PETROL power is on the way back with a bang and Skoda says it has a car that will prove it -- plus save you enough money for 14 years' 'free' fuel at the pumps. And the company is not alone as many manufacturers outside the VW group are producing thrifty lightweight petrol engines that are turning the tables on the much lauded diesel.
The launch of the new Skoda Rapid liftback model for the Irish market last week was an eye-opener on how the company has turned petrol power from villain to hero. Acknowledging that the 1.6 105 bhp TDI diesel would be expected to account for the volume of the new model's sales, Skoda marketing department looked to the future as it announced that the petrol versions of the model could now be aggressively priced when compared to diesel models. For example, the biggest seller is expected to be the 1.6 TDI which in mid range Ambition trim will sell at €22,395. This is undercut by €3,450 by the 1.2 TSI 86 bhp petrol option which in a brief test drive was the preferred choice by many journalists at the launch in Cheltenham because of the lively performance and low noise levels.
Ray Leddy, head of marketing and product at Skoda Ireland explains, "The conditioning of the market has been that in the long run, the higher priced diesel models cost less on fuel and taxes.
"This petrol engine achieves a Band A emission rating like the diesel and consumes just 0.7 litres more per 100 km driven, so using today's fuel prices it would take 14 years for a diesel version to justify and recoup the savings on fuel alone. This really brings petrol back into the equation." (Figures based on diesel at €1.62 and petrol at €1.72 per litre, both vehicles on annual road tax of €160 and 15,000 km driven per year.)
Many other manufacturers are offering three-cylinder one-litre fuel-efficient petrol models at low cost prices. Ford has won awards for its one-litre EcoBoost engine. The new interest in petrol power comes at a time when many brands had even removed petrol offerings from their price lists. But with lower servicing charges for petrol models and the fact that diesel technology is facing into tighter emission controls, with subsequent increased manufacturing costs also a factor, petrol is looking as a more likely option for the future.
The Rapid has clean, fresh lines and the biggest boot in its class. The rear legroom is even greater than the Octavia. The interior is very functional but is let down by over use of dark plastic surrounds.
There are four petrol and one diesel engine on offer with prices starting at €15,995 for the 1.2 litre Band B petrol engine. Skoda plans to sell 1,050 Rapid models next year and grow sales to 7 per cent, up from 6.2 per cent this year.