I bought a new VAG (Volkswagen Audi Group) car a couple of weeks ago. At my wife’s insistence our new Skoda has a petrol engine. She will not go near a diesel engined car if she can possibly avoid it.
Diesel fumes make her feel ill and her ability to detect them seems almost extrasensory. Sometimes when we are following a couple of hundred metres behind another car she will reach out and turn the ventilation control to recycle.
Invariably when I get close enough to see the back of the car clearly it turns out to be a diesel.
We wanted our new car to be as green as possible and be in the zero tax band. That is difficult with a petrol card. One which looked suitable turned out not to be available with the automatic transmission wanted.
The other zero tax car we looked at was a hybrid but a test drive ruled it out.
In the end our choice was between a VW Polo and the Skoda Fabia which share the same engine and automatic transmission and are in the lowest band where tax is payable. The Polo had one feature we wanted but after a talk with our broker who told us it would cost £75 a year less to insure the Fabia the decision was made. The reason seems to be the Fabia’s collision avoidance system.
We went into our search for a new car with open minds and looked at a lot of cars, One thing was very clear, the officially claimed petrol consumption figures are nonsense: everyone has known this for years. They are only useful to show a comparison between cars which all have to go through the some rolling road test which has little in common with the way humans drive.
The official combined mpg for our new car is 61.4. In reality we are getting about 10 mpg less.
At the heart of the Volkswagen diesel scandal is the computer program which runs the car. Clearly the settings are designed to get the best under rolling road test conditions.
It is apparently quite straightforward to get the settings changed for either economy or performance: just put “car chipping” into Google to see the huge number of businesses offering this service. But the car makers say this invalidates their guarantees: a restrictive practice?
Our Fabia, in fact, has two program settings: “normal” and “sport” which changes the speeds at which gear changes take place and reduces fuel economy.
I can see good reasons for not tinkering with the program. But we need to know how petrol cars as well as diesels are programed.