Image conscious South Africans seem to be averse to smaller-engined, slower cars — we like our cars loud and fast, with the right level of “vvvvrrrrpphhaa!” But with the economy the way it is, this trend might change as people become more educated about the perks of driving more fuel-efficient cars.
What are fuel-efficient cars, you may ask. In simple terms, fuel efficiency or economy in a car is how much fuel is consumed in a specific distance covered. In the South African context, we calculate how many litres of petrol are used over 100km. The lower the number of litres, the more economical the car.
Usually the figures claimed by manufacturers differ from real-life driving, due to a variety of factors, such as how the driver drives the car, traffic, weight on the car, the condition of the tyres, and so on.
Materials used in car manufacturing also weigh (no pun intended) on the efficiency of the car. Heavier metals, such as steel, are typically used for car body shapes, while lighter and more durable — but also more expensive — aluminium is generally used for body panels, such as doors and hoods. This is done to save weight and, therefore, help the car to be more fuel efficient.
Luckily for drivers looking to save on fuel, the European manufacturers, such as BMW, Citroën, Fiat, and Volkswagen, are really upping their game in producing cars that are more fuel efficient, while still meeting the stringent regulations from the European Union.
Locally, the proposal of carbon tax for new cars is also aimed at counterbalancing carbon emissions and encouraging car owners to buy smaller cars that are more fuel efficient. A charge of R75 for each gram of carbon dioxide emitted per 100km might not seem like much, but the higher the fuel consumption of your car, the more money you’ll fork out on the carbon tax.
The aim to slash the amount of carbon emissions produced by cars is popular in Europe, as are smaller cars, and there is a growing trend for certain urban areas to be car-free zones. That trend has yet to take hold on our shores, with the closest we got being a car-free month for some roads in Sandton, during the month-long EcoMobility Festival in October 2015.
There is a correlation between fuel efficiency and emissions that cause air pollution, so the more fuel efficient the car, the less carbon dioxide it emits, and the better it is for the environment.
TOP 10 MOST FUEL-EFFICIENT CARS IN SOUTH AFRICA*
1) BMW i3 Rex Hybrid Petrol 5-dr 94Ah AT: 0.6l/100km
2) Fiat 500 0.9 Twin Air Pop Base 63kW 3-door: 3.8l/100km
3) Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi Trend 5-dr Dsl MY13: 3.6l/100km
4) Toyota Yaris 1.5 Xs Hybrid 5-dr CVT MY15.5: 3.6l/100km
5) Citroën C1 1.0 VTi 51kW 5-dr: 4.1l/100km
6) Mercedes-Benz A220d Style 5-dr MY15 Diesel Automatic: 4l/100km
7) Polo 1.4 TDI Highline 77kW Dsl 5-dr MY16: 4.1l/100km
8) Audi A1 1.0T FSI S 3-dr PI MY15: 4.2l/100km
9) Smart forfour 1.0 Proxy 5-dr: 4.2l/100km
10) Hyundai i10 1.1 Motion MY11 5-dr: 4.8l/100km
*This 2016 list was compiled by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa. It includes hybrid cars that have both an electric and petrol engine. Please note, the above figures are claimed by the manufacturers and you are highly unlikely to match these in real life.
•This article was originally published in the March issue of S Mag, a free lifestyle magazine distributed with the Sowetan newspaper.