Petrol Quality – What is the difference?

How much do you know about the fuel you put in your car? Petrol comes in different types and here we review the main differences.


Somewhat confusingly, premium unleaded fuel is actually the standard type of fuel. This is the most popular type of petrol and is suitable for most vehicles.

Super unleaded fuel is the best quality fuel and a step up from premium. These ‘super unleaded’ fuels cost several pence per litre more than regular unleaded. For this extra money, you get an advanced package of additives for cleaning and lubrication, also a higher octane rating. Examples of Super fuels include Shell V-Power and BP Ultimate. Owners of sports or high performance cars are advised to use this type of fuels to get the most out of their high performance engines. Whilst super unleaded can be used in any petrol engine, not all engines are not able to take advantage of the higher octane rating and experience the benefit.


Similar to unleaded petrol, diesel comes in standard form and a ‘top of the range’ super variety, for example, BP Ultimate Diesel. However, premium diesel doesn’t usually feature a higher octane rating. Instead, this more expensive super diesel will feature chemicals in its mixture that are designed to shift soot deposits and other oily build-up from within the engine’s fuel system.

Super Fuel Benefits

Tests show that using super fuel results in better overall MPG. In addition to keeping the fuel system cleaner, they are also able to supply more torque at low rpm. If driven on this basis it offers slightly better fuel economy. The balancing act is weighing up the initial extra spend at the pump against this MPG saving. This will depend on your driving style as well as your type of engine. We recommend experimenting with a couple of tanks of each. You can then keep an eye on the fuel gauge and see if see if you notice a difference. If you can’t feel any improvement in performance and you don’t appear to be getting greater mileage , you’re probably better off sticking with regular fuel. You can of course top up with super fuel every now and again, your car will likely be better for it. Shell V-Power has the highest ratings of the Super fuels so would be a good one to experiment with first. For diesel we would suggest BP Ultimate.

Supermarket vs branded

Supermarkets and branded fuel comes from the same refineries and has to meet the same British and European standards. The difference is the additives they add to it afterwards. Recognised fuel brands spend a lot of money researching the best additives. In contrast, some supermarkets don’t have a regular fuel supplier. Instead, they buy odd lots of fuel from wherever it’s cheapest, including abroad. This could lead to supermarket fuel having a more variable set of additives than branded fuels.

Some supermarkets also offer their own super fuel, for example Tesco Momentum 99 octane. Whilst usually cheaper than Shell V-Power or BP Ultimate, it cannot be proven as to whether it provides the same engine cleaning and mpg improvements as the top branded fuels.

Warmer weather = better fuel economy

Petrol prices are currently falling; however the AA has warned that this might not last long with a 5p a litre rise predicted. The better news is that price rises should soon be counteracted by warmer weather. According to the AA, when the weather gets warm enough in Spring, drivers can get an extra three miles drivers from a gallon of fuel. This is a result of not having to start a cold engine, and cutting the use of heaters, lights and wipers, resulting in a saving of £3 to £4 a tank.

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