Beat the petrol hikesSmall cars prove more economical

01 September 2005

As fuel prices soar, so does demand for smaller and more economical cars.

The motor industry estimates around 420,000 new cars will be leaving showrooms this September, making it the second busiest month of the year.

And the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) expects superminis and diesel models to be leading the charge.

Although the industry has been suffering his year, new diesel car sales continue to buck the downward trend. SMMT figures show that from January to July, the market for diesels rose 4.9 per cent to 513,275 units, compared to an overall market fall of 5.9 per cent.

Since 1999 diesel sales have almost trebled as buyers enjoy about a third more miles per litre, while demand for superminis and small family cars has also soared. In 1997 superminis accounted for 575,597 sales at a time when the average price of petrol was 61.8p a litre. At the end of 2004 unleaded cost 80.9p and sales of supermini models such as the Fiesta and Corsa had risen to 839,604, up by more than a quarter of a million.

SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said:'Fuel costs have risen steadily in the last decade and now petrol has breached the four pounds a gallon mark for the first time. So while the mantra for many September customers will be "big and beautiful" regardless of fuel costs, for many more, bangs for your buck will be the priority.'