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Petrol vs Diesel: the pros and cons list

Charl Grobler
By Charl Grobler
March 08, 2017

Petrol vs diesel cars - which one should you choosePetrol vs diesel is one of the Great Debates in the auto world; we run through the pros and cons of both here.

One of the biggest decisions car buyers have to make long before looking at models or specs is whether to shop diesel or petrol. Charl Grobler, manager of marketing and product planning at Suzuki South Africa, says this issue is debatable and hotly contested.

Broadly speaking, the difference is that commercial cars, like bakkies, use diesel, but recreational cars use petrol - though there are many other distinctions between the two. For one, diesel cars are more expensive off the showroom floor, but are markedly more fuel efficient. Says the Automobile Association, “On average, diesel engines consume between 25% and 30% less fuel than their petrol counterparts.” However, the different fuel choices lead to a good many other differences too.

Engineering Explained goes into some of the more technical differences between the petrol and diesel below; specifically looking at how the different engines function. A quote from the video: “Gasoline engines attempt to keep the compression ratio so that the air-fuel mixture does not rise above the self-ignition temperature. Diesel engines on the other hand use higher compression ratios, leading to more torque and better fuel economy.”

Here’s our list of some of the key differences between the two:

Here's a handy model specific infographic from cars.co.za that highlights some of the spec differences between petrol and diesel:



Car models are cheaper to buy

Car models are more expensive to buy

Better for short trips and stop-go driving

Fuel efficient over long distances

Petrol engines cheaper to maintain

Diesel engines last longer

Not as powerful as diesel engines

Diesel vehicles have low-speed torque and are better at overtaking and towing

Petrol engines are quieter and more refined

Diesel engines are louder

Less fuel efficient

Diesel engine’s CO2 emissions are 20% lower than petrol engines.

A second hand car generally retains its value less well than a diesel car

Generally, a second hand car retains its value better with a diesel engine

No visible pollution

More visible pollutants

Cars.co.za petrol vs diesel infographic

With over 80% of South Africans using petrol cars, it’s the better choice for most drivers. “Though the choice does depend on your driving needs and finances, in general it’s best to forget the diesel and put up with the higher cost of fuel every week,” says Business Tech. Charl recommends choosing a car that best fits your needs, but remember that a petrol car is often the better choice - especially if you’re driving around town and not regularly plugging away long distances.

Learnt something new?  Read our post on  fuel efficiency for a small car on a long journey or learn how you can save fuel in an automatic.

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