Each year, fuel giant Shell hosts the MPG Marathon, a test of the fuel consumption of standard showroom vehicles.
This year, its been won by Fords Fiesta ECOnetic 1.6 TDCi, with an overall figure of 108.78 mpg over a 370-mile test route.
On the face of it, the number is pretty remarkable. No petrol or diesel production road car has ever been sold which matches that number – or even gets close.
Closest, in fact, is the Kia Rio 1.1 CRDi eco, a car we tested not so long ago. The most frugal Rio 1.1 does 88 mpg in official testing. Impressively, as we found in our review, its even a car nice enough that youd be happy to drive it every day – the Rio is no miserable, stripped-out, poverty-spec vehicle.
Officially, the Fiesta is just behind it, at 85.6 mpg – and again, its another car youd actually be happy to drive. The Fiesta even throws fun into the bargain.
The trouble is, even official European Union fuel consumption figures for these cars are hugely optimistic, dangling numbers above your head that youll rarely get close to.
The Rio we tested, with its larger wheels and air conditioning, had an official figure of 74.3 mpg. In a week of driving – much of it deliberately gentle, to try and make the most of the Rios eco credentials, we managed around 60 mpg. Thats almost 20 percent less, even driving with a light right foot. The story would be much the same in the Fiesta.
So what really is the point of these MPG Marathons, beyond it being a big corporate manhood-comparing competition, a bit like an eco version of announcing Nrburgring lap times?
Average Joe couldnt hop into a Porsche 911 and match Walter Rhrls fastest lap, just as no real driver will average over 100 mpg on their daily commute in a Fiesta.
To be fair to Shell, the idea of the event is also to demonstrate the financial benefits of changing your driving techniques to improve fuel efficiency. And it does, but only to the same degree that having a few race instruction lessons on a circuit will let you improve your time around the Ring. Youll improve, but Sabine Schmitz will still be faster than you. In a van.
The discrepancy between the Eco Marathon fuel economy figures and what you can actually achieve is so great as to be completely irrelevant. Official consumption figures are already misleading, but 100+ numbers are so far removed from the reality of modern motoring that they may as well have been achieved on another planet.
We dont doubt that its technically impressive, but consumers deserve better than pie-in-the-sky numbers.
People buy cars with high quoted mpg in good faith, expecting to save money on fuel. Bucking the trend to produce a car that delivers in the real world at the expense of impressive-looking EU figures doesnt make commercial sense, so the system has to change first – but compounding this with ridiculous tests makes matters worse, not better.
Ford, Kia, everyone else: Come back to us when you make a car that achieves a real 100 mpg. Every day.
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