PETER TOMALIN: BEATING THE FUEL PRICE RISES, PART 2
May 25, 2011 6:45 PM  |  Posted By: Peter Tomalin
3 Comments  |  2779 Views
Related Categories: random car stuff

Back in March, I blogged about the Megane 1.5 Dci that we'd just bought to serve as the Tomalin family hack. In the age of the six-quid gallon, the promise of 50mpg+ compared with our old Subaru's 25mpg was simply too good to resist (and the 30-quid-a-year road tax wasn't to be sniffed at either).

In fact the Megane was soon doing rather better than that, averaging high-50s in the first month or so. Indeed, over the coming weeks it became a slightly sad obsession to see how high we could push it: 56.2, 56.5, 56.7… And when it came to replacing the well-worn tyres, we went for a set of Goodyear EfficientGrip, claimed to give 1.9 per cent better mpg. Well, every little helps. Just before we had them fitted, the Meg was averaging 58.7. I calculated that if the EfficientGrippers lived up to their billing, it might just be enough to break the 60mpg barrier. Heady stuff. So on they went… 

Two weeks later, we were averaging 60.1mpg and feeling unbearably smug (if not noticeably richer). Just as importantly, for eco tyres they give a very decent ride and the handling feels as tidy as it ever did, so there's no obvious downside. They're not cheap (around £90 a corner if you shop around), so they're not worth ditching a set of perfectly serviceable tyres for, but if you've got to replace them anyway, then they're well worth considering.

And then came a call from the PR for Superchips, who'd seen the original blog. Apparently they did an ECU remap for the Megane that would not only liberate an extra 19bhp (taking the Dci from 85 to a dizzying 100bhp) and 25lb ft of torque (up from 144 to 169lb ft) but would also give 'up to 7 per cent' greater economy. Would I like to try it on the Tomalin Megane? My mind was racing with thoughts of 62, maybe even 63mpg. A fortnight later I dropped the Meg off at Superchips' Buckingham HQ.

I think I had it in my head that they'd swap some sort of chip in the ECU. In fact there are no physical modifications at all. First a laptop is plugged into the Megane's diagnostics port...

Then a match is found for the Megane's fuelling, ignition and turbo boost program from Superchips' vast data-bank and a remapped program is uploaded through the same port.

And that's all there is to it. We didn't have time to do dyno runs, but a road test revealed a little bit of extra puff when the turbo kicked in around 2500rpm. Nothing dramatic, just a bit of extra overtaking muscle. Of course, what I was really interested in wasn't the extra bhp, but the promise of extra mpg. The 50-odd-mile drive home was mostly dual-carriageways so not entirely representative, but even so the trip readout made pretty remarkable reading.

A month later, and it's settled down to a mere 63mpg in a complete mix of driving. Which is a five per cent improvement on what it was doing pre-remap. By my calculations, over 10,000 miles and with diesel at £1.40 a litre, that would mean a saving of about fifty quid. It's not a huge amount, and it would take a number of years to recoup the remap cost of £399, so you've got to do seriously big mileages (and really want the modest performance gain) for it to add up financially. But still, it does pretty much what it says on the tin, and I get an unseemly thrill every time I brim the tank and the range shows around 700 miles. When you see what the Megane's sharing drive space with at the moment, it all makes a little more sense.

The XJ Supersport is quite a car, but boy does it like a drink...

 
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masha at 1:37 PM June 1, 2011

Interesting story - that is my way of thinking (70mpg Lupo TDi weekdays, and save the fuel for dry weekends when the cars boats and bikes sometimes come out depending on my mood). Not always though sometime's I'll cycle all weekend sometimes, but I can highly recommend the the little Lupo - its fun to drive and sits at motorway speeds returning 65+mpg on a regular basis. I spent a while finding a good low mileage one, and got lucky 5 years ago finding a private 21k miles 1-owner example with a/c & heated seats for under £3k - 5 years on its still going strong and approaching 62k miles now, with just an annual oil/filter change.

Peter Tomalin at 10:51 AM May 26, 2011

Mostly short journeys, ferrying the kids around. It's only done a handful of journeys over 20 miles since we've had it. Mrs T uses it mostly, and it does get driven fairly carefully, but considering it's either stop-start traffic in town or driving three or four miles between the villages, I reckon it's pretty impressive.

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