Over the last couple of years, this debate has been placed under the spotlight like never before, with headlines on Volkswagen, London’s latest Mayor and dangerous air pollution levels leaving many with the belief that diesel is dirty and to now be avoided.

At the same time, other much more positive news and advancements have been bubbling up in the automotive world, from great strides being made in driverless car development, and alternative fuels like hydrogen being given more attention, to petrol engines generally reaching previously unheard of levels of efficiency. For anyone about to take the personal car leasing plunge or lease a vehicle for their business through contract hire, what are the answers?

Driving habits

If your daily routine sees you commute a mere handful of miles to your workplace or make several local journeys such as dropping off and picking the kids up, diesel almost certainly isn’t the right fuel for you. Diesel engines take longer than petrol to reach optimum temperature and efficiency, and fuel from the black pump is slightly more expensive to top up with at the nation’s filling stations. Additionally:

  • most modern petrol engines are fitted with stop-start systems, boosting their ‘mpg’

  • petrol cars are generally cheaper to service (except fire-breathing supercars, unsurprisingly)

  • many diesel cars are fitted with a diesel particulate filter (DPF), which can become clogged and cause problems after too much slower driving in busy traffic

  • the new road tax system for 2017 means there’s only an individual steak and chips pub lunch’s difference between the first year rates of common diesel and petrol cars, and they cost the same from year two onwards anyway.

On the other hand, private and especially business fleet drivers who munch over around 20,000 miles per year and regularly make longer journeys on motorways are usually better off plumping for diesel, as such cars are still generally more economical when cruising. Take the Volkswagen Group’s diesel engines, for example, which are used by Audi, SEAT, Skoda and VW and can typically achieve economy of around an astonishing 70mpg. Just bear in mind that the figures published by manufacturers barely ever correspond to real life, but they’re still useful for comparing cars’ relative mpg abilities.

Lease a TSI Bluemotion VW on personal or business leasing

Technological and financial considerations

The main concern with diesel cars is the NOx and particular matter they emit into the atmosphere, and despite petrol cars faring better in these aspects, they still also emit CO2. The latest European standard for cars, called Euro 6, is doing a great job of ensuring that newer vehicles, both petrol and diesel, are at their cleanest levels yet.

The selection of fully electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) is continually expanding, from obvious choices like the Nissan LEAF, BMW i3 and Lexus RX, to rather more fruity cars like the Porsche Panamera hybrid, Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV, and Tesla with its game-changing Model S and X. Electric and plugin cars typically cost more than petrol or diesel equivalents, but if someone has access to charging facilities at work along with a fast charger at home, they can make tremendous financial sense whilst emitting zilch into the atmosphere. The Government’s Plug-In Car Grant is still available to reduce such vehicles’ purchase prices and lease rentals slightly, and various home charger support is also available, but it’s worth noting that the range of most pure electric cars is limited to around 100 miles, making them less dependable and flexible for those who travel longer distances.

While Tesla models can cover around 350 miles between charges, their list prices punish them when it comes to VED, so conventional petrol-electric hybrids tend to make the most sense overall.

Manufacturers like Suzuki are championing ‘mild’ hybrid technology, which basically sees small electric motors giving modest and economical petrol engines a helping hand to result in huggable fuel economy figures.

Toyota and Hyundai have been busy developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCV), but these are eye-wateringly expensive to buy, and top-up locations are few and far between. It’s interesting to see that the all-new VW Polo for 2017 will be available with a 1.0 TGI natural gas engine.

Monthly car leasing prices are partly influenced by resale value, which is the percentage price a car can be sold for at auction after a few years compared to its original list price. For now, diesel vehicles tend to hold on to their values better, translating into more favourable contract hire pricing, which is worth bearing in mind for those who run a business or other small fleet.

There are clearly several factors that need weighing up when deciding whether leasing a diesel, petrol, electric, hybrid or other alternatively-fuelled vehicle would best suit your circumstances, but where you live and your typical driving habits are great places to start and our leasing consultants are always happy to provide a listening ear and advice.