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Economy driving: how I squeezed 70mpg from my 2008 Renault Megane 1.5 dCi

Economy driving: how I squeezed 70mpg from my 2008 Renault Megane 1.5 dCi

In his first blog post with us, Ben Andrews muses on economy driving and how he gets more mileage from his Renault Megane...

Fully autonomous cars can't come soon enough. This isn't something you'd expect to hear from a gear head, especially not one who could identify a Mark II Vauxhall Cavalier before his own mother's face. 

But sadly the reality of everyday driving falls some way short of the motoring shenanigans had by Clarkson, Freiburger and Harris. 

Where I live, you're about as likely to find a parking space within a mile of your front door as a Stetson in Kim Jong Un's wardrobe. 

Assuming traffic ever eases enough that speed limits become relevant, dare to exceed one and a photographer who failed paparazzi school lurks behind a speed camera in a police van, itching to relieve you of up to a week's salary. Don't ask how I know this. 

Car collecting is only possible if your desired marque is Hot Wheels or Scalextric. 

And as for performance? 40 PSI of boost, adaptive dampers and an LSD may be great if your daily commute takes you round Donnington Park, but less so if it's Central Park.

But I, like most motoring enthusiasts, am still aiming for a number. It's just mine isn't as GoPro-worthy as 458, 911, 500 BHP or a 12-second quarter. It is a lot lighter on the pocket though, and it can still relieve some of the monotony of motoring, no matter what or where you drive. 

My number is 70, but yours could be anything from 10 to 100. Even the Top Gear trio have tried it.

Yes, I’m talking about economy driving - specifically miles per imperial gallon, or 4.5461 litres. Economy driving has the potential to turn everyday journeys into an endurance race, one where the start/finish line is the filling station forecourt, braking is to be avoided wherever possible, and lightness matters. 

Even in competitive motorsport, fuel economy has been pivotal, and not just in the modern F1 hybrid era. From 1984 to '89, F1's 1400+ BHP turbo monsters were reined in by consumption limits during races, as were the iconic Group C sports cars of the period.

Sadly, strained racing analogies and nostalgia are soon forgotten when I’m crawling along the slow lane of a motorway at 55mph, eking out those last illusive MPGs. 

My eyes end up glued to the rear view mirror as coaches and caravans queue up to overtake, their drivers assuming my other ride's a Stannah stairlift. 

The reality quickly dawns that I’m definitely not Derek Bell, and my 2008 Megane 1.5 dCi is about as closely related to a Porsche 956 or Jag XJR-9 as Boris Johnson is to Vin Diesel.

How I hit my target

Driving starts to resemble a warped spin-off of the movie Speed: whatever you do, stay below 50, yet stop for nothing and carry as much speed through bends and junctions as your chirping, rock-hard LRR tyres will endure. 

You'll want to make any prospective passengers take the bus though, as the weight of each additional occupant could up your consumption by as much as 2%. That's a high price to pay to have friends. 

The strict economy policy of adding lightness also means running your fuel down to whatever juice remains in your injectors or float bowl. That way you maximise distance travelled while your vehicle is at its lightest and most efficient - and as a bonus, you can impress whatever mates you still have with the fun fact that your car’s range could take you to some far-flung exotic location. Don’t expect to get there on a deadline though. 

Google Maps’ lack of an 'I'm a tight git' tickbox means that your estimated arrival times, like Google's unpaid tax, will only ever go up.

But all the stress, loneliness and lateness - not to mention the choice gestures and tailgating from your frustrated fellow motorists - is all worthwhile when you coast to the pumps and fill up, ready to note those vital distance and fuel stats. 

With any luck, all that obsessively tedious motoring will translate to your target consumption figure, which you can brag about on forums and fuel economy sites, safe in the knowledge that nobody will care anywhere near as much as you do. 

Then, as with any debilitating drug, the habit continues, but this time with a higher dosage needed to achieve the same hit. So raise that economy target, and prepare to be even more stressed, lonely, late and despised than ever before!

As I said, autonomous cars can't come soon enough.