The 40mpg Gamble - Can Two Family-Size Compacts Meet or Beat Their EPA Highway MPG_Estimates?
Chris Bernius and Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- April 12, 2012
At right, a goofy vid of the 40 mpg Gamble on a Vegas or Bust adventure.
A Pair of MPG Kings
- The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze ECO (EPA 39 mpgUS highway) and the 2012 Hyundai Elantra GLS (EPA 40 mpgUS highway), both roomy enough for a Full House, are ready to try their luck in Las Vegas.
Not shown - A pair of Jokers, who brought the MPG Kings to Las Vegas and back, on an 823 mile loop, with traffic and terrain that was anything but mpg-friendly.
- Both equipped with automatic transmission. Tire pressures set to the recommended (door jamb) pressures of 32psi for Elantra, 35psi for Cruze.
Both cars to be driven at the posted speed limit with the cruise control engaged on open roads when safe to do so, except for during steep mountain grades (up or down), where neither manufacturer recommends the use of cruise control.
Temperatures starting and ending in the mid-50F range, with warmer temperatures during mid-day.
Terrain varied from almost a mile above sea level to over 200 feet below, with dozens of miles of 6 plus % mountain grades logged in between. Sporadic traffic tie-ups on the freeways and traffic congestion along the famous Las Vegas strip.
- Starting with the 2008 Model Year, the EPA introduced new offsets or the choice to incorporate the new "5 cycle" testing, including starting from sub-freezing temperatures, air conditioner usage, and a short drive at higher speeds with the promise that the resulting numbers on the Monroney (new car window) sticker would be "more realistic" for the majority of new car buyers.
These new EPA estimates are an easy target, making the 40mpg Gamble a "safe bet". To add some suspense, and stack the odds against our MPG Kings, we will want to introduce some wildcards - those elements that are unknown to the sterile hypothetical alternate-reality found only in the EPA's test parameters.
- The tests do not include hills or mountains although some heavy acceleration and deceleration is involved during one of the five test cycles. Our challenge will take us almost a mile above sea level - not once but several times, and down to a depth of almost 230 feet below sea level. For comparison, the Andrea Doria wreck lies 240 feet below the ocean surface.
- The tests are run in a straight line - the steering wheel is never turned. Our challenge includes some hair-raising mountain curves and plenty of on/off ramps, surface streets, and other deviations from straight ahead. Turning the steering wheel involves a loss of inertia, as momentum is converted to body lean as the car tracks through a corner.
- The tests are run with straight gasoline and the lower energy content of E10 reduces fuel economy.
- The tests do not take into account wind from any direction. Our challenge includes flag-snappin' tent-topplin' winds from the southwest between 20 and 40mph.
- Other than the single higher speed test, the rest incorporate a series of gentle stops. Our challenge takes us to traffic lights whose timing is unknown; with cross traffic able to change a green to red with little warning. Many of these lights were found along high speed secondary roads, where much more energy can be lost when braking from those higher speeds.
In simplest terms, the EPA test procedure is a sort of "Sim City" game where cars are driven only in climate-controlled laboratories in perfectly straight lines on perfectly flat glass-smooth surfaces, using theoretical fuel that the vast majority of us can't actually buy, thanks to... the EPA.
With the rules of the game established, and the players vetted, prepped for the tournament, and ready as they'll ever be, we will play the hand we were dealt and let the chips fall where they may.
The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze ECO brings a nice stack of high-dollar chips to the table, and it's ready to play.
- Safety - Ten standard air bags, ABS and traction control, StabiliTrak, and OnStar with Automatic Crash Response.
- Fuel Economy - The small 1.4 liter four cylinder engine is turbocharged, offering 138 horsepower and a torque curve so flat it can double as a bowling alley. The strategy of tall gearing and force-feeding a small displacement engine works well in the Cruze, where acceleration is class competitive while offering excellent highway fuel economy.
- Space - 94.6 cubic feet for passengers, 15.4 cubic feet of cargo volume, total 110.0 cubic feet.
- Value - The Cruze Eco has an MSRP of $22,895 as tested, including navigation, and driver convenience package.
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra brings an even more impressive stack of blue chips to toss onto the table.
Ladies and Gentleman, Place Your Bets.
- Safety - Six standard air bags, ABS and traction control, and stability control.
- Fuel Economy - The 1.8 liter four cylinder engine provides 148 horsepower without the need for turbocharging or direct gas injection. Hyundai uses CVVT (continuously variable valve timing) on both cams, diamond-like coating on friction surfaces, a variable intake system with short and long intake runners, and an offset crankshaft to improve the efficiency of the engine. Rather than "bolting on" more horsepower or higher mpg, Hyundai pursues the approach of engineering the powerplant to deliver the best of both along with simplicity and durability.
- Space - 95.6 cubic feet for passengers, 14.8 cubic feet of cargo volume, total 110.4 cubic feet.
- Value - The Elantra GLS with Preferred package has an MSRP of $19,065 as tested.
Placard all around on both vehicles. 35 psi for the Cruze ECO and 32 psi for the Elantra GLS.
2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco
Initial top off fill at a Valero in National City, just southeast of San Diego, California
Tire Pressures: RF -- RR top and LF -- LR bottom.
2012 Hyundai Elantra GLS
Tire Pressures: RF -- RR top and LF -- LR bottom
Cajon Pass Sees Your Bet and Raises It 4,200 Feet
Reset displays. The Cruze ECO had 4,612 miles and the Elantra GLS had 1,331 miles on their respective odometer(s).
This is the first of many climbs to well beyond 4,000’ with plenty of traffic to slow us down along the way. Cruise Control speeds are 60 to 70 mph when traffic allows, and the average is 54 mph for the trip as the two Kings head skyward over the Cajon Pass. Wind conditions stacked the deck against our two Kings, but they kept up their poker face and didn't let anyone see them sweat.
2012 Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze
A Pair of MPG Kings Cruisin' The Strip
Heavy traffic on the I-215.
Cresting Cajon Pass on I-15.
59 mph average just a few miles into the US-395 slow down.
Climbing to the West Entrance of Death Valley National Park.
The 40mpg Gamble Involved climbing to 4956 feet and then descending to -246 feet in less than an hour.
Cruze ahead in the sand storm. 30 to 40 mph cross winds. The EPA test procedures only include 25mph cross winds. ... NOT!
Lay Your Cards On The Table
After stopping for the night, the first fill in Barstow, California
The Chevrolet Cruze ECO, with an EPA 26mpgUS city rating, waits patiently at a red light on the Vegas strip.
2012 Chevrolet Cruze ECO
15.137 gallons consumed after 642.0 miles per Google maps = 42.413 mpgUS.
2012 Hyundai Elantra GLS
13.557 gallons consumed after 642.0 miles per Google maps = 47.356 mpgUS.
The pumps at this Shell station were fast flowing so the Elantra was possibly short by .25 plus gallons without spilling after another 10 or more top offs with violent shaking between. The slow fill pumps at the Velero in Nations City where we initially filled would give us an accurate final fill and totals once we got there.
The Cruze ECO with the AT’s odometer/Trip A/B were almost dead on whereas the Elantra was showing the usual -2.2% under report which is good for customers since they earn another 2.2% on their warranties.
Final fill in National City, California
30+ mph headwinds from Barstow to Cajon Pass while heading back to San Diego on the I-15.
2012 Chevrolet Cruze ECO
You Got To Know When To Hold Em, Know When To Fold Em
OEM aFCD: 180.3 miles - 47.4 mpg - 57.1 mph avg. speed.
181 actual miles on 4.116 gallons = 43.975 mpgUS.
2012 Hyundai Elantra GLS
OEM aFCD/Trip A: 176.7 miles - 42.8 mpg.
181 actual miles on 4.486 gallons = 40.348 mpg and making up for the .25 to 0.35 gallon short fill in Barstow, CA.
The Final Fill at the same Velero in National City, CA some 32 hours and 823 miles later.
2012 Chevrolet Cruze ECO vs. 2012 Hyundai Elantra - Final Results
|Vehicle||Vehicle Avg Speed||Odometer (miles)||Actual miles||Fuel (gal)||Actual MPG||aFCD (mpg)||aFCD offset (%)||Over/Under EPA Highway|
Both players were evenly matched with one taking home the lion's share.
Elantra - 40mpg highway rating, 45.613mpg actual, 114.0% of EPA
Cruze Eco - 39mpg highway rating, 42.747mpg actual, 109.6% of EPA
The Elantra GLS proved to be the stronger contender by breaking the EPA bank by an almost 15% margin with the Cruze Eco taking home more chips than it started. Anytime you leave Vegas with more than you started, you’ve beat the odds and this pair of Kings did just that.
This challenge was anything but an easy highway drive.
These are two MPG Kings that fall under the "Hold Em" category. As the cost of a gallon of regular passes $4/gal and may be heading for $5/gal, either one of these two MPG Kings will definitely be an "ace up your sleeve".