The Big Debate: Petrol vs Diesel.

The Big Debate – Petrol vs Diesel

The debate between the suitability of petrol or diesel vehicles is nothing new. It is a decision all car buyers must make and is often the first choice made when buying a new car. However, Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s Spring Budget reignited the UK’s commitment to improving air quality and with it the promise to “explore the appropriate tax treatment for diesel vehicles”. This, in turn, has flipped the debate on its head.

What we know.

As well as setting aside £690 million for councils to ease urban congestions and air pollution, the 2017 budget outlined potential plans to introduce new tax penalties for diesel vehicles. While the initiative is presently only in the consideration stages, concrete plans are due to be unveiled within the Treasury’s Autumn Statement. Understandably, this has spread uncertainty amongst both current and prospective diesel owners.

Mercedes-Benz six-cylinder diesel engine
A Mercedes-Benz six-cylinder diesel engine.

So, what’s changed?

While they outperform petrol engines on their release of CO2, diesel engines emit high levels of both Nitrogen Oxides and sooty particulates. As with all emissions, these are detrimental to human health; the effects of which are especially prevalent in our major cities. Furthermore, as has now become common knowledge, vehicle emissions pose a serious threat to the natural world due to their contribution to global warming.

At the turn of the century, the current Labour government encouraged the uptake of diesel cars because of their lower C02 output. Additionally, the vehicle tax changes that came into place last month were still indicative of this view. We saw an increase in the tax owed on vehicles emitting greater C02, a policy therefore penalising petrol car owners.

However, with the emergence of electric vehicles and the utopia of zero emission driving becoming an ever-closer reality, the onus is now on drivers to clean up their act.

The result.

The differences in the performance between the two fuel types will always be attributable to personal driving preference and routine usage. For example, a diesel engine is low rev and high torque, providing a lot of thrust from the offset. This better suits vehicles tackling difficult terrain, carrying heavy loads or for drivers who require comfort on long motorway journeys. A petrol engine, in comparison, is more commonly recognised for its instant throttle response. In simple terms, a petrol car is therefore most typically suited to short journeys, city driving or those most commonly using A and B roads. 

With the potential increase in running costs proposed in the Spring Budget, what has now been thrown into question is the better cost-efficiency high-distance drivers benefitted from by choosing a diesel engine over a petrol one. The higher miles-per-gallon potential of diesel fuel means those who cover a lot of miles are usually advised to choose a diesel vehicle due to cost savings at the pump. Now, the potential increases in tax fees are set to level the playing field.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class, E 220 d in Hyacinth red
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class, E 220 d in Hyacinth red.

What is important to keep in mind is that the the pressure has already been on manufacturers for quite some time to improve the standard of both petrol and diesel engines. As of September 2015, all new vehicles were required to meet Euro 6 emissions standards, the sixth incarnation of the European Union’s directive to reduce harmful vehicular pollutants. It applies to both petrol and diesel engines but its legislation is reflective of the different kinds of pollutants the two variants produce.

This more restrictive emissions testing has forced the hand of manufacturers to develop vehicles that are less polluting while maintaining levels of performance and power. The result: a far improved vehicular landscape.

Our advice.

A decision that once came down to personal preference, driving behaviour and annual mileage is now far more complex. The taxation of both petrol and diesel vehicles has increased in a move to direct prospective buyers towards electric alternatives. However, as electric vehicles currently represent only 1% of the total UK new car market, segregating either petrol or diesel car owners is a direction the UK government seemingly cannot afford to take.

If you would like advice on the fuel type that is best for you, contact us today.

12 thoughts on “The Big Debate – Petrol vs Diesel

  • When are you likely to come out with good transition vehicles, i.e. Plug in hybrids? Is MB joining in the campaign already started by Tesla to establish chains of fast loading stations for electric cars to support your own electric vehicles? Is MB joining in the development of batteries holding their charge longer to enable longer distances to be driven by electric cars?

    • Towards the end of last year, Mercedes-Benz announced the arrival of their new brand for electric mobility: EQ. EQ encompasses all key aspects of customer-focused electric mobility and extends beyond the vehicle itself. As you highlight, manufacturers must recognise the need to support electric mobility beyond just the vehicles themselves and this is our commitment to doing so. You can find out more about EQ and Mercedes-Benz E-Mobility here: https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/mercedes-benz/next/e-mobility/

  • I live in Exeter in the past I have purchased two C Class , one SLK , and three Vito vans , I have just decided to purchase another Vito but couldn’t find a dealer to buy it from so had to get a VW instead.

    • We are sorry that we couldn’t meet your requirements on this occasion. We hope you get the very best out of your new VW but, should you need us in future, we would love the opportunity to help you find what you are looking for.

  • In reply to Murray Church MB already have a plug-in hybrid – it’s the C-Class – eitehr saloon or wagon – called the C350e I believe.

    • Thank you for your reply, Ian. As well as the C-Class Saloon and Estate 350e, we also have existing hybrid options in the B-Class Electric Drive, the E-Class Saloon, the GLE and also the smart range. Our EQ portfolio will encompass all future battery-electric cars as well as the associated products and services.

  • I assume the Gov will change all Bus’s , Coach’s, Taxi’s and what about the aviation fuel currently known to be emitting ‘harmful’ gas’s. Subsidising costs will rocket, the car manufacturing industry I feel needs to weald a big stick to wake them up to reality. Any changes are going to take years before enforcement takes place.
    I really can’t see the politicians rushing to change the current situation with ‘perhaps’ local councils banning older diesel vehicles from within the town centres where it is heavily *populated! * I meant polluted.

    • Coaches, buses, taxis, gasses, please Brian.

      There is no apostrophe in car’s emissions.

      Government’s power and their likely large majority may prove financially very difficult for we diesel owners. Tax and depreciation in 3 years because nobody will want a diesel in 2020!
      Unfortunately, I am still not prepared to swallow less than 20 mpg for a nice powerful V8 SUV when I can achieve 35+ in a 3 litre twin-turbo diesel.

      With EU6 in place, they’re pretty clean.

  • My wife is going to change Her B 180 sport Diesel in sept hopefully for another one,we average 18,000 miles PA so we are debating as to whether to go unleaded after 15 yrs of trouble free diesel motoring in several different makes of cars.

    • We are glad to hear you have experienced 15 happy years on diesel and even more so to hear that your wife is pleased with her B-Class. We understand that these are uncertain times for prospective diesel owners but we can offer support and advice should you need it come September.

  • I have driven diesel cars for over 25 years and have recently purchased a new C Class 220d sport estate. The best diesel I have ever had. I have no regrets buying this car despite the bad press at the time for diesel cars. This car has to last me now and I hope that if the purge on diesel becomes a reality that it might be possible to switch the fuel to an alternative. Will Mercedes Benz come up with an engineering solution for this to happen. I am thinking about lpg or fracked gas or a bi-fuel. The switch could be rolled out throughout dealerships in time as an alternative to seeing a fall in the market for recently built diesel motors and to plug the gap between hybrid and electric vehicles which have their limitations

    • It’s always great to hear when a customer loves their new Mercedes-Benz, so thank you for your getting in touch! Mercedes-Benz has a long and storied history of innovating, and some of the new concept vehicles are extremely exciting. We don’t know what will change legislatively, if anything, but we are in constant contact with Daimler. This gives us the opportunity to share feedback and ideas like yours regularly. Watch this space!

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