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By Chris Chase

Naturally, the point of the 50-litre Challenge was to see how far each car would go on its allotment of fuel. What was almost as interesting as the final result, however, was charting when each car’s low fuel warning light comes on, and how much farther the cars travelled after that point.

Each vehicle manufacturer seems to treat the low fuel light differently. In some cars, it suggests that you should stop for gas at the next gas station; in others, it’s the first clue that you should have stopped at the last one you passed. The problem is that you really never know how much range to expect after the light is on – until it’s too late.

The Dodge Caliber’s low fuel light was the first to ignite, 494 km into the day. The car would travel another 159 km before running out of gas.

The Suzuki SX4’s warning light flashed on at 525 km, and the car ran dry another 112 km later.

Next was the Volkswagen City Golf, its light blinking to life at 588 km. The sole German entry in our group also earned the dubious honour of shortest distance travelled after the light came on, making it just 82 km before bowing out.

At the other end of the spectrum was the Toyota Corolla. Not only did this new-for-2009 ‘Rolla go the farthest on its 50 litres of gas, but its low fuel light was the last to turn on at 829 km (farther than 10 of the remaining 12 cars went on their entire stash of gas!) and it went another 188 km after the light came on.

There were a few other noteworthy results. In the Pontiac Vibe, a mechanical twin to the Corolla, the low fuel light came on much sooner – 667 km – than it did in the Corolla, but it almost matched the Toyota’s distance after that point, going another 187 km before the tank was empty.

Another pair of mechanically-similar cars – the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Spectra – finished farther apart in the final results than many expected. Despite this, both cars’ low fuel lights came on within five kilometres of each other’s: the Kia’s was first at 649 km, while the Elantra’s was on when the odometer read 654 km. Contrary to that, though, the Elantra travelled 158 km with the light on, while the Kia was done after just 93 additional kilometres (the second-shortest distance after the first warning).

The Ford Focus’ low fuel warning came on at 614 km, and ran out of fuel 128 km later; the Pontiac G5’s light was on by 640 km, and the car died after another 115 km of driving.

The Honda Civic, the outright winner last time around, placed second this time. Its warning light turned on at 821 km (eight clicks before the Corolla’s), and all went dark after another 126 kilometres.

The Mazda3 was the driver’s car among this group, but its performance at the pumps is solidly mid-pack. The warning light blinked on at 650 km, and the car packed it in after an additional 134 clicks.

Mitsubishi’s Lancer went 595 km before bugging its driver for a fill-up. It went belly-up in another 159 kilometres.

The Nissan Sentra saw 612 kilometres of warning-free driving, and managed just 105 more km before stalling out.

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