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Drivers count the cost as fuel economy gap widens

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The gap between advertised and on-the-road fuel economy has reached its widest ever point, with an average car in the UK delivering just 80 per cent of its official advertised fuel economy.

According to Real MPG, just one in 10 matched the figures quoted by carmakers in 2017, with some economy-focused petrol models from Ford and Vauxhall short-changing their drivers by £400 over 10,000 miles.

Indeed, found that the popular Focus 1.0 EcoBoost 125 and Astra 1.0T ecoTec missed their official fuel ratings by up to 20mpg.

>> Find your car in Real MPG

The Smart Fortwo is the UK’s worst performing car for Real MPG, achieving 67 per cent of its advertised fuel economy, followed by the BMW 5 Series and Land Rover Discovery Sport with both delivering just 68 per cent.

The Ford Galaxy (68 per cent) and Ford Focus ST (69 per cent) complete the bottom five cars on sale right now for real world economy.

While WLTP should be more reflective of real world driving, it is still be laboratory-based and is unlikely to return the realistic economy figures that car buyers need

At the opposite end of the scale the iconic Land Rover Defender is the UK’s best Real MPG performer, with an average of 105 per cent. In second place is the Mazda MX-5 (102 per cent) followed closely by the Toyota GT86, with a real world fuel economy of 98 per cent.

One of the reasons new cars have performed increasingly poorly is because, since 2015, car manufacturers have been fined if the corporate average CO2 emissions of their cars exceeds 130g/km according to MPG and CO2 laboratory tests.

To avoid the fines, vehicles are increasingly optimised for the laboratory test at the expense of reality.

Real MPG was launched in 2011 after received thousands of complaints from readers that their cars could not match the official fuel economy figures. Real MPG allows motorists to submit how many miles their cars actually do to the gallon, covering all major makes and models.

Unlike official (laboratory tested) fuel consumption figures, Real MPG gives real life comparative data and allows car owners and buyers to see how much on-the-road fuel a vehicle really uses.

The NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) test for new cars was replaced with the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) in 2017.

>> Everything you need to know about WLTP

However, while the WLTP should be more reflective of real world driving conditions and involve longer distances and higher speeds, it is still be laboratory-based and has yet to return the realistic economy figures that car buyers need.

Top 5 Real MPG cars:


Land Rover Defender

105% official economy

The Defender is a British automotive icon. It’s also the UK’s most honest car when it comes to Real MPG, with the rugged SUV marginally exceeding Land Rover's official fuel figures. Add in the Defender’s outstanding off-road ability and it’s easy to see why this practical and capable workhorse is still the considered by many to be the best 4x4 by far.

Click here to see the Defender’s Real MPG ratings


Mazda MX-5

102% official economy

Fun and affordable, the Mazda MX-5 is proof that you don’t need to be on a Premier League footballer’s wage to run a stylish sports car. Indeed, depending on spec, the peppy little Mazda will return 40+mpg, while also carrying you from 0-62mph in less than eight seconds. What's not to like?

Click here to see the MX-5's Real MPG ratings


Toyota GT86

98% official economy

Another sports car that will deliver smiles per gallon – see what we did there? – is the Toyota GT86. Indeed, according to Real MPG submissions, this racy hatchback comes extremely close to matching its advertised economy, with an overall score of 98 per cent. That’s impressive stuff given the high-revving nature of the GT86's fantastic 2.0-litre engine.

Click here to see the Defender’s Real MPG ratings



98% official economy

It might not be the last word in refinement or performance, but it’s difficult to deny that the MG6 is excellent for real world fuel economy. On average, this large family hatchback will exceed 44mpg on the road, with Real MPG drivers reporting 98 per cent or better economy when compared to the official advertised figures.

Click here to see the MG6's Real MPG ratings


Toyota Verso 

96% official economy

Few seven-seaters can match the Toyota Verso for everyday usability. Not only does it blend everything you could ever want from a family car – comfort, space and refinement – but it’s also honest when it comes to its advertised economy figures. Indeed, choose the BMW-sourced 1.6 D-4D diesel and you can expect at least 60mpg in real world driving conditions.

Click here to see the Verso's Real MPG ratings


Engineer Andy    on 12 March 2018

Well what a surprise! EU tests that 'allow' workarounds to rules or vague ones so that, in my opinion, certain manufacturers can sell so-called new-fangled designed cars that are essentially cheap knock-offs of other makes who actually did some R&D, or present warmed over older designs as the latest thing when they aren't.

Dave 6726    on 12 March 2018

I get really sick and tired of the continual bleating on by many motorists about the fact, as they see it, that car petrol consumption figures are unrealistic as stated by manufacturers. I just don't know HOW the manufacturers can produce 'realistic' figures.
'Realism' is 'on the road and in use', in which situation there are so many variables which govern the car's fuel consumption, that direct comparison with others, and indeed, with the new ones in the show room, is absolutely impossible.
The best the manufacturers can (and do) do is a set of standardised tests in a lab. and with these, all that a potential buyer can do is to judge the comparative consumption between new models.
If a driver is applying sensible methods to minimise consumption on a nice smooth, level road, then he will get the best consumption he can, but it has NOTHING to do with a stand-alone situation with manufacturer's laboratory test results.
In this situation, I simply can't see the point of a type of league table which purports to show how different laboratory tests are from everyday use by different drivers in a host of different circumstances.

bernardric    on 13 March 2018

Love your commonsense reply to an emotive subject.


Peter Greening    on 22 March 2018

Dead right Dave 6726

Brian_GTi    on 22 March 2018

Dave, I agree that league tables based on artificial conditions are at best only going to provide figures for comparative purposes. However, manufacturers used to provide more realistic figures before being pressured (for various reasons) into reporting lower co2 figures.

Having owned 3 different generations of 'performance' diesel Golf's, real world fuel economy has worsened, whilst the combination of claimed economy and co2 has improved:

2003 Golf GTi PD 150 - 143 co2 - real world fuel economy 56 mpg (51 mpg claimed)

2007 Golf GT TDi 140 - 145 co2 - real world fuel economy 52 mpg (52 mpg claimed)

2014 Golf GTD - 119 co2 - real world fuel economy 48 mpg (63 mpg claimed)

Before buying my latest Golf I did my research and knew that real world figures are unrealistic when compared to older vehicles, however, I believe the buying public has the right not to be misled about fuel consumption figures.

Diggerssenior    on 12 March 2018

This whole debate about real fuel consumption would be unnecessary had the manufacturers not been allowed to police their own figures. An independent testing regime would have thwarted these ludicrous claims

marcus gault    on 12 March 2018

Meh, I can relatively easily obtain the 62.? mpg advertised for the 1.6 diesel Octavia, with reasonably moderated, but not excessively moderated, driving on reasonably uncongested roads, BUT only on longer runs,

i.e. 40 miles plus

I used to reckon knocking 20% off the claimed fig for a real world fig .

So 62-20%=near nuff 50

And I got an indicated 50mpg with and indicated average speed of 62mph on a 45 min run to Belfast this afternoon, before peeling off the M Way at Fortwilliam. 2 up

Not bad(but perfect driving conditions mind) mth

Also the car got 120,000 miles on so just nicely run in

Edited by marcus gault on 12/03/2018 at 22:15

Dave 6726    on 13 March 2018

Diggersenior - my argument stands.

How would an independent testing regime thwart the ludicrous claims? An ITR would still have to apply its criteria equally and fairly across all makes/models, so that the RELATIVE differences would remain the same.

And, of course, the 'ludicrous claims' (i.e very low consumption figures) only occur because they are obtained in the laboratory and not in the real world.

aethelwulf    on 13 March 2018

Well,years before the EU interfered in everything to our disadvantage manufacturers quoted figures that were in fact attainable. I recall my Ford Escort achieving the MPG as stated and my 2005 Mondeo 2l petrol is fairly near the consumption as stated. We knew then that the test were done with mirrors folded in etc. but at least it was pretty near enough to make judgments if these were important to us.
Now we rely on Honest John to show us real figures. What an improvement the EU is to our lives.No wonder the majority want to get out to restart honest living again.

Jo Moo    on 15 March 2018

While manufacturers may struggle to perform MPG tests which accurately reflect real world figures, if they are going to use MPG as a selling point, (which they all do), then surely the tests they perform and the way the perform them should be designed to come as close as possible to real world usage with any difference being additional mileage not less. The point here is that people want to buys cars with good fuel economy and do not want to feel they have been lied too ... nobody is going to be unhappy with their vehicle achieving additional MPG, so the manufacturers do have an ability and responsibility to bring the MPG figures to 100% or above of what they quote in my humble opinion.

Neil Plucknett    on 22 March 2018

I used to work for a vehicle manufacturer and the lab testing was done on "calibration grade fuel" which gives better performance than the fuel that comes out of the pump at your local filling station or supermarket.
MPG figures published by Manufacturers to sell vehicle should the average of a set number of miles driving in everyday conditions on everyday fuel. Not the theoretical maximum achieved under controlled conditions in a lab.

David Finch    on 22 March 2018

My son drives an 06 Jetta 1.9TDI. He always claimed it did up to 60 mpg. I borrowed it today and gave it a bit of a thrashing and i couldnt believe it still did 5o mpg. knocks spots off my Tiguan at 35. Somewhere near the manufacturers claim.

Dr R T Rowles    on 22 March 2018

I've only ever looked upon manufacturers' mpg figures as being a means to compare two manufacturers cars in the unlikely event of a tie for all other factors that concern me. Size, comfort and performance are far more important to me that fuel consumption, frankly. Do people seriously think you can get 70mpg out of a 2.0 TDCI C-Max? Not even at 20mph.......

   on 23 March 2018

The mpg tests are for comparison only as Dave 6726 says. If you want to get close to the test figures . Learn to drive with anticipation, gently and use as much engine breaking. Using engine breaking uses no fuel. Overrun is zero fuel. Try to use downhill gradients to increase to higher speed. Read about the ancient mobile economy tests from the 60s onwards where phenomenal mpg figures were attained.
Without being a mobile road block I can get close to 70 mpg on my Zafira. My 2 litre mondo averaged very close to 70 mpg over 60000 miles even though I had towed a medium sized caravan some of the time. Drive hard and use more fuel, and create more pollution, drive gently ( not slowly) save the planet and money.

Cromp85    on 23 March 2018

Suprising to see the MG 6 on the list. The petrol engines in these is a further development of the Rover K series, which is now nearing 30 years old. Just goes to show how superior European cars really are.

Edited by Cromp85 on 23/03/2018 at 19:01

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