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Top 12 Fuel Savers

Text: Nicol Louw. Article from the July 2012 issue of Car Magazine.

Money is tight, so how far will R500 get you in SA’s most efficient vehicles in our Top 12 Best Buys segments?

Calculating the cost of ownership of a vehicle is a complex affair, as you have to take into account financing, depreciation, servicing, running costs, taxation and insurance. However, fuel expense hurts the most on a daily basis. South Africans love road trips, so we decided to set a fuel budget of R500 (which should in most cases cover the cost for a weekend away) and choose the most fuel-efficient vehicles based on the CAR fuel index and the cost of diesel versus petrol in the same categories as those of our annual Top 12 Best Buys.

Fuel price/litres for R500 Diesel: R11,03/45,33 L Petrol: R12,22/40,92 L

Fuel price at the Reef according to the AA (May 2012).

Budget Car Citroen C1 1,0i AttractionBudget Car

Citroen C1 1,0i Attraction

Budget cars are generally very fuel-efficient, so most maximise fuel range.The C1 just manages to edge out its rivals. We’d also look at the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107.

R500 Range  744 km

Light Car Polo 1,2 TDI BlueMotion 5-DoorLight Car

Polo 1,2 TDI BlueMotion 5-door

The Polo is the most fuel-efficient car in this category and in the South African market.

R500 Range  1 111 km

Compact Hatch VW Golf 1,6 TDI BlueMotionCompact Hatch

Volkswagen Golf 1,6 TDI BlueMotion

The Auris HSD (R500 range: 852 km; 4,80 L/100 km) is an alternative to this Golf in the compact-hatch category without the eco-warrior look of the Prius.

R500 Range  985 km

Compact Saloon Volkswagen Jetta 1,6 TDI Comfortline 5-doorCompact Saloon

Volkswagen Jetta 1,6 TDI Comfortline 5-door

The face of green motoring, the Toyota Prius (R500 range: 834 km; 4,90 L/100 km), just loses out to the Jetta because of the difference in price between petrol and diesel.

R500 Range   839 km

Compact Executive BMW 320d SteptronicCompact Executive

BMW 320d Steptronic

The executive segment offers various fuel-efficient vehicles in diesel guise. Consider the new Audi A4 1.8TFSI SE as a petrol alternative (R500 range: 705 km, 5,80 L/100 km).

R500 Range   859 km

Executive Saloon BMW 520d AT and Audi A6 2,0 TDI MultitronicExecutive Saloon

TIE: BMW 520d AT and Audi AB 2.0 TDI Multitronic

With identical fuel-consumption figures, the 5 Series and A6 offer big-car comfort with small-car frugality.

R500 Range   771 km

Grand Saloon Volvo S80D3 Essential GeartronicGrand Saloon

Volvo S80D3 Essential Geartronic

As the cars become larger, tank ranges shorten. Even this frugal Volvo can’t travel more than 630 km.

R500 Range   630 km

Performance Car Porsche Boxster S PDKPerformance Car

Porsche Boxster S PDK

Performance and fuel economy are direct opposites – the energy must come from somewhere. Even getting close to 511 km from R500 in the new Boxster will require huge restraint.

R500 Range   511 km

MPV Mercedes-Benz 8180 CDI BlueEfficiency ATMPV

Mercedes-Benz B180 CDI BlueEfficiency AT

It’s an impressive showing by the B-Class considering the larger frontal area of an MPV.

R500 Range   859 km

Compact SUV/Crossover VW Tiguan 2,0 TDI 4x2 BlueMotionCompact SUV/Crossover

VW Tiguan 2,0 TDI 4×2 BlueMotion

If you forego heavy, drivetrain-drag-inducing all-wheel drive, such as on this Tiguan, you’ll lessen the impact on your wallet.

R500 Range   859 km


Lexus RX450h XE AT

Years after its launch, this RX remains the lightest-on-fuel SUV in our market. If Mercedes-Benz decides to launch the brand-new ML250 CDI here, the Lexus might get a bloody nose.

R500 Range   538 km

Double-Cab Bakkie Volkswagen Amarok 2,0 TDI Trendline 4x2Double-Cab Bakkie

Volkswagen Amarok 2,0 TDI Trendline 4×2

Bakkie owners will have to confess that leisure-oriented commercial vehicles will not win any fuel-economy prizes.

R500 Range   491 km

Should you buy a Hybrid?

Hybrid technology enables a vehicle to be more fuel-efficient by recovering kinetic energy and storing it in the battery pack, which is then ready to assist with the next acceleration event. This is especially true in stop/start traffic conditions and on the New European Drive Cycle (NEDC), which records official fuel figures.

Unfortunately, on a long run such as our hypothetical weekend trip, a hybrid’s battery pack would add too much mass and take up space without considerably aiding fuel consumption due to steady-state motorway cruising. It’s also important to consider the long-term ownership prospect of a technically advanced vehicle with a fixed battery-warranty period. In many cases, a modern turbodiesel vehicle of similar size will return equal or better fuel consumption in real-world-driving conditions.

When considering a fuel-efficient vehicle, it is generally wise to opt for a vehicle that is small, lighweight and aerodynamically slippery. Although diesel powertrains are very efficient, their strong showing was helped by the fact that diesel was R 1,19 cheaper a litre at the Reef when we went to print, which allowed four extra litres to be purchased for R500. If the fuel-price balance swings the other way, it will play nicely into the hands of petrol-hybrid technology and the current crop of downsized turbopetrols employing direct injection. That said, the largest impact on fuel consumption remains driving style – be gentle and you’ll be rewarded with extra mileage.

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