Auto Trader says that searches on its huge classified advertising website, autotrader.co.uk, highlight rapidly growing interest among car-buyers in small, fuel-efficient petrol-engined models.
Online searches for the company's Top 5 list of the most fuel-efficient cars all increased enormously during 2010. The biggest percentage rise was registered by the Fiat 500, which was the subject of about one million searches in 2009 but three million in 2010, a rise of about 200 per cent. Very large percentage increases were also recorded for the Toyota iQ (up 160 per cent, although from a much lower base of 11,847 searches in 2009) and the Nissan Pixo (up 196 per cent from 3,017).
Interest in the Smart Fortwo among autotrader.co.uk users was also much greater in 2010 than it had been the year before; 42,556 of them sought out Mercedes' baby city car on the website, up 56 per cent on 2009. The most frequently searched-for car of all on AutoTrader's Top Five list of abstemious runabouts, though, was the Ford Ka; over 6.5 million site users were looking for one of those in 2010, 32 per cent more than in the previous year.
Smaller petrol-engined cars are a popular choice for economy-minded drivers; the premium charged for diesel variants is often much bigger in relative terms on cheaper models, making it harder to recoup the cost with lower fuel consumption except over very high mileages. And it's not just saving in terms of fuel costs that make these models appealing to economy conscious buyers; cars emitting less than 100g/km of CO2 in official tests – that includes variants of the Fiat 500, Smart Fortwo and Toyota iQ – are exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge as well.