A weekly guide to all that’s rotten about car ownership, plus some good bits
This is one of many instances known with more to come where the EU Commission regulates minimum standards on the UKs behalf but soon out of Europe companies can do as they please including dump substandard products on us.
We are all cynical by now of the way car companies fake urban mileage totals out of each gallon we pay for at the petrol pump. My Smart car is supposed to attain over 50 mpg but can just about reach 45. Okay, that is better than most vehicles, but for such a small, lightweight vehicle with a washing machine for an engine, it’s not really good enough. In mpg tests car companies put thin hard tyres on test models, remove seats to keep weight to a minimum, (‘cept driver’s seat, of course) drive in good weather, and aim for downhill runs as many times as possible. They’re known to whip out dash equipment to make the car as light as possible. It’s no different for emission tests.
Legal loopholes allow manufacturers to produce much lower emissions in tests than on the road, thereby undermining an EU drive towards lower carbon emissions and more economical motoring.
Analysts at research and campaign group Transport & Environment calculate drivers in Europe – Europe is still us – paid €150bn more on fuel than we would have if our vehicles had performed as well on-the-road as in official laboratory-based tests. UK drivers paid €3.5bn more in 2017 alone. The gap between test and actual performance soared from a low of 9% in year 2000 to an amazing 42% today. Soared is the only way to describe it.
A more rigorous laboratory test is now the absolute minimum standard. It eliminates some of the test loopholes. However, this year the European Commission uncovered new evidence car companies are cheating again. This means the increases in fuel efficiency demanded by the EU as part of its action on climate change are still being undermined, the consequence of which is drivers will continue to use more fuel than policymakers demand.
Greg Archer, at Transport & Environment, said carmakers’ claims of big improvements in fuel consumption are illusory: “Despite regulations to reduce emissions, there has been no real-world improvement in CO2 emissions for five years and just a 10% improvement since 2000. The victims are citizens that have paid out €150bn for more fuel and are also suffering the consequences of unchecked climate change.”
Reader Andrew Sinclair provides this subject with a small package of wisdom:
“The UK Government uses the CO2 emissions figures from the manufacturers to set the car tax levels. Yet we all know the figures are false. It’s not a very logical way to tax vehicles, although it certainly looks like a profitable way. My MX5 costs way more than my wife’s Renault Kadjar despite the MX5 doing 10% of the miles of the Renault. The Mazda does about 3,000 miles/year, the Renault about 30,000. QED in CO2 emissions the Renault is actually polluting more. Stick the cat tax on fuel. Then the more you drive, ergo the more you pollute, the more you pay.”
A true word, and no mention of pot holes.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
No sooner did I mention the lack of any kind of car production in Scotland (stated in last Car News) than up pops a car maker to prove me wrong. Scotland has not had any significant car production since the Talbot plant in Linwood closed way back in 1981. Raptor Sporstcars founder Andy Entwistle is a former electrical engineer who started building motorsport engines in 2001. He diversified into producing kit cars that used chassis fabricated in Yorkshire. The Raptor resembles a Lotus Seven lightweight racer, so, not your everyday kids and dog carrier. Offered entirely built, it has a chassis made in Scotland. Let’s hope the company doesn’t stick a Union Jack on it. The plan is to offer cars with a range of engines, with an entry-level 2.0-litre naturally aspirated Ford to a 1.6-litre Ecoboost turbo that will be offered in 240bhp and 330bhp states of tune. Prices start at £22,000 for the 2.0-litre and rise to £44,000 for the more powerful Ecoboost. Entwhistle plans to move on to a conventional Grand Tourer design.
“The reaction has been really strong,” said Entwistle. “People love the fact it comes from Scotland. Our first demonstrator was Saltire Blue with tartan seats.”
Full fat Mazda MX5
Still on the subject of sporstcars, Mazda has finally decided to beef up its wonderful roadster the MX5. The 2 litre engine gets 23 more horsepower, and a 0-60 acceleration. Mazda give it the awkward name of MX5 Skyactiv-G. Forever placing fun over power, manoeuvrability over grunt, Mazda finally admits the car needs a bit more oomph, though I suspect the new BMW sportscar has given the company the competitive push it lacked. Enthusiast were forever adding supercharges, or trading engines for 2 .5 engines or even V8s to avoid laughed at, at the traffic lights. Sales of the MX5 are well over a million since its introduction late last century. It was the cheapest sportscar on the market back then, and now one of the few under £30,000 new, and a bargain second-hand. Incidentally, an MX5 is the only sportscar of many I’ve tested in which I was derided as a ‘wanker’ by a hooded youth.
Waiting for my car to pass it’s MOT – it didn’t, a rear light bulb was dead – the mechanic told me too many motorists don’t realise they can negotiate what needs done as opposed to what is recommended be done. The result is, we pay over the odds to get our car back on the road. In my case it was a £10 bulb. MOT tests leave motorists unnecessarily forking out billions of pounds on repairs. Moreover, the mechanic’s chat proved correct. Breakdown specialists Green Flag issued an article on how drivers are not aware of new MOT regulations, and how not to spend all that is highlighted as ‘worn’ – now called ‘amber alert’. The answer is to do your homework to avoid paying unnecessary charges. Which reminds me, I’ll have to check if slack seatbelts are unlawful, the problem being Toyota no longer make the passenger’s seat belt for my 22-year old RAV.