Renault has hit back at Honda’s claims that British drivers don’t understand green cars and that hybrid vehicles are the best way to save money as well as the environment.

The French car manufacturer claims that the dCi diesel engines in its new Megane range match the low emission and fuel consumption claims made for hybrid cars while costing up to £5,000 less.

Renault said British drivers prove they understand greener cars by buying thousands of dCi diesels every year which give them the same environmental CO2, Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and fuel consumption benefits as a hybrid.

Hybrid cars work by offering two power units – one petrol and one electric. Petrol engines are less efficient than diesel engines, but diesel is not popular in Japan. Renault claims this is why Honda mates a small electric motor to a small petrol engine to improve the environmental performance of its car.

In Europe, years of diesel engine development has seen turbo chargers and common rail injection improve the efficiency of diesel engines to the point where, Renault said, a petro-electric hybrid offers no advantage but the cost and complexity of having two power units adds greatly to the price and servicing costs.

The Government has announced new VED bands to reduce the tax for low emission cars with a £65 reduction for Band A cars emitting less than 100g/km of CO2 and a £35 reduction for Band B for cars emitting between 101 and 120g/km. Renault said its dCi Megane is one of the largest cars that meets these criteria.

Renault also said that the lower fuel consumption claims of hybrid engines stem from the electric engine making up for a less efficient petrol engine so the official combined fuel economy of dCi engines is comparable to that of hybrids.

There are bound to be more claims and counterclaims as the battle for UK drivers’ green conscience rages on. But overall cost savings will be a major deciding factor in ensuring their heads and wallets follow their environmental hearts.