With petrol prices among the cheapest in the world, drivers in the UAE can afford to be a little more casual about fuel economy than motorists in other countries.
But for the vast number of residents whose daily commute sees them behind the wheel for two or more hours a day, filling up the tank can become a fairly significant drain on resources. Add to this a growing unease about the impact of carbon emissions on the environment and the idea of driving a gas-guzzler might not seem so attractive.
“Cars emit a complex cocktail of exhaust gases, many of which have harmful effects on the planet. Transportation is the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions – the principal driver of climate change today; a 9,660km journey travelled by car produces roughly its own weight in CO2,” explains Yannick Read from the Environmental Transport Association, a company committed to getting more ‘green’ cars on the roads.
“The main way to cut these emissions is through reducing our use of fuel, and this can be done by using more fuel-efficient cars. With manufacturers now producing high-end models, driving with a view to the environment need not mean forgoing luxury.”
So which are the most fuel-efficient cars? And if, for instance, you are going to be commuting between Dubai and Abu Dhabi every day, you will need to know which vehicles are the most comfortable and reliable.
When it comes to petrol efficiency, it seems the Japanese are leading the way. According to the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy’s 2008 fuel economy guidebook, the top 10 fuel-efficient cars are dominated by Japanese vehicles.
Petrol-electric hybrids account for the top five cars on the list, and although they are gaining popularity in the US – particularly among environmentally conscious Hollywood stars – it will be some time before these become available in the UAE.
The first non-hybrid to appear in the top 10 is the Toyota Yaris – ever popular in this market – which boasts a healthy fuel consumption of 46.7km/57.9km per gallon (city/highway) with manual transmission and 46.7km/56.3km/gal with automatic.
Not far behind is the Toyota Corolla (manual) which actually beats the Yaris on long journeys (59.5km/gal), but loses marginally in city driving (45km/gal). But of course, fuel consumption is only one factor when considering vehicles cut out for long journeys: comfort must be another.
According to motoring expert Richard Whitehead, that is where the super-efficient Yaris falls down slightly. With fuel consumption of 38.6km/54.7km/gal, and offering a more comfortable ride, the Camry is his choice from the Toyota stable.
“The Yaris is hugely popular, but really it’s not made for long commutes like Abu Dhabi to Dubai,” says Whitehead, the former editor of Middle East Car magazine. “It’s designed as a city car for young drivers, able to fit into tight spaces. For the longer journeys, you need a far more comfortable car with better performance – so it’s no coincidence that nearly all taxis are Toyota Camrys.
“The Camry is much bigger and more spacious than the Yaris and is built for cruisability, comfort and higher speeds. It’s won numerous car-of-the-year awards around the world and it’s America’s most popular car. It will go twice around the world without breaking down, and the market here demands that sort of reliability – once you’ve bought a car you don’t want to be bogged down in servicing and repairs.”
Whitehead believes that in terms of reliability and value for money, distance commuters would do well to stick with Japanese car manufacturers. His top recommendations, alongside the Camry, are the Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima.“Like the Camry, they share the same selling points: they’re all quite bland, but people in that market don’t want flashy cars. They have gadgets and gizmos that will obviously increase your comfort if you’re spending a lot of time in your car. The Japanese have a great formula for producing cars that run for ever,” he says.
The Accord offers fuel-efficiency of 41.8 km/gal city and 54.7km/gal highway, compared to the Nissan Ultima’s 41.8 and 56.3.
Civil Engineer Neil Whittley has chosen the Ford Focus as his commuter car. The 27-year-old from Northern Ireland drives the 260km round-trip from his home in Dubai Marina to his office in Khatt near Ras Al Khaimah every day and has rented a car since he arrived in the country five months ago for the convenience of having everything taken care of in case his vehicle breaks down.
“I don’t want to buy my own car at the moment because I worked out that I would clock up 10,000km in three months,” explains Whittley. “I get my petrol paid and after I damaged my first car, the hire company came and picked it up, so it was very easy. But once my job shifts to Dubai I’ll buy my own car as I won’t be travelling so much.”
If fuel economy is a concern for you, but the safety and comfort advantages of an SUV are too much to resist, then Jeep offers excellent mileage in the form of its Compass and Patriot models.
The Compass manages 41.8km/48.3km/gal in the front-wheel drive version and 40.2km/46.7km/gal in the four-wheel-drive. The Patriot lags behind only slightly at 38.6km/43.4km/gal for front-wheel-drive and 37km/41.8km/gal for the 4x4 version.
Also rated high among SUVs by the EPA are the Toyota RAV4 (38.6km/48.3km/gal in front-wheel drive and 37km/43.4km/gal in 4x4) and the Honda CR-V (37km/48.3km/gal in front-wheel drive and 35.4km/45.1km/gal in the 4x4 version).
It will come as no surprise to find that high-end sports cars dominate the EPA’s chart of the 10 least fuel-efficient cars. According to EPA tests, the most thirsty car on the road is the Lamborghini Murcielago, which manages 12.9km/gal in the city and 20.9km/gal on the highway. Almost as greedy is the Bugati Veyron, which clocks up 12.9km/22.5km/gal.
Of course, if your budget stretches to luxury carmakers it is unlikely that fuel economy is among your major concerns. Environmental concerns, however, may cause you to think twice about driving a vehicle with this kind of petrol efficiency.
Tips on driving more efficiently
- Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking)
wastes fuel. Driving more sensibly can lower petrol consumption
by up to 33 per cent at highway speeds and by about five per cent
- While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different
speed, fuel mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above
100km/h. So observing the speed limit has economical as well as
the more obvious safety benefits.
- Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, especially heavy
ones. An extra 45kg in your vehicle could reduce your fuel mileage
by as much as two per cent.
- Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant
speed and, in most cases, will save petrol.
Model km/gal (City/Highway)
Lamborghini Murcielago (automatic) 12.9/20.9
Bugati Veyron 12.9/22.5
Lamborghini Murcielago (manual) 14.5/22.5
Bentley Azure/Arnage RL 14.5/24.1
Ferrari 612 Scaglietti (automatic) 14.5/25.7
Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder (manual), Ferrari 612 Scaglietti
(manual), Bentley Arnage (automatic) 16.1/24.1
Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder (automatic), Mercedes-Benz,
Maybach, Aston Martin DB9 16.1/25.7
Lamborghini Gallardo Coupe (manual), Bentley Continental
Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG 17.7/20.9
Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD 17.7/22.5
The most fuel efficient cars, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy’s 2008 fuel economy guidebook.
Model km/gal (City/Highway)
Toyota Prius (hybrid) 77.2/72.4
Honda Civic (hybrid) 64.4/72.4
Nissan Altima (hybrid) 56.3/53.1
Ford Escape (hybrid) FWD 54.7/48.3
Mazda Tribute (hybrid) 54.7/48.3
Mercury Mariner (hybrid) FWD 54.7/48.3
Toyota Camry (hybrid) 53.1/54.7
Toyota Yaris (manual) 46.7/57.9
Toyota Yaris (automatic) 46.7/56.3
Ford Escape (hybrid) 4WD 46.7/43.4
Mercury Mariner (hybrid) 4WD 46.7/43.4
Mazda Tribute (hybrid) 4WD 46.7/43.4
Toyota Corolla (manual) 45.1/59.5
Honda Fit (manual) 45.1/54.7