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What is E10 petrol and should you use it?

Consultation begins on standardisation of E10 petrol

The government has started a consultation on introducing E10 petrol as the standard petrol grade across the UK. The idea is to replace the E5 fuel used now. We explain what E10 fuel is, along with the pros and cons of standardising it.

The difference between E10 and E5 petrol is quite simple. The numbers refer to the percentage content of bioethanol in the fuel. E5 contains five percent and E10 contains 10 percent. Last year, normal petrol and diesel were renamed at the pumps, to E5 and B7, to inform motorists of their biofuel content.

Why the proposed switch to E10 petrol?

E10 petrol to reduce emissions

Standardising E10 appeals to the government, because it would help reduce CO2 emissions of petrol-powered cars on UK roads. It’s claimed the benefit would be equal to taking 350,000 cars off the road. The Department for Transport says CO2 emissions will be cut by around 750,000 tonnes a year. 

This would be a big help in reaching the UK’s climate change targets, and its ‘Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation’. The latter is the promise that 9.75 percent of all transport fuels will be from renewable sources by the end of this year. 

What are the problems with E10 fuel?

Volkswagen Beetle

The worry is that some older cars suffer when you fill them with E10 petrol. The bioethanol is believed to be corrosive to many components, including hoses, seals, plastics, gaskets and even certain metals in the fuel system.

This can damage fuel pumps, injectors, pressure regulators, carburettors and fuel tanks. And it’s worth noting that ‘older cars’ doesn’t necessarily mean classics. Many regular used cars could sustain damage if filled with E10.

When asked in parliament what assessment she has made of the issues with E10 for older vehicles, Rachel Maclean, Parliamentary Under Secretary (DFT) said: “One of the main barriers to introducing E10 has been vehicle compatibility. Currently, around 95 percent of petrol cars used in the UK can use E10, but around 700,000 are not warranted by their manufacturers to use E10.”

Jaguar E-type

“This number is expected to decrease as vehicles come to the end of their life. However, some classic and cherished vehicles that are not advised to use E10 will remain in use. The prolonged use of E10 fuel in those older and classic vehicles not under manufacturer warranty can cause corrosion of some rubbers and alloys used in the engine and fuel systems. 

“For those vehicles, the department remains committed to ensuring that E5 is retained as a protection grade, if E10 is introduced.”

Moving the CO2 around

Emissions reduction congestion charge zone

A more general issue, highlighted by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, is logistics. It’s reported that the only UK refinery for the fuel additive is no longer running. The environmental benefit of the E10 fuel rollout could be negated by the emissions cost from shipping.

The FBHVC has committed to pressing for the so-called ‘protection grade’ being made available, alongside the rollout of E10, in the latest consultation. 

The RAC’s view on ‘protection grade’

fuel prices drop coronavirus

The RAC has raised concerns about the retention of E5 as a ‘protection grade’ of petrol. While possibly adequate for niche and leisure classic owners, it could put a strain on low-income drivers.

This fuel could be hard to find and more expensive – for drivers who really don’t need added cost. Furthermore, fuel forecourts may not have the capacity to incorporate both grades. That could further affect rural low-income motorists.

petrol

“Everybody agrees that steps must be taken to reduce emissions from road transport. However, introducing E10 as the standard petrol will pose some challenges,” said RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams.

“Firstly, ​as the RAC Foundation points out, there could be as many as 600,000 vehicles on our roads that aren’t compatible with the fuel. Many of these are likely to be owned by those from lower-income backgrounds and while it is welcome that E5 petrol is not being phased out altogether, owners of these vehicles will face higher fuel costs – and will also have to hunt out those forecourts that still sell E5.

“Some retailers will also not have the capacity to be able to provide both E5 and E10 fuels on forecourts, so the impact is likely to be most keenly felt by those with incompatible vehicles in rural areas.”

Incentivising the use of E10

oil price drops should mean petrol savings for motorists says RAC

Auto Logistic Solutions, an incident management company, has called for the insurance industry to use incentives in policies to encourage drivers’ use of E10. This could mean reduced premiums.

It also wants incentives for drivers to scrap their older cars and buy newer E10-compatible models. This could be a solution, at least in part, to the alienation of low-income drivers the RAC has highlighted.

parking fines petrol station

“We are calling for the motor insurance industry to implement incentives into their policies and encourage drivers to use E10 fuel,” said Kyle Harris, managing director at Auto Logistic Solutions.

“By offering a reduced premium, drivers will be incentivised to opt for the lower octane fuel. It would [also] be beneficial to provide an incentive to drivers and make it financially viable to scrap their older car.” 

Getting the word out on E10

petrol pump

Then there’s the issue of publicity. Drivers will need to be made aware of the changes to fuel grades. The RAC has also recommended that a guide on exactly which cars will be affected should be published.

“It is also vital that owners of affected vehicles are aware of the changes,” Williams continued. 

“We’d like to see the DVLA writing to these owners to inform them that E5 will no longer be the standard premium grade, and to let them know their options. This, alongside a trusted online resource where drivers can quickly identify if their vehicles are E10 compatible or not, will go a long way to avoiding any expensive problems from filling up wrongly with the new blend.

“For the overwhelming majority of drivers with compatible vehicles, the introduction of E10 petrol will make little difference other than a possible slight reduction in fuel economy.”

Opinion: You’re spending too long at the petrol station

parking fines petrol station

You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about a chap getting fined for spending too long at a BP garage.

No, not Alan Partridge. There’s no whiff of Lynx Java about this story.

The fact that a shopper has been fined £100 is crazy, but here’s the thing: if you’re spending half an hour at a petrol station, you’re part of the problem.

Anything longer than 15 minutes at a forecourt is inexcusable. I’ve never timed it, but assuming there’s no queue, the splash and dash should be completed in less than 10 minutes.

Sure, grab a Dairy Milk or a packet of Wine Gums on your way to the till, but taking anything other than the shortest route between the door and the cash deck should be avoided. Pay, get in your car, then go.

How is it even possible to spend 30 minutes at a petrol station?

The guy at the centre of the story spent 47 MINUTES at a site in Croydon. Yep, forty-seven minutes. Most of that time was spent queuing behind SIX vehicles to use the car wash. Seriously, wouldn’t you come back another day?

Another man who received a fine wondered whether an “allowance of 45 minutes would be far more reasonable”, to which I say “NO”. Think about that for a moment, you genuinely see a scenario in which you’d want to spend three-quarters of an hour of your day at a petrol station?

Why? There must be better things you could be doing with your time.

‘Get the hell outta there’

petrol station at night

Almost everything is more expensive at a petrol station, so anything other than a distress purchase should wait for another day. You’re paying for the convenience and the fact that the retailer makes virtually nothing out of the highway robbery you experienced at the pump.

It means that today’s petrol station is less about petrol and more about shopping. Even the petrol element is in doubt, with forecourts adding banks of electric car chargers to prepare for our electrified future.

Quite how these fit into the maximum stay limits is a subject for another day…

I have sympathy for drivers caught unaware by the parking restrictions – I’m not siding with any retailers who have misled motorists. It’s just that I think that spending the equivalent half a football match at a petrol station is time wasted, even if you’re a Man Utd fan.

Casually wandering around a Little Waitrose or M&S Simply Food looking at chilled ready meals, cat food and household cleaning products while your fellow motorists slip into a coma in the queue behind your generic crossover just isn’t cricket.

When you’re back in your car, don’t spend an age checking your smartphone, arranging your shopping or having an in-depth conversation with your passenger. Be like a celebrity and get the hell outta there.

A visit to a petrol station should be like an Olympic event. Time yourself from when you open the filler cap to the moment you’ve fastened your seatbelt and are ready to go. If you beat your personal best, treat yourself to a Dairy Milk Duo the next time you need to fill up.

No parking fines, no waiting, no bother. Better for you, better for the rest of us.

Diesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

Diesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

Diesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engineThe dieselgate scandal rocked the world of diesel engines, shattering consumer confidence and renewing interest in petrol and hybrid models. With this in mind, we’ve selected 20 cars, all of which we prefer when powered by a petrol engine.

Citroen C4 Cactus 1.2 PureTechDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

Until the arrival of the new C3 supermini, the C4 Cactus is the most ‘Citroen’ Citroen you can buy. It’s packed with interesting features – most notably the Airbumps – while the 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine feels more in-keeping with the car’s lightness and joie de vivre.

Volkswagen Polo BlueGTDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

Shhh, nobody mention dieselgate. Fortunately, there’s no cloud of smog hanging over the excellent Volkswagen Polo BlueGT, which uses a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, yet can still deliver a claimed 60.1mpg on a combined cycle. With prices starting from £18,135, it’s not cheap, but when you think of it as a junior hot hatch, it begins to make more sense.

Porsche Macan SDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

It might be tempting to take advantage of the 427lb ft of torque and 44.8 – 46.3mpg offered by the Macan S Diesel, but our money would be on the Macan S, complete with 3.0-litre petrol engine. With 340hp on tap, 0-62mph is polished off in 5.4 seconds, while the top speed is nudging 160mph.

Fiat 500 TwinAirDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

Unlike many city cars, you can order a Fiat 500 with a diesel engine, but although it offers greater flexibility, we’d still recommend the petrol versions. The 1.2-litre is great in the city, but our money would be on the 0.9-litre TwinAir engine – a characterful unit that seems to suit the 500. Just don’t bank on getting anywhere near the claimed 74.3mpg.

Skoda Superb 2.0 TSIDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

Conventional wisdom would suggest the Superb is best served with an economical diesel engine, but we beg to differ. Having driven a 220hp Superb 2.0 TSI the entire length of the country, we were left impressed by its surprisingly sporty nature. Better still, opt for the blistering Superb Sportline, which offers a 280hp engine, 19-inch wheels and Alcantara sports seats.

BMW 330eDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

Take a BMW 320i, add an electric motor and, hey presto, a 330e is born. If any car can render the 330d obsolete, this is it. Its CO2 figure of 44g/km puts it in the 7% company car BIK band, making it a real winner for fleet users. At £33,935 (before the government grant), it isn’t cheap, but the fact that it can cover 25 miles using electric power is a good enough reason to give the 330e some serious thought.

Toyota Auris HybridDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

On the face of it, the Toyota Auris offers little to recommend one over say a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus. But the Auris Hybrid is worthy of consideration, not least because of the claimed 72mpg on a combined cycle. With CO2 emissions of just 79g/km, it’s also a good option for company car drivers.

Nissan Pulsar 1.6 DIG-T 190Diesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

On the plus side, the Nissan Pulsar is spacious, loaded with a decent amount of kit and is smooth-riding. But it is, how can we put this, a little lacklustre when it comes to style and performance. However, in the 1.6 DIG-T 190 version, the Pulsar has a hidden gem (of sorts). The 190 stands for 190hp, and it’s as bonkers as it sounds.

Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI BlueMotionDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

A 1.0-litre engine in a Volkswagen Golf – shouldn’t work, but it does. Its three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine emits just 99g/km CO2 and could return 65.7mpg on a combined cycle. OK, so you don’t get that huge dollop of torque offered by the 1.6-litre TDI BlueMotion, but if you travel fewer than 10,000 miles in a year, it could be worth a look. What’s more, the 1.0 TSI is £1,500 cheaper than the diesel.

MINI CooperDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

We adore the 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine in the MINI Cooper, more so than the 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit in the Cooper S. There’s plenty of low-end torque, while the engine comes alive as you approach the rev limiter. It’s the same engine you’ll find in the BMW i8, so its credentials should be in no doubt.

Ford Focus STDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

In 2015, Ford launched the first diesel-powered Focus ST, using the familiar 2.0-litre TDCi engine. As you’d expect, it trumps the petrol version when it comes to mid-range pull, with overall torque of 295lb ft – an increase of 30lb ft. We see no reason to dismiss the ST diesel, but the ST petrol remains just that little bit more fun.

Vauxhall Corsa 1.0 TurboDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

While you were sleeping, the Vauxhall Corsa turned into a rather good supermini. The 1.0-litre turbocharged engine is an undoubted highlight, feeling both refined and remarkably quiet for a three-cylinder unit. It can also deliver up to 64.2mpg on a combined cycle, with CO2 emissions as low as 102g/km.

Dacia Sandero AccessDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

Hear us out, because there’s some method in our madness. The ageing 1.2-litre engine found in the Dacia Sandero Access might not be the last word in refinement and efficiency, but if you want Britain’s cheapest new car, you’re kind of stuck with it. At £5,995 in basic UN-spec trim, the Sandero is at its most appealing.

Dacia Duster AccessDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

It’s a similar story with the Dacia Duster. If you want to spend as little as possible, you’ll need the two-wheel drive Access with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, which is priced at £9,495. Spend an additional £2,000 and you can enjoy the benefits of 4×4. However, if you fancy a Duster that doesn’t look like you’ve got a job as a UN envoy, you’ll need something like the car pictured. But that will cost you more…

Fiat Tipo 1.4Diesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

With prices starting from £12,995, the Fiat Tipo offers excellent value for money. By our reckoning, the more you spend, the less appealing it gets, so we’d opt for the cheaper 1.4-litre 16v engine. It offers just under 49.6mpg on a combined cycle, plus CO2 emissions of 132g/km. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but the Tipo isn’t without appeal.

Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoostDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

While the Ford Fiesta ST gets all the plaudits, it’s worth remembering the rather excellent 1.0-litre EcoBoost is also available. Opt for the Zetec or ST-Line Red and Black editions and you’ve got a Fiesta that’s almost as fun as the ST, but will be far more economical to run. Drive with a degree of restraint – which will be hard – and you could almost rival the diesel in terms of economy.

Audi TTDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

Admittedly, the 2.0-litre TDI Ultra engine and its 62.8mpg and 117g/km CO2 emissions is rather tempting, but when there’s a 230hp 2.0-litre TFSI engine on offer, why would you opt for the diesel? For us, the petrol engines are more in the spirit of the Audi TT.

Subaru Forester 2.0 XTDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

What car offers 240hp, 258lb ft of torque and is as good on the road as it is off it? The answer is the Subaru Forester 2.0 XT, which is a little like a WRX STI with 220mm of ground clearance. You just have to put up with 33.2mpg on a combined cycle.

Skoda Octavia vRSDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

Skoda was one of the first carmakers to offer a diesel-engined hot hatch in the shape of the original Fabia vRS. Back then, the Octavia vRS was strictly petrol only, but all that changed with the launch of the Octavia II. You can order a Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI today, but you shouldn’t, not when there’s a 230hp petrol version available. Who needs a Golf GTI?

Suzuki Vitara SDiesel won’t do: cars we prefer with a petrol engine

This thing is excellent, boasting a brilliantly named 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine, four-wheel drive and prices starting from £21,499. In manual guise it’ll ‘sprint’ to 62mph in 10.2 seconds, delivering economy of 52.3mpg. The 1.4-litre turbocharged engine is more flexible than the 1.6-litre diesel and petrol units, but it’s not available on the standard Vitara. But the Vitara S is so good, the others in the range could be rendered obsolete.

Fiat 500

Fiat 500 1.2 Lounge (2016) road test review

Fiat 500Around one in five city cars sold in the UK is a Fiat 500 – not bad for a car launched nine years ago. The 500 was updated in 2015, with minor styling tweaks and a new touchscreen media system. Can it still compete with newer, cheaper rivals? We drove the best-selling 1.2 petrol to find out.

Prices and dealsFiat 500

The 500 isn’t cheap to buy. Prices start at £11,050 for the 69hp 1.2 Pop, rising to £15,350 for the 95hp 1.3 S. There’s a big premium of nearly £3,000 for the 500C convertible, too.

Fortunately, there are plenty of discounts available. The 1.2 Lounge model we tested retails at £12,800 before options, but the same car is just £9,908 from online car broker, Drive The Deal. Equally, ‘reverse auction’ website Auto eBid offered a price of £10,056.

What are its rivals?Fiat 500 rivals

In terms of style and emotional appeal, the 500’s closest rival is the MINI. However, BMW’s retro-remake is larger and more expensive: a supermini rather than a city car.

The Toyota Aygo, Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Up are all direct competitors. The Toyota – along with its near-identical sisters, the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 – also majors on style and is usefully cheaper than the 500. The Hyundai also plays the value card, and is fun to drive.

The Up, meanwhile, offers Germanic build quality and plenty of interior space. It’s also one of triplets: the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo are the same under the skin, but cheaper to buy.

What engine does it use?Fiat 500

Our test 500 is powered by a 69hp 1.2-litre petrol engine. You can also opt for the noisy but zesty two-cylinder, 0.9-litre Twinair – available in 85hp and 105hp outputs. Unusually for a car this size, Fiat offers a diesel engine, too: the 95hp 1.3 Mulitijet.

Fancy something sportier? The Abarth 500 hot hatch produces up to 180hp and costs from £15,090.

How fast?Fiat 500

Back in 2014, the Fiat 500 1.2 was featured on BBC Watchdog, amid allegations that it could “barely get to the tip of a hill.” It showed a presenter driving up a one in 10 incline in (what appeared to be) second gear, claiming she could “feel the lack of power.” Former Stig Ben Collins reached a similar verdict.

Fiat has since applied a software update, which is claimed to improve driveability. Nonetheless, this still isn’t a fast car. The 0-62mph dash takes a leisurely 12.9 seconds and maximum speed is 99mph.

Is it comfortable?Fiat 500

Park a 500 next to an original (1957-1975) Cinquecento and it looks huge. However, it isn’t as efficiently-packaged as many rivals – not least the mechanically-similar Fiat Panda.

We found it comfortable in the front, although the driving position is very upright: you feel like you’re sitting ‘on’ the car, rather than in it. Rear-seat passengers are likely to complain about the lack of headroom. Blame that cute-and-curvaceous roofline.

Will I enjoy driving it?Fiat 500

The 500 is a very easy car to drive, particularly in town. Its controls are light (the steering even has a ‘city’ mode for fingertip-twirling) and the lofty driver’s seat offers good visibility. A compact footprint makes it a doddle to park, too.

Escape the urban jungle and the little Fiat is less convincing. Its over-assisted steering doesn’t inspire confidence and there’s lots of body-roll in the corners. The 69hp engine hardly fizzes with enthusiasm either, particularly when it comes to steep hills…

Fuel economy and running costsFiat 500

Official fuel economy for the 500 1.2 petrol is a thrifty 60.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of 110g/km. The latter equates to free car tax (VED) in the first year, and just £20 per year thereafter.

Both versions of the two-cylinder Twinair petrol are more efficient on-paper: 74.3mpg and 67.3mpg for the 85hp and 105hp engines respectively. However, the Twinair rarely gets anywhere near these claimed figures in independent tests. Perhaps its rev-happy nature encourages lead-footed driving?

The 95hp 1.3 diesel manages 83.1mpg – but you’ll need to drive a very long way to justify the upfront cost (around £3,500 more than a similar-spec 1.2 petrol).

What’s the interior like?Fiat 500

The 500’s characterful cabin sets it apart from more strait-laced superminis. We love the body-colour dashboard, retro steering wheel and quirky seat fabrics. There’s seemingly endless scope for customisation, too.

The entry-level Pop comes with remote locking, electric front windows and a radio with USB and Aux sockets. Upgrading to Pop Star adds air conditioning, electric mirrors and a split/fold rear seat. The Lounge seen here has the Uconnect touchscreen (more on that shortly), a leather-wrapped wheel and rear parking sensors.

Is it practical?Fiat 500

Not particularly. There’s no five-door version, so rear passengers must clamber behind the front seats. And lifting child seats in and out is hip-twistingly awkward.

Luggage space is a modest 185 litres: enough for a weekly supermarket-shop, but much smaller than the 251-litre Volkswagen Up.

Tell me about the techFiat 500

Fiat’s latest Uconnect touchscreen ‘infotainment’ system is mounted high on the dashboard and proves straightforward to use, despite a small, five-inch screen. The TomTom sat nav (£350 – with DAB radio included) is particularly good, with bold graphics and live traffic data.

Our car also had the option seven-inch TFT screen in the binnacle behind the steering wheel (£350). It displays lots of useful driving data, along with a neat graphic of the car itself.

What about safety?Fiat 500

Euro NCAP awarded the Fiat a full five stars when it crash-tested one back in 2007. Standard safety equipment includes seven airbags and Isofix mounting points for child car seats.

Which version should I go for?Fiat 500

Simple is often best when it comes to small cars – and so it is with the Fiat 500. The 69hp 1.2 engine might struggle to pull skin off a panna cotta, but it’s peppy enough for pottering around town and decently economical. The 500 isn’t sporty, or even particularly fun to drive, so why pay more?

Likewise, we’d go for the mid-range Pop Star, rather than the fully-loaded Lounge seen here. With all the options fitted, our test car came to a faintly ludicrous £15,950. You could (and should) get a nice Ford Fiesta for that much.

What’s the used alternative?Fiat 500

The 500 has been on sale since 2007, so there are plenty in the classifieds. Prices start at around £3,000 for an early example with 80,000-90,000 miles on the clock. Just bear in mind that the three-year warranty will have expired and Fiats aren’t renowned for reliability; the brand is always among the backmarkers in the annual Which? Car Survey.

Should I buy one?Fiat 500

The 500 has been a sales phenomenon for Fiat. Indeed, the Italian marque has ended up modelling most of its range on it: witness the 500L and 500X.

Despite its faults, the 500 is classless and effortlessly cool. Yes, the VW Up is a better car in most respects – and cheaper, too. But many 500 customers simply won’t care. We wouldn’t buy one, yet even after nine years on sale, we’re sure thousands will.

Pub factFiat 500

More than 1.5 million examples of the current Fiat 500 have been sold since 2007. That puts it well on the way to catching the original 1957 500, which took 18 years to sell four million.