You’ve read Sue Baker’s report on the MPG Marathon – now hear what the Diesel Car team had to say for themselves
I guess that memories of the 2011 event are mostly tinged with some disappointment. Second in class with 71.36mpg sounds reasonable, but was below our hopes and expectations. We beat the EC Combined economy figure of 60.1mpg by nearly 19 per cent, which is no mean feat in a nearly-new car with less than 1,000 miles on the clock. It was a tough course and I’m also not sure that I was always in the right gear – particularly on the many long hills taken at around 35 to 40mph. I think that fourth, not fifth, gear might frequently have been a better choice.
It was tempting fate, defending my record of returning the best average fuel consumption five years running in the MPG Marathon. It was looking reasonably safe to add another 80mpg-plus class-beating run in a Citroën Nemo HDi van, when a late entrant gave me cause for concern. Diesel Car founding editor John Kerswill is no stranger to the MPG Marathon or economy runs. Worse still, John was driving a Fiat Fiorino MultiJet – same van, same engine, different badges. Well, he beat me by a thimbleful of the oily stuff. Next year John, next year!
Car: Kia Rio 2 1.1 CRDi EcoDynamics
Team: Andrew Andersz and Alyson Marlow
This year’s event was like a game of football – things weren’t looking good at half time so we changed tactics, but things didn’t get much better! From kick-off we used the highest possible gear without exceeding 1,500rpm and ignoring the gear change indicator. At half time, the Kia Rio 1.1 CRDi was at 75.9mpg. The car was brand new, with only 62 miles under its belt, but we thought we could or should do better. The second half of the marathon saw engine speeds up to 2,000rpm, gears changed as indicated with 90 per cent of the time spent in third or fourth gear. The result, over a much more challenging route, was still 75.9mpg. Lessons learnt: the highest gear isn’t always the most economical, and you must trust the car.
It could have all been so different, but a puncture on day two put us out of action for two and a half hours, and we ended up playing catch up for the second half of the event. Despite lightning responses from the local Peugeot dealer Olympic cars in Cirencester who came to our rescue with a brand new wheel, we couldn’t avoid adding some extra miles and this cruelly counted against us at the final reckoning. And despite our best efforts of attempting to force the 3008 into electric mode as much as possible, it was a lesson to us that computers actually know best, and we should have paid more attention to what the electronics told us, rather than following our own agenda.
Car: Skoda Octavia Greenline II 1.6 TDI
Team: Sue Baker and Peter Thompson
No way was a big family car like the Octavia going to beat smaller-bodied eco diesels to an event-winning figure, but I was determined to eke out the fuel as far past the 74.3mpg combined figure as possible. We started with two advantages: familiarity with the car, my long-termer, and over 8,000 miles already on the clock. My strategy was to go with the Octavia’s eco flow, getting up into its ‘sweet’ zone of 1,500 to 2,000rpm as rapidly as possible, plus using the gear indicator as a guide, including when it told me to change down against instinct to stay in a higher gear. Coming third overall with 85.89mpg in by far the biggest car of the leading three was a deeply satisfying achievement.
I’ve been competing in the MPG Marathon every year for almost its entire life, alongside Dave Randle. This year we struck, if not gold, then certainly diesel. The first day, the car’s computer read over 93mpg, and even after the second – a more challenging route – our Swift’s wee diesel, beaten overall only by a smart diesel, put paid to the notion that petrol, hybrid or fuel cells can for the next few decades show a small diesel anything worth knowing. But here’s the interesting bit: when I started doing these Marathons, I needed to concentrate hard on tailoring my driving style to the requirements of high-mpg demands. Now, however, it feels a natural thing to be doing. The frugal methods required have infiltrated my normal driving, and everyday motoring in my own car has got a whole lot cheaper as a result.