Thus, in July, five rounds of the Proton 1 Tank Adventure series were held in the Klang Valley, Terengganu, Sabah. Johor and Penang.
Only three Proton models were in the fuel efficiency challenge, namely the Saga 1.3-litre CVT and Iriz 1.3-litre CVT (both built from September 2014 onwards) and Persona 1.6-litre CVT (built from August 2016 onwards).
There were 170 participants including media writers, key opinion leaders (KOLs), celebrities, members of Proton car clubs and the public who drove more than 3,000km during the five rounds via a mix of wide highways, narrow single lane coastal roads with truck-filled traffic, twisty road conditions, and high mountain roads.
Each round involved a route of at least 600km on only one tank of petrol, and two persons in each car. Fuel consumption results were verified by scrutineers from the Malaysia Speed Festival (MSF).
The prizes in the Proton 1 Tank Adventure series during the first five rounds were RM2,000 (winner); RM1,500 (first runner-up) and RM1,000 (second runner-up).
Winners from the first five rounds advanced to a recently concluded final round held on August, which was a two-day drive over 668km that started from the Proton Edar outlet in Kulai, Johor and finished at the Petronas station at Autocity Juru, Penang.
This time, it was 31 cars on a route with heavy weekend traffic, and driven mainly on highways.
CarSifu was in the media category, and provided with a Saga sedan.
My co-driver was a writer from a Chinese motoring magazine, and he was not keen on switching off the air-conditioning in the hot weather.
This was despite a briefing before the start of the fuel efficiency challenge, where participants were told that air-conditioning can increase fuel consumption by 15% to 20%.
Our co-driver was also not keen on using hypermiling or energy-efficient driving techniques, and was braking a fair bit as we tailgated other participants in the early part of the challenge during the first day.
After a durian buffet in Melaka, we headed towards Proton Centre of Excellence (COE) in Subang Jaya, and on the highway, our co-driver got a bit impatient and occasionally hit speeds of 90 to 100kph, resulting in engine speeds of well above 2,000rpm.
Our chances of being the most fuel-efficient drivers were looking rather gloomy at this point, especially as the air-conditioning was switched on all the time.
Upon reaching Proton COE, participants were taken to a test track where they experienced the outstanding handling and agility of the Persona and Iriz as trained Proton personnel drove them at high speeds on the steep-bank curves of the track.
Later in the evening, we were introduced to Proton head of creative design Steve Harper who has worked with Ford, Volvo and Geely.
Harper gave us insights into facets of automotive design and also spoke about Proton Design’s vision of blending the progressive and connected world with Malaysia’s traditional values, high-spirited people and natural beauty.
On the second day, after staying overnight at the Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie, we started our drive at 9am to the next checkpoint - Gunung Lang Recreational Park, Ipoh - with three bars (out of six) lighted on the fuel level indicator.
This time, I took over the driver’s seat and did my best at maintaining engine speed around 1,500rpm by driving between 60 and 70kph.
Right after a lunch stop at Gunung Lang Recreational Park, with over 120km to cover before Autocity Juru, the lowest bar on the fuel level indicator winked out, and the REFUEL light came on.
We agreed to switch off the air-conditioning to conserve fuel, and kept the front side windows open despite the increased wind drag.
With about 60km to go before Autocity Juru, the REFUEL light started flashing and we were starting to worry about running out of petrol, although the challenge organiser had WhatsApp us that they were very confident we would finish our journey as long as we maintained speed at 70kph.
And finally, we reached the Petronas station at Autocity Juru around 4pm, where our Saga was re-fueled with 34.74 litres.
This meant we obtained 19.23km per litre or 5.2 litres per 100km - the worst fuel consumption result in the Saga group, but still succeeded in finishing a 668km drive on one tank of petrol.
This final round offer top prizes of RM3,000 each in the media and public categories.
In the Iriz group, the most frugal fuel consumption of 3.5 litres per 100km was obtained by the media team of Yap Kam Foo and his wife Brenda Yang.
The Iriz winner in the public category was Omar Abdul Raman and Shukor Jamaluddin who got 4.42 litres per 100km.
In the Persona group, the most frugal fuel consumption of 3.92 litres per 100km was obtained by Khairul Ashraf and Zulhairie Hafizie in the public category.
The Persona winner in the media category was the team of Mohd Rigval Reza and Y.S. Khong, who obtained 4.36 litres per 100km.
In the Saga group, the most frugal fuel consumption of 3.72 litres per 100km was obtained by media team of Ross Hadi and Stanley Raymond.
The Saga winner in the public category was Mohamad Izaaz Naim and Faris who obtained 4.24 litres per 100km.
Among the celebrities, the team of Jasmine Suraya Chin and her friend Muhammad Irfan was the most outstanding as they obtained 4.18 litres per 100km in the Saga.
And the final average fuel consumption results?
They were quite impressive, as the best results for all three Proton models were below four litres per 100km while average group results range from 4.55 to 4.71 litres per 100km.
Some of the participants including the second runner-up in the Iriz group (media category) told media that they did not switch off the air-conditioning for the entire 668km drive due to the hot weather.