Chunkier and taller SUVs and crossovers are steadily displacing hatchbacks and estate cars from the sales charts, in spite of the fuel economy handicaps that such cars, with larger frontal areas, and thus more aerodynamic drag and added weight, unavoidably suffer. Owners pay a penalty for the convenience and practicality of such cars in their higher running costs, and it’s all compounded by the trend away from diesel power. Many expanding families are switching from medium sized diesel hatchbacks to sizeable SUVs, and seeing increases in running costs that seriously impact on the household budget. It can then be quite a shock to discover the added fuel costs of even a modest SUV, when their mpg figures can drop from in excess of 50mpg, to often well below 40mpg, and petrol hybrids often don’t deliver the real life economy inferred by their official figures, either.
What advice can we offer such owners, aside from doing their research, and not being misled by optimistic ìofficialî fuel consumption figures? The influences of speed and driving style may be significantly greater in heavier and bigger SUVs, so an appreciation of how the fuel gets used is more than useful, and we’ve covered that frequently enough in these pages. If you’re now carrying a young family in your new SUV, transport is often more of an essential feature of life, and less of a fun-filled indulgence. Your speed, the safety of your young ones, and fuel costs are inescapably interlinked. Drive more defensively, with greater restraint and caution, lower your cruising speeds on faster roads by as little as 5mph, and you’re well on the way to saving some money to put towards that new buggy. Driving with greater care is not only more responsible, it will save you money at the filling station, and it goes some way to helping avoid the considerable shock and inconvenience of even the most minor scrape or collision when you’ve got young children on board. Sticking strictly to speed limits will also avoid the humiliation of getting a speeding ticket and either a fixed penalty or attendance at a speed awareness course. It’s barely believable that some 1.4 million drivers went on such re-training courses in 2017. They may avoid points on their licences, but the inconvenience of taking time out of the working day for such a course, and, of course, the shame of it all, are inescapable.
We’ve perhaps strayed off our usual brief for this month’s page. We are quite confident that the vast majority of Diesel Car readers are careful and responsible drivers, but we’re also conscious of the cocoon of apparent safety that bulky SUVs, with all the latest safety technology, can create for family drivers. The distractions of having children on board, and the time pressures of school runs and nursery pick-ups can easily lead to loss of concentration, and thus your awareness of speed. Thinking about your driving can be easily replaced by thinking about what the kids are doing and saying, and it takes some self-discipline to maintain your focus on driving safely. There’s a time in family life when slowing down and driving safely, rather than for fun, should be the priority. It’s time to start thinking about driving with such considerations in mind, and you will inevitably be saving money by using less fuel, by slowing down and making a real effort to drive more carefully. A smooth, quiet drive, with reduced levels of acceleration and deceleration, or braking, make for contented passengers, particularly young ones, whose digestive systems can be easily upset by being shaken around. Set out earlier, if needs be, so you’re not driving fast to avoid being late for school or a nursery pick up, and always check that you have plenty of fuel in your tank. But always remember that arriving five minutes late, perhaps after a roadside stop for an infant with an upset tummy, or some other toilet emergency, is always better than having the most minor road incident or accident through speed or inattention at the wheel.