Expert advice: how to achieve better fuel economy from your car

Expert advice: how to achieve better fuel economy

Hyper milers: Paul Clifton (left) and Ian McKean with their diesel Ford Fiesta (Picture © Ford)

Failing to achieve the fuel economy that their car is claimed to return is one of the most common grumbles among drivers.

So what would you say if simple driving tips could improve your car’s economy? And in some cases it might even climb by a staggering 60 per cent compared with the manufacturer’s figures.

Most of us would raise an eyebrow and wonder if it’s really possible. But these aren’t the claims of sharp-suited sales execs; they’re perfectly practical tips from normal drivers that anyone can put into practice.

At least, that’s the view of Paul Clifton. When the 52-year old journalist isn’t reporting on transport issues for BBC South, he takes part in driving events like the MPG Marathon.

This year, Clifton smashed the event’s record, achieving a staggering 122mpg. Yet he wasn’t at the wheel of a specialist machine: his car of choice was the humble Ford Fiesta 1.5-litre diesel bought by tens of thousands of British drivers each year.

His Fiesta is officially listed as achieving 80mpg – a figure many drivers would struggle to achieve. How did he exceed it? These are Clifton’s record-breaking tips…

About the MPG Marathon

“The two day driving event takes in a 350-mile route between Birmingham and Peterborough. It is intended to demonstrate the impressive levels of fuel economy that are possible for all drivers to achieve. Competitors use showroom-standard cars and their own driving skills – nothing more. The overall winner is the driver who records the best fuel consumption.”

Anyone can improve their car’s fuel economy

“You don’t have to use specialist equipment or take extreme measures to improve your car’s fuel economy. Whether you’re a school-run mum, taxi or lorry driver, anybody can match or exceed the vehicle manufacturer’s claimed fuel economy figures with just some subtle tweaks to their driving style.”

Check the tyres’ air pressure

“Inflate tyres to the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure. If you don’t, tyres that are 10 per cent under-inflated lead to another 5 per cent of fuel being burned off unnecessarily.”

The three simple steps to take

Expert advice: how to achieve better fuel economy

“It’s not rocket-science. Drivers just have to be in the highest gear at the lowest possible speed for the longest time they can. But achieving those steps may require a change in driving habits.”

Stick to an engine’s most efficient rev range

“It may feel unnatural at first, but on the road, drivers should be aiming to keep the revs of their car’s engine as low as possible. For example, in the Ford Fiesta diesel I used, I kept the engine revving between 1150rpm and 1200rpm. This was only around 39 to 40mph. However, our cars are covered in large stickers, warning other road users that we are on a fuel economy marathon!”

Switch off the air-conditioning and heater

“To achieve the best possible fuel economy, turn everything off and wear light clothes so you don’t get too hot. Switching off the air-conditioning, heater, audio system or removing power cables won’t be to everyone’s liking. But if you want your money to go further…”

Lighten up

Expert advice: how to achieve better fuel economy

“If you don’t need it for your journey, leave it at home. Roof racks or roof boxes, pushchairs or child seats; these things all add weight or create drag.”

Create a bubble of safety around you

“Look as far ahead as you can and make decisions and plan a long way in advance. For example, on the 350-mile MPG Marathon test route, I think I used the brakes four times. You need to aim to arrive at gaps in traffic, go for green lights and always be ready for the unexpected.”

Cars are getting more efficient

“When I first started driving in the MPG Marathon 12 years ago, the winning car achieved 80mpg. Now the winning car has hit more than 120mpg. That’s a huge leap by the car manufacturers. And it really matters to people when you consider how fuel prices fluctuate and how much impact the cost of driving has on people’s day-to-day lives.”

Petrol is closing the gap on diesel

When it comes to fuel economy, the latest petrol engines are closing the gap on diesel motors. The overall second-placed car on the MPG Marathon was a Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost, which managed 97mpg. So drivers should carefully research which best suits their needs, based on their driving habits and the cost of comparable cars.”

More advice for drivers: How to choose a reliable used car – and avoid one that may break down

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