Sales show that diesel is not just for the business user.
During the past eighteen months, market analysts at consumer motoring website, Wisebuyers.co.uk have charted a 25 per cent increase in the number of diesel vehicles - from just over four million in 2002 to 4.6 million by the end of 2003.
According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), a further 428,000 diesels were registered in the first half of 2004, pushing the total to over five million.
According to the AA Fuel Price Survey, fuel prices have already risen by over 7 per cent since January to an average of 82.1p per litre for unleaded petrol and 82.8p for diesel.
"Faced by the prospect of a pounds 4 gallon - equivalent to 88p per litre - many new car buyers are opting for economical diesel models which can easily deliver 50-60mpg," explains Nic Barfield of Wisebuyers.co.uk
"Diesel registrations have risen consecutively for almost four years with a third of all new cars sold in June derv powered. If sales continue at this rate, 830,000 diesel models and 1.75 million petrol cars will have swelled the UK's car population to 31 million vehicles by the end of this year."
High-mileage business motorists have long reaped the financial benefits of diesel. So far this year, two-thirds of Ford Mondeo fleet sales were diesel cars. But the private buyer is catching up.
"Forty per cent of Mondeo retail sales are now taken by the advanced TDCi diesel engine," says Barfield. "Similarly, a huge 76 per cent of retail buyers of the Citroen C5 hatchbacks and estates choose HDi turbodiesel models."
Buyers of smaller family cars and superminis are picking up on the trend, too. Volkswagen expects over half UK sales of the new Golf to be diesel powered this year and Citroen says diesels now account for over 40 per cent of all sales.
The firm's super-efficient 1.4 HDi engine in the C2 and C3 superminis give more miles per gallon than any other diesel. The official Combined Test economy figure for the smaller C2 is 68.9mpg, just beating sister C3's 67.3mpg.