2013 Window Stickers Deliver Less MPG Information

We’ve taken a big step backwards. The new 2013 window stickers deliver less information on fuel economy than their predecessors. I’d reckon that the EPA had good intent when they redesigned the stickers (aka: Monroneys), but the end result is that new vehicle shoppers will be short changed. The new design does deliver more graphical information, but it has lost two key pieces of crucial information.

The new slider graphics for Fuel Economy / Greenhouse Gas Rating and Smog Rating are welcome additions for buyers interested in the environmental impacts of the vehicle. At a glance, these sliders show how the vehicle stacks up against all other vehicles. The ratings for the manual transmission-equipped front-wheel-drive 2013 Mazda CX-5 (as shown below), clearly indicate how the little Crossover fares when compared to every vehicle on the market – not just those in its class. (Never mind that the top end of the scale represents vehicles that will not fit the needs of a Crossover buyer.)

2013 Mazda CX-5 window sticker MPG info

The new design stresses the combined city/highway figure as the dominant typographical element … it’s roughly four times the size of the individual city and highway figures. (I measured the numbers with my trusty old type gauge on a copy of a copy of the CX-5 Monroney and came up with 40 points vs 11 points.)

By comparison, the old Monroney (as shown below) listed the city and highway figures as roughly three times the size of the combined figure. (I measured 36 points for city / highway and 12 points for combined, on a copy of an original CVT-equipped 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport.) Putting the emphasis on the combined figure is a good idea, but here’s where things start to fall short. The old sticker showed the combined figure on a simple slider that demonstrated how that model stacked up to all the other vehicles in its specific class. With a quick look, you can see how the Impreza compares favorably to all other small wagons – at 30 MPG combined on a scale that ranges from 14 through 34 – taking into account that it’s an all-wheel-drive (AWD) vehicle. The new sticker lacks that direct graphic comparison, as it’s been relegated to fine print.

2012 Subaru Impreza window sticker MPG info

The new sticker adds gallons per 100 mile information and fuel cost savings over five years, when compared to an average new vehicle. That’s good stuff, although the latter might be more useful if the comparison was within the vehicle’s class. There’s also a new QR Code for shoppers that want to look up more information with their smartphones. (This is splendid for folks that can afford a mobile device with an expensive data plan.)

2012 Subaru Impreza Highway MPG figuresHere’s the ultimate rub. The biggest omission in the new Monroney can be found in the missing fine print.

When you look underneath the big bold 36 point figures for city and highway MPG on the older window stickers, you’ll see an "Expected range for most drivers." In the case of the Impreza, it’s 29 to 46 MPG.

It’s gone.

Don’t bother to get out your reading glasses anymore, as they’ve taken that information off the 2013 Monroneys.

Now this might not upset most folks. But over the course of the past five years or so, I’ve demonstrated how it’s possible to exceed the big bold MPG figures with most vehicles – at times by very significant margins – simply by driving with a light-footed style. I’ve done this in vehicle-after-vehicle, paying for the fuel out of my own pocket. The EPA used to give us a target to shoot for … even if it was printed in six point type. Our goals were clearly laid out by the Expected Range figures. And now they’ve vanished.

By erasing that fine print, the EPA has taken away a key incentive for folks to learn how to drive in a fuel-efficient manner.

Why would they do that?

This doesn’t seem like progress. It seems like obfuscation.

In this case, less isn’t more.

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3 thoughts on “2013 Window Stickers Deliver Less MPG Information”

  1. Hey Dan, I love MPGomatic it’s awesome! My question for for you is are you able to get amazing gas mileage with your own personal vehicle in everyday use? I tend to be a more spirited driver and I do a lot of local in town driving. When I had my Prius it was really easy to achieve the estimated MPG. The display made it a fun game to challenge yourself to achieve your best MPG’s. When I traded in my Prius for an Audi A3 TDI at first I was able to get 35 MPG in the Audi but once I found how fun it could be to drive I found my MPG slipping to about 32 mpg. I will be trading in my Audi for a BMW X3 35i with 300 horsepower and 300 foot pounds of torque in the next month. This car will bring fun to the next level so how do I maintain your level of discipline?

    Thank you,

    PS any chance that you will do a review on a BMW X3 35i in the near future?

  2. Many thanks, Jason! Adding an Instant MPG gauge to my Honda S2K made a big difference. The visual feedback is a great reinforcement. The intervals between acceleration events provide lots of opportunities to optimize inertia and glide with a light foot. A car that handles well (with good tires) helps to carry inertia through the corners. Needless to say, I don’t drive like Grandma.

    Congrats on the new X3 … Get ready to spend a lot more on fuel! 😉 I don’t have any current plans to do the X3, but I was able to squeak a 328 onto the fall schedule. I hope to do more BMW diesels in the future.

  3. Wouldn’t it be great if the sliders indicate the CAFE MPG requirement for the current year, the particular model’s MPG (green if above, red if below the CAFE requirement) and the extra tax / rebate you get for falling short of / exceeding the CAFE MPG?

    Add another slider for fuel saved / wasted per year compared to the CAFE number, and the sticker will really speak to the part of us that will listen: our wallets.

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