Doctor Diesel

Doctor Diesel – Saying goodbye to a good servant

Web02Quite a few years ago, longer ago than I would care to admit, I bought a copy of Diesel Car at a train station, and began to read about the benefits of diesel engines. I’ve always been one of life’s non-conformists, by which I mean, that I try not to “follow the herd”. I bought several copies of the magazine, and enjoyed it’s oddball style. I suspect that the insightful articles describing locomotive and tank engines were the result of a need to fill pages at a time when very few manufacturers sold diesels. However, I enjoyed such articles and became convinced of the benefits of diesel.

Then, roughly sixteen years ago, I was presented with an opportunity to change over from petrol to diesel. I closely read your buying used articles and I fancied a TDI, but they were then well out of my price range. Then we chanced across a rather sad looking old style Passat. Everyone wanted the new curvaceous style, so the poor old thing was marked down and, worse than that, it had an indirect injection engine and the previous owner had not cared a fig for the interior trim. But, it was rust free, had a big boot, your used car report was positive, and there was just something about the car. So I arranged for an automotive inspection, which gave the car a clean bill of health. But I will always remember the inspector, because he told me in no uncertain terms that I should buy a petrol! Apparently, if I bought a diesel, I would for certain, “lose my hearing and would choke other motorists with thick clouds of black smoke, and would be so slow, that I would be a danger to other road users.” Well, after such a recommendation, I didn’t even have a test drive, I just bought it! The “Umwelt” engine that powers my now 20-year old Passat has a low blow turbo and produces only 74bhp, but a lot of torque. When new it was almost the cleanest car on sale – it almost doesn’t smoke! You would think that it would be dreadfully underpowered, and on paper it is. But it keeps up with day to day traffic, and comes to life on a motorway where peak torque coincides with 70mph. The first family holiday to the Isle of Wight was a revelation. We left with a full tank, and 775 miles later there was still fuel in the tank when we returned home. To be honest, every time I take her on a cross country run, her sheer willingness and whistling turbo put a smile upon my face.

I am still a Diesel Car subscriber, and many times I have been tempted to upgrade to a newer car, but there was a period where diesels seemed to go backwards, as more and more technology was bolted on. I knew that I was getting 42mpg around town and 48mpg on the motorway, and some of the newer cars seemed to be only doing about the same, or even less. So why upgrade? For years she sailed through MOTs and hardly ever had a problem. But, with 178,000 miles on the clock, she has recently got into the habit of disgracing herself. The sad fact is that various bits are wearing out and have to be replaced. The final straw perhaps was when we returned from a faultless holiday in Wales and the wiper motor failed in a downpour. Standing in torrential rain on the M54 for an hour, waiting for the breakdown service – need I say more? In terms of rehabilitating itself, boiling her battery was not a good move either. I took her out for a run today and, as always, I came home with a big smile on my face.

Sadly, I think that she’s now running up the wrong side of the bathtub reliability curve, and her days are almost inevitably drawing to a close. But I’ve changed jobs and now have to choose a company car, which will be the first one that I have ever had. I wrote to you and asked for your advice before Christmas, then went and looked at all of the alternatives and can confirm that your advice, was, as ever, spot on. This weekend our drive is graced with a Skoda Octavia demonstrator. It’s about the same size as our faithful Passat. I’ve taken it out on one of my favourite cross country runs, and you really can’t fault it. The boot is huge, the dash is stuffed with all sorts of clever gadgets, the kids will be very comfortable in the back, and I have no doubt that it will be a very fine mile muncher. The only thing that worries me is that in choosing one, I may be becoming one of “the herd”. Who would have thought twenty years ago that diesels would ever be mainstream, but looking around the office car park, that’s exactly what they are.
David Price

So good of you to write at such length David, and such an entertaining read! I’m so pleased that things seem to be working out for you. You would not be “one of the herd” in choosing an Octavia, by any means – there is still plenty of mindless anti-Skoda prejudice from times past. The only significant downside with the latest Octavia seems to be a bit of road/suspension/tyre noise on rough roads, although that might be down to the tyre brand. Unfortunately you would be most unlikely to get a choice of tyres, if your company ordered you an Octavia, but you’ll be getting through them quite fast, so you would probably have the opportunity to choose your own tyres after the first set. Refer to websites like Black Circles, where you can see the data for wet grip, noise, and fuel economy for most of the brands. I’m a great fan of Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance, a set of which transformed my wife’s 2003 BMW 318i.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself! You didn’t mention which engine your demo Octavia had, so I hope that you do have an opportunity to try both 1.6-litre TDI and the 2.0-litre edition, to see if the former is good enough for you, or whether you might persuade the company to get you the 2.0 TDI, which will deliver maybe 50 to 55mpg, against the 60 to 65mpg of the 1.6 TDI. Let me know when you get the good news! Thanks again for the update, and all the best for the remainder of 2015.
Doc D

To which David replied:

I will happily go for the 1.6 TDI. I’m well used to lower powered engines, in fact the 1.4-litre petrol hire cars that have been carrying me up to Fort William and down to London have been OK, so a 1.6 diesel is quite well powered in comparison. Besides, my employer pays Inland Revenue fuel rates, and we buy the fuel. So the less fuel used the better! With the GreenLine model I’m getting, I will get low rolling resistance tyres, and I suspect there will be little choice between brands. I do like Goodyear EfficientGrips though, having had some on my Passat, and they do their job well.

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