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.

Goes to show just how unrealistic the official manufacturer figures are given how unrealistically we were driving.

Ever-improving fuel economy figures can only be a good thing - but I just wish manufacturers would come up with a more realistic way of coming to their figures or, better still, provide their own proper, more realistic 'real world' figure (like we have in our road tests) to sit alongside the headline-grabbing one they currently only supply.

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