The Oldie - - CONTENTS - Alan Judd

If you're for­tu­nate enough to be one of the dwin­dling band who bought a new car after 1st Septem­ber, you should have a bet­ter idea of its real-world fuel con­sump­tion and emis­sions fig­ures than if you bought it ear­lier.

From that date, new ve­hi­cles must com­ply with the nat­tily-named World Har­monised Light Ve­hi­cle Test Pro­ce­dure (WLTP) in­stead of the pre­vi­ous mis­lead­ing Eu-en­forced New Euro­pean Driv­ing Cy­cle (NEDC). WLTP will al­most cer­tainly pre­dict fewer miles per gal­lon and higher emis­sions.

Ev­ery­one in the trade knew that the NEDC over­stated mpg be­cause it was a bench test that did not mea­sure real­world driv­ing. Sim­i­larly, 0-60 mph fig­ures are of­ten achieved with the car stripped of seats and other weighty items, and us­ing pre­mium-grade fuel. The lat­ter is ap­plied to the old mpg fig­ures as well – and prob­a­bly still is. The emis­sions fraud was less widely known but over­all there was shrug­ging ac­cep­tance of in­dus­try and EU con­nivance in de­ceiv­ing the pub­lic.

If, how­ever, you are still await­ing a new car, it may be be­cause it is be­ing re-en­gi­neered in or­der to com­ply with WLTP. Some mod­els or en­gine vari­ants have even been tem­po­rar­ily re­moved from sale – the VW Golf GTI, the Audi SQ5 and the Peu­geot 308 GTI 270 – while oth­ers, such as the Skoda Su­perb, are hav­ing their power tweaked down­wards. Re­search by Au­to­car found that Audi, Peu­geot, Porsche, Seat, Skoda and VW were all mak­ing costly pro­duc­tion changes. Mercedes dis­dained to com­ment but have warned of fall­ing prof­its as a re­sult of WLTP.

Not that this alone ac­counts for the dwin­dling of new cars sales, par­tic­u­larly of Uk-built cars. Brexit, handy catch-all for doom and gloom mer­chants, must be partly re­spon­si­ble be­cause it pro­voked the drop in the pound, ren­der­ing many cars more ex­pen­sive.

Then the govern­ment-in­duced panic about diesel led to a de­cline of 200,000 in diesel sales in the first half of this year, hit­ting Jaguar Land Rover par­tic­u­larly be­cause 85 per cent of their UK sales are diesel. The fact that this 6-7 per cent year-on-year over­all sales de­cline has not be­come a crash is per­haps due to the na­tional ad­dic­tion to credit, with most peo­ple buy­ing on per­sonal con­tract pur­chase. The trou­ble is that, when, after two to three years, they have ei­ther to stump up the re­main­ing value of the car or con­tract to buy an­other, they're ef­fec­tively locked into the lat­ter, mak­ing us a na­tion of car-renters. Hire-pur­chase would be bet­ter.

It needn't be thus. A friend re­cently sold his ex­pen­sive BMW after find­ing that a punc­ture in one £250 run-flat tyre ne­ces­si­tated the re­place­ment of all four be­cause the com­puter de­tected that the new tyre had more tread than the oth­ers and so flashed it as a fault – now an MOT fail­ure. If you're buy­ing a new car, ask about the cost of tyres. Few do.

He re­verted to his standby, a 1998 Skoda Felicia with the old Skoda 1.3 en­gine and Bosch fuel in­jec­tion. It lacks air­con and power steer­ing and is noisy on the mo­tor­way but it will cruise be­yond the le­gal limit, costs £150 to tax and £140 to in­sure with Saga, still de­liv­ers 40 mpg after 64,000 fault-free miles and is val­ued by we­buyany­ at £50. It's care­free mo­tor­ing. If it breaks, he'll scrap it but mean­while it brings a smile to his face ev­ery time he pulls up along­side a BMW.

£50 Czech: the Skoda Felicia

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