%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%Motorists in rural areas could see their fuel bills cut by up to 5p a litre under the proposed expansion of a duty discount scheme.
The UK Government has asked the European Commission to consider seven new regions across Scotland and in a part of north-east England.
Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander, a Highlands MP, said: "High fuel prices in areas where cars are a necessity, not a luxury, is a major issue in rural communities across the UK. So, following a supplementary call for information, I'm pleased to announce that seven new areas will join the 10 areas already part of our new application.
"Reaching agreement with the commission will not be easy, but we will now get on with making that case as strongly as we can."
The applications cover postal areas in Strathcarron, Ullapool, Lairg, Mallaig and Halkirk in the Highlands; Oban in Argyll and Bute; and Hexham in Northumberland.
They are added to 10 applications already identified in the Highlands, Argyll, Cumbria, Devon and North Yorkshire.
A final decision is expected from the commission later this year. If approved, it could benefit about 125,000 people, according to the Treasury.
The current rural fuel scheme began in March 2012 in the Hebrides, Northern Isles, islands in the Clyde and the Isles of Scilly. It allowed retailers there to register with HM Revenue and Customs to claim back 5p a litre on unleaded petrol and diesel within eligible areas.
The most economical cars to run
Rural drivers could get 5p duty cut
Official mpg: 57.6mpg True mpg: 45.4mpg
The third generation Seat Leon is the most economical car to run according to the WhatCar? True mpg test.
It's been a good year for the Spanish manufacturer as the Leon also won the Auto Express New Car Award 2013 after years of missing out to sister brands Volkswagon and Skoda.
The 1.2 TSI 105 has the smallest engine of the top six cars in the WhatCar? lineup, so unsurprisingly is the most efficient of the group.
As well as being efficient it's a great family car. You get plenty of cabin space and an impressive boot size of 380 litres - 65 litres more than in a Ford Focus!
The cheapest in the range is the 1.2 S-trim, but even as a starter model you get a decent standard of equipment with things like air-conditioning, Bluetooth, 5" colour multimedia screen and tyre-pressure monitoring included.
You can buy a new Seat Leon 1.2 TSI 105 S 5-door from £15,850.
Official mpg: 55.4mpg True mpg: 42.8mpg
The stylish Mazda 3 is second on the list of the most economical family cars to run. And like the Seat you can get a starter model relatively cheaply, but with a generous helping of the best mod cons.
The entry-level SE models come with alloy wheels, Bluetooth and air-conditioning as standard. Plus, in terms of size, the 3 is almost on par with the Seat Leon.
WhatCar? says it's a fun car to drive and although it misses out on the top spot for fuel economy, it's not far off so worth a look.
The 2.0 Skyactiv-G 120 5-door is available from £16,995.
Official mpg: 54.3mpg True mpg: 42.5mpg
The Audi A3 was named Car of the Year 2013 by WhatCar?, but only manages third place on its list of the most economical family cars to run.
It's not the cheapest motor, but the A3 offers plenty of space with a boot size of 380 litres on the Sportback. That's perfect for a family with a lot of gear to transport.
WhatCar? says it should definitely make the shortlist if you are looking for a decent sized hatchback.
The Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI 122 5-door can be purchased from £20,200
Official mpg: 52.3mpg True mpg: 42.1mpg
The Kia Ceed provides an exceptional amount of space (1,318 litres with the seats down) and comfortably transports five adults.
Its large 1.6 engine can almost match the economy of rivals, but WhatCar? says the petrol version of this car is a disappointment compared to the diesel in terms of driver enjoyment.
The Kia Ceed is available in four trim levels. Top level Ceed '4' gets you parallel park assist system (PPAS) which automatically parks your car! But your basic trim '2' isn't exactly rubbish with reverse parking sensors included.
The Kia Ceed '2' 1.6 GDi 133 5-door is available from £16,195 and comes with the Kia seven-year warranty.
Official mpg: 51.4mpg True mpg: 41.5mpg
The new A-Class looks pretty great with its sharp exterior and smart cabin, and the A180 has attracted high praise from the likes of Top Gear magazine who claim it's enough to rival the BMW1-Series and the Audi A3.
But WhatCar? says that even though safety and equipment levels are up there with the best (you get alloy wheels, Bluetooth and air-conditioning as standard with every model) it's a disappointment to drive.
If you want to be the judge, the A180 is the cheapest Benz you can buy. You can get the A180 BlueEfficiency 122 five-door from £20,370.
It's not the most stylish motor of the lineup but WhatCar? reports that the petrol engines are smooth and quiet, while the cabin is a comfortable and spacious place to sit - six-foot adults can sit comfoirtably behind similar-sized adults at the front with leg-room to spare!
If you fancy it the 1.4 TSI 140 is available from £18,390.