Q: My father has recently purchased a new Volkswagen Polo 1.4 auto. I know cars always drink more fuel when they're new, but his is particularly bad - at the moment it's doing just 250 miles on a full tank. Any thoughts?
A: The Polo's automatic gearbox does affect fuel economy. The 1.4 should do 44.8mpg as a manual, but the auto manages only 40.9mpg.
Combined with a fairly small fuel tank (45 litres), the Polo auto should in theory manage around 400 miles from a tank.
In practice, however, the number of miles your father gets will depend on a number of factors, such as his driving style, the type of roads he uses, and even the weather.
For example, if the car is mainly used for short trips, the engine won't heat up properly and, as a result, won't be running at its most efficient.
Around town, and in other start-stop environments, the number of miles your father gets from a tank will also take a big dip. The Polo's official fuel economy drops to around 29mpg in urban environments.
Also, the official fuel consumption figures are calculated in a laboratory, so they are notoriously difficult to match on the road.
We'd suggest keeping an eye on fuel consumption, as there's still a chance the car has a problem - it may be there's a fault with the engine's computer or with the sensors that measure fuel and air flow.
However, it's also possible the 25mpg your father is getting at the moment won't improve significantly as the car ages.