Same car, same driver, same route . . . and five dif­fer­ent forms of petrol. We find which is the best for you

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - CHRIS RI­LEY cars­guide.com.au

Which fuel drives your dol­lar fur­ther? We put five forms of petrol to the test in Holden’s Cap­tiva

WHAT should I put in my car — E10 or un­leaded? It’s a ques­tion we’re asked a lot and it’s one we thought needed a de­fin­i­tive an­swer.

To arrive at that we’ve fed our Holden Cap­tiva 7 test car five kids of petrol over the past few weeks to see which pro­duced the best re­sults. The find­ings might sur­prise you.

An at­trac­tively priced SUV, the seven-seat Cap­tiva was per­fect for the job. As well as E10 and stan­dard un­leaded, we also de­cided to add pre­mium 95 and pre­mium 98 to the mix. For good mea­sure we also tried the new E85 mix (85 per cent ethanol) that only some Saabs and Hold­ens can use. There’s noth­ing like be­ing thor­ough.

The young feller at the counter of our lo­cal servo was a bit con­cerned when we told him that we’d just filled up with E85. Seems some cus­tomers have mis­tak­enly filled up on E85 with dire con­se­quences— rough idling fol­lowed, ul­ti­mately, by engine fail­ure. But Holden has made much about its cars be­ing E85-com­pat­i­ble, so our tim­ing couldn’t be bet­ter.

Mind you, find­ing a servo that stocks E85 is not easy— they’re few and far be­tween.


The Cap­tiva 7 CX is priced from $38,490. It has all-wheeldrive, a five-star safety rat­ing and is pow­ered by the 3.0-litre V6, the smaller of the Com­modore en­gines, pro­duc­ing 190kW/288Nm. It has a 65-litre tank and of­fi­cial fuel con­sump­tion is 10.1L/100km, giv­ing it a the­o­ret­i­cal range of 644km.


Betcha didn’t know the fig­ures on fuel con­sump­tion stick­ers are based on pre­mium un­leaded 95. Even if, like me, you just go look­ing for the cheap­est fuel you can find, you won’t see any­thing like the man­u­fac­turer’s claim. So why are tests based on 95? Well, not all cars will take stan­dard un­leaded, es­pe­cially Euro­pean cars. No such prob­lem with the Korean-built Cap­tiva.


Ethanol is a type of al­co­hol, a re­new­able en­ergy source and not as harm­ful to the en­vi­ron­ment as pe­tro­leum prod­ucts. Most cars built af­ter 1986 can safely use petrol with ethanol added.

In Aus­tralia, ethanol is made from su­gar cane, red sorghum and the waste from starch pro­duc­tion— not from food sources. In the past ethanol has been blamed for be­ing cor­ro­sive but the type sold now must by law con­tain a cor­ro­sion in­hibitor.

To check whether your ve­hi­cle can use ethanol blend fuel, view the Fed­eral Cham­ber of Au­to­mo­tive In­dus­tries info site, http://bit.ly/OaeFTH


Petrol car­ries a RONrat­ing (Re­search Oc­tane Num­ber). The higher the num­ber, the more com­pres­sion the fuel will tol­er­ate be­fore it det­o­nates. Gen­er­ally fu­els with a higher oc­tane are used in high­per­for­mance/high­com­pres­sion en­gines.

Most Euro­pean cars run on 95 RON. If you run your car on petrol with an oc­tane rat­ing be­low that rec­om­mended you might notice a knock­ing, rat­tling or a ping­ing sound. This means the fuel is detonating in­stead of burn­ing smoothly. And this can mean engine dam­age.


A 1998 trial for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment showed that the use of E10 in ve­hi­cles de­signed for ULP in­creases fuel con­sump­tion by an av­er­age of 2.8 per cent but it varies from car to car.

Dis­pelling the myth, NRMA tech­ni­cal ex­pert Jack Ha­ley says: ‘‘ You won’t achieve any im­proved per­for­mance from us­ing higher oc­tane fu­els un­less your ve­hi­cle’s engine is de­signed for them.’’


Stan­dard un­leaded has an oc­tane rat­ing of 91. Aus­tralian­made ve­hi­cles and most from Ja­pan run on ULP and gen­er­ally do not ben­e­fit from pre­mium fu­els. NSW gov­ern­ment plans to phase out ULP were scrapped be­cause mo­torists whose cars won’t take E10 would have been forced to pay more. Stan­dard un­leaded can be hard to find— you might dis­cover the un­leaded you’re us­ing al­ready con­tains 10 per cent ethanol.


Pre­mium un­leaded petrol has an oc­tane rat­ing of 95. Most Euro­pean cars are de­signed to run on PULP, the stan­dard Euro petrol grade.


Ul­tra Pre­mium Un­leaded Petrol, with an oc­tane rat­ing of 98, is usu­ally re­stricted to high per­for­mance cars. Shell used to

i Thirsty work: Writer Ri­ley (left) got sur­pris­ing re­sults (see panel) on the

Cars­guide Cap­tiva’s five­week, five­fu­els test

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