Audi Fuel Efficiency Challenge - Hatyai savoured, and away we go!
Hat Yai, Thailand - I spent a good portion of my time across Malaysia’s Northern border going to 7-eleven, and there is a good reason why. But first, I can assure you that it has got nothing to do with what sounds like the Aboriginal name for Australian Native Peach.
We are part of a convoy… actually, that is a loose term. I should rather say that - we are part of a group of four cars, participating in a fuel efficiency challenge, which found their own way up-north to Hatyai, Thailand. Just a day before, we drove the 1.5 litre version of the Audi Q3 into the Southern Thai city. We did this, and still had 290km of range left on the clock. By then, we had our bodies aching, and a little bit of R&R awaiting. With me, there was Luke, who is from our sister publication, Carbuyer Singapore, and our trusty ballast… I mean, our videographer, Khai.
So back in the 7-eleven along Supasarnrangsan Road. Here, I am stocking-up on food essentials. There was that realisation that on the way up, our fuel economy took a nastier hammering than expected. So the new strategy would be that we should not stop the car!
We set-off at around 5 the next morning for the Southern Thai border. According to the local laws, cars have to be driven across the border by the same drivers, who drove into the country. So we arrived at the Thai border an hour later, in the same Audi Q3.
From there, it was a short drive to the nearest Shell fuel station, located in Changlun, just off the North-South highway. This would be where the next phase of the Audi Fuel Efficiency Challenge would begin.
Our car for the return trip would be the Audi A3 1.0 Sportback. The Category A-friendly hatchback may put out less than the Q3, but it is very efficient; and efficient is what we need! Remembering that our fuel economy was less than what we hoped, driving the car gently, coaxing it along to milk the most out of that 1.0 3-cylinder was of the utmost importance.
But the people at Audi had a special brain fart moment, and handed us another hoop to jump through! We had to make it back to the second link checkpoint, in Singapore, before 5pm! I told myself… This would not go well for us!
While processing this, I began to tape even more of the A3’s panel gaps, in a desperate attempt to reduce drag. With the tank and tyres filled, and Luke at the wheel, we set off, working out the sweet spot between economy and making it back in-time.
Fortunately, traffic was relatively light, which meant that Luke could bring the car to highway cruising speed without obstructions. Also to the advantage of all who were driving, Malaysian drivers give way to overtaking cars (unlike many Singaporeans). Soon, the blurred rice paddies were no more, and I decided to catch up on some sleep.
When I woke up, I found Luke seated rather erect, with a smile plastered on his face. He had just begun tackling the twisties, on approach to the Menora Tunnel. By now, we were doing about 19km/l, which was less than we hoped for. We were required to make a compulsory stop at a Southbound R&R at Tapah, so that photos could be taken, and for us, that important driver switch. Tapah was somewhat slightly less than half-way through the journey, which means that I really needed my rest!
Upon our arrival, I hopped over to the rival blue A3, which arrived at the same time, to find out how things were going. My fears were not unfounded! They were in their twenties, age-wise and in their Km/l average (by now, we were just barely there - Km/l and in mental age). We used the time to empty our bladders. Luke got some piping hot battered fried bananas and iced milk tea. I touched-up on taping the panel gaps, and then we were back on the road.
While it was the best time for a driver swap, I was still fighting fatigue when I got behind the wheel of what would be the (very) long last leg of our journey. We were not only lacking in fuel economy at this point, but we also had to play catch-up.
The driving speed mis-calculations were my fault, as I assumed that we had enough time to be doing anything between 70km/h to 90km/h.
It was now a four-and-a-half-hour drive, to cover approximately over 480km, before we would reach the Singapore checkpoint at the Second Link. But time was not on our side. The car was willing, the journey long, and Luke’s battered bananas still hot to the touch.
From here-on, every crest we went over, meant a golden opportunity to lift off that accelerator pedal, as we were hell-bent on making the A3 to coast as-much-as it could. Sure, the compact hatchback could make it back with plenty of fuel to spare, but we were up against some serious competition here. We had nosed our way into second position by now, but what mattered more, was how far South we were; and we were racing against the clock.
On a brighter note, we were now making a constant 22.2km/l. As we coasted past the Malaysian capital, traffic was thankfully smooth, and we could effortlessly maintain our fuel economy figures.
We knew that we were far from being the winners… that part was well understood. The one who won the competition was very eager to win. We learnt that he turned off his air-conditioning, and drafted large vehicles…. Two things I stubbornly refused, as comfort and safety was paramount! But how about coming in second… or third?! Maybe we had a chance!
Very soon, the road signs began indicating that the state of Johor was in our sights, and we managed to hit 23km/l. By now we have made around 820km into the fuel efficiency challenge, and were physically one car behind the leader
We slid rather smoothly through the Malaysian side of the checkpoint at the second link, but once we reached the Singapore side, traffic began to pile-up. There were a few times when I even contemplated shutting the engine off to further conserve fuel, but decided not to go ahead. The MHEV battery could keep the ventilation going for some time, without the need of the engine.
Sadly, it was now past 5pm, which meant that the organisers set to add a 10-percent penalty, based on the amount of fuel we consumed!
Emerging from immigration, we now had the task of making our way to the Moulmein Shell station. Fortunately, the roads were not impossibly crowded, even though we were just about smack in the middle of evening rush-hour traffic.
We arrived at the station, just as it was turning dark. Much to our surprise, we caught sight of one of the competing cars turning-in ahead of us - making us the third vehicle to reach the station.
We arrived, with the A3 stating that we clocked an average fuel economy of 20.6km/l, but our overall official average was 19.1km/l; a respectable amount, especially when we had a weight disadvantage.
To our credit, we were second in terms of shortest overall distance covered by both cars, at 1715.6km. What was remarkable, was that the A3 could clock an additional 230km! Or in easier to understand terms, we could still cross the PIE from end-to-end about five times over.
But alas, we were still the last in this year’s Audi Fuel Efficiency Challenge!
Photos Audi Singapore, Clifford Chow & Luke Pereira
2022 Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI S tronic
Engine 999cc, inline3, turbo
Transmission 7spd dual-clutch
Top Speed 204km/h
Fuel Consumption 4.4l/100km (combined)