MPG Marathon pits technique against technology

Ford Mustang MPG Marathon 2016

The results of this year’s MPG Marathon are in! Not exactly headline news, I know. But before you tune out you may be interested to know that this year’s marathon flagged up a couple of interesting trends.

1. Big engines = big improvements

Cars with big and inefficient engines tend to offer a lot of scope for improved fuel consumption. To prove the point, Ford entered a 5-litre V8 Mustang into the MPG Marathon.

Although the Mustang is now on sale in the UK, this is really a big, heavy American muscle car. It was never designed to be efficient. Ford’s official figure for combined cycle fuel consumption is an eye-watering 20.9mpg.

But in the hands of MPG Marathon contestants Andy Dawson and Andy Marriott, the Mustang managed a far more reasonable figure of 36.6mpg.

That represents a 75% improvement on the manufacturer’s official figure — the biggest improvement ever achieved on the MPG Marathon.

It’s worth noting that the annual Fleet World MPG Marathon is not some go-slow crawl around a test track. This year’s MPG Marathon drivers followed a 387-miles route on public roads over two days. They had to obey all road traffic laws and maintain a safe speed at all times.

Given this, it’s clear that the Mustang can be persuaded to cut back on its drinking habit. But I suspect a huge amount of self control is needed to achieve this, not least because half the appeal of this car is the fantastic soundtrack and performance provided by the V8 engine.

The cost of fuel in the UK means that relatively few drivers will opt for a Mustang — and those that do probably won’t be too bothered about fuel consumption. But it’s good to know there’s room for improvement if needed.

2. It’s hard to beat an efficient design

Drivers interested in spending less on fuel might want to consider a Mazda 2 1.6d Sports Nav.

Mazda 2 @ MPG Marathon 2016

In the hands of John Kerswill and Ian McKean, this hatchback delivered fuel consumption of 88.87mpg. That was the highest overall mpg figure from a conventional internal combustion engine car.

However, what’s more interesting is that this figure was only 5.77mpg (6.9%) above the Mazda’s official figure of 83.1mpg. That’s a fraction of the 75% gain achieved by the Mustang drivers.

Even making allowance for the fact that manufacturers’ figures are often very difficult to achieve in real-world driving, it seems clear to me that the best way to save fuel is to buy a car that’s already fuel efficient. But if you do so, you probably shouldn’t expect to beat the manufacturer’s figures. It’s far more likely that you’ll end up falling short in the real world.

A daft comparison?

Obviously I’m not suggesting that a small Mazda hatchback is comparable to a large American sports car. My point is that the latest and most modern vehicles are already much more efficient than older styles of car. As a result, there’s much less room for improvement.

If you’re considering buying a new car, it’s worth thinking about where you car sits in this spectrum. If you buy an ultra-efficient small diesel like the Mazda, then you should probably expect to fall short of the manufacturer’s figures.

On the other hand, if you’re buying a simple gas guzzler like the Mustang, you can take comfort from the knowledge that there’s room for improvement if you want to save fuel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.