Prior Convictions: Fuelling the fire


This whole petrol/diesel thing, then. I feels like one should stick up for diesels a bit in the face of falling sales and random tax hikes. I mean, it's not the diesel engine's fault that Volkswagen took liberties with it. And there remains, the SMMT reckons, "confusion" over the government's take on diesels, and how heavily they'll be taxed in future, which is a bit harsh given diesels remain very good, and entirely suited, for many things: slogging it out on the motorway, offering improved CO2 outputs, hauling lots of stuff. My old Land Rover Defender wouldn't be able to do the things it can now if it had a petrol engine instead.

But still it seems diesel is in for a hard time, unfairly or not. Hakan Samuelsson, boss of Volvo, reckons that in a couple of years, his company won't release a new model with a diesel engine option. Not just because it can't meet air quality targets (though NOx versus CO2 seems like a conundrum for our time), but because by the time they've had to fit all of the ancillaries to a modern diesel - particular filters, urea solution, and so on - battery prices don't have to fall much further for a petrol hybrid to be cheaper to make.


However. As part of my gig over on Autocar, I've inadvertently ended up on the Car of the Year jury (I know, but this year's shortlist is a good one), which on a judging day earlier this week gave me the chance to try different variants of the same car - a diesel, and a petrol - back-to-back on the same road.

It's not an opportunity I get that often, even in this game, and rarer still that it can happen with several different models. Without exception the petrol version of a given car was quieter, with a more broadly responsive powerband, it rode better, steered more sweetly and was more agile than its diesel equivalent. A petrol engine is generally lighter than a diesel equivalent, and although the kg differences might not be huge, you can really tell 'em apart on the road, where reduced weight takes less stopping, turning, and oomph to get going. It's not a PH car, but last week I tried pre-production Kia Ceeds in petrol and diesel form: the petrol manual was one of the sweetest-driving cars in the class. The diesel was anything but. Without exception the petrols were, in short, nicer things. If you like driving, much better things.

So, if we are to be disincentivised from buying diesels, and the market readjusts to a bigger petrol bias than its had over the past decade, maybe that won't be such a terrible thing after all...

 

 

 

 

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (53) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Scottie - NW 16 Feb 2018

    What can your old Land Rover do with a diesel engine that it could not with the equivalent size and induction type petrol engine?

  • Brynjaminjones 16 Feb 2018

    Scottie - NW said:
    What can your old Land Rover do with a diesel engine that it could not with the equivalent size and induction type petrol engine?
    Exactly what I was thinking!

  • skidskid 16 Feb 2018

    Brynjaminjones said:
    Scottie - NW said:
    What can your old Land Rover do with a diesel engine that it could not with the equivalent size and induction type petrol engine?
    Exactly what I was thinking!
    This should be fun...................

  • Brynjaminjones 16 Feb 2018

    skidskid said:
    This should be fun...................
    Can of worms, potentially!

  • acme 16 Feb 2018

    Matt's comment re trying them back to back is interesting from my perspective. When choosing my last company car in 2014 I drove MK7 Golf's back to back; 2.0TDI and 1.4TSI ACT, there was simply no comparison in my eyes. The petrol was far quieter, but perhaps the most noticeable difference was the handling, I think there was an 80kg difference, which I assume was all in the nose.

    3.5 years & 67k later I'm very glad I chose the petrol.

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