By James Wong

golf-tdi-diesel

Finally, from today onwards diesel cars will have their day by competing on even ground with petrol cars in Singapore. Extra taxes levied on diesel cars have finally been tweaked so that owning a diesel car is now almost comparable to owning a petrol car. We’ve waited long and hard for this, but has it been too late?

I’d wager that it is a bit too late, yes. Diesel cars are great with torque and fuel but petrol engines have made great strides the past 5 years. We’re now seeing petrol engines that can get about 70-80% of the efficiency of a diesel engine, while still offering a higher rev limit, better running characteristics/refinement and probably a sharper throttle response. It’s wonderful that downsized petrol engines with three or two cylinder engines actually find more character than the 4 pot equivalents, and definitely more so than diesel cousins. They vibrate a bit, they make a unique noise and it is a nostalgic harking to the old days where these 2/3 cylinder engines were common. In terms of torque, modern petrol engines with F/I are now extremely torque-rich, with 2-litre engines now putting out 350Nm and more comfortably. While a diesel is still ultimately more torquey, the petrol compensates with a wider rev range. In short, we’re experiencing a bit of a renaissance of the petrol engine.

Where does that leave the diesel engine? Actually, the gap has narrowed so much now that a diesel car is no longer as desirable as it was before. It used to have strong distinct advantages but that is now fading. It is ironic that its not-so-stellar qualities of a rattling noise, vibration/harshness and higher maintenance costs in the long run now become much more apparent in light of the great strides made by petrol engines. Sure, new diesel engines have also taken petrol-like characteristics, like the bi-turbo V6 diesel in the C7 A6, but it doesn’t seem like it will be enough to convince image-conscious Singaporeans to make the switch. It looks like the old gremlins that have prevented a quick uptake of diesel engines in Singapore are here to stay.

It looks quite unlikely that Singaporeans will take to diesel in droves any time soon. Well, that is my opinion anyway. With lower taxes now, we have at least a much wider choice now – and it is up to the dealers to bring in the diesel models. And with more choices, that can’t be a bad thing. Just remember to check those petrol F/I engines out before you rush out to get a diesel, because the world has changed so much that diesel engines have lost a bit of their edge.

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