Not so long ago, when you were looking to lease or buy a car, the decision as to whether or not to get a diesel engine or a petrol engine was easy. If you wanted a good mpg you chose diesel, and put up with your car sounding a bit like a tractor and smelling like one too!
But now, thanks to advances in technology and the decision from the Chancellor to make diesel more expensive,that choice now is a lot more difficult.
Admittedly, diesel engines are a lot cleaner, a lot more refined and a lot more powerful than they used to be, and the mpg is still as good as ever; but the initial cost of a diesel-engined car is more than that of its petrol-engined rival. As Ford Powertrain’s director Andrew Fraser explains: “Diesel engines are getting more expensive to build due to increased legislation. Last year a diesel particulate filter (DPF) had to be fitted, which required an injection upgrade. In 2015, they’ll have to abide by Euro VI emissions standards, so most diesel engines will need a Nitrogen Oxide trap. It’ll all add up to making the payback period for diesel longer.”
In fact, this ‘initial layout cost’ problem is one that is facing the electric car market as we speak – so maybe the electric-engined fraternity may want to take notice of the diesel/petrol debate.
Diesels aren’t that great for short journeys and driving about the city either, partly because of the DPF, as Vanessa Guyll from the AA’s technical services explains: “The DPF and exhaust gas recirculation mean diesels really aren’t viable for short journeys and town work. The DPF doesn’t get hot enough to clear itself out. We get called to about 700 breakdowns a month for blocked DPFs.”
And did I mention that insurance is higher for a diesel? Adrian Webb of insurer esure, says:"'A diesel will typically cost ten to 15 per cent more to insure than an equivalent petrol car. It has higher average accident repair costs, especially if the turbo intercooler is damaged. And many diesels have twin radiators, which are more vulnerable in a head-on collision."
So, for insurers, replacing a diesel car is more expensive and repairing one is too!
It sounds like I am talking myself out of a diesel here, but fear not: there is good news. Diesel engines are lower on exhaust emissions, even though the fuel costs are higher – but the lower emissions give you a lower vehicle excise duty.
And, of course, if you tend to drive long distances a lot of the time, a diesel is perfect for you because that’s when it really shows its worth. Over 15,000 miles and you are laughing-Not in one go, obviously. If you don’t believe me, listen to The AA’s Vanessa (“If you do around 15,000 miles a year or more, diesel is the better choice because of its improved economy”) and Ford’s Andrew (“We think a diesel makes sense from around 15,000 miles a year upwards.”)
Chris Chandler from Lex Autolease believes the future will become more complicated. “There are 9,500 derivatives of car on sale in the UK so people have a baffling choice,” he said. “With improved petrol and hybrids in all their forms we think it will become increasingly difficult to decide which fuel type makes sense.”
Because car manufacturers, as they have done with diesels, are now improving petrol engines and making them more efficient. They are not making it easy for us, are they? And then there’s hybrids, electrics and whatever comes up next too!
Personally, due to advance in technology and the current fuel prices, and the fact that I don’t do all that much mileage (around 10k a year) I would go for petrol over diesel. Obviously it’s all a matter of personal preference and requirements, but there are ways that you can calculate the cost over the years, and here is one such example, using a Diesel Qashqai 1.6Dci N-Tec+ and a Petrol Qashqai 1.6 N-Tec+ over 2, 3 and 4 years, doing 10,000 miles a year..
And then you add in the lower cost of leasing a petrol car in comparison to a diesel.
Bit of a no-brainer really in this case.