Real-World Gas Mileage Varies By Brand; Honda Does Well, Ford Not So Much

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2013 Honda Insight

2013 Honda Insight

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Just how close do cars get to their official EPA gas mileage figures?

We expect it's a question many of our readers are familiar with--either in keeping an eye on their own car's gas mileage, or from friends asking about their next car.

It's become all the more important in recent months, with high-profile criticism for makers like Ford, whose recent hybrid models struggle to attain the figures returned in EPA testing. And while some cars routinely struggle to reach their official numbers, other cars are often much better in the real world--as Volkswagen diesel owners are often all too eager to point out!

We decided to browse some of the more well-known gas-sipping models using's roster of driver-inputted numbers, to see which models fare best, and which aren't so good in the real world. It's looking good for Honda and Volkswagen, but not so much for Ford...




Honda CR-Z
EPA: 34/37 mpg combined (manual/CVT)
Real world: 37-40 mpg

The economy of Honda's sporty compact hybrid might have disappointed some critics at launch, but in the real world the hybrid hatchback actually does a lot better--averaging as high as 40 mpg for many drivers. Dive further into the figures, and there's no clear distinction between manual or auto either--suggesting driving style, rather than transmission, matters most for the CR-Z.

Honda Insight
EPA: 42 mpg combined
Real world: 43-46 mpg

Another much maligned Honda, the Insight seems able to beat its official 42 mpg figure by as much as 10 percent. 2012's sample of 48 cars is faring best, with up to 46.4 mpg on average. Figures well into the 50s aren't uncommon for individual users, and only a handful are doing less than 38 mpg--the Insight really does punch above its weight. It's also one of the cheapest hybrids on sale, so represents a good way of getting high mileage for less money.

Volkswagen Jetta TDI
EPA: 34 mpg combined
Real world: 38-39 mpg

All those VW drivers are right--the Jetta TDI really does attain better numbers than the EPA credits it. While officially rated at 34 mpg combined, drivers in the real world are averaging closer to 38 or 39 mpg--14 percent better than quoted. Dozens of drivers are even getting numbers in the high 40s, but after then it tails off. For any driver doing mostly highway miles, the appeal of VW's TDI models is clear to see.


Head to page 2 for those matching the EPA numbers, and page 3 for those falling short...

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Comments (33)
  1. Hmmm, I made a similar argument in the comments yesterday? Coincidence? Perhaps?

    But let's not forget, this way of sorting misses the fact that the Prius C and Prius still get significantly better MPG than anything else on the market, particularly in city driving. Of course, you have to hand it to the TDI's for highway cruising.

  2. Hard to believe, but yes, coincidence! This one came to mind as I'd been driving an Insight for the past week and averaged around 50 mpg from it...

  3. Great minds...

  4. Over the last year and a half I've gotten around 44 mpg in my 2012 Insight. If I'm on a highway with 50-65 mph speed limits I'll get >50, but faster than that and my mileage begins to suffer (still 42-45mpg). While I know many don't like this vehicle, I have had a good overall experience and can't see myself purchasing a pure ICE vehicle again.

  5. I average 44mpg in my Insight (which, since it's not just highway, is better than EPA), and I tend to drive it in an enthusiastic manner, so hypermiling is not in my repertoire.

    Great car. Like Keith, I know most people do not like the Insight, but it's been great for me. Test drove the Prius C before I bought the Insight, but the Insight just drove better in my opinion.

  6. I drive a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and am currently averaging 42mpg. I believe that people need to be educated on economical driving habits in order to obtain the EPA driving figures. For example: coasting instead of braking and learning to drive in the 'ev zone'.

    Hybrids are not able to reach their full potential if the operator is hard accelerating from stop lights and maintaining pressure on the accelerator when you need to release it in order to convince the computer to activate electric drive mode.

    I believe the short comings of the Ford hybrids is possibly in part to blame because Ford owners may not be aware of these important driving techniques. The previous owner of my Fusion averaged 37 mpg.

  7. With all due respect, sir, I don't buy your argument.
    If the problem is the driver, it would have to mean that drivers of Toyotas and Hondas are different than drivers of Fords. There is no evidence to suggest that is the case.
    If the problem was the drivers, I would expect all hybrids to be low, and that is not that case.
    No the problem is something to do with the EPA test and possibly some "gaming" or worse by Ford.

  8. It could definitely be due to the driver if one car has more available power than another. Keep in mind that EPA ratings compare cars over the exact same speed trace. That speed trace is generally considered slower than most people would normally drive. If one car provides the driver with a greater ability to exceed that speed trace than another, that could explain why it gets consistently lower mpg. From what I've read, I'm pretty sure the Ford hybrids offer more power than comparable hybrids from Toyota and Honda.

  9. I think this argument falls a little short. What is the working assumption? that people in Fords drive faster consistently? or is it that they accelerate harder consistently? Neither seems likely.

    Looking at the data.
    Ford C-Max 188 hp,
    Ford Fusion 188 hp , 129 ft-lb
    Honda Crz 130 hp , 140
    Honda Civic 110 hp, 127
    Toyota Prius 98 hp , 105
    Toyota Prius 82 hp , 73
    So yes the Ford have a lot more power (not sure if it gets used) and underperform EPA numbers. So that might fit your explanation.

    However, Honda's have more power than the Prius's and yet performed better in the real world than EPA. This is the opposite of your thesis.

  10. Prius has net power of 134HP.

    Ford's 188HP is net power as well. (electric+engine)

    Honda's power is also net power.

    So, your numbers are NOT held to the same standard...

  11. I'm just saying that on average, people tend to drive faster than the EPA cycles and that the Ford's enable this to a greater degree.

  12. I was going to go on to say that Toyota and Honda drivers are more experienced with Hybrid driving techniques having been "in the game" for a longer period but I ran out of characters.

    My goal is not to say one brand is more honest or one brand has a better product I was simply making an observation that people that do not have experience with a hybrid car do not know how to maximize the benefits. Honda and Toyota have been selling hybrids for over ten years and those Prius and Civic Hybrid owners are often repeat buyers. Ford did not release the Fusion hybrid until 2010.

    I put my mom behind the wheel of my car and she was disappointed because she could not get the leaves to grow on the dash. After a few coaching tips her mpg improved.

  13. Ford has released a recent recall should help improve the Ford C-Max mileage. I've heard that it does things like increase the max all-electric speed to over 80 mph and provides more aggressive controls of the variable vents in the grill. I haven't gotten to the dealership yet to get the upgrade, but we do love our C-Max Hybrid. We're right around the 40 MPG mark on Fuelly and it keeps getting better and better with each tank.

  14. As we're approaching the 1/2way point of the 2nd decade of the 21st century, I'm not impressed by 40-50 mpg, which was achievable in the '70s.
    Where's my affordable 80-100 mpg car?

  15. My sister has a 2012 Fusion Hybrid and she states her fuel economy improved 2-3 mpg after the software update released for the 2013's was installed. I had not even known that her model was even a candidate for the software update but since she is a service advisor for Ford, she might have just had it installed on her own but now she is averaging over 40 mpg

  16. @David: The updates are only for the 2013 Fusion Hybrid, which is an entirely different car from the 2012 model you say your sister has. Either she has a 2013, or she did not have the recent updates for the 2013 version installed in her 2012.


  18. That is a death machine...

    Why don't you just ride a bike at that point?

  19. Cute/Interesting vehicle, but I doubt it is 236 mpg, perhaps it is 236 mpgBS. I like the EREV concept though.

  20. VW products are among the worst for reliability, and diesel can cost .40-.60 more than gas, and diesel is more toxic than gas. Consider the TDI only if you can't afford a Volt.

  21. There are many scientific studies which dispute that "diesel is more toxic than gas", current diesel technology at least. It's actually the other way around now.

  22. My real world Volt stats: I'm averaging 162 MPG, about 42 EV miles per charge, about 38 MPG on gas only, and 1000 miles of pure electric driving cost me about $18. I don't drive any differently and the Volt has been highly reliable with NO issues so far in 7k miles, and was THE most reliable vehicle in 2011, according to Consumer Reports. After rebates and tax credit, the car cost about $27k, plus tax and fees. It is expected to save me $5-7,000. in gas over the next five years.

  23. I have a 2001 Audi TT rated at 31 MPG highway. Consistently the car yields 34 MPG highway at 60-62 MPH. Any speed above is wasted due to the cost for the small amount of time "gained." Just drove 650 miles in the last few days and I see Prius at 70 MPH+. It is aerodynamic drag. It is changing speeds. It is driver knowledge. On my 2008 Mariner hybrid I achieve 3 to 4 more MPGs than my wife. I support the driver theory and I support technology. But I know how to get 19 MPG or 65 MPG on a Prius. Just advanced knowledge as to the use of the AC helps. To have the AC ON 100% of the time IS wasteful, for example. The story goes on.

  24. Good point about the AC... My Honda Hybrid has a Climate Controlled thermostat. I set the temp I want, but the car will "fudge" the actual settings for optimal MPG. If I just use the GM style Fan Control with the AC button, my mileage plummets. I noticed the Fusion I test drove didn't have automatic climate control for the AC. That could be a big part of the problem for some.

  25. This difference between Ford and Toyota/Honda on EPA performance is an echo of their performance in the regular ICE market. I would bet that a lot of the problems for Ford come from the fact that their bigger IC engines are not capable of the level of tuning that the smaller Japanese engines are. The fact that a Ford software upgrade (most likely a tuning patch telling the on-board computer to ignore certain sensor readings or design parameters) makes a big difference is very telling.
    Its not the drivers. If they're voluntarily uploading their MPG to the internet, I am sure they know how to "drive" a hybrid. The real issue is that Ford isn't putting as much effort into assuring real world hybrid performance.

  26. @Scott: Agree with most of your comment, but don't see why Ford's 2.0-liter four-cylinder should be any less tunable than, say, Honda's 1.5-liter? The Ford engine is actually in a new iteration of its hybrid system than Honda's now-several-years-old IMA generation.

  27. Could it also be that Ford still sort of a generation or two behind? I think both Honda and Toyota were already producing 2nd gen cars by the time Ford rolled out its Escape Hybrid if I remember correctly. Ford didn't actually develop the powertrain for that, Toyota did. So, Ford engineers could still be playing catch-up which could cause vehicles to under-perform in the real world.

  28. Its also possible that the trouble Ford has is because they have a new hybrid system that they haven't found the ideal real world tuning for, yet. Toyota and Honda have the advantage in that both have been systematically evolving their models for over 10 years, so they know exactly how the cars should perform. Ford's models like the Fusion and the "Max" are still kind of young by Hybrid standards. And both Honda and Toyota have already been to court over the mileage, so maybe they are being more careful... of course, all of us are just guessing and I doubt those in the know at Ford, Honda , or Toyota would be willing to share publicly what is really going on.

  29. @Scott: Well, Ford has been selling hybrids since 2004 and was the third carmaker in the world to do so, after Toyota and Honda.

    One might expect the company would have a fairly good grasp on how to tune them--even in successive generations of the systems, which is now in its third iteration--by now.

  30. Sorry but EPA is a joke, they indicate the Model S gets "89MPG"

    using their own formula of 1gal = 33.7kWh

    my own real world driving (not beating the living crap out of the car at a drag strip) is 1.7L/100KM or 123.3MPGe

    spirited driving (multiple 0-100 runs with 10+ drivers) yields 2.1L/100km or 100MPGe

    i could not imagine how hard you would have to beat the car to get a ridiculous 89MPGe

    my vehicle has the 21" wheels and larger/heavier pack as well, not the best is low rolling resistance.

  31. I drive a Ford Fiesta, 2014. No hybrid. I have been averaging 38+ mph overall and 52 on the highway. The little talked about Fiesta has an EPA rating of 27/38 mph but consistently outperforms those numbers. I can't wait for the 1.0L EcoBoost engine next year.

  32. I have a 2013 Ford Fusion Energi. Not that it is broken in (6900 miles), I just drove from L.A. to Santa Ynez wine country(300 miles round trip plus winery criss cross, etc) and my mileage was 42.4mpg and going up the closer I got to L.A.(traffic). I drove using the adaptive 'eco' cruise, between 62 and 78 with a couple of spurts to 100mph, when I wasn't sitting in bumper to bumper traff.

    When I'm around town I fill up with gas once every 5 weeks, which used to be every 5 days with my previous hemi, ML500 and LX470. The rest of the time my solar panels fuel my commute, school drop off, etc. I love the multiple hi tech touches in my top of the line, fully loaded Fusion. And I see no problem with my mileage at all.

  33. And the figure I quoted above(42.4) was gas only. My cumulative mpg is 68mpg including my trips to San Francisico, and plugging in every night at home.

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