So-Long V-6, V-8: High-MPG 4-Cylinder Now The Most Popular Engine

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2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS

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For as long as we care to remember, U.S. roads have hummed to the tune of the V-6 and V-8. Low-stressed and powerful, we’ve used V-engines in everything from pickup trucks and hotrods to family sedans and crossover SUVS. 

Times, however, are changing. 

According to JD Power Associates (via Associated Press) more than half of the new cars and trucks sold between January and May this year were powered by 4-cylinder engines. 

That’s the highest market share the consulting firm has seen for the humble 4-cylinder engine since it started to track engine sales percentage in 1998. 

With the drive toward ever-tougher emissions and gas mileage requirements, it isn’t difficult to see why automakers are replacing V-8 and V-6 engines with smaller, more efficient 4-cylinder ones. 

In order for cars fitted with smaller engines to sell however, they have to offer good performance alongside gas mileage. 

“You can take away my V-8, but don’t take away my acceleration,” IHS Automotive analyst Rebecca Lindland joked. “We’re willing to embrace a technology that doesn’t make us compromise performance.”

Ford V-6 Vs EcoBoost

Ford V-6 Vs EcoBoost

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Luckily, thanks to technology like turbochargers, computer-controlled direct-injection, and lightweight engine components, new 4-cylinder engines are able to give V-6 performance while retaining good gas mileage. 

More importantly, modern turbocharged 4-cylinder engines are now achieving gas mileages that rival some hybrid cars -- but at a much lower sticker price. 

In fact, modern 4-cylinder engines like the 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter EcoBoost engines offered in the 2013 Ford Escape crossover SUV are so powerful and efficient that Ford isn’t even offering a V-6 or hybrid option to customers any more. 

We’re pleased to see the 4-cylinder engine is finally the preferred choice for U.S. drivers as they pursue increased gas mileage, but will it continue to grow in popularity in the coming years? 

Or perhaps there’s another engine that you think will be even more popular? 

Let us know in the Comments below.


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Comments (9)
  1. I kind of bristle at the idea that these engines are rivaling hybrids. Sure, if you are driving on the highway there is some truth to that. But if you drive in the city (the more common place to drive according to the EPA), most hybrids are dramatically better than these vehicles with the small 4 cylinder engines.

    Most non-hybrids struggle to break 30 mpg in the city, but quite a few hybrids exceed 40 mpg in the city. Frankly, hybrids just make a lot more sense for city drivers, though purchase price continues to be a factor.

  2. My diesel Golf TDI does 40mpg (mostly puttering around town; 45mpg hwy), and that's the one with the larger engine; VW doesn't sell the more frugal Bluemotion editions here. The way to really win is to marry the turbodiesel and hybrid technologies. Throw in plug-in tech for a really good party.

  3. That is pretty impressive. I always find it a little depressing that I only get 28 mpg in my 2004 Corolla when driving in the city. For a car that size, really seems like it should do better. My Prius in the same situation gets 50 mpg and it is a much larger, heavier car.

  4. Mmmm your Corolla has a 1.8L engine? The 2012 US Corolla (1.8L) does 27/34mpg. The Japanese Corolla Axio (1.5L) claims* avg 47mpg for the CVT auto transmission (but the JC08 standard tends to overstate the MPG). In the UK, the sister model Toyota Auris** comes with a 1.4L diesel that claims 49mpg avg (47mpg in real life). This one packs a 151 lb-ft torque, more than the 128 lb-ft of the US Corolla - diesels do that.

    * [Go ahead, you can still pick out the km/L and the Nm in the specs]

  5. I would LOVE it if Ford had the guts to re-do that Ecoboost vs V6 chart by adding an electric motor too.

  6. Alright, I did it myself! versus EcoBoost versus Electric Motor Comparison from Ford.jpg

  7. Now, that's what I'm talking about! Good graphics and way to illustrate on how to break out of the gasser mentality. We can do way better wiht EVs.

  8. No matter who does it, where it comes from, marketing is still the same... crap.


  9. I would love it if Ford brought their ECO diesel to the States, link

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