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Five SUVs used up to 13% more fuel on Australian roads than reported in lab

<span>Photograph: Tim Wimborne/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Tim Wimborne/Reuters

Five SUVs in Australia’s first real-world test of fuel consumption used up to 13% more fuel on the road than was reported in laboratory tests.

The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) released on Wednesday results from the Real-World Testing Program, which compares the fuel consumption and emissions of vehicles in Australian driving conditions to each vehicle’s laboratory test result.

Results showed the fuel consumption of five of the nine vehicles tested ranged from 8 to 13% higher than their laboratory tests.

Related: Motor emissions could have fallen by over 30% without SUV trend, report says

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The AAA focused on small and medium SUVs in its first test, with the Hyundai Kona and the Toyota Rav4 showing the largest discrepancy in results – both models consuming 13% more fuel than lab tests showed.

The Mitsubishi ASX, the MG ZS and the Ford Puma came next, consuming 8% more fuel than lab tests. The test showed these vehicles also emitted more CO2 than lab results showed.

The Toyota Rav4 Hybrid consumed 2% more fuel than lab tests showed, while the Nissan X-Trail, the Hyundai Tucson and the GWM Haval Jolion recorded results that were lower than their lab results.

The testing was held in Geelong, Victoria and began in August. It was developed in consultation with Australian regulators and industry and conducted in compliance with strict EU guidelines.

The AAA said it ensured fuel consumption and CO2 results were repeatable and that the influence of human factors, such as driving style and changing traffic flows, were mitigated.

Related: Charged up: NSW tourism hotspots to go electric in bid to fuel EV uptake

The managing director of AAA, Michael Bradley, said the results were an important first step in allowing consumers to make better decisions.

“Australian families and fleet buyers can place their faith in the reliability of these results and now buy vehicles safe in the knowledge that they have the information needed to fully understand a car’s running costs and environmental performance,” Bradley said.

“This program gives consumers the information they need about each car’s fuel efficiency and environmental performance, and it will drive down demand for models that over-promise and under-deliver.

“These results will improve motoring affordability for Australians, while cleaning up our light vehicle fleet,” he said. “The AAA is pleased to be partnering with the government to deliver this important program and is grateful that it enjoys bipartisan political support.”

The $14m program is funded by the commonwealth, and intends to test 200 cars, SUVs, utes and electric vehicles over the next four years.

The AAA first proposed introducing an Australia-specific Real-World Testing Program in the wake of the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal, in which the manufacturer was found to have fitted cars with software that could detect when it was being tested and lower emissions during the tests.

The scandal led to two US executives being sent to prison, a former Audi boss being convicted of fraud and more than US$30bn ($44.7bn) in fines.

Since then, research around the world has shown a gap between laboratory and real-world performance of new vehicles.

A 2017, a AAA study of 30 popular light vehicles found that on average they consumed 23% more fuel in real-world conditions than in laboratory tests.

These real-world results achieved by 11 of the 12 diesel vehicles tested exceeded regulatory laboratory noxious emissions limits.