Petrol has had its day

Mike Rutherford is motoring editor of the News of the World and talkSport. He appears on ITV's Pulling Power and is founder of the Motorists' Association.

One of the great things about this job is that I get to sample some of the best and worst cars on offer. And since the middle of last year, I've made a serious attempt to boycott the petrol pumps and drive diesel, LPG and electric models whenever possible. As a result I've managed to substantially reduce my spending on fuel, so my financial contribution to the Treasury Department has dropped significantly. There's something wonderfully satisfying about climbing into an oil-burning Volkswagen, Citroen or Audi and achieving around 50mpg. These are cars that reduce a driver's fuel tax and duty expenditure (and therefore Gordon Brown's take) by about a third.

What he hates even more are LPG cars that drink a liquid costing only 40-odd pence a litre. Again, Citroen is very strong in this area. With its price reductions, fuel-efficient diesels and occasional free insurance and zero per cent finance deals, Citroen's LPG models are really the icing on the money-saving cake.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Nissan also offers an LPG Primera, which is unbelievably good at what it does: provide quality, safe and unpretentious motoring that's cheaper on a cost-per-mile basis than taking the bus. The LPG Primera is hugely underrated, spoiled only by bland looks.

If I'm ecstatic about diesel and LPG cars, I'm generally disappointed with the lack of progress with electric vehicles. Honda and Toyota both deserve praise for putting their expensive-to-build, even-dearer-to-buy Insight and Prius electric hybrids in UK showrooms. But given the global motor industry's desperately slow progress and lethargy over electric cars, I can't get terribly excited about what's on sale at present.

Despite that, I can categorically say I'm happy to live without unleaded petrol. If a new range of cars is pitched at drivers living in the real world (not to be confused with the dream world of prohibitively expensive, exotic supercars from which 99.9 per cent of us are excluded), there's usually a thoroughly decent diesel version. Yes, it will probably be a bit slower and noisier, but it will visit the filling station less and do more miles per gallon. Which means fewer pounds for bulging Treasury coffers and more for your pocket.

Respected performance car makers such as Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW and Mercedes are already using state-of-the-art diesels that make their cars eerily refined yet surprisingly quick. It's only a matter of time before a true supercar manufacturer will drop a diesel lump into one of its models. Admittedly, buyers of the most expensive performance cars aren't worried about the price of a gallon. But they are concerned about the time they waste queueing at the pumps. And they're fascinated by advances in engineering which give some diesel-powered cars the ability to do around twice the legal speed limit.

Petrol has had its day. Anybody who buys a new car that runs on the stuff is ignoring the facts, discriminating against diesel/LPG or - even worse - keen to give Gordon Brown even more revenue that he neither needs nor deserves.

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