Six Cars Claim To Get 40 MPG, but Do They Really?
James Riswick - EDMUNDS
- June 14, 2012
An interesting mix of cars. Too bad no mid or full sized hybrid was included though --Ed.
Forty mpg. It's a number you've probably heard on TV commercials or seen on billboards. After all, just five years ago, there were only three cars that could make this lofty claim for fuel efficiency on the open road, and two of them were hybrids and the other was the Smart car. Fast-forward to 2012 and there are now 24 models that claim to get EPA fuel economy of 40 mpg highway, and 15 of them aren't even hybrids.
We gathered six of these cars that the EPA says get precisely 40 mpg on the highway none of them hybrids and tested them in the real world. Is it really possible to achieve that big four-oh? Will each car really return exactly 40 mpg on the highway, as the EPA numbers indicate? And how will they do away from the highway in the sort of suburban environment in which most Americans drive every day?
This is the 40 MPG Challenge. Six cars, 700 miles and your choice of energy drinks from the gas mart.
Variety prevails in our selection of 40-mpg cars. From six different car brands we have two subcompact hatchbacks, two compact sedans, a sporty coupe and a large family sedan. Each is also a class leader in its own right. We think this disproves the notion that you have to drive a lethargic, cramped penalty box in order to get fuel-sipping mpg. Plus, each of these cars can be had for a reasonable price, another automotive breakthrough in the last five years. After all, a hybrid might easily get 40 mpg, but it customarily carries a sizable cost mark-up to pay for its exotic technology.
The Chevrolet Sonic ($18,695 as tested) is one of the most appealing subcompact cars thanks to its fun-to-drive nature. Besides its lively handling, the Sonic offers fun from its optional turbocharged 1.4-liter engine. Such performance upgrades almost always come with a fuel economy trade-off, but in this case, the turbo actually achieves better fuel economy than the standard four-cylinder. Pairing it with the six-speed manual transmission gets you to 40 mpg.
Next up is the Hyundai Veloster ($21,395 as tested), which is subcompact in size, although its strange three-door hatchback body style and stranger styling prove that you can drive something both funky and fuel-efficient. Sadly, the Veloster's optional turbocharged engine can't match the Sonic's fun-yet-40 trick, so we had to stick with the standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder (shared with the Rio) that hits 40 mpg when paired with a six-speed manual transmission.
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