Consumer Reports has taken aim at at small-displacement, forced-induction engines, saying the powerplants don't manage to deliver on automaker fuel economy claims. Manufacturers have long held that smaller, turbocharged engines pack all power of their larger displacement cousins with significantly better fuel economy, but the research organization says that despite scoring high EPA economy numbers, the engines are no better than conventional drivetrains in both categories. Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, says the forced induction options "are often slower and less fuel efficient than larger four and six-cylinder engines."

Specifically, CR calls out the new Ford Fusion equipped with the automaker's Ecoboost 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The institute's researchers found the engine, which is a $795 option over the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder, fails to match competitors in acceleration and served up 25 miles per gallon in testing, putting the sedan dead last among other midsize options.

The Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Sonata Turbo and Ford Escape 2.0T all got dinged for the same troubles, though Consumer Reports has found the turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the BMW 328i does deliver on its promises. You can check out the full press release below. You can also read the full study on the Consumer Reports site, or scroll down for a short video recap.



Show full PR text
CONSUMER REPORTS TESTS FIND MANY SMALL TURBO ENGINES FALL SHORT ON FUEL ECONOMY PROMISES

Fuel Economy, Acceleration No Better than in Conventional Powertrains

YONKERS, NY ― Although small turbocharged engines are marketed as delivering the power of a large engine, with the fuel economy of a smaller one, Consumer Reports tests have found that they often fall short of expectations. Many turbocharged cars tested by CR have slower acceleration and no better fuel economy than the models with bigger conventional engines.

"While these engines may look better on paper with impressive EPA numbers, in reality they are often slower and less fuel efficient than larger four and six-cylinder engines," said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.

The full report can be found online at ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports tests many cars with small, turbocharged engines, and lots of competitors with traditional, naturally aspirated engines, big and small. Based on the EPA fuel-economy estimates, which are calculated based on laboratory tests, some of these cars' turbocharged engines look better. But CR's engineers found those results don't always translate to the real world driving and in Consumer Reports' own fuel economy tests.

The latest example of underperforming small turbocharged engines is the collection of 2013 Ford Fusions with EcoBoost engines - small, turbocharged four-cylinders with direct injection -which were recently tested by Consumer Reports. The smaller engine - a 1.6-liter producing 173 hp - is a $795 option over the basic conventional 2.5-liter Four on Fusion SE models. But that car's 0-60 mph acceleration time trails competitive family sedans, and it delivers just 25 mpg, placing it among the worst of the crop of recently-redesigned family sedans.

The most direct comparison among the vehicles Consumer Reports has tested is the Chevrolet Cruze. CR tested both a Cruze with the base 1.8-liter conventional four-cylinder, and one with the smaller 1.4-liter turbocharged Four. While the 1.4-liter feels marginally more powerful in daily driving, it was barely faster to 60 mph, and got the same fuel economy as the larger engine.

The Hyundai Sonata Turbo, Kia Sportage Turbo, and Ford Escape 2.0T are examples of cars with turbocharged 4 cylinder engines that are less fuel efficient than V6 models in the same class, Consumer Reports found.

Consumer Reports has also found some turbocharged four-cylinder models that do deliver good fuel economy and acceleration: BMW's new 2.0-liter turbocharged four gets 28 mpg in the new 328i Sedan and delivered improved mileage in the 2012 X3 SUV by one mpg, with essentially identical power and acceleration. Volkswagens using that company's 2.0-liter turbo also return impressive mileage, though CR hasn't tested any model variations with other engines that are directly comparable.

Consumer Reports notes that turbochargers pump extra air into the engine to deliver more power. But gasoline engines have to be operated at a very specific air-to-fuel ratio. So this extra air has to be augmented with extra fuel, which may offset any savings from shrinking engine sizes.

Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 358 Comments
      FloppyRunner
      • 1 Year Ago
      I know this may come as a surprise to many Americans, but you don't get power for free. Not in large scale power production, not in your home generator, and not in an automobile. You can have the power, or you can have the good fuel mileage, but not both. In this case, keep off the throttle and avoid spooling up the turbos, and you'll get good MPG. Keep a heavy foot, and you'll move quickly but not get good MPG. CR can criticize the manufacturer's all they want, but the manufacturer's are only building what's demanded by the public and the government: good power (public), and good fuel economy (EPA). Of course the only problem is that you can't have both at the same time. As for the argument that these cars CAN'T obtain those fuel economy numbers, I'll believe it when I can't do it myself. Most of the public is too ignorant to understand how to drive a car with fuel economy in mind. As it turns out, you can't drag race from red light to red light. [/rant]
        Just Stuff
        • 1 Year Ago
        @FloppyRunner
        It would also help if they would learn drive right, pass left. And for the idiots in Charles County Maryland, you don't have to drive 10 miles below the speed limit where they have a speed camera that's set to 12 miles over the limit. /Another Rant
      ScottPulkowski
      • 1 Year Ago
      The problem isn't the cars, it's the drivers. The average American driver is terrible. They are very heavy on the throttle and the brakes, which isn't conducive to good fuel economy in a turbocharged vehicle. You can throw eco technology at consumers, but if they never learn to drive properly, they will continue to get poor mileage.
        Denster
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ScottPulkowski
        A small displacement engine in a heavy vehicle, boosted or not, has to work much harder and run much hotter to achieve the same performance as a larger engine. The harder it works and the hotter it operates, the less efficient it will be. Why do you think Ford has had so many recalls relating to engine fires, mainly the tiny 1.6 L turbos? Another issue with small displacement is that peak horsepower is usually at higher rpm, so the engine HAS to be revved. The flipside is torque which is the low rpm "grunt" to get the vehicle moving. The larger the engine, the better the torque, or rotating force. This is why diesel engines are so efficient in smaller vehicles. They typically have 50-75% more torque than a gasoline engine if the same displacement, so they don't have to labor to get a vehicle moving or to climb a hill. This also explains why a new Corvette with a 6.0L V8, or even an older mid-size GM car with a V6 can achieve 30mpg on the highway, because even though they have bigger displacement, they are lighter weight than many new cars and don't have to work hard. WEIGHT is the true enemy. As long as cars keep getting fatter and heavier, small turbo gas engines are not the answer. Ford Ecoboost is a paradox.
        Spartan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ScottPulkowski
        This may be the case for small cars, but anything with heavier weight (larger cars and trucks) it takes throttle to maintain speed. This is why I know I have a hard time maintaining speed in my F-150. If you give it more throttle, even on the highway, it dips to the 15 MPG range. It's a better option than the 6.2L, but that was one helluva exhaust note I gave up for a few extra MPG.
        m_2012
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ScottPulkowski
        That's because fuel is not expensive enough to warrant people thinking about how they drive. I have a Toyabaru and consistently get more than 30MPG, combined, in Michigan winter with 22/30 being the EPA sticker. As long a fuel is relatively cheap and the speed limit is 70MPH with people driving 80+, don't complain about mileage. Set the cruise at 60 MPH and see what you get- you will be surprised.
        FuelToTheFire
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ScottPulkowski
        Oh, please. Another brain dead idiot criticising everything Americans do without any basis. Americans are actually some of the best drivers out there, and much superior to Asian and European drivers (especially the latter.)
      DeathKnoT
      • 1 Year Ago
      I can get 21mpg out of my N/A diesel f250. Most people get 16 - 17 with these things. I think i could do the same with these. People need to slow the heck down on the highway. You would be surprised what a few miles per hour in speed will hit your mpg. I tell this to the people i worked with all the time. They would rather drive fast. Mind you i don't drive slow either. I'm not the idiot going 55 in a 65. I go 65 exactly.
        Donny Hoover
        • 1 Year Ago
        @DeathKnoT
        I can get low 50's in my TDI if I keep it at 60 and don't have to change speeds or stop. It goes down into the 40's @ 65 and sometimes dips into the 30's @ 75, or should I say "75". I don't use extreme hypermiling tactics but I habitually try to keep the gas light and shift low. Exception being the 70 mph zones, where I drive like a bat outta hell to shorten my commute. You can definitely feel the car having to push the air at higher speeds. Makes sense since aerodynamic drag is dependent on velocity squared. Your drag is going up at an exponential rate and impacting fuel economy.
        Ridgie30
        • 1 Year Ago
        @DeathKnoT
        Agreed - I have a naturally heavy foot (birth defect?)...My son gets 25-27 mpg in his 2011 GTI and I drive it in the same setting and get 21-23...It this case, I'm the problem. There is a HUGE difference between driveway 80 mph on the highway vs 65-70 mph. You use a lot more fuel to push a vehicle through the atmosphere just a few mph faster at higher speeds,
        A_Guy
        • 1 Year Ago
        @DeathKnoT
        Agreed. I experience the same in most of the cars I have driven. The one odd ball is my 08 2.3l Ranger. It does not seem to care how I drive it, I average within 1-2 mpg on a tank no matter what (always 25-27). The big difference in it is using a/c and/or towing a trailer. Those have the most effect on my MPG in that truck. Note: it has a lift and a gear change.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @DeathKnoT
        [blocked]
      Rotation
      • 1 Year Ago
      Turbo cars really only deliver those sky high MPG figures if you stay out of the boost. Ans you have to stay out almost completely. I have a friend with a 335i who gets better mpg than a friend who owns a 328i, because the 335i guy drives more carefully. And I don't really agree with CR about the 328i being an exception. Okay, maybe on power, but if you use it, it takes fuel like any other turbo car. Turbo cars exhibit a broader spectrum of fuel usage than normally aspirated cars. That is, the difference between babying it and gunning it is broader. So people do have to learn to drive a bit more mildly if they want to increase their mpg. As to Ford, they are masters at optimizing for the tests. That's not against the rules, but it's just something a customer has to know before purchasing. Just because you got the rated figure in your Civic doesn't mean you will in your Fusion, even if your driving habits didn't change at all.
        CarNutMike
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rotation
        The problem I see is one of expectations. Between two similar power engines, the smaller turbo one can be a *bit* more efficient (otherwise, they wouldn't bother). That's important if you're a major manufacturer trying to meet increasingly tough MPG requirements but the improvements are dwarfed by driver behavior.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        ChaosphereIX
        • 1 Year Ago
        agreed. Which is why aftermarket turbo tunes usually, on balance, see an improvement in fuel economy by 2-3mpg.
      Termin8
      • 1 Year Ago
      Reminds me of the Top Gear episode where they compared the fuel economy of the M3 and the Prius on their track.
        A_Guy
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Termin8
        While entertaining, that test was anything but informative. Unfortunately many took it as gospel.
          j0nny5
          • 1 Year Ago
          @A_Guy
          I think A_Guy's point was that people don't pay attention. You're right, but if I had a dollar for every "HERP DERP THE PRIUS SUCKS even the m3 gets better mileage I saw it on top geeers!" I read after that episode... Either us car enthusiasts are not that bright on average, or the internet really *is* made of 13 year olds...
          m_2012
          • 1 Year Ago
          @A_Guy
          It proved the same point we are talking about here. Its how you drive. If you dog a Prius, you will get less mileage than someone who carefully drives a M3.
      jebibudala
      • 1 Year Ago
      If you keep your foot out of it, a turbo car will generally produce better MPG's than a non-turbo equivalent. Every NA vehicle I turbocharged produced better mileage after it was boosted, especially highway mileage.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      TBN27
      • 1 Year Ago
      hope i am not trolling, but what about the Hyundai Elantra? it is light weight, and still doesn't get no where near their MPG posted on the window sticker. why wasn't this shown? i would assume that it is a caveat to their study? out of the cars tested i own a Chevy Cruze. and yes it does get it's posted 24 mpg around town as posted on the sticker and my average was a bit higher at 26 mpg on and off. and on the highway the highway i get 33 mpg, which is not too far off from the posted 36 mpg. lastly it takes me 2 weeks before i have to fill up again, but it also has to do with my driving habits. honestly i find this critique to be nit picky over all.
      ferps
      • 1 Year Ago
      It would cost ~0.00001% of the federal budget to have the EPA hire a couple of dozen staff members whose full time job would be to verify mileage claims. It's overdue.
      rü$╫
      • 1 Year Ago
      Give it to mpgomatic.com. I trust that guy when it comes to fuel economy obtainable without a led foot.
      BK
      • 1 Year Ago
      Pretty easy to get good EPA numbers on the Fusion with such a tiny displacement engine. If you drive like a granny, then maybe you hit the EPA. But here in NJ you will have a lime of cars 18 inches off your bumper. So you dip into the boost and kiss your economy good bye.
    • Load More Comments