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Why Hasn’t Gas Mileage Risen?

It’s a common question. Folks look at the charts of any particular long running model and they wonder. Pour over the Honda Civic gas mileage figures for the past three decades, for example, and you can’t help but scratch your head.

But when you consider the changes in today’s cars, compared to those of the late seventies and early eighties, it all begins to make sense. The modern Civic is much more complex, much larger, and much heavier than its counterpart three decades ago.

Today’s Honda Fit is more akin to yesteryear’s Civic, yet it’s so much more.

I’m in the midst of testing a Fit this week and I can’t help but think how much it reminds me of my trusty old 1983 Honda Civic S. (I didn’t leave the “i” off … the S model predated the Si.) But the Civic’s interior was much tighter inside than the Fit. That’s not to say that it couldn’t haul stuff. I used the little hatchback as a moving van more than once, back in the day. But when I flipped the Fit’s Magic Seat around the first time, I was flabbergasted. There’s a remarkable amount of cargo space inside the little critter.

And the highway mileage?

It’s good. Really good. This is one of the cars that responds so well to light-footed driving that you have to question the official numbers …

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5 comments ↓

#1 John Thacker on 02.26.09 at 9:17 am

But when you consider the changes in today’s cars, compared to those of the late seventies and early eighties, it all begins to make sense.

Engines have improved remarkably. However, those improvements have largely gone into additional horsepower rather than savings on gas consumption. A 2009 Accord is substantially larger than a 2001 Accord, but it gets the same gas mileage despite having considerably more hp– the 2009 has 190 hp, the 2001 150 hp (on the I4s, not the V6s). The 2009 Civic (non Si) gets the same mileage as a 2001 Civic, despite having 140 hp to the 2001′s 115-127 hp. (Same mileage if you use the same new method; if you use the old MPG method for the old cars but not the new ones they of course look better.)

#2 Paul on 03.22.09 at 11:53 am

The facts speak for themselves, and it doesn’t make any sense at all.
1986 Ford Ranger 4×4 2.9L Manual 140hp 18-22 mpg
2008 Ford Ranger 4×4 3.0L Manual 148hp 15-20 mpg
The end result of twenty-two years of “progress” is an insignificant 8 more horsepower for a significant decrease in mpg.
So the only question now is “Who would want gas mileage to be lower?”
When trying to replace my 1986 Ranger, I take my old window sticker to the dealership to comparison shop.
I cannot reward Ford with my business if they can’t make any significant improvements for over 22 years.
To get the same mileage today I would have to drop to a 2wd with 2 less cylinders. Ford’s lack of progress is totally unacceptable economically, and when considering the environment, it is criminal.

#3 Warren Duncan on 09.04.09 at 9:29 am

I purchased a new 2006 Honda Civic LX and have been very happy with the gas mileage 34 city 39 highway, I just purchased an 2009 Honda Civic EX and am very disappointed in the lower gas mileage 29 city 33 highway. The same car but lower mpg. The 09 is broken in and we took both cars on a 400 mile trip with dramatic mileage differences. Why has Honda decreased the fuel mileage on the same car?? The fuel trims on both cars are within specification, tire pressures 35psi

#4 scott gibson on 02.13.10 at 1:41 am

its all nothing but a screw job. I have a 1982 f-250 it gets better mpg than these new ones and i got more lowend and torgue AND horsepower. who cares how fast it will do in a 1/4 mile. the speed limit on the highways are maybe 70 mph!!! I wouldn’t own one these new cars! they are are nothing more than corporate junk. I don’t buy JUNK!! My truck will be running when these crappy models are broke down. Its an 1982 model it has outlasted the 80′s, 90′s and these 2000 models.

#5 B Mutia on 04.30.12 at 11:08 am

I had a 2006 Honda Civic LX from March 2006 until March 2012. That one got me real good mpg numbers – 40 mpg highway by just good driving habits. Combined city/highway would get me around 35 mpg. When gas went to $4/gallon in 2008 (when I was living in Richmond, VA and working in the DC area), I tried to push mpg using air intake constriction + hydrogen boosting and that got me at 45+ mpg highway. Combined city/highway would get me around 38 mpg. I know some people think mpg gains beyond EPA specs sounds “scamish” but it worked on this car for several years.

Now I got a 2012 Kia Rio Hatchback. I will try to do the same mpg tricks I did on my old 2006 Civic to this car to see if it works again.

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