Two days ago we set out to see how far we could drive iQ on a single tank of fuel.
In theory, we should have been able to cover 462 miles, but we chose a route around England and Wales that aimed to take the city car to 18 cities. And we wouldn’t just be waving hello as we cruised past on a smooth motorway: we were going to drive through the centre of each. And take photographs.
We honestly weren’t sure what to expect – neither Mark or I had ever tried this kind of economy challenge before – and Mark hadn’t even driven iQ – so we had a lot of learning to do.
We’d read about last year’s ALD World MPG Marathon, where James Sutherland and Richard Hill from Peak Performance managed 82.39mpg in a Toyota Aygo. iQ has a similarly small engine and slightly higher fuel economy figures. But with the red lights and stop-start traffic of 18 cities to deal with, could we even get close?
Things started off brilliantly – just a little too well, perhaps. We’d made it from Brighton & Hove through Chichester, Portsmouth, Southampton, Winchester and Salisbury, and were on the road to Wells before we lost the first of the six segments on iQ’s fuel gauge. With 130 miles on the clock it looked like we might be on for the thick-end of 800 miles, but Mark was right to be sceptical: the other segments would tick off altogether more quickly.
We’d read that car electrics have a small impact on fuel economy, but in England’s short winter days we weren’t taking any chances. The lights went on shortly after 4pm, and as it started to drizzle we had to use our wipers and ventilation. In retrospect, this was probably the least of our worries – picking our way across Wiltshire on winding, undulating country roads, it was hard to keep iQ’s real-time economy gauge where we needed it – well above 60mpg.
We stopped to take rainy photos at Wells cathedral before heading off to Bath. Night proper was drawing in, and it was beginning to dawn on us that we had miles to go before we could sleep.
By the time we reached Bath, less than an hour later, our spirits were beginning to sink a little. Our eighth city in only 190 miles or so, the day seemed to have been full of stop-start driving in traffic – not good for economy. Still, at least it had stopped raining.
Driving out of Bath in the tail-end of rush hour we lost another segment on iQ’s fuel gauge, leaving us with four out of six remaining and 192 miles on the clock. The route to our chosen Bristol landmark – Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge – seemed to take us around the whole city, with me eying iQ’s computer nervously as we ground to a halt at, and inched away from, every traffic light.
I was finished, so Mark took the wheel for the end of the day’s driving, which turned out to be grisly. He was guiding iQ through gruesome weather as we crossed the Severn into Wales. Winds, standing water and the need for lights, wipers and ventilation were all conspiring against us, but the car was coping admirably on the motorways.
As we rolled towards Cardiff Bay, and our rendezvous with the Wales Millennium Centre, I was going on about how useful SatNav was turning out to be when Mark made an alarming confession: the last time he’d listened to SatNav in Wales he’d ended up driving into a river. Arafwch, Mark!
We took photos in an almost-deserted Cardiff Bay, before setting off on the final push to our overnight stop in Gloucester – where Tamsin back at ThisisHQ had booked us somewhere to stay. Ignoring the SatNav’s suggested route, which was to cross back over the Severn, we aimed instead for the A48 and had what turned out to be our Phileas Fogg moment – approaching the centre of Newport we started seeing ‘city centre’ directions – I’d missed Newport’s significance when planning the route, and it became our 11th city of the day. A good job, we were down to half a tank before we got there.
With just a few tens of miles to go, we’d both had more than enough, and were willing Gloucester to hove into view. While we were still economising, we’d decided to pick up the pace so we could rest up and begin refreshed the following day.
It might have been a mistake. Six miles from the safety of Gloucester’s New Inn, the fourth bar ticked off iQ’s fuel gauge. By the time we’d finally found the hotel and parked for the night we’d covered 308.3 miles and had – we thought – little more than one-third of a tank left.
Having skipped dinner, we comforted ourselves with a couple of ales in the bar. We thought we’d blown it.
Had we ruined our chances? Read part two to find out…