Five Cars That Regularly Beat Their EPA Gas Mileage Ratings

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2009 vw jetta tdi 006

2009 vw jetta tdi 006

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Lately, we’ve covered several stories surrounding consumer claims that various green cars aren’t capable of achieving the gas mileage figures that the EPA ratings say they should. 

But what about cars that regularly do better than the EPA ratings for gas mileage?  Using data obtained from a variety of sources, here is a list of five cars we feel regularly get better gas mileage than their EPA ratings. 

Before we start however, we need to point out a few caveats.

Firstly, we’re using unverified user-submitted data from both the EPA’s FuelEconomy.Gov website and as well as anecdotal evidence from owners‘ forums.   With no way to verify the information scientifically, we have to view the information with a degree of healthy skepticism. 

Secondly, the data obtained does not detail location or driving cycle, so this list should only be used as a loose guide into stealthy higher-gas mileage cars. 

Thirdly, in each case, we’re listing the highest reported gas mileage we’re aware of for each car, not an average. Again, we have been unable to verify any of the claimed gas mileages.

2012 Volkswagen Jetta 6-Speed Manual

Official EPA Rating: 34 MPG Combined

Reported Mileage: Up To 52 MPG

Back in 2009, Volkswagen paid an independent tester to examine the gas mileage of its 2009 VW Jetta, yielding test results as much as 24 percent higher than the EPA’s official gas mileage results.

It soon became a well-known fact among green car fans that the Jetta’s TDI turbodiesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox underperformed on slow gas-mileage tests, but could achieve over 52 mpg when driven well on the freeway. 

The Jetta isn’t alone either. Nearly every other Volkswagen diesel on the market today outperforms its EPA rating in real-life, from the 2012 VW Golf TDI through to its 2012 VW Touareg TDI.

2011 Smart Fortwo

2011 Smart Fortwo

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2012 Smart ForTwo

Official EPA Rating: 36 MPG Combined

Reported Mileage: Up To 46 MPG

Two-seat cars might not be to everyone’s tastes, but the diminutive city car from Europe combines go-cart handling and eco-minded fuel economy. 

With a tiny 1 liter engine, it won’t win you any stop-light races, but will save you some serious money on your fuel bill. 

The most efficient gas-powered car on the market today, the Smart ForTwo promises EPA-beating efficiency provided you don’t mind its tiny dimensions.

2012 Honda Insight (CVT)

Official EPA Rating: 42 Combined

Reported Mileage: Up To 52 MPG

Although Honda might be under attack for producing a car which didn’t reproduce the official EPA gas mileage ratings in real-life, the Honda Insight is capable of leaving its EPA ratings far behind.

2012 Honda Insight EX with Navigation

2012 Honda Insight EX with Navigation

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We’ve seen various reports of Insight drivers getting gas mileage figures into the low 50s, despite a combined EPA rating of 42 MPG.

In both cases, the cars were fitted with Honda’s continuously-variable transmission (CVT), rather than a more conventional automatic gearbox. 

2012 Fiat 500 Manual 5 Speed

Official EPA Rating: 33 Combined

Reported Mileage: Up To 47 MPG

Popular in Europe, Fiat’s subcompact hatchback is relatively new to the U.S. market, and fits into the same niche market segment occupied other retro-styled cars like the 2012 Mini Cooper and 2012 VW Beetle. 

One of our 2012 Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy Nominees, the Fiat 500 is already proving itself in the gas-mileage stakes, with careful driving yielding a claimed 41 mpg.

U.S.-spec 2012 Fiat 500c

U.S.-spec 2012 Fiat 500c

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2011 BMW 335d

Official EPA Rating: 27 MPG Combined

Reported Mileage: Up To 38 MPG

Generally, gas mileage isn’t the first thing you think of when BMW is mentioned.

But user reports suggest that the current diesel-powered 5-series can outperform its EPA rating, reaching gas mileage figures that many small cars would struggle to reach. 

Sadly however, the BMW 335d has a hefty sticker price of $44,150, putting luxury well above gas mileage.

What Have We Missed?

Have we chosen the wrong EPA-beaters? Do you know of cars that do much better than the EPA rating? 

Let us know in the Comments below.


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Comments (13)
  1. Check the 50 Litre Challenge.
    Toyota Corolla did better than its ratings and the results can be verified.

  2. I do agree on the honda...I drove my mom's for about 50 miles- mixed hwy/city and managed over 50mpg in the Winter with some hills! But, it did drive me a little crazy driving so slow. She regularly has over 50mpg in the summer- though lives on the coast where it is flat & hwy around 60mph.

  3. 2010 Prius.
    62 MPG @ 62 MPH
    60 & 150 mile trips during summer of 2011
    outside temps in the low 80's

  4. I currently own two VW diesels, a 2010 Jetta Wagen and a 2011 Golf. Both have the DSG tranmission and I drive mainly in city traffic and consistantly get around 36 mpg versus an EPA city rating of 30 mpg. With 30,000 miles on the Jetta, I am now seeing highway mpg of 45-47 versus 41.

  5. 2000 Chevy Metro.

    EPA 47 MPG
    Best drive 58 MPG
    3-bangers rule

  6. 2002 Volkswagon Jetta TDI, not only getting 52 mpg on freeway, but using biodiesel and used veggie oil, so not only great gas mileage, but also using a renewable resource that is NOT dino fuel or from under the ground. This beats any gasoline engine or hybrid, :-) Member of Biofuel Oasis of Berkeley.

  7. My 2010 Ford Focus with manual transmission regularly returns 31 MPG around town, and 45 on the highway. Not bad for 140 HP and a car that cost just $12,600.

  8. want to drive a sardine can and feel like you're in one for better fuel economy?

  9. My 2007 Honda Fit, 5 speed, does about what the rating was in 2007, 38 on the highway + or - a mile or two. The town driving varies a lot more depending upon the conditions but where I live in moderate traffic I bet close to 30 most all the time. My experience with larger cars like the Accord (We have a 2000 Accord EXL 4 cylinder) doesn't deliver either the highway or in town estimates. Also, the 2006 Toyota 4 wheel drive, 5 speed, 4 cylinder seems to come in at the EPS estimate. (23 highway; 16-18 in town and that can be must less in bad traffic conditions as one would expect). I don't see in pattern that makes sense to be in the latest ratings.

  10. You can't tell from any one fill up what your gas mileage really is. You must record fill ups for at least a month or more . . . .say a 1,000 miles or so . .. to get a better picture of real world performance. Years ago I have a Olds with a 455 and a get old 4 barrel carb. I would get 18 or more on trips. My wife drove the car to work and back for years. My monthly checks never yielded anything over 12 mpg! In the winter, the mileage would drop below 10! 18 to 12 is a 33% difference. 18 down to 10 is a hugh difference. On a small car a difference in a fill up of even 1/2 gallon will yield very big differences and lead one to make irrational conclusions.

  11. My wife and I can drive the same car over the same route and she doesn't get the fuel economy that I get. I started trying to drive for maximum mileage and she kept the same old style of driving that I used to use.

    It doesn't take many behavioral changes to improve your mileage, unless you're already a hypermiler. Quit trying to be first to the next redlight, try to time lights and not stop so often. Get off your backside by parking and going inside instead of idling in a drive-through line. Run tires at maximum pressure as shown on the sidewall will help too, but some complain that the ride suffers a little. Even these minor changes will make a noticeable difference.

  12. my 2007 Corolla went 12,000 miles in 3 months, 5 spd drove it from Denver to NYC right off the lot..44 mpg, drove it back to Denver 4 days later 44mpg in January2008, drove it to Vegas from Denver in July 2008 44mpg. the 2013 only gets 36mpg...WHY.In 2010 i drove my 66 Barracuda 273 formula S 4bbl Carburator from NYC to Philly 3 times averaged 21 mpg on all 3 trips...and I looked good doing it..I even pulled 140 mph a couple times just to show off and still pulled 21mpg..

  13. Fiat 500 driven round trip from Seattle to Cleveland. 46.6 MPG on the way out drivnig conservatively, 42.5 MPG on the way back driving fast.


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