20 Years Of Gas Mileage: All Cars Improving, But Hybrids Best

2012 Honda Accord EX-L

2012 Honda Accord EX-L

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The impact of fuel costs on family budgets is a big topic of national discussion right now. 

A front-page article in my local paper said that an average family paid more than $4,000 per year for gasoline, whereas we paid only $450 total in fuel and service costs for a Nissan Leaf electric car and a Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric.

And thanks to new standards kicking in for 2012 and rising steadily thereafter, all vehicle classes are getting better fuel economy than they used to.

Compared to the cars of 20 years ago, the careful buyer can find options across all vehicle classes that are 30 percent more efficient--or better.

Honda Accord

The 1992 Honda Accord was one of the most popular cars that year, and Honda engine technology was one of its attractive factors.  That Accord averaged 24 mpg, and 10 years later it was still getting only 24 mpg overall. 

Now, the latest 2012 Honda Accord delivers an EPA average of 27 mpg--and the all-new model coming in 2013 is likely to improve on that still further--just as the 2012 Civic compact delivered significantly higher numbers than its 2011 predecessor.

Toyota Camry and Prius

The Toyota Camry has often been the best-selling car in the U.S. In 1992, the EPA reported a 22 mpg overall efficiency--rising to 24 mpg for 2002.  By 2007, a new generation of Camry was tested at 25 mpg overall--but also offered a hybrid version with 34 mpg overall. 

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid

In 2012, an all-new evolution of the Camry was introduced, with its standard engine producing 28 mpg in EPA testing. The hybrid made another huge improvement to 41 mpg overall . 

Then there's the Prius, another mid-size alternative vehicle, but one without a gasoline alternative. The most recent 2012 Prius received an overall 50 mpg rating in official testing. 

So the basic has improved more than 25 percent in efficiency, the hybrid Camry is 86 percent better, and the Prius is now more than twice as fuel efficient as that 1992 Camry. And a plug-in Prius model is coming later this year, which should roughly triple the mileage of the 1992 standard.

Chevrolet Lumina v Malibu (and others)

American car companies are not to be left behind in the evolution of better mileage, as Chevrolet has done some very good engineering with its mid-size entry. 

In 1992 the Chevy Lumina was rated at 21 mpg overall, with its 2002 replacement Malibu coming in at exactly the same 21 mpg. By 2007, the Malibu had been tweaked to 25 mpg overall, and for 2012, this has improved to 26 mpg. 

For 2013, the Malibu Eco (the only Malibu on sale at the moment) uses a mild-hybrid system and aerodynamic extras to further improve economy to a 29 mpg average.

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