Everything you need to know about MPG

The cost of topping up your tank is never exactly financially friendly. But as we head towards winter it’ll get a little more expensive as your car uses more fuel in colder conditions – mainly because it takes longer to warm up. There are ways to help make your car more efficient though. Here we take a closer look at some of these approaches, and answer some of the most popular questions about miles per gallon (MPG).

What is MPG?
Miles per gallon (MPG) measures how many miles you can drive from a single gallon of fuel. The MPG your vehicle produces can vary dramatically depending on weather conditions and how you drive your car.

The official MPG figures for any vehicles predating a September 2018 release will have been calculated from laboratory testing procedures known as the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). MPG figures for vehicles produced from September 2018 onwards will have been calculated using a new system. The Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) was introduced in September 2017, and is expected to result in official figures closer to what can be achieved in the real world.

It’s also important to note that in the rest of Europe fuel economy is measured in litres per 100 kilometers or l/100km. A car produced in another EU country will still have official figures described in MPG in the UK – but they’ll be quoted in litres per 100 kilometers elsewhere in Europe.

What’s a good MPG?
The definition of a ‘good MPG’ can vary from vehicle to vehicle, and in regards to real-world MPG a ‘good’ number would be something close to the official published figure. For example, a good MPG for a compact hatchback like the Toyota Yaris would be 50-60mpg, whereas a good MPG for a luxury Bentley would be anything over 20mpg.

Can I improve my car’s fuel economy?
There are certain things you can do to make sure you drive your car as economically as possible.

1/ Drive smarter
Fuel economy isn’t just about what you drive. How you drive your vehicle has more effect on your overall fuel economy than anything else. Your engine will burn less fuel at low revs. So changing into a higher gear as quickly as possible, and avoiding aggressive acceleration and braking, will help.

If your normal routine involves a lot of driving in urban or congested areas then a car with automatic stop-start – which cuts the engine out automatically when you’re stationary and re-starts it when you’re ready to move off – can also save fuel. 

2/ Turn off anything you don’t need
Heated windscreens and seats, demisters, air conditioning and other electrical appliances all take energy from the alternator, or add load to the engine, and will add a little to fuel consumption. Once you’ve cleared your heated screen, turn it off. And if you’re travelling at low speed, consider opening your windows in summer rather than relying on air con. Avoid opening windows if you’re travelling at higher speeds though, as this will create additional drag and end up costing you more. These simple things will reduce the amount of fuel you get through.

3/ Take car maintenance seriously
Routine tasks like checking oil and water levels, servicing your vehicle to the manufacturer’s schedule, and keeping your tyre pressures at the optimum level, can make a real difference to how economical your car is to run.

4/ Watch your weight
The heavier your car the more energy it will take to get it moving from a standstill, so taking out anything of significant weight that you don’t need to carry can reduce your fuel consumption over time. Those golf clubs you’ve been too lazy to take out of the boot between rounds, or the pushchair you’re carrying around even though the kids aren’t with you? Remove them. External carrying kit like bike racks or a roof box can have an even bigger effect as they’ll increase drag meaning your car has to work harder, so take those off too.

5/ Plan your journey
Driving at a steady speed is more economical than constantly slowing down and speeding up, so try and avoid traffic jams and busy times of the day if you can. Use our Route Planner to avoid getting lost and using more fuel than you need to.

What are the best cars for MPG?
We’ve already mentioned how well the Toyota Yaris can score in the MPG stakes, but there are other economical vehicles available.

For anyone looking for a smaller car or hatchback, the Suzuki Celerio has a manufacturer figure of 78.4mpg which is a huge selling point, while the Peugeot 308 has a manufacturer figure of 80.7mpg – a good move for anyone in the market for a family car.

Plus, with AA Car Finance, we can help make those options far more affordable.

Most major car manufacturers have their own economy oriented options available, so if you’re a lifelong Ford driver or sold on the idea of getting a new Mercedes or BMW, there’s nothing stopping you.

Image courtesy of iStock.

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