Why is my new car’s fuel economy so poor?

A reader has bought a petrol-engined Volvo XC60 that is very thirsty for fuel. He asks if this is normal or if the car is faulty...

Volvo XC60 front

I’ve been driving for 60 years and am an HGV driver who abides by all speed limits. I recently bought a 2019 Volvo XC60 T5 with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox. I’m concerned there’s something wrong with it because it has extremely high fuel consumption. 

When it’s driven on a mix of roads, it achieves only around 24mpg, and when I’m driving around town, it does only 14-16mpg. I believe the car should do around 39mpg on a long run, but it got only 28mpg on a 50-mile drive from the West Midlands to the Cotswolds. 

Volvo XC60 T8 rear - 68 plate

I’ve had the car checked over by my local Volvo dealer; its staff drove for 20 miles and achieved 32mpg. Before I decide to get rid of the car, could you tell me if this fuel economy is normal or if it should do better? 

Brian Dabbs

What Car? says…

Unfortunately, the combination of a fairly large petrol engine and automatic gearbox with four-wheel drive in a heavy SUV will result in a big thirst for fuel. Your car’s official average fuel economy is 39mpg, but you’re likely to get far less than this in real-world driving. We haven’t put the XC60 T5 through our True MPG test, but we have tested the smaller XC40 T4, and that managed only 27mpg, while the D4 diesel version of the XC60 achieved a more respectable 37mpg. That means your economy figures sound pretty realistic.

It’s worth bearing in mind that on-board trip computers aren’t always very accurate. The best way to find out your car’s fuel economy is to brim the tank and note down the mileage each time you put in fuel, along with how many litres of fuel you have added. That way you can calculate exactly how much the engine is using. 

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For many people, large SUVs have replaced big saloons as the ultimate expression of modern motoring, and they make great family cars, thanks to their spacious and practical interiors. But with so many models to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start, so here we count down our top 10 – and name the large SUV to avoid.

If any take your fancy, just click on the relevant link to find out more or see how much of a discount you could get by using What Car?'s New Car Buying service.


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9. Volvo XC60

Used Volvo XC60 long-term test review

Volvo's used to be very much a step down from the models of Audi, BMW and Mercedes, both in terms of price and ability, but no longer. The latest XC60 is comfortable, well equipped and has a high-quality interior, plus it won the 2018 What Car? Safety Award, having performed brilliantly when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP.

Read our full Volvo XC60 review >>


8. Hyundai Santa Fe

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The Santa Fe is a spacious and practical choice in the large SUV market, with the option of seven seats for larger families. You also get plenty of equipment, even if you stick with relatively lowly SE trim, which is just as well, because the Santa Fe is quite pricey.

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Next: the top 10 large SUVs continued >>

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