Manufacturers' official fuel consumption figures. No-one really takes them seriously, do they?

I for one never have. As a general rule, I often find that looking solely at the urban figure is a more realistic assessment of what a car can manage when driven normally.

Last week, I had a go at getting as close as possible to an official combined figure in a Seat Altea XL Ecomotive. On paper, Seat says the Altea can manage 62.7mpg so I spent 90 minutes driving 48.7 miles though towns, on motorways and on mountain roads around Barcelona on a specially designed course trying to match that.

I've never pulled away from junctions and accelerated so slowly, had such a feather-light right foot or coasted so much before. I even took to driving in neutral for long sections of downhill motorway to squeeze out a few more mpg. Yet, predictably, I still couldn't match Seat's claimed figure.

My co-pilot Graham Heeps (we shared the driving) worked out that we'd managed 60.23mpg, which is 96 per cent of Seat's figure. I felt we took our driving to the extremes of fuel sipping, and doubt we'd ever be able to get much closer to the official magic number.