These are not necessarily the 12 thirstiest cars on sale in Britain; rather, they are the most needlessly profligate. These fiends of the Earth are mostly big 4x4s, because these are easily the most consumptive, wantonly wasteful cars on sale in Britain. In any case, few buyers really use their 4x4s' mud-cleaving abilities.

In the main, I've avoided listing stylish supercars such as Ferraris. Sure, they're thirsty (although no worse than 4x4s) but at least they're beautiful. They offer buyers a definite plus. Besides, as collector's cars, they invariably do small mileages.

In every case, the official combined EU fuel figures are listed. In most cases, they're probably a little optimistic - especially if you're driving in the congested South-east. The cars are listed with the most profligate first.

Bentley Turbo R (15.9mpg) The turbocharged Bentley is a fabulous car, and I love it. But you can't help feeling a pang of guilt every time you pump another 40-odd quid of unleaded through the nozzle and realise you've gone only a couple of hundred miles since the last fill-up. This high- speed heavyweight is the Prince of Whales, the King of Consumption. At least the natural leather seats are environmentally more friendly (though not to cows) than the synthetic alternatives offered by most rivals.

Nissan Patrol 4.2 SE (17.5mpg) The thirstiest 4x4 by far - and given the fuel efficiency of most off-roaders, that's saying something. Vast, ugly, imposing, and apparently popular in the Australian outback and other sparsely populated parts of the planet where its size and toughness may come in handy. But in Britain it is about as useful as a sheep shearer in suburban Surrey.

Aston Martin Volante (17.6mpg) Most supercars are exempt from this list, but not the Aston. For starters, it is especially thirsty. Second, although beautifully hand built, it really isn't all that good to drive. Nor does it feel especially fast. If you're going to burn a lot of fuel, you expect some sort of kick for your money. At least with the onset of global warming, you'll be able to enjoy the sunshine with the convertible roof.

Mercedes-Benz CL600 coupe (17.9mpg) Gross, and ugly to boot, the CL is one of the world's most pointless cars. Its vast V12 engine hauls around a car which is almost as long as a football pitch - and yet can seat only two in comfort. Fortunately, for both the planet and for car lovers, it is a rare sight.

Jeep Cherokee 4.0 (18.2mpg) Appealing, in an Honest Injun sort of way, the Cherokee is relatively cheap to buy - but not to refuel. Its old-slogger engine is about as hi-tech as a mace.

Land Rover Discovery V8 (18.9mpg) Its big brother, the Range Rover 4.6, is in fact slightly thirstier - but at least the Range Rover has the distinction of being the world's best all-round 4x4, and by some margin. The Discovery V8 was good, when launched in 1989, but since then its crudeness, unreliability and on-road roly-polyness have seen it drop down the 4x4 rankings. Its V8 engine, which is based on a 30-year-old American motor, is also well beyond its "best before" date, not least in its extreme thirst for fuel.

Mitsubishi Shogun V6 (19.5mpg) Japan's car makers are renowned for making fuel-efficient, precisely engineered cars. This is not one of them.

Toyota Landcruiser 4.5 VX (20.5mpg) A vast vehicle, one of the most intimidating sights on British roads. Designed primarily for America, needless to say, where it is considered small.

Ford Galaxy/VW Sharan 4x4 V6 auto (20.5mpg) The combination of guzzling V6 and high friction 4x4 automatic transmission means that you and the six friends you haul around will be spending rather a lot of time on the garage forecourt. Mind you, per person it represents reasonable energy efficiency, I suppose.

Ford Explorer (20.6mpg) Another US import which, like the Jeep, guzzles gas the way fat American kids consume Coke. Vast, gluttonous and totally useless on narrow European streets.

Chrysler Voyager 3.3 (23.0mpg) Another friend of the oil industry - imagine how you'll rack up air miles on your Shell Smart Card! - the Voyager is a car designed for a land where gasoline costs just over a dollar a gallon. But at least it's big and roomy.

Ford Maverick/Nissan Terrano 2.4 (23.7mpg) This off-road orphan - hardly anybody ever buys it - has just a four-cylinder engine, and feels slow. Yet, amazingly, it guzzles petrol like a good V8. If Ford and Nissan can make the package work in reverse, they may have a winner.

Gavin Green

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