By on May 25, 2011

Surf on over to and, and the two momentum-blessed automakers will greet you in a remarkably similar fashion: with a lineup of 40 MPG Highway-rated vehicles. Of course, Hyundai would, in its inimitable “asterisk-wrangling” style, point out that Ford’s 40 MPG requires more footnotes than a David Foster Wallace book. But then Ford might shoot back that Hyundai leaves out any reference to City or Highway ratings in its lineup, leaving consumers to play “hunt the legal disclaimer” itself. And as Autoobserver recently noted, highway ratings make for good ad fodder, but combined EPA ratings are much more helpful to consumers.

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to note that while Ford and Hyundai are pushing 40 MPG on their main splash pages, GM is touting “an approach to the environment as ambitious as our cars” (with a big, glossy Volt picture) and Toyota is sticking with its simple “number one for a reason” tag. Chrysler and Nissan have devoted their pages to pushing lease and incentive deals, while Honda’s stripped-down site simply features the new Civic (with significant space devoted to Tsunami aid donations). Each site says something about the automaker behind it, and based on Ford and Hyundai’s strong sales momentum, their shared emphasis on miles per gallon is probably instructive.

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29 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: 40/40 Vision Edition...”

  • avatar

    Pardon my skepticism, but EPA ratings, combined or raw, still leave me cold. Without a lot of digging, it is hard to find out how the numbers relate to real-world situations. A car may get 40 highway mpg in a test that uses a canned usage cycle, but how about its real highway usage — all-day at 70 to 80 with few stops but varied terrain, temperatures and altitude. When I take a road trip, it’s not on and off a freeway from the suburbs to downtown. The EPA really needs another categorization that separates urban from cross-country.

    • 0 avatar

      It depends on the car. While I can easily get a real 35mpg on the highway in my Sonata, and an easy 29mpg in mixed driving, I doubt I could hit the 40mpg highway on the Elantra. The motor is too small and shifts in and out of top gear too often to maintain speed.

      • 0 avatar

        What gallon are you using to calculate that ? There is a sizable difference between Miles per US Gallon or Miles per UK Gallon. Many brands (Chrysler, Hyundai, etc) advertise in both units without mentioning which Gallon unit they are using. For example many current chryslers get 50MPG if you use the UK Gallon unit…

    • 0 avatar

      The EPA took 30 years to realize that highway isn’t coasting at 45 mph with the AC off. Perhaps in another 30 years they’ll realize it isn’t hard acceleration from 8 stops in 8 miles either.

      Until then there’s Consumer Reports. That or renting the car yourself.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree with the skepticism, but for a completely different reason. I have never owned a vehicle that got the ridiculously low mpg that the EPA suggests.

      My current car, an ’05 Scion xB, had a window sticker proclaiming 31/34. The “corrected” EPA numbers are 27/31.

      In mixed urban/suburban driving, I get 33mpg in the summer with the a/c on, and 36 in the cooler seasons. 40mpg is common on the highway, and I’ve seen 45.

      I don’t understand how people complain about getting consistent mpg *below* the EPA numbers.

      Maybe they don’t know how to drive or something.

      • 0 avatar

        What RPM do you shift at?

      • 0 avatar
        Almost Jake

        I too consistently get better than the EPA sticker, before and after they changed the rating system, and I don’t drive like an old man on the road.

        I believe in keeping the vehicle’s maintenance up to date and looking farther down the road while driving. If a light is turning red…coast.

      • 0 avatar

        The sticker on my S60R (auto 5 spd) said something like 18/24 city/highway. I consistently get 27 highway — at 80 with A/C on. City goes as low as 17 in very cold weather and short trips, around 19 -20 warm weather suburban driving. Some day we’ll find out how much EPA testing is on blueprinted loaners and the amount of cash stuffed in the glove box.

      • 0 avatar

        What gallon are you using to calculate that ? There is a sizable difference between Miles per US Gallon or Miles per UK Gallon. Many brands (Chrysler, Hyundai, etc) advertise in both units without mentioning which Gallon unit they are using. For example many current Chryslers get 50MPG if you use the UK Gallon unit.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that these numbers are “real world”. The concept is that they provide a COMPARISON between vehicles based on a standard test.

      • 0 avatar

        What’s the relevance of a comparison that has no basis in the real world?

        All the EPA treadmill shows is which manufacturer did a more thorough job of gaming for the EPA treadmill.

        Makes about as much sense as rating tires by how many tread blocks they have. It’s a standard test right?

      • 0 avatar

        Gaming or not, a 40mpg highway car will do better than a 30mpg car etc… Flawed it may be, but the EPA ratings are the most consistent test available on every car, and very rarely will a car do worse real world than the EPA numbers.

        Personally, I would like my highway number to be at a steady cruise at 75 or 80mph, but that will never happen.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s a faulty assumption, MBella. Keep it up, and you’ll get a job offer from the EPA. The most extremely gamed automatics for the EPA test get abominable real world mileage. Car and Driver had a recent econobox comparison test using new EPA star automatics and the highest real world mileage achieved was 21 mpg with the 36 EPA hwy Cruze tying the 29 EPA mpg Mazda 3 for dead last with 18 mpg overall. The Focus with its dual clutch 6 speed and EPA number of 38 had the highest real number of 21 while the 40 MPG Elantra tied the 31 EPA MPG Jetta with 20 observed miles per gallon. Gamed cars are worse in the real world than the properly geared versions of the same cars sold the year before CAFE went up.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes. Much of what works on the treadmill has a negative effect in the real world. Undersized engines, excessively tall gears, transmissions that won’t downshift.

        The result is you step on it harder while the engine lugs, three seconds later it finally downshifts and moves, at that point faster than you wanted it to, all along you’re at or near WOT in the rich part of the fuel map which was never measured by the treadmill.

        Even the “high speed, up to 80 mph” EPA test averages just 48 mph with many stops and starts which drastically understates drag and overstates the effects of a small motor and gearing games.

        The bottom line of all this is the EPA number on a tuned car like a 32 mpg Equinox is effectively fiction. Hypermiling at 55 maybe. While powerful cars tuned for responsiveness in spite of the test and older or low volume cars not tuned to the test at all will exceed their EPA numbers by 20% without even trying.

        Sticker mileage isn’t worth reading let alone cross shopping.

      • 0 avatar


        CAFE is just another idiot tax. People are stupid enough to want the government to force them into buying more efficient cars, and the result is less efficient cars with horrible drivability. Another example of this phenomenon is a recent Motor Trend comparison test of V6, automatic pony cars. The latest from Ford, Chevy and Dodge are gamed to the extreme. The Hyundai Genesis V6 coupe hasn’t been retuned and recertified yet to raise its CAFE score. The result? The Hyundai had the worst EPA numbers, far worse than the Ford or Chevy, and the best real world observed fuel economy by quite a margin. It was also the quickest and had the least compromised transmission calibrations. There might be some temptation to suggest Hyundai is better at making cars than the others, but that doesn’t explain the fact that they score the worst on the EPA dyno and the best on the road. The arbitrary perversity of the EPA test explains it.

  • avatar

    Honda removed the zombie and the monster from their Civic adds?

  • avatar

    So Hyundai is ripping off Mazada (for the grill) and Chrysler (with the winged logo) on the Sonata? Why?

    • 0 avatar

      Uhh, Mazda ripped off their “smiling guppy” face grill from Peugeot, and Mazda is now utilizing the hexagonal grill shape (as are other automakers) that Hyundai has been using for a while.

      And it’s not a “winged logo”, but merely a chrome accent strip.

      Tell me why Chryler has started to “flame-surface” the grill slats on the 200 and 300 like Hyundai started with the Genesis?

  • avatar

    Maybe the Hyundai page should have an asterisk to let shoppers know what corners they cut to achieve that standard 40 MPG. A can of Hyundai fix-a-flat is a lot lighter than a Ford spare tire, but it’s not an adequate substitute.

    • 0 avatar

      I tried to find out on Ford’s website on the SFE package (can’t option a car with this trim) to check if the Ford also comes with a can of fix a flat.

  • avatar

    I have a hard time figuring out what my car gets in the city and what it gets on the highway. The reason for this is that I never have a full tank that is completely one or the other. I do know that as my car has broken in I’ve started topping 29 mixed, which is the only number I care about, and have gotten a hair shy of 37 once when going on a highway drip ~320 mile R/T with little stop and go and a warm engine for most of the trip.

    Would it be a safe bet that the Elantra would get similar mileage as the Forte, what I drive, because they are platform siblings (or at least share some bits – I think) or would that be a stretch?

  • avatar

    My Impala, in mixed driving (in warm weather, with little use of A/C) has been on average 28.5-29.5 mpg. In colder weather, during the school year, 24-26 mpg for the same commute. Too much stop-and-go on I-75.

    I’ll be eager to see how that improves with my upcoming 100-miles-a-day commute that will take me around the I-275 loop which sees much less traffic, as I will be traveling opposite the flow.

  • avatar

    So my girlfriend needs a car for her new job and I’ve been looking at both these companies as options for a new car purchase. Her commute is roughly 10mi but in Boston traffic/winters. She has about $6K banked for either a down payment or the outright purchase of a new car. It needs to be an automatic (left ankle issues make it very difficult for her to operate a clutch on a day-to-day basis), get excellent gas mileage, and hopefully not be a clunker. She likes hatchbacks, dislikes SUV’s.

    Any thoughts on options? I’m looking mostly for advice on what to look for in the used car market since I feel she’d be better off buying a used vehicle even if it’s only for a few years until she is better financially situated.

    thanks for the help!

  • avatar

    But a Ford Fiesta is still about 20% smaller than a Hyundai Elantra. Plus the Fiesta already has a history of transmission failures.

    What’s wrong is that there isn’t a non union pure American car company that’s hungry.

    • 0 avatar

      Why are you comparing the Fiesta with the Elantra? Apples and oranges. Fiesta = Accent, Elantra = Focus. All 4 of which feature on the “40MPG!!!” splash pages by the way.

      I think Ford is plenty “hungry”, with just about the most impressive lineup right now that they’ve ever had, bar a few glitches, and increasing market share.

  • avatar

    Do those automobile magazines ever drive cars slower than what they can get away with? There’s going to be a big drop in their fuel economy compared with the EPA’s as a result.

    That’s not to say I don’t agree with the thinking that the automatic transmissions are geared towards the mileage tests. Consumer Report mileage has always been better in the same model with a manual transmission over the automatic.

    • 0 avatar

      You should see the ridiculous shift points that the EPA requires for manual transmissions:

      1-2 at 17 mph
      2-3 at 25 mph
      3-4 at 40 mph
      4-5 at 45 mph
      5-6 at 50 mph

      They slowly take my car to 3300 rpm in first before shifting, and then barely use second.

  • avatar

    I have checked my actual mpg vs what Car & Driver reported they got on the same car many times over the years and they are always much lower than what I get. Why, maybe I don’t drive like the fast and the Fuzzynuts everytime I get behind the wheel.
    2008 GTI, 6 speed DSG – 29 mpg
    2010 Madza 3, GT 2.5 automatic, 28 mpg
    2008 Toyota Highlander Ltd, 23 mpg

    • 0 avatar

      If you look at their 40K tests wrap ups, you’ll see numbers at the high end of what is possible for a car. That’s because they try to put 40K miles on a car in one year, so the mix of use is heavy on long trips. If you look at comparison tests, you can be comfortable that the ones that do well are more efficient in the real world than the ones that do poorly. BTW, my friend that has a 2008 GTI DSG gets mpg in the high teens. How much of that is crummy California reformulated gasoline and how much is driving mix I don’t know. 29 for that car here requires a long highway trip with the cruise control set at something reasonable.

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