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Fuel is an essential part of transport, and there’s no avoiding it, despite how much we may want to when prices increase.

Fuel efficiency is something largely overlooked by drivers, who are under the impression that it’s their car’s job to be efficient. But your car can only work with what you give it. It’s best to know as much as you can about fuel consumption to ensure you own an efficient vehicle, you’re driving efficiently, and you’re checking for the right warning signs when filling up or maintaining your beloved car.

Fuel and Oil: What's the difference?

While perhaps not everyone might get confused between fuel and oil, most drivers aren’t aware of the benefits and functions of motor oil compared to their knowledge of fuel. With every different motor oil brand telling you to purchase their specific product for a host of complicated reasons, many drivers aren’t sure what they’re putting into their car and why. We’ve covered the basics between fuel and oil for you below, but the safest measure is always to first and foremost trust the manufacturer guidelines – after all, they built the car and know how best to maintain it.

  Fuel Oil
What is it? Motor fuel is a liquid material that is forced to react so that it releases energy that is harnessed as power. Motor or engine oil is a substance made up of base oils that are enhanced with additives (i.e. anti-wear, detergents, or dispersants).
What does it do? Motor fuel is used to power the engine of a vehicle by forcing it to react through combustion or compression. Motor oil is fed only into the engine oil filler compartment and not the compartment where the oil dipstick sits. The image below shows you the details.
What types are there? The most commonly used motor fuels are petrol (93 or 95 octane) and diesel. Most modern cars use 95 octane petrol. 

There are lots of different viscosities of motor oil, each customised to treat different issues with different additives.

The most common type would be 5W-30,  which is an oil type that has multiple viscosity grades.

Where do you get it? You can purchase fuel at any petrol station in South Africa. You can purchase motor oil at any petrol station or most mechanics and motor spare shops in South Africa.

Oil Terminology:

5W-30 - (5W - shows thickness/viscosity of the oil on a start-up - when you start the car (W - stands for Winter, this indicates oil performance under colder engine temperatures when the engine has not been running). 30 - shows the thickness/viscosity of the oil when the car is moving (operating temperature, when the car has been running).

For those who aren’t sure exactly where to fill up their motor oil, this graphic clearly displays the difference between your dipstick compartment and where you should be pouring motor oil into your car. 


Other than not pouring oil into your dipstick compartment, it is recommended by dealers that you only have your oil checked during your service, unless you may find your oil leaking. You can rest easy that motor oils with additives are not essential to your vehicle either. If in doubt, follow your manufacturer’s guidelines.

What is Fuel Efficiency?

The surprising fact that fuel takes up 40% of your car’s running cost means we should care about fuel efficiency. The price of fuel affects everyone, but there’s not much we can do about what fuel costs. But, we can do something about how efficiently our cars use that fuel. 

In short, we measure fuel consumption by calculating how many litres of fuel is consumed for every 100km driven. You don’t need to get a mechanic or your local dealer to test this for you, and while your manufacturer’s guidelines should offer an expected fuel consumption, you can test this for yourself by following these steps:

  1. Fill up your car to a full tank.
  2. Zero your trip meter.
  3. Drive your car like you normally do for a considerable distance e. 200 - 300km.
  4. Fill up your tank to a noticeable stop.
  5. Divide the distance travelled by the litres used and you will get the km/litre.
  6. Convert km/litre to L/100km (i.e. divide 100 by km/litre).
  7. You now have your fuel consumption rate, which is always recorded as L/100km.

For the Suzuki Swift, this calculation may look as follows:

  • Filled up tank with 22.4 litres. 
  • Travelled 400km.
  • 400/22.4 = 17.86km/l
  • 100 / 17.86 = 5.6 litres / 100km

Your car’s manufacturer publishes average fuel consumption figures regularly, which they arrive at through considered testing (in different driving cycles, conditions and temperatures) to work out a trustworthy average fuel consumption per vehicle model. This is why the manufacturer’s published figure is always a good indication of a car’s fuel efficiency, but it’s never set in stone and can still be influenced by a variety of factors.

Ten factors that Affect Fuel Efficiency

  1. Engine size
    It’s a simple fact that bigger engines use more fuel.
  2. Vehicle size and weight
    Again, put simply, a heavier car uses more fuel to carry itself. 
  3. Maintenance
    Keeping your car in tip-top shape is important to maintaining fuel efficiency, because when upkeep is neglected, everything runs less efficiently, which usually results in a loss of fuel efficiency. 
  4. Tyre pressure
    Worn out or flat tyres pull your car out of alignment, which causes additional friction to your car’s momentum and directly influences its fuel consumption.
  5. Aerodynamics 
    While this always impacts fuel used, it mostly has a role when you’re doing long distance travelling. Less aerodynamic vehicles, like vans or SUVs, will experience more wind resistance, which, like tyre pressure, acts as additional friction and forces your car to use more fuel for the same speed otherwise. 
  6. Turbos 
    Turbos are surprisingly good for fuel efficiency, against popular opinion. It’s a power-smart and fuel-smart choice. Turbocharged engines differ from naturally aspirated engines in that turbocharged engines artificially pump more air and fuel into the engine's combustion chambers, whereas naturally aspirated engines use natural air pressure to trigger combustion. This can help smaller engines produce more power. This means that you can achieve similar power to larger engines in smaller cars, avoiding the need to install big engines that guzzle fuel in many instances. This is just one of the reasons that Suzuki has introduced turbos to two of our models. 
  7. Distance
    You’ll have often heard the adage that “regular short trips aren’t good for cars” and one of the reasons for this is because it guzzles your fuel. Your engine works best when it’s warmed up, and short trips simply don’t allow it enough time to do so, making your car use more fuel for the same results in long-distance travelling. 
  8. Drive style
    This goes without saying, but speeding, excessive or hard braking, and other bad driving habits or styles all impact your fuel consumption negatively. Like with most of the previous points, if you’re making your car experience more friction and weight, or regularly using more power than is necessary, you’re wasting fuel.
  9. Oil
    Motor oil lubricates your engine and so reduces the friction your engine experiences while running. The better lubricated your engine is, the easier it will run without friction, and the less fuel it’ll need to do so. 

If you’re interested in finding out how fuel efficient your car is, use this handy fuel efficiency tool to work it out.

How Does Your Car Compare?

With ever-increasing fuel costs, getting a fuel-efficient car is more important than ever. But how do you know if the car you’re interested in, or the car you own, is fuel efficient? Perhaps you’ve worked out the L/100km… but now what? Is there a standard? What does this tell you, and how do you use this information to your advantage?  

Off the bat, if you find your L/100km is a lot higher than your manufacturer’s average, you need to get your car looked at. While not everyone might experience the manufacturer’s average exactly, it’s a trustworthy figure that should guide you in deciding how efficient your car is. There are many things that could be pushing consumption up (see our list in the previous section of this post), but big differences usually mean bigger reasons (i.e. a mechanical problem).  

Compare like for like:

While the first port of call is to compare your car’s fuel consumption against the manufacturer guidelines, if you’re trying to understand how efficient your car is in the greater scheme of things… compare like for like. It’s no use comparing your SUV-style Suzuki Vitara with the statistics of the compact Swift – these models aren’t comparable. All manufacturers will display fuel consumption figures for their vehicles, which is fairly easy to find. You will often find three published figures:

  1. City/town driving (the highest figure per 100km).
  2. Highway/open road driving (the lowest figure per 100km).
  3. Average/mixed/combination (an average between the previous two figures).

The main figure to use when comparing like-for-like is the average/mixed/combination fuel consumption (as this is most commonly the closest figure to what you will experience). When wanting to check your car’s consumption, compare it with that of other, similar vehicles. Only compare cars of similar size, weight and engine capacity. Bigger isn’t always better, as bigger cars are less fuel efficient than smaller cars. This is mostly due to the cars weight and engine sizes – bigger cars like SUVs are a lot heavier and have larger engines that need more fuel to run than smaller cars, like the Suzuki Swift or S-Presso. 

But, no matter your car’s size, there are certain tricks that you can take advantage of to ensure the best fuel consumption for those longer trips.


How do you budget for fuel?

Fuel is usually a grudge purchase, even though it’s one that most of us depend on. A lot of factors go into the price of fuel, as you can see from the image below, and when we start to understand all these factors, the pricing makes a little bit more sense.


But even understanding how the price of fuel is put together doesn’t give drivers a good idea on how to budget for their monthly fuel necessarily. To do that, you need to understand four key things, which are specific to your and your car:

  • Which fuel your car uses

Did you know that fuel affects your car’s performance? The right fuel lubricates your engine, while the wrong fuel can lead to knocking (which isn’t a pleasant experience for both car and driver). Be sure you know if you’re filling up with 93 octane, 95 octane or diesel… or if your car is electric! You can find out which fuel your car needs in your handbook.  

  • The price per litre 

Every fuel sold is sold at a particular price per litre. Understanding the price of fuel in South Africa is a bit confusing: the price is made up of a base fuel price, a fuel levy, a RAF levy, service cost recoveries, wholesale margin, dealers margin, storage and handling costs, and the final distribution costs... and still some geographic specific levies (i.e. the inland demand levy). However, there is not much that drivers can do to influence the price of fuel, other than purchase fuel-efficient cars. You can find the latest fuel prices on the AA’s website

  • Your car’s fuel efficiency 

This is usually worked out to how many litres of fuel you use per 100km. Work out your fuel consumption here.

  • How much driving you do in a month

Don’t be too nit-picky here… take an average. The best would be to record how much you drive over a month or two and use those figures. If you plan on a long distance trip one month in particular, you can then add this distance on for that month.

Once you can answer these four questions then it's a matter of using some basic maths to work out what your monthly fuel budget should be. Divide your monthly average driving distance by 100, then multiply this by how many litres you used per 100km, and finally multiply this by the price per litre of your car’s specific fuel. The number that you’re left with is the likely budget you will need to keep driving each month.

Fuel 101: How to save fuel on my car

Suzuki Roadside Assistance

But what if you run out of fuel? For Suzuki drivers, this is no hassle at all. Roadside assistance is available to assist with enough fuel to get you to the nearest petrol station, and all you need to do to get this aid is the following:

  1. Call: Call Suzuki Roadside Assist at 0861 638 979 or 011 799 1812. 
  2. Details: Explain that you’ve run out of fuel and try to give your location as accurately as possible - you can find a navigation app like Google Maps or Waze or even the What3Words app to get your location  (assistance available in all of SA, Lesotho and Swaziland). 
  3. Reference: You might be asked for your policy number, which is your car’s VIN number (it’s always a good idea to keep a copy of this in your cubby hole). 
  4. Wait: Once alerted, Suzuki Roadside Assist will be with you within 30 minutes with enough fuel to get you to the nearest petrol station (with a maximum of five litres). 

It’s also important to be aware of Suzuki Roadside Assist’s other great safety and prevention benefits outlined in this assistance guide. While all Suzuki drivers will be helped in the event of a breakdown, priority is given to women or elderly people who are alone, highway breakdowns, night breakdowns, and dangerous area breakdowns. Roadside assistance is given to Suzukis under 3 - 5 years, and if older, it is an added service that you will pay for.

Debunking Petrol Station Myths

Does your local petrol station owner control the price of fuel? Can you switch petrol stations regularly? Does the quality differ at different providers, and how does switching between each affect your car? These are the questions that many drivers wonder as they pull into a petrol station, with no way of knowing the answer until it’s too late. Until now. There are many petrol station myths floating around South Africa, some of which have a bit of truth within them, while others are certainly incorrect. Understanding which ones you can trust might just save you on maintenance this year. 

Fuel is the same at all petrol stations

Myth. In South Africa, our fuel is standardised by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, who is responsible for regulating the petroleum pipelines industry in accordance with the Petroleum Pipelines Act, 2003 (Act No. 60 of 2003). So there’s a standard that ensures the base of all fuel brands are the same, but every brand will still add their own mix of additives into their particular fuel. In short, fuel brands are never the same.

Refuelling your car while it’s running is dangerous

Fact. No, your car won’t explode necessarily, but that could happen. Refuelling your car while it’s running not only damages your car (your car’s vapour recovery may be damaged, as harmful vapours are released when you fill up), but it can also take only a drop of petrol for the engine, exhaust tailpipe or catalytic converter to catch alight.

Pump your own fuel if there’s no attendant

Myth. While pumping your own fuel might be the case for countries like the USA, UK, France and Spain, it’s not the case in South Africa. In fact, it’s illegal to self-serve yourself at a petrol station in SA. The reasons for this are various, but they mostly revolve around health and safety. When you next have the inkling to self-serve yourself, rather wait for the trained attendant, who understands the risks and warnings involved in dealing with fuel.

Petrol pumps are not accurate

Myth. Petrol pumps are accurate, although there can be mistakes made. If you want to ensure you’re accurately paying for what you get, then always ensure the pump board display reading is set at ZERO. You’ll also want to double check that the attendant fills up your car with the correct fuel, as using the wrong fuel (or oil) can be disastrous. Get out of your vehicle if you can while the attendant fills up your tank.

Filling station owners control the petrol price

Myth. As we’ve mentioned earlier in this post, the price of petrol is controlled through a number of systems and key players, but the idea that filling station owners play a role in petrol hikes is false. The petrol retail price is regulated by the government, and the calculation of the new price is done by the Central Energy Fund (CEF) on behalf of the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME).

Which Suzuki is the most fuel-efficient?

In 2019, Suzuki completed the WesBank SA Fuel Economy Tour, in partnership with FNB. With a brand-average 5.41 litres/100 km over 2 500 km for the seven vehicles that it entered, we won best performance of any brand, and the overall best performance for a petrol-only competitor.

In reaching this impressively low brand average fuel consumption, Suzuki was the most frugal competitor overall in three of the five days of competition, and it won six of the seven classes in which it competed.

Suzuki also received second place in the competition’s Most Fuel-Efficient brand awards, where judges considered the three most frugal vehicles for each brand across all categories and across both petrol and diesel competitors.

Suzuki champions budget friendliness and fuel efficiency in the all of our models. Yet, comparing like for like, our larger models and SUVs are efficient in their own right too.

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