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What is Fuel Consumption?

Fuel consumption, or how much petrol or diesel a vehicle uses when you drive it is an important consideration for most owners of new and used cars. Vehicles with a lower fuel consumption will not only be cheaper to drive, but they’re also likely to produce lower emissions and save money on an insurance policy.

Fuel pricesGenerally, powerful high performance, or large heavy cars will consume more fuel than smaller, lighter vehicles designed for everyday driving. Hybrid plug in cars that run off battery power as well as traditional fuel, tend to record good fuel consumption figures.

Fuel consumption is also affected by driving conditions and the way you drive. For example, city driving with frequent stops and starts will use up more fuel than a smoother consistent ride. Whilst high speed driving with harsh acceleration and braking will impact on the vehicle fuel economy.

Although we buy petrol by the litre, fuel economy is still measured in miles per gallon (MPG). In the motor trade, official fuel consumption figures and emissions are calculated using a test that has been standardised throughout much of the world, the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). This test can be carried out on the road but usually takes place under test conditions, on what’s known as a rolling road. The first stage is to test performance on a simulated urban drive, with stops, starts and idling, while the second test is designed to represent faster roads outside of the city. The result is reported based on the combined average fuel consumption from both of these tests.

Hybrid cars tend to record high scores in these tests, especially since the city driving segment provides the ideal conditions for a hybrid to run off battery power. However, the test may not necessarily reflect how a car will perform under everyday driving conditions.

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Many modern cars record the MPG figure on your trip and will show fuel consumption during the journey, if your car does not have this feature you can calculate the vehicle MPG yourself. How do you do this?

When you next fill up with petrol make sure you fill the tank completely, this is usually when the fuel pump cuts out. Then before you set off, you’ll need to either reset the mile meter (if your car has this function) or take note of the total mileage on the odometer. Then the next time you add petrol to the tank fill it with the same amount as before and record how much petrol you put in, also make a note of how many miles you’ve travelled since the previous fill.

Since petrol is measured in litres, you’ll need to do a little maths calculation to reach an MPG figure – Just divide (/) the figure of ‘miles travelled’ by the number of ‘litres of petrol’ and then multiply (x) this result by 4.54 to get your MPG. This should give you a good idea of how economical the vehicle is under your normal driving conditions.

So, if you’re shopping for a new car and fuel consumption is an important factor, you can either research official figures from the manufacturer, speak to a motor dealer directly, or take a look on motoring forums / websites for advice and information.