufacturers, put together a report this year indicating that blue was gaining in popularity because the colour ‘has a calming effect and a strong correlation with natural things’. Or maybe they just have a small surplus in blue paint they need to move.

Fundamentally it comes down to how much you want to stand out in your car. If you want to hide in the masses, get a white, grey, blue or silver car. If you want to stand out, go for something a little more garish.

We’ve heard a rumour that, while Lamborghini is keen to see you drive away in one of their cars in whatever ludicrous colour you want, their cousins and arch rivals at Ferrari are a little more conservative.

It might surprise you to know that most buyers of new Ferraris already have one or two older Ferraris in their garage. Part of the reason for this is that existing customers are given first dibs on new models. But if you put in your order on your first Ferrari and you ask for it to be pink, let’s say, Ferrari would happily supply it – but don’t expect any invitation to own another one! Mind you this could just be scuttlebutt, we haven’t put it to the test.

Finally, if you want to get the maximum attention, do what this lady in the US did – invite a bunch of graffiti artists to go wild on your car. Just don’t use it as a getaway car.

PS if you need finance for your paint job, you know who to call…


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