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