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GREEN DRIVING: Lean, green machines

Date: 12 December 2013   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

The verdict

We calculated each car's fuel economy figure by recording the exact amount of miles and fuel each one covered and consumed respectively. It is perhaps no surprise that the Vauxhall Ampera triumphed as the most economical contender of the four.

Its sky-high official figure of 235.4mpg and consistent strong performance in our regular long-term tests allowed it to hit the ground running, while this informal, real-word trial against a selection of key rivals helps to prove that the technology underneath it all does represent the biggest and the most practical step away from conventional internal combustion engine power that the corporate market has ever seen.

At in excess of a 30mpg clear of the BMW, there wasn't much competition between first and second place. The rest, however, was much more closely fought, with only 5.3mpg between all three remaining models.

The BMW grabs second thanks to being a good all-rounder that came into its own on the motorway, which says more about the excellence of the 320d's conventional diesel engine than it does the others' hybrid systems. It also recorded the closest to the official economy figure at 78.3%, compared with just 28.8% for the Volvo.

Third on this occasion is the Peugeot 508 RXH. It put up a bit of a fight on the motorway run, but given that it's billed as one of the most economical vehicles in the French firm's range - and the amount of time it at least seemed to spend running on electricity alone - a figure of 38.7mpg on the urban run is disappointing.

Bringing up the rear is the Volvo. It's not that the car isn't impressive in its own right, but given its lofty price tag of £49,220 and its comparatively poor motorway performance (the BMW trumped it by 12.5mpg there), it's a hard sell to the fleet community when the 3-series is such a well-liked and comparatively cheap all-rounder. Though it is worth noting that the Volvo is hugely more powerful than any of its rivals.

Also of note is that each of the plug-in vehicles had a full charge before they set-off, and despite their performance, it's a safe bet they would have recorded comparatively dire figures without it.