Consumer Watchdog To EPA: Re-Test Hyundai Elantra Gas Mileage

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2011 Hyundai Elantra

2011 Hyundai Elantra

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On the record, and even off, auto manufacturers are usually fairly discreet about their competitors.

But starting this year, we've heard more open mutterings from several makers on the topic of gas mileage. "Our cars achieve their EPA ratings in real-world use," they'll say pointedly. "Not like some of our competitors."

Real-world Elantra mileage differs?

Now the dispute over whether and whose EPA ratings reflect real-world fuel efficiency has broken into the open.

The Consumer Watchdog organization, located in Santa Monica, California, called yesterday for the EPA to re-test the 2011 Hyundai Elantra compact, which is rated at 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, for a combined gas-mileage rating of 33 mpg.

2011 Hyundai Elantra

2011 Hyundai Elantra

Enlarge Photo

"A trail of disappointed drivers" only achieves mileage ratings in the mid-20s under real-world conditions, says Judy Dugan, research director for Consumer Watchdog, citing online discussion forums with Elantra owners, and published results from road testers at USA Today, Motor Trend, and the 20-mpg city mileage recorded by Consumers Union.

The organization asks the EPA to test the Elantra in its own facility. If EPA results vary from the existing figures, it asks the agency to levy penalties on Hyundai that would include " fines, notification to buyers of its recent Elantra models and rebates that cover drivers’ added cost of fuel for average yearly miles driven."

Hyundai: 'stands by the numbers'

Jim Trainor, Hyundai's national manager of product PR, said the carmaker "stands by the EPA numbers," and pointed to the 39-mpg highway figure achieved by Consumers Union in a 2011 Elantra.

2011 Hyundai Elantra

2011 Hyundai Elantra

Enlarge Photo

He declined to say whether Hyundai would have a formal response to Consumer Watchdog's request, noting that the story broke only late last night.

Your mileage may vary

In our own case, we tested a 2011 Hyundai Elantra sedan last April. Our overall mileage figure was between 34.2 mpg, or right on the EPA combined rating. We had just tested a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco with six-speed manual too, also rated at 33 mpg, which which we got 34.4 mpg.

Across dozens of test cars, we usually hit the combined EPA rating and often get fuel efficiency figures that are 1 or 2 mpg higher, since our road test route has more high-speed driving than stop-and-go urban and suburban miles. Our experience with the Elantra pretty much stayed true to that rule.

2011 Chevy Cruze Eco and 2011 Hyundai Elantra during road tests (video frame capture)

2011 Chevy Cruze Eco and 2011 Hyundai Elantra during road tests (video frame capture)

Enlarge Photo

We should note here that we do not "hypermile," or drive to wring every drop of energy out of gasoline. Instead, we want to give readers a sense of how a new car behaves in average real-world usage.


It's worth noting that the automakers submit self-certified results to the EPA; the agency does not test every car model, engine, and transmission combination--each of which is separately rated--every year.

Some automakers are now quietly discussing whether they should ask the EPA to certify the results they achieve--perhaps those for their most fuel-efficient vehicles, because high MPG figures have become such a marketing draw.

Live by the sword...?

Hyundai has aggressively promoted its EPA mileage ratings, going so far as to challenge other automakers to report their monthly sales of cars rated at 40 mpg or better.

2011 Hyundai Elantra

2011 Hyundai Elantra

Enlarge Photo

No other maker does that, in part because their 40-mpg-rated models are often specific trim levels of model lines, usually at an extra cost, with lower ratings for the base vehicle.

Ford has its SFE models of the Fiesta and Focus, for example, and Chevrolet has its Cruze Eco (and soon a 2013 Malibu Eco too).

We can't help but wonder if this will be a case of "live by the sword, die by the sword."

Tell us your thoughts

We'll keep you posted on the outcome of Consumer Watchdog's request. Meanwhile, tell us what you think: Is Hyundai gaming the gas-mileage ratings system?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (9)
  1. If Hyundai is gaming the gas-mileage ratings system to sell their vehicles, then they should be punished to the fullest extent allowed; the same should go for any other manufacturer who lies about their gas millage and even their electric millage. If Hyundai is not lying, then they should be given a public apology and awarded damages by a court of law. That will make a lot of auto manufacturers very nervous and you could see a big change in gas and electric millage. In this case, honesty can really hurt the wallet.

  2. I was very surprised to learn that carmakers get to supply their own "EPA numbers". Seems like a perverse system that inevitably leads to consumer disappointment in some cases.

    Retesting by the real EPA should be SOP if cars appear to deviate too much from the numbers supplied by their makers, and of course carmakers should be liable for misinforming the public and the government about their cars' energy consumption/emissions.

  3. They do their own crash tests as well. However, if they were ever found to be fudging the data, the would risk extreme penalties including recalling all the vehicles in question. It is supposed to be the threat of government action (and occasional real action) that keeps the system working and the size of government reasonable.

  4. In order to get the milage on ANY car you need to be much lighter with the gas pedal than we ar used to. I personally noticed this on my last two cars (non hyundai)... people in general have a heavy foot and race to the next red light and don't drive the speed limit on the highway so I can totally see people getting way less than the average.

  5. I totally agree! It all comes down to a persons driving style. As was said here the people who floor it as the light turns green and go over the posted speed limit are usually the one's doing the most griping about either (A):Not getting good gas milage or (B): Complain that he vehicle isn't getting the milage numbers they expect it to.

  6. I believe that all production vehicles should be required to test on the same course under specified guidelines. Otherwise, the mileage cannot be reliably compared.

  7. I averaged 33 mpg over 4 years of mixed driving city/highway with a 2008 Elantra (5 speed).

    It comes down to how you drive, ultimately. If you want to save gas, you need to drive a little more conservatively and it never hurts to stop accelerating when you can see you will be coming to a stop anyway pretty soon.

  8. I have a 2012 Elantra and I am geting the run around from Hyundai. I have been getting 23-25 MPG city but they say they are right with there claims. EPA standards are made in perfect situations, not every day driving. I wish I could join the California lawsuit but living in Hawaii. I will never buy another Hyundai.

  9. Hyundai and Kia ADMIT to the MPG lies!!!!!! Google it! Owners of select vehicles will get a debit card for life for the miles they've driven and the miles in the future. MPG estimates have changed, for instance the Elantra was 29/40 but now it's 28/38! So you can get a debit card that gives the difference in MPG, given local gas prices, and they assume +15% gas price hike to help cover customer stress.

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