There’s no doubt that car manufacturers are working hard to give us buyers all the fuel saving advantages that they can muster. There is something in it for them too of course – legislation demanding that average C02 emissions for the entire range from any given manufacturer must meet a certain target sees to that. Yet there’s plenty for the consumer to benefit from too: who wouldn’t be happier with less emissions and better fuel economy? But that requires a little commitment from the driver too, as an economy car requires an economical driving style to get the most from it.
Skoda recently unveiled its second generation of low emission models, dubbed Greenline II, all of which definitely qualify as cars for the efficient driver. But it was a particular statistic during the presentation that set off the competitive spirit in me: namely that the Octavia Greenline II can complete eight laps of the M25 on a single tank of fuel. What seemed like pure hell for others was a red rag to this particular bull.
Just a few weeks later I found myself at South Mimms services on the M25 at 5:15am, checking tyre pressures, resetting the trip computer and stocking up with energy drinks and snacks. Driving from A to B on a single tank is one thing, but if the Octavia could manage the 937 miles eight laps would require on arguably the toughest road in Britain then it could manage anywhere.
The surprising thing about undertaking such a challenge is that the M25 is a very different prospect when you don’t have anywhere to get to. Normally it frustrates and angers in equal measure thanks to the frequent hold ups, but I had carefully chosen half term and a Wednesday for minimal traffic.
To get the required average of 77mpg (well below the quoted extra urban figure) meant getting the most from every drop of fuel: a very delicate right foot to keep the speed at around 60mph. That meant duking it out with the trucks in lane one and two, and while that might seem extreme by the end of the first lap the trip computer was showing there was another 1,000 miles of range still left in the tank thanks to an average of 92mpg.
It became clear by lap three that, as always, the weakest part of the link was the driver. The average economy was down to 87mpg which was still plenty, but I was already struggling with tiredness. Rather than taking two or even three laps at a time, the need to rest became overwhelming almost every time the sign for South Mimms flashed up.
After a particularly hellish three-hour odyssey right in the middle of rush hour on lap six, I took the executive decision to complete one more lap then drive home – which is even further than the 117 miles that the last lap would take. Amazingly there wasn’t even any doubt I would make it home: the final average of 87mpg meant I still had at least 50 miles in the tank.
The Octavia was faultless and a breeze to drive over the epic distance – a much harder journey than any sane person would undertake, but the fact that it did so without fuss and with remarkable economy proves that even in extreme conditions the modern car can save fuel and money.