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Petrol vs. Diesel: who wins?

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The petrol versus diesel debate has been going on for quite a few decades now, and it's constantly changing. Turn your magical clock back around 20 years ago, and you would be quite stretched as to why you would want to buy a diesel car (yes, I'm excluding commercial vehicles in this debate). But today is very different; diesel has advanced far enough to now be the slightly favourable choice over its green-pumped rival. Only slightly, though.

But then again, petrol has gained big leaps too in that timeframe, which is why you can still buy large executive saloons with petrol engines. This is grown to be one of the toughest debates in the past decade or so, because where one succeeds, the other has a flop and vice versa. So let's try and find a winner in the most common car of them all: your daily commuter.

If you're going to be a bit naive, you might say that diesel wins hands down because they pretty much always get better fuel economy than petrol cars when it comes to the official tests. As a result, car tax ends up being one or two grades below petrol cars, so they do seem cheaper to run.

But there's much more you have to consider before you go running off to your local dealer to pick up a soot spitter. Here, in a, er, beautiful list form, are the pros and cons of both of the fuels. Keeping it professional, I will put equal points and draw a conclusion at the end. Go me for being a pro!

Petrol plus points:

- Petrol cars are much cheaper to purchase (new and secondhand)
- Petrol engines tend to accelerate faster and more smoothly
- Petrol cars are quieter and better sounding
- Petrol contains much less dirty particulates than diesel

Diesel plus points

- Diesels depreciate a lot slower than petrol models
- Diesels are torque beasts; overtaking is effortless
- Diesels will see you get much better MPG
- Diesels these days produce less CO2 and therefore tax costs less

Petrol bad points

- Petrol engines have a lot less torque, so expect to be rowing through those gears to aid it!
- Petrol cars can fall in value like a stone. Actually, stones don't really fall in value. Ignore me.
- Petrol engines are less robust (and therefore reliable) because they are made from lighter materials
- Petrol engines give less MPG, especially on the motorway

Diesel bad points

- Diesel motors can sound so bad in the winter mornings, you'd be mistaken for having farm machinery
- Diesels produce much more particulates, including soot, that pollute the environment
- Diesels tend to be slower than petrol engines due to narrow rev ranges
- Diesel engines are inefficient at squeezing power out, often relying on a turbo

So there you have it, it's pretty much impossible to get a winner, so the only thing I can say is to make your own mind up. However, if you do your driving mainly in the towns and cities, you'd suit a petrol car better. Petrol cars often perform better than diesels in fuel economy when it comes to urban areas, believe it or not. Plus, for the hippies out there, petrol engines emit much less dirty particulates to smog up the town. It ain't just about the CO2, despite that's the only thing the government seem to worry about.

A diesel will suit you if your journeys often involve the motorway or any kind of cruising. Diesels just love cruising. They also make it easy to overtake on your local A-road, with a lump of torque available from almost anywhere in any gear. Oh, and you'd better be doing some serious mileage, it takes many tens of thousands of miles to make your money back where you spent extra on buying the diesel car. How do you get your money back? Better fuel economy, of course! But make sure you don't use it for towns only.

There. I gave professional consumer advice for once. Normal service of stupidity will resume very shortly.

Petrol vs. Diesel: who wins? Petrol vs. Diesel: who wins? Reviewed by Jack Cooper on April 21, 2014 Rating: 5

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