Organised by Fleet World for the last 14 years this test of driving skill is one of the most challenging I have undertaken as it is not just a pure driving on vapour exercise but you must seek to make the highest percentage improvement over the official government test combined average for your vehicle. Effectively you are starting where the government test finishes.
Run over two days and with about 30 modern petrol and diesel powered cars and vans taking part, the ALD Automotive MPG Marathon is attracting more interest from manufacturers, and some have even entered their contracted racing drivers to rise to the challenge.
Swopping speed for fuel saving tactics to drain every mile out of the AA-sealed tanks, the saloon and single-seater racing drivers were among 60 competitors in this year’s event based close to Cirencester but taking in a variety of roads in Mid-Wales, the Cotswolds and Berkshire.
Organised in the nature of a rally scatter with just a few fixed meeting points to where could pick your own way within a time limit which actually set the average speed at 30mph and monitored by Tracker units in each vehicle you could get real-time feedback on what everyone was doing and where they were going.
My colleague and I in a Kia Soul 1.6 CRDi averaged 60.3mpg on the first day but the figures barely tell the story. It emits132 g/km on the official government tests and its combined average is said to be approximately 57 mpg, but we didn’t care about this and just wanted to do the best we could without creeping along and holding up following vehicles on main roads or motorways.
With fellow journalist and former Top Gear presenter Chris Goffey sharing the driving we eased passed 50mpg and then crept up to over 63mpg but a spell on twisting hilly roads knocked us back to 58mpg before we pulled back some economy to end the day on 60.3mpg.
On the second day we set off just as the commuter traffic was easing and with Chris picking a route which included more motorways, dual carriageways and good wide main roads over sweeping downs, we managed to touch 64mpg again before ending at an indicated 62.7 mpg, according to the car’s on-board computer.
We achieved these figures by gentle acceleration, using as high a gear as possible, switching off when stationary and coasting down hills or up to red lights and junctions while anticipating other road users’ actions and opportunities to make progress over the 340 miles route in two days. With careful route planning and thought about driving styles we rarely held up anyone and others could safely pass us.
I would not want to drive like this every day, but the ALD Automotive MPG Marathon does show you what can be achieved with a modern car and that is informative and the experience instructive.
The AA did the final top up using sophisticated measuring systems and we were finally credited with about 67 mpg.
Honda engineers Fergal McGrath and James Warren, driving a Honda Civic Tourer, won this year’s MPG Marathon eco-driving challenge in a nail-biting finish with last year’s champions, Nick Chapman and Rosemary Homer.
Over the two days of the event, which was again sponsored by ALD Automotive and TRACKER, the Honda pair expertly guided a Civic Tourer 1.6 i-DTEC around the specially designated 330-mile route, recording an outstanding 97.92mpg.
However, it was a very close run thing following a determined and sustained challenge from reigning champions, Chapman and Homer, both employees of Leicestershire County Council, who, until last year’s event, had never even met before.
Again driving a 1.6 litre TDCi Ford Fiesta Titanium ECOnetic, the Leicester pair achieved an average of 97.08mpg, just fractions of a mile per gallon behind the eventual winners.
“Having won last year’s event at their first attempt, Nick and Rosemary so nearly became only our second pair of drivers to win the event for two years in a row,” said event organiser and Fleet World managing editor, Ross Durkin.
“Commiserations to them, but all credit to Fergal and James. Their performance in recording an average of 97.92mpg over the two days was quite exceptional given the challenging driving conditions that all the contestants faced.
“It is testimony to their expert eco-driving skills that they have emerged triumphant against a very strong field of competitors, including nine former champions, and shows what can be achieved with the current generation of eco-friendly models available on the market today.”
In third place overall were John Kendall and Paul Nieuwenhuis, who achieved a very creditable 95.00mpg in Citroen’s new C4 Cactus crossover. The pair drove the low-emission BlueHdi 100 Feel model which emits 82g/km of CO2. Robin Roberts Miles Better Agency