Petrol test

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Tonight - the ultimate fuel test. Five different fuels: How far will your dollar drive you? Do you really get what you pay for at the pump or will the cheapest fuel prevail? In this exclusive investigation we calculate the true cost of the petrol you buy.

E10 is the cheapest fuel at your local servo. And that's why people buy it. It can be 20 cents a litre cheaper than the most expensive premium unleaded. But does it actually save you money?

We put five different fuels to the test, using five identical Hyundai i30s on a closed test track in western Sydney. Driving expert Ian Luff says it's a real-world driving test under tightly controlled conditions.

The vehicles are completely devoid of all fuel. They're bone dry. We checked all the pressures on the tyres so they're all at factory specifications right across the boardÂ…

Australian drivers are confronted with choice at service stations. With multiple brand names - from Vortex to Vpower and different octane ratings, it's easy to see why motorists are confused.

On the start line, the i30s receive carefully measured doses of exactly three litres of e10, 91-0ctane unleaded, 95-octane premium, 98-0ctane super-premium, and diesel.

Official government tests claim diesel delivers the best fuel efficiency, beating petrol by 30 per cent. Unfortunately for consumers, diesel is often the most expensive fuel available, and carmakers charge around $3000 extra, for diesel-powered cars.

Just before the 44-kilometre mark our test saw its first casualty - the 95 premium car abruptly ran dry. And, less than two kilometres later, so did our 91-octane regular unleaded car.

The cheapest petrol - e10 - and the most expensive - 98 super-premium - are still running, together with diesel.

The e10-powered i30 runs dry at just over 50 kilometres. But the 98-0ctane super-premium keeps powering ahead. It runs almost five more kays before it too runs dry. All up, it drives nearly 10 per cent further than e10.

Victory ultimately falls to the diesel - after an impressive 59-kilometre endurance run.

Based on these results, a 50-litre tank of 95 octane petrol would take you 728 kilometres. Regular 91 unleaded would travel 757 kilometres, while e10 will run for 843 kilometres. But 98-octane super-premium unleaded overtakes them all, crossing the line after 923km on a single tank. The most expensive petrol beats the cheaper blends ... but not the diesel, which would run for 983 kilometres.

At today's prices, over a year's worth of average Australian driving, using 95-octane premium will cost you $1291. Regular unleaded drops the price you pay slightly to $1140. 98-octane super-premium is the most expensive petrol, but because it drives you further, the annual cost drops to $1053. Diesel crosses the line at $1002, but e10 is the most economical choice; the only fuel to push the cost below $1000 for a full-year's average driving ($994).

Even though it costs as much as 20 cents a litre more than e10, 98-octane premium packs more kays into each tank - and that's why in our tests, it costs less than most other fuels in the long run. Fuel manufacturers claim it's also cleaner and greener.

Colin Long from the NSW Service Station Association says e10 isn't necessarily the best choice for all motorists

Our testing showed using e10 over 98 Octane premium will save you just over $1 a week. Dr Tim White from the University of NSW says, although it's the cheapest fuel on offer, e10 still poses potential problems for Australian motorists.

The problem with e10 isn't so much actually burning the alcohol in the engine. It is that the alcohol is hydroscopic; that it can actually absorb water from the atmosphere when it's in an open tank - particularly in the ground tank at the petrol station.

Water still can get into the fuel system and you may still have these problems of blocked filters and rough running. Even in a brand new car.

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