The (Relative) Truth About Efficiency

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

Nothing like a well-run long-distance fuel economy comparison to cut through the hype and exaggerations. Edmunds took the 2010 Prius, 2010 Insight, 2009 Jetta TDI, 2010 Fusion Hybrid, and a 2009 Mini Cooper on a carefully-controlled outing from L.A. to Las Vegas and back, including back roads with steep grades through Death Valley one way; 200 miles of tedious city driving in Sin City; and I-15 back to L.A. The results shouldn’t be very controversial, since they’re reasonably close to EPA numbers. But TDI fanatics swear the EPA tests undercount diesels. Not according to this test. Here’s the skinny:

Back RoadsFirst2010 Toyota Prius47.2 mpgSecondHonda Insight44.1 mpgThirdVolkswagen Jetta TDI41.2 mpgFourthFord Fusion Hybrid39.6 mpgFifthMini Cooper38.5 mpgCityFirstToyota Prius48.7 mpgSecondHonda Insight43.4ThirdFord Fusion Hybrid35.1FourthVolkswagen Jetta TDI31.6FifthMini Cooper30.1HighwayFirstToyota Prius47.4 mpgSecondVolkswagen Jetta TDI40.6ThirdHonda Insight38.6FourthFord Fusion Hybrid36FifthMini Cooper33.3CombinedFirstToyota Prius47.6 mpgSecondHonda Insight42.3ThirdVolkswagen Jetta TDI38.1FourthFord Fusion Hybrid37.3FifthMini Cooper34.5CO2 ImpactFirstToyota Prius.55 lb/miSecondHonda Insight.62 lb/miThirdFord Fusion Hybrid.70 lb/miFourthVolkswagen Jetta TDI.74 lb/miFifthMini Cooper.75 lb/mi

UPDATE: Here is an elevation change graph. The left point is Edmunds’ offices in Santa Monica, CA, and the right point is Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, and the elev. change is calculated from a route that is all freeway. This is intended to provide a general guide to the grades the test drivers might have faced; we do not know their exact route.

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Mirko Reinhardt Mirko Reinhardt on Aug 15, 2009

    @niky besides the theoretical heavy right feet of the testers, there's also a fuel economy penalty when you take into account the smaller American gallon versus the Imperial gallon. 1. Nobody uses Imperial gallons but the British 2. I would guess that most TTAC readers own a calculator and/or a computer and are able to convert between Imperial MPG, American MPG and l/100km, because that's stuff you learn in school... 3. Whenever I post fuel Economy figures in MPG, it's American MPG because TTAC is mostly populated by American readers. @svik I have to say I enjoyed the Bmw a lot. I drove about 200km up and down winding roads on the Italian mountains and it was a blast. I wish I could have tested the same car with the other 3 engine settings. The automatic transmission had two position, economy and sport. However I sometime I did not agree with the automatic behavior, but I guess that is the price to pay. The obvious solution is the 118d with the manual transmission. I own one and love it. The 120d only feels quicker on the Autobahn, but i don't like the shorter gearing in it. The 123d is a beast.

  • Niky Niky on Aug 16, 2009

    Ah. Just making sure. We always have an awful ruckus when discussing MPG on another site... since half the members are Brit and half are American. Too bad we don't get the other 1-series diesels where I live... but I've sampled the 120d and it's an absolute joy to drive. I only regret not being able to try the newer ones with the lighter engine blocks... as you can really feel the weight difference between the older diesels and the gasoline units when driving hard.

  • FreedMike "This week, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) "Oh, THAT clown. The Undistinguished Gentleman and Brave Christian Culture Warrior from North Arkansas - I mean, Missouri - who was caught pulling a Brave Sir Robin act on January 6th, after he egged on the rioters? This guy shouldn't be running for dog catcher, must less consuming oxygen in the Senate chamber. Assess his proposals accordingly.
  • EBFlex Yawn. It’s still a white refrigerator. A Camry has more soul and passion than this.
  • Jkross22 For as nice as these were at the time, I always preferred the 850, even with wrong wheel drive. Especially the early 90s. In sedan form. The 850R. Mmmmm.
  • FreedMike Well, if you want a Swedish cockroach that's easy to work on, here's your ticket. Tad overpriced but it's an asking price, after all. And those old Volvo seats are divine. It'd be worth a look.
  • SCE to AUX "...has arguably advantaged the Asian nation by subsidizing electric vehicles, it has attempted to prioritize more domestic manufacturing by pouring money atop the relevant industries via the so-called Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act"Seems like you're trying to diss the Biden Administration before crediting its protectionism in the IRA.Chinese-made EV batteries aren't part of the subsidy program, so subsidizing EVs hasn't advantaged China. But the general sourcing of Chinese-made components - whether in a subsidized car or not - does help China.This is a general problem in the US economy. Everybody wants to wave the flag, but nobody wants to be the high-cost supplier, and nobody wants to pay more.The same scenario played out 50 years ago, except the competitor was Japan. At the end of the day, protectionism didn't work, and consumers got what they wanted.