Tuesday 17 September 2019

Top Cee'd: little petrol gives you run for money

Petrol technology flexing its muscles

Kia Cee'd
Kia Cee'd
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

By nature, I'm not a betting man. Anything I ever backed is still running and my dabble in Eircom shares still scars my sleep. But I know people who love a flutter and I'm fascinated by their knowledge of the horses and the sort of ground and distance that suits them. Horses for courses; donkeys for braying.

It's obvious, when you know. Not so obvious if you only dip in every five years like me when someone has a "sure thing" going at Cheltenham.

The same holds true for cars, more particularly for diesels and petrols. I get frustrated when I see people putting their money on the 'wrong' horse - especially buying diesel when they should get petrol.

But it is a free country (though nothing is free) and how you spend your money is ultimately your right. Could I suggest, however, that maybe you study form a little bit first and improve your odds of saving some money.

There is a growing feeling that diesels are bad for you and, therefore, we should be driving more petrols. As well as that, new petrol technology is capable of turning tiny tyro turbos into diesel-rivalling performers. So we are at a turning point of sorts

But let me say that some things have not changed. Even when petrols weren't that great; when they lagged diesels by sizeable quantities of fuel per kilometre and hundreds of road-tax euro, it was still more economical to drive one where your annual mileage was under 12,000/13,000kms (many would argue 15,000km).

I know people who covered a mere 5,000km or 6,000km but did they even think of petrol? Not at all. They had to have a 2-litre diesel capable of doing 55mpg and costing just €190 in road tax.

They felt they were getting a great return for their money as they put up a paltry 150/200/250kms a week. You couldn't convince them otherwise. Diesel was the odds-on favourite over seven furlongs or the four-mile chase.

Now, all of a sudden, diesel has lost some of its lustre thanks to Volkswagen's shenanigans and great bellows of admonishments from those who don't want us to have cars, as well as those who, rightly, want us to have vehicles that are much "cleaner".

Will it all change people's minds? It is too early to say but even before the VW scandal there were signs of a return to petrol.

Leading the comeback is that line of small turbo engines. And KIA is the latest to join the party with its little one-litre in the revised family-car Cee'd (which boasts a couple of excellent diesels as well).

The new petrol had three cylinders, plenty of power (120PS) for what I asked of it and, as far as I could see, negates the need for many people to buy a larger petrol or diesel engine.

Be all that as it may, you still need a diesel if you cover 20,000kms a year. It will pay you back. If you're doing 10,000km then buy petrol. We need to be quite clear about this. Small petrols, especially, have their place but they rev high when you get to motorway speeds - and that's just one area where low-revving diesels beat them on fuel consumption.

So my comments on the KIA petrol are in the context of driving around town, making the odd trip down the country - but not putting up regular long journeys.

You will save money if you buy petrol for small mileage (they usually cost less and you'll be a long time making up the difference in lower mpg) and you'll save money if you buy diesel for the long haul. Horses for courses.

Anyway... the Cee'd GT Line models are an interesting development for the brand. It's an attempt to smarten the look of the car, especially with those ice-cube slots either side at the front. And while this is a moderate update, the two-tone seat effect in my GT Line certainly improved what could be a drab enough interior.

I feel the Cee'd is underrated. Driving it again only reinforced my belief it sits among some excellent small motors out there.

The only thing you need to worry about is which fuel you put in the tank. In this case my money is on petrol.

Facts & figures

KIA Cee'd small-family five-door hatchback GT Line.

1.0-litre (120PS) petrol, three-cylinder in-line, turbocharged engine (996cc, 120g/km, 5.2l/100km). Road tax is €200 a year.

Prices from €20,650. The GT Line version on test: from €22,550.

Remember: delivery and related charges are extra.

Spec/equipment includes several airbags, safety systems, air con, special seats, remote audio controls, electric windows, cornering lights, anti-dazzle rear-view mirror, Bluetooth, USB and the marque's seven-year warranty.

My side of the road

Keep over. That's the phrase I've used countless times this past week as oncoming cars, vans and trucks hogged the middle of the road. Have you noticed how few cars are driven properly on their own side? Drivers expect others to pull in tight. I've had to do it several times - and brake hard to avoid a collision. Any ideas why we stray so badly?


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