Which goes further on €20 worth of fuel: Hybrid or diesel?
- In focus: Hybrid v Diesel
- We undertake a 'special' test: Toyota Auris hybrid v Skoda Octavia 1.6 diesel
Taking a petrol hybrid and a diesel car to see how far they'd go on just €20 worth of fuel ended up revealing a lot more than I'd bargained for.
The plan was to drive the cars until one or both conked out - completely empty of fuel.
But first off let's be clear. The exercise was organised by Skoda. Now I have to say they were scrupulously fair and had absolutely no control over how we drove or who drove what. Everything - fuel loading etc - was filmed for authenticity.
My colleague and I remained entirely independent on our assessments. We were in total control of the cars at all times.
Both cars had their tanks purged of all fuel before the €20 worth of petrol and diesel were respectively poured in so there was no lingering litres or residue.
The two cars specifically were:
1. A Toyota Auris Luna Sport 181-reg, 1.8 petrol hybrid e-CVT. Price as tested: €25,995. Spec included: 17in alloys, front sport seats, reversing camera, air con, lane assist, privacy glass. CO2 of 97g/km; road tax €180. Claimed combined fuel economy: 3.5l/100km (81mpg). Range starts from €25,490
2. A Skoda Octavia Ambition 1.6TDI 115hp, DSG (automatic) 182-reg. Price as tested: €26,425. Spec included: 16in alloys, cruise control, air con, rear parking sensors, reversing camera. CO2 107g/km; road tax €190. Claimed fuel economy 4.1l/100km (69 mpg). Diesel range starts from €25,000.
The important thing to remember is that I am not a proponent of either genre or brand. Skoda clearly understood my position in agreeing to participate. They wanted independent reportage and that's what I'm giving.
I have some reservations about the trial being based on €20 worth of fuel for both cars rather than an equal measure for each. With diesel being a bit cheaper, the Octavia benefited from 0.66 litres more fuel in the tank. Would it affect the outcome? We'll see.
Secondly the Auris had 17in wheels, the Skoda had 16in - again a minor but potentially significant point.
Anyway, after much checking and verifying we took off from Sandyford; me in the Skoda, my colleague in the Auris. We drove through town traffic to Dundrum, Goatstown, Stillorgan, Cabinteely, Bray (right through the town centre). Then we stopped for a cup of tea before taking the motorway to Gorey where we had a quick lunch.
The Skoda computer told me I'd covered 93km and had 55km range left. The Auris' reading was virtually identical on kms to empty.
We switched cars and headed for Courtown and up the coast towards Arklow. Then we drove a continuous loop which took in Inch, Coolgreany and an industrial estate.
My Auris 'kms-to-empty' dipped to 25km in no time. I took a hands-free call. When I looked at the screen again there was no figure at all. I was running on 'empty'. Or so I thought.
Don't forget I was pushing 130/140km at this stage so I wasn't disappointed at all. To reiterate: the plan was to keep going until either car conked out.
After one run of the 17km loop the needle in the gauge prodded the 'E'. I was expecting a shudder at any moment but slowly the kms rolled by. I topped 200km and still the needle kissed the 'E'. My colleague in the Octavia diesel reported her car was saying 'zero kms left' in the tank for some time. It was, as Alex Ferguson used to say, "squeaky bum time". Which of the cars would give up the fuel ghost first?
Furthermore I asked myself a dozen times: "When does empty really mean empty?"
Merciful hour: 230km rolled by. We had to stop for tea. It was getting dark. Should we call it a draw? No way. An opportunity like this doesn't come around too often (the preparations and organisation had been absolutely superb). The important thing at that stage was we were driving country roads, typical of many people's everyday journeys.
That's what I really liked about this trial: we'd done city driving (though I'd suggest another 20km would have been more representative); we'd done motorway and we'd put on lots of 'everyday' kms.
And so, refreshed, we drove into the clear night. I know that loop route like the back of my hand.
Still we drove. I grew confident the Auris would last longer because the monitor illustration of what was going on under the bonnet showed how little the engine was in use, and the level of regenerative energy when going downhill for example.
As we crept over the 270km mark - yes 271km on €20 of petrol - I got that little shiver. My monitor showed the fuel wasn't going to the engine any more; the battery started to contribute heavily and was depleting rapidly.
At 271.3km precisely, I stopped. The Octavia went on for another 15 minutes before, at 8.30pm, we decided we had a result.
Okay, the Octavia may appear to have 'won' but I think both cars deserve enormous credit for what they achieved. That is not a cop out. I genuinely feel that. The exercise could be repeated in the morning and, with a bit more city driving or a different set of drivers, the result could be different. I've no qualms saying that. There is no black and white result here. We got two phenomenal fuel consumptions on normal routes; we didn't drive slowly.
I came away with the conclusion that diesel is far, far from dead; it has a huge relevance and can slug it out on MPG with anything currently on the go. Hitting new (and imported) diesels with a 1pc VRT surcharge was absurd. Our test showed its staying power and ability in no uncertain terms.
But I developed a real soft spot for the Auris hybrid. I didn't think it would last as long after the motorway driving. I think it made a big case for how frugal it can be in typical driving for families. To get so far on €20 of fuel - and on 0.66-litres fewer - is testament to its ability to serve many masters.
There is no denying, however, that the Octavia made a massive case for those who put up big mileage at moderate to higher speeds.
I believe there is plenty of room for both.
VERDICT: Diesel is not dead by a long, long shot and hybrid is not just for urban dwelling.
* Petrol for the Auris cost €1.495/litre = 13.38 litres for €20.
* It travelled 271.3km before coming to a stop; an average of 4.9 litres/100km or 58mpg.
* Diesel for the Octavia cost €1.425/litre = 14.04 litres for €20.
* It travelled 293.8km approx before coming to a stop; an average of 4.8 litres/100km or 59 mpg.
* Sandyford to Bray (25km urban driving).
* Bray to Gorey (68km motorway driving).
* Gorey to Arklow (27km extra urban/country driving).
* Ballynattin to Inch loop: The Auris travelled an additional 151km in the extra urban/country driving conditions during this loop.
The Octavia travelled an additional 173km during the loop.
* In total we covered 25km urban, 68km motorway and the remainder (151km for Auris and 173km for Octavia) in extra urban or countryside driving.
* Before departure the Octavia's trip computer gave a range of 130km.
* The Auris's computer indicated 183km range.
* In Gorey, after travelling 93km, both trip computers read 55km approx.
* Overall, the Octavia was more economical by 0.1/100km but it is minuscule and reliant on factors such as driving style etc as to be negligible.