Savvy consumers have ditched the hulking V6 and V8 for the nimble hatchback, putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets, new research has shown.
No longer the exclusive domain of women and young people, the versatile hatch has caught on with both genders and across several age groups, with a new national survey finding it to be the very cheapest of all car types to run.
Three- and five-door vehicles dominated the RACV report, with not a single wagon or SUV ranking among the 15 cheapest cars to own.
Consumers who buy big are being financially ‘penalised’, RACV vehicle cost and safety expert Michael Case confirmed.
“Don’t buy a larger car unless you really need it,” he said. “The difference is significant.”
A typical light hatch costs $140 a week, compared to $181 for a small SUV, $228 for a medium sedan, $239 for a large sedan and $208 for medium SUV, The New Daily calculated based on the report.
The RACV factored in all the important costs in its survey, from petrol, tyres and insurance to the purchase price itself. Hatches were the very best value for Victorian drivers, with only marginal price variance predicted for other states and territories.
The cheapest new car to buy, own and operate was the Suzuki Celerio hatch, which costs $97.65 a week. The most costly were the Hyundai Genesis auto sedan ($312.05 a week); the Nissan Patrol ST diesel turbo four wheel drive ($324.66); and the Toyota Landcruiser diesel turbo four-wheel drive ($355.91), the RACV found.
A clear trend
The National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) confirmed that hatches are hot, for a variety of reasons.
“Gone are the days of the V6s,” NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury told The New Daily.
“The Volkswagen Golf is hugely popular with both guys and girls, as are a number of other hatchbacks.
“People are downsizing because of cost, fuel-efficiency, and because it’s easier to drive smaller vehicles in congested cities.”
And such a buying decision is no longer a risk, Mr Khoury said.
“Once upon a time, cheap meant you sacrificed safety and performance. Now, with the rising number of new brands and manufacturers, and the competition for five-star ANCAP safety ratings, you can get an affordable vehicle that is safe for the family.”
Look at the whole picture
With a petrol price hike coming in August, and twice next year, as part of a tax increase negotiated by the two major political parties, it would be easy to focus on fuel efficiency alone when buying a new car.
That would be a mistake, because in fact the most important cost is lost resale value, the RACV’s Mr Case said.
“We’re trying to encourage people to look at the total cost of owning and operating a vehicle, not just seeing it in terms of the regular fuel bill because that’s a relatively small part,” he said.
“Depreciation is the most significant cost, but you only notice that when you go to trade the car in and realise how much value it has lost.”
The overall cost of owning a car has decreased slightly from last year, in part because of record-low interest rates, a dip in petrol prices and an increase in fuel efficiency “across the range”.