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 Fuelly.com'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...

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, road test, Spring 2011

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, road test, Spring 2011

Good effort


Honda Civic Hybrid
EPA: 44 mpg combined
Real world: 43-44 mpg

Honda's highest-mileage hybrid on paper isn't  quite as good in the real world as the cheaper Insight, but most drivers are still matching the official 44 mpg combined rating. That means you can either appreciate the Civic Hybrid for what it is--a usefully economical sedan--or save a few thousand and buy an Insight instead...

Lexus CT 200h
EPA: 42 mpg combined
Real world: 42+ mpg

If you want hybrid economy mixed with a little luxury, the CT 200h is about as good as you can get at the moment--and drivers are just creeping over its official 42 mpg figure. Not spectacular then, but you shouldn't feel short-changed either.

Toyota Prius
EPA: 50 mpg combined
Real world: 48 mpg

The archetypal hybrid isn't a champion when it comes to beating the EPA figures, but most drivers are getting within 2 mpg of its 50 mpg combined figure and some are getting significantly more. A few hundred of the Fuelly's 2,300 Prius users are still managing to beat 50 mpg, so the potential is there.

Toyota Prius C
EPA: 50 mpg combined
Real world: 50+ mpg

Even better news for the smaller Prius, with drivers matching its 50 mpg combined number without too much trouble. Like the regular Prius, and a few other cars here, some users are getting significantly more, while only a few people are dipping below 45 mpg. As a city car, there are few better choices.

Toyota Prius v
EPA: 42 mpg combined
Real world: 42-43 mpg

The biggest Prius is also a good choice for those wanting high mileage, particularly as there's plenty of utility to go with it. Matching the EPA's numbers doesn't seem like much work--not bad for a car clearly designed to carry more stuff on a regular basis.


Want to see the gas mileage losers? Head to page 3...

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012



Ford C-Max Hybrid
EPA: 47 mpg combined
Real world: 40 mpg

Missing out by almost 15 percent, drivers are struggling to match the 47 mpg EPA figure claimed for the C-Max Hybrid. They're also failing to match the 42-43 mpg of the less sophisticated Toyota Prius V, which must be a little galling. The Ford is nicer to drive of course, but a few more MPG wouldn't go amiss...

Ford Fusion Hybrid
EPA: 47 mpg combined
Real world: 41 mpg

Sadly, but predictably, the Fusion Hybrid joins the C-Max with real-world economy 12 percent down on EPA figures. The slight increase from the C-Max might be down to driving style, or it may be due to sleeker aerodynamics. 41 mpg is still good for a sedan the size of the Fusion, but may be a disappointment for those expecting more.

Lexus RX 450h
EPA: 30 mpg combined (FWD)
Real world: 24-28 mpg

It's not just Ford drivers failing to match sky-high EPA numbers--Lexus is at it too. We've included the RX as we've experienced its lackluster real-world economy first hand, on more than one occasion. Drivetrain does play a part here (better with front wheel drive than all four), but ultimately it's a struggle for economy-minded RX owners.


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