Thursday, May 20, 2010

40 MPG Is New Norm for Small Cars

2011 Ford Fiesta

Is the line between gas-electric hybrids and small internal-combustion-only cars starting to blur?

On Monday, Ford announced that the 2011 Ford Fiesta equipped with the 6-speed automatic transmission will be rated at 40 miles per gallon on the highway. It�"s not official yet, but the Chevrolet Cruze Eco is also expected to join the 40-mpg club when later this year. Look Ma, No hybrid! And still delivering better than 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

Ford�"s advertising tag line for the Fiesta brags: "The Fiesta gets 40 highway miles per gallon. That's more than 21 hybrids." Ford�"s spinmeisters are correct that most hybrids, including expensive models from BMW, Lexus and Mercedes, as well as the mid-market Toyota Camry Hybrid, don�"t reach 40 mpg on the highway. What Ford omits is that all five of Ford�"s own hybrids don�"t hit the 40-mpg mark on the highway.

2011 Ford Fiesta Ad

Ford's ad campaign for the Fiesta boasts that it beats 21 hybrids on highway mileage.

Ford also don�"t highlight the city numbers for the Fiesta�29 mpg for the automatic version. That�"s a far cry from the Fusion Hybrid�"s 41-mpg rating in the city or the Toyota Prius�"s 51 miles to the gallon. Of course, the comparison between the Fiesta and Prius on mileage is not entirely fair. The Fiesta, starting about $14,000, costs half as much as the Prius. The more apropos comparison is other compacts. On the highway, the Fiesta is 5 miles a gallon better than Honda Fit and 4 miles a gallon better than Toyota Yaris.

An Emerging Trend

To get a better handle on the new trend of 40-mpg small gas-engine cars, we reached out to John German, who was Honda�"s manager of Environmental and Energy Analyses for more than a decade and is now a senior fellow and program director for the International Council for Clean Transportation.

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