From our research we have found a clear distinction in the type of fuel on offer at the pumps, our first group is budget fuel this is the fuel that is typically sold at 4 out of 5 of the big supermarkets, these are Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. Fuel from these brands are typically some of the cheapest on the market, these fuels have some negative press, however, they are a perfectly serviceable and run our cars daily without issue. Next is the standard filling station fuel from companies like Esso, Texaco, Shell and BP. Each has a partnership with supermarkets that contributes to the myth that all fuels are the same. It is worth mentioning that all fuel sold in the UK must conform to the British and European standards for fuel, these are EN228 for petrol and EN590 for diesel. But each company formulates their own mixture of chemicals and refinery from oil to get a standard fuel. Finally on our list is the top of the range fuel these include Shell’s V-Power and DYNAFLEX fuels while BP offer BP Ultimate fuels, each come at a premium and have a been specifically formulated to be better than their standard fuel counterparts for either efficiency or performance.
While the price of the premium fuel will fluctuate in line with the regular fuel we were able to distinguish a very clear performance difference between budget fuel that started at 112.3 pence per litre (ppl) and diesel coming in as cheap as 123.9 pence per litre. The average for petrol in the North West of England is 120.3 ppl for petrol and just 129.5p per litre for diesel across the UK as an average.
Scotland and North London have been identified as the most expensive places for fuel, while Lincolnshire and Yorkshire have some of the lowest average fuel prices. Premium fuel was typically 8.9 pence up to 11.3 pence more expensive than the standard fuel offered by the garage. Each of our tanks only cost £3 - £5 extra to fill with the premium and although we did notice a difference in some cars, others felt the same.
While some fuels are advertised as being a cost-effective way to keep your engine clean others are designed to give you a bigger bang, petrol, in particular, is rated in Octane, a measurement of compression before ignition, the higher the octane the more compression before the fuel will ignite. Higher octane fuel reduces the chance of pre-ignition and therefore, how the car feels to drive. In our budget car a Renault Clio, the higher octane Shell V-Power and Tesco Momentum 99 were both wasted on the 0.9 TCE. While when we tested the same fuels from BP and Esso on a BMW 3 Series 340i M Sport the throttle response and acceleration were noticeable to each driver.
Our results showed that while the premium fuel was more efficient than supermarket standard fuel, it wasn’t significantly more economic in an old car over 10 years or the new Volkswagen Golf we tested. However the efficient diesel from Esso when tested in the Volvo didn’t appear to have any additional benefit from a single tank, although Esso claims that multiple tanks will help to break down the deposits in the tank, fuel system, engine and exhaust will over time improve. We tried this over a 3 month period and although on a new vehicle economy didn’t improve, it may have as the fuel developers state, keep the engine systems in good working order. The 3 years old Ford Fiesta did have a marginal increase in MPG and increased the total range by just 20 miles, from a 540 tank range.
Premium fuel is worth it if used in the right way, often premium fuel is cleaner to burn as it has fewer bulking agents and additives that ensure a more consistent burn and power output. If you want to flush out your engine on a long drive use premium fuel and your car will thank you. If you are looking for a smile per miles in your performance car with high compression using a higher octane fuel such as 98 or 97 instead of the standard 95 will definitely work when we compare them to cheap supermarket fuels. While cleaning additives for older engines are going to help using a premium fuel on a new engine will almost certainly help to prevent a building up that will cause your car to wear, most cars won’t see a significant difference during the length of their car lease. Fuel additives that are added additionally to fuel are often considered with some being called snake oil others have been a more cost-effective way for us to flush our motoring internals faster and for less. Test premium fuel in your car and see if you feel the benefit.