In the modern marketplace there is more choice than ever when it comes to purchasing and this is as true for car buyers as it is for anything else. Not only is there a dizzying array of manufacturers to choose from, but even when you have decided on the make and model you then have to tackle a variety of options regarding fuel and specifications.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the press over the past few months you could be forgiven for thinking that diesel engines are something to be avoided. The papers seem to be coming out with one negative story after another, from environmental concerns to tax penalties.
However, the truth is far different from the image that the popular press is so keen to portray. As manufacturers in general, and Suzuki in particular, have been investing hugely in their diesel technology over the past few years.
Here, we separate fact from fiction and analyse two of the big hitters in the Suzuki range — the innovative S-Cross crossover and the classic Vitara SUV — to see just what the diesel versions bring to the table.
The S-Cross represents Suzuki’s entry into the growing crossover market and is equally at home on the city streets or the most rugged terrain. It comes with three choices of engine: 1.0-litre petrol, 1.4-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel. Let’s see how they stack up.
Economy-wise, there is one clear winner. Despite the larger cylinder capacity, the diesel engine returns a remarkable 69mpg, compared with 57mpg from the 1.0-litre petrol engine and 50mpg from the 1.4-litre petrol engine. But is there a price to pay when it comes to performance? The answer is a resounding… “not really”.
0 – 62mph acceleration times are very similar — the petrol engines are marginally quicker, but the diesel-powered car is only one second behind. As for speeds, the diesel and the 1.0 petrol both max out at 112mph and the 1.4 petrol has a top speed of 124mph.
Perhaps the diesel is harsher to the environment? Again, the reality might come as a surprise. Of the three engines, the larger diesel engine actually has lower CO2 emissions than the two petrol engines.
The Vitara is the car that made Suzuki as popular a name on four wheels as it was on two when it arrived on the scene in the late 1980s. Today, the iconic SUV comes in a wide array of trim levels with 1.6 petrol or diesel engines. Given that the petrol and diesel versions have exactly the same cylinder capacity, it is a straight shoot-out. Let’s compare and contrast the SZ-T in both versions. This should be interesting!
Fuel economy: The diesel wins hands down here, returning 71mpg, compared with just 51mpg from the petrol engine.
Performance: It’s a dead heat — both versions have a top speed of 112mph, and reach 62mph in 11.5 seconds.
Ecological impact: The diesel has the lower CO2 emissions rating, at 106, compared with 123 for the petrol engine.
On the face of it, the case for the diesel-powered version is compelling. It is slightly more expensive, but when you take into account the reduced running costs and higher residual value of diesels, it could well be worth the premium.
When we evaluate the diesel engine in the context of performance, fuel economy and emissions, it is hard to see why anyone would choose to buy anything else. This begs the question of why diesels have received so much negative media attention over the past year or so. In part, it is easy to put it down to the press living up to its reputation and saying whatever is most likely to sell papers.
While there is perhaps a degree of this in play, there is also the factor of a genuine wish to push drivers towards the new technologies of hybrid and electric cars for the sake of the environment.
So, is it really the case that diesels are not so bad after all, but we should still abandon all fossil fuels in favour of newer green technology? If only it were that simple.
Electric cars have come on in leaps and bounds since the first concept cars of the 1970s and 1980s. They now represent a viable, fuel efficient, green alternative for short city trips. There is every chance that 20 years from now, they will present a good option for longer journeys too, but with a range of only 100 miles or so, the technology is not there at present.
Meanwhile, as diesel engines continue to develop and become cleaner and more efficient with every generation, it would be foolish to write them off just yet.
The above fuel efficiency figures are quoted by 3rd parties are were correct at the time of publishing this article.