Petrol or diesel - which is cheaper? - Which is better to drive?
It’s a long time since diesel engines were all clatter and bang, but in general petrols are still quieter, smoother and more refined. There are always exceptions to the rule, with some small super- and turbocharged petrols coarser than you might think.
The differences in how the two engines behave is still poles apart, however. A diesel tends to develop maximum torque – the ‘shove’ you need to pick up speed – at lower engine revs than a petrol. That means you can change up earlier as you accelerate through the gears, whereas in a petrol it’s better to let the engine run to higher revs before you change gear. A petrol and a diesel might have exactly the same 0-60mph sprint time, then, but they’ll get there very differently.
A diesel will offer a surge in acceleration as you hit peak torque in each gear, and will feel like it’s being pushed along by a series of powerful waves as you change up through the gears. You might find the earlier gearchange point in the diesel more relaxing, too, simply because the engine isn’t working as hard.
By contrast, a petrol engine’s power delivery tends to feel more progressive, with power feeding in more smoothly as the revs rise. For sheer thrills it’s hard to ignore the racier nature of most petrols, particularly those that have been tuned for higher performance. You’ll spend more of your time changing gear, though, and for some people that’s just too tiring to live with, day to day.