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Fiesta loses economy crown

Gone: Most efficient Fiesta is now unavailable due to lack of demand.

German brands assume title of most frugal car, for now, as Ford axes Fiesta Econetic

2 Feb 2012

VOLKSWAGEN, Audi and Mini have jointly inherited the title of makers of Australia’s most fuel-efficient car, following the discontinuation of Ford’s frugal Fiesta Econetic.

However, the German brands are likely to relinquish the honour soon to the all-new Prius C hybrid hatch from Toyota, which continues to produce Australia’s ‘cleanest’ car in the existing Prius.

Ford this week confirmed it has discontinued its light-size Fiesta Econetic diesel hatchback, which was Australia’s reigning fuel economy champion with a combined average of 3.7 litres per 100km, due to slow sales.

It said average sales of about 20 per month since its launch in October 2009 – plus sourcing complexities given the Econetic was built in Europe while the rest of the Fiesta range now comes from Thailand – made local availability of the Fiesta Econetic, sales of which were also hampered by the lack of an automatic transmission, unsustainable.

“Econetic was a halo model, designed to bring awareness of frugal diesel technology to the light car segment, which at the time was not focused on the advantages of diesel technology,” said Ford Australia brand communications manager Neil McDonald.

“You may remember that diesels just a few years ago made up a very small portion of overall Australian vehicle sales and despite their rising popularity among SUV buyers, sales remain small overall in the passenger segment because of the higher cost of diesel at the pump, particularly for private buyers.

“Econetic is very popular in Europe, where its advantages are important in the various markets that have lower tax imposts levied on vehicles that are more fuel efficient and emit low CO2. As with all manufacturers, model-mix does change over time based on a variety of factors.”

Mr McDonald pointed out that Ford continues to offer diesel versions of the Fiesta sedan and hatch, which return as little as 4.4L/100km.

“When we introduced the revised WT Fiesta in 2010 it came with a similar 1.6-litre TDCi engine as the Econetic, but was also available as a wider offering - sedan and hatch, with fuel economy that was very close to the Econetic.”

He said Ford remained committed to offering both diesel vehicles and reducing fuel consumption, as evidenced by the upcoming Falcon EcoBoost turbo-four and a further $103 million investment in future Falcon efficiency increases, and that a number of Ford’s ‘greenest’ cars were under consideration for Australia, including the Focus Econetic and Focus Electric.

“As you know, the engine line-up across Ford products has evolved. We’re about to introduce an EcoBoost four-cylinder Falcon and our diesel line-up - across Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo, Territory and Ranger - is quite extensive today compared to just a few years ago.

27 center imageFrom top: Toyota Prius C, Mini Cooper D, Audi A1 TDI and Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion.

“We’ve also improved fuel efficiency in the inline six-cylinder petrol Falcon and we’ve just announced an extensive investment in Falcon that will deliver better aerodynamics, low-rolling resistance tyres, a new high-tech transmission and lower CO2.

“Despite the Econetic’s departure from the Fiesta line-up, Ford Australia will continue to look at future opportunities as they become available. Under the One Ford global banner there will be more harmonisation as we move forward.”

In a move that echoes that of Audi with its fuel-sipping A3 TDIe, which disappeared from Australian dealerships not long after its launch in 2008, Ford Australia chose not to import an upgraded version of the Fiesta Econetic that appeared in Europe last October offering running changes that further lower consumption to just 3.6L/100km.

The demise of the Fiesta economy-leader, whose 98 grams per 100km CO2 output is eclipsed by the standard-setting Prius at 89g/km, hands Australia’s economy crown to Volkswagen’s small Golf BlueMotion and the smaller Audi A1 TDI and Mini Cooper D diesel hatchbacks, all of which return 3.8L/100km.

While the 1.6-litre Fiesta Econetic, some of examples of which remain in dealer showrooms, was priced at $24,990 plus on-road costs, the 1.6-litre Golf BlueMoton is priced from $28,990, the 1.6-litre A1 TDI costs from $29,900 and the 2.0-litre Cooper D is priced from $34,800.

However, as we’ve reported, the all-new Yaris-size Prius C light hatch is expected to undercut all three models not only on price, but fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions bragging rights as well.

Toyota recently announced official Prius C pricing in the US of below $US19,000 ($18,300) – approximately $4500 cheaper than the standard Prius. The base automatic Prius currently kicks off at $34,990 in Australia, meaning a sub-$30,000 sticker price could be on the cards here.

The cheapest hybrid car currently on sale here is Honda’s Insight five-door hatch, which kicks off at $29,990, while the same brand’s sportier CR-Z hybrid coupe starts at $34,990 plus on-road costs.

The Prius C is also expected to become Australia’s most fuel-efficient non-plug-in vehicle in city driving when it hits local roads from early April.

Toyota Australia recently released a projected city-cycle consumption figure of 3.7L/100km, based on results from overseas tests.

The larger and heavier 1.8-litre Prius (1370kg compared to 1125kg for the 1.5-litre Prius C) has an official Australian city-cycle consumption figure of 3.9L/100km – exactly the same as its combined figure.

Should the Prius C mirror the achievement of its bigger brother, it will achieve a combined reading of 3.7L/100km as well as a lower CO2 output than the standard-setting Prius.

That said, if Ford chose to import it, the Focus Econetic would lower the mark to 3.4L/100km, while matching the regular Prius’ CO2 emissions, at 89g/km.

Of course, all-electric vehicles like Mitsubishi’s pioneering i-MiEV and Nissan’s upcoming Leaf, emits no exhaust gases, while plug-in hybrid models like Holden’s Volt – due here late this year – should further lower both yardsticks.

Whether Toyota chooses to promote the Prius C as Australia’s most frugal car – in what could be a reverse of the Fiesta Econetic’s billboard advertisement, which showed a worker pulling down a poster heralding the Prius as the country’s most efficient vehicle – remains to be seen.

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