It’s been a long, long time since diesel engines were tarnished with a reputation of being a noisier and less chic alternative to the petrol-propelled vehicle, or the type of car associated primarily with the commercial sector. In fact, these days, they’re offering consumers more than they ever have before, and so are becoming increasingly prevalent on our roads.

Part of the reason is due to the ongoing popularity of the ute. A Kiwi staple for a long time, it still holds a big place in New Zealanders’ hearts, and its popularity isn’t waning. Consumers have gradually grown to regard utes as more than just a workhorse. Instead the expectation is that these multi-functional vehicles are as efficient, economical and easy to drive as your regular passenger vehicle; designed for the family as well as being ready to tow the boat, or carry work equipment in the back.

The Motor Industry Association’s record-high end of year registration numbers for 2016 confirmed the Kiwi’s passion for a ute, as they took five of the top 10 spots – three of them in the top five; Ford Ranger (1), Toyota Hilux (3) and Holden Colorado (4). That’s a trend that is continuing in to 2017, with those same three commercial vehicles outpacing all other new models in the market when it comes to registrations.

Another trend is for manufacturers to deck their diesel variants with the higher-end spec and trim as they’re more expensive to make. Take the Audi SQ7 or the new Bentley Bentayga Diesel for example. The Bentayga is Bentley’s first diesel and it uses two conventional turbochargers and one 48V electric compressor unit that spools from standstill, without lag. Therefore if you’re looking for a model with all the add-ons and only get a choice of diesel, this may well be the reason why.

Larger, heavier vehicles do tend to benefit from diesel technology more than the more compact segments as a rule, thanks to the impressive gains you get from improved fuel economy figures and high torque outputs.

In fact, to some extent, you could say that the vehicles we favour often dictate the choice of fuel we end up using.

But what if you aren’t governed by such things and actually have a choice between petrol and diesel? Is there anything to be concerned about? Well, not really.

Manufacturers have overcome the challenge of excessive pollutants by making their engines cleaner burning. A recent example of such a solution is the diesel additive that’s often referred to as AdBlue. A chemical reaction in the selective catalytic reduction system reduces emissions from the exhaust of diesel vehicles. If you’re in the market for a diesel, take the time to familiarise yourself with these products and how to use them, as misuse can cause damage to your engine.

Improved sound insulation and body construction techniques have reduced previous complaints about noise, common rail diesel technology and new turbo charging advances (like electronically spooled turbo) have contributed to upgraded performance – and it has all resulted in more private passenger cars being fitted with diesel engines.

Diesel variants in a range often carry a higher price tag, and you need to factor costs like road user charges and higher registration costs in to your purchase. Servicing these vehicles can be more costly too, as they tend to benefit from reduced running costs if you travel more mileage.

If you are in the market for a lifestyle vehicle you are likely to come across your fair share of diesel powered vehicles but, if you have the choice, don’t be afraid to try new things! Modern diesel engines nicely bridge the gap of providing the power that consumers demand and expect of larger vehicles, while offering the day to day fuel savings we get in our passenger cars.

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