Fuel economy figures from the Environmental Protection Agency have been criticized in recent years for being, in some cases, wildly inaccurate, and after enduring public controversies about some automakers' mile-per-gallon claims. In 2012, Hyundai and Kia admitted that some of their economy numbers were exaggerated, and Ford had to re-rate the C-Max because its original stats were too high. An alternative has arrived in the form of third-party testing company Emissions Analytics, which has begun performing real-world evaluations on vehicles using a system called Real MPG, and it has partnered with Intellichoice and Motor Trend to publish the results.

The company equips vehicles with 170-pounds of portable testing equipment and drives them in real-world conditions around an 88-mile route in Southern California. According to Intellichoice, the tests take about 140 minutes and include residential, city and highway driving. In the city sections, average speeds are about 22.5 miles per hour, going all the way up to 65 mph on the highway.

So far, about 100 vehicles from the 2013 and 2014 model years have been tested, but the differences have been intriguing. According to a report in UCR Today, on average the overall difference between its results and those of the EPA is only about one percent, but some vehicles have shown variations of as much as 20-percent higher or lower than EPA figures. For example, a 2013 Honda Fit with a manual transmission is an outlier in the group. It's rated 27 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway by the EPA, but in Emissions Analytics' test, it shows 30.7 mpg / 37.1 mpg. By way of contrast, a 2013 Honda Accord LX sedan managed just 19.8 in the city and 33.6 highway, compared to its EPA ratings of 27 / 36.

The similarity of many of these tests indicates that the EPA may be on the right track with its procedures. That said, we sure do appreciate the more real-world results obtained by Emissions Analystics. All of the Real MPG figures so far are available through Intellichoice.


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  • 101 Comments
      Greg
      • 7 Months Ago
      The purpose of the EPA tests is not to assure real world mpg, but rather to create a consistent measurement tool to compare different cars. If I could change something about the EPA tests, it would be to dump the hwy number and replace it with a plot of steady-state mpg at various speeds. Not only would it communicate much more useful information, it would also make it harder for commercials & ads to throw out one number in big font and pretend that's all that matters.
        normc32
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Greg
        My turbo-4's best the V8 in steady highway cruise with similar on boost torque from the turbo-4. My two-cylinder sport bike is even more efficient. Allot has to do with mass the more of it the energy it takes to change and maintain it's speed.
        CarNutMike
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Greg
        Could not agree more. Hell, even keep the current tests for backwards comparison and add your proposed chart.
      b.rn
      • 7 Months Ago
      The problem with Hyundai, Kia, and the CMax wasn't the test. Your own article says Hyundai and Kia intentionally exaggerated the claims. Ford published CMax numbers without testing. If they'd been properly tested and properly rated based on the results of those tests, there wouldn't be the scandal.
      bullitt2605
      • 7 Months Ago
      Real world is only real world if it captures your own driving style and routine.
      Cailean Campbell
      • 7 Months Ago
      MPG figures can also vary heavily on who is driving the given vehicle. I know I have a lead foot so I'm not going to see close to what the EPA rates my vehicle at. I also know though that my mother being slower to 60 than a snail sees better than what the EPA says her vehicle gets. It's how you drive the car that's important.
      CoolWaters
      • 7 Months Ago
      And what about temperature? Temperature has a big positive impact on hybrids. Once those batteries get near 70 degrees the mpg also goes up, by around 15%.
      throwback
      • 7 Months Ago
      The only issue I see is the HUGE variable of traffic conditions. Some days my 65 mile commute seems to have less traffic, other days more traffic. If they can account for this variable I like the idea of a real world test.
      bruteevo
      • 7 Months Ago
      My car is EPA rated at 16 city, 21 highway. But i constantly get over 22 during my regular commute which is 70% highway and 30% city. My point is, EPA numbers are a scale to compare apples with oranges. People tend to take it up as an absolute value and expect cars to perform the same. For example EPA numbers should help a consumer decide between 4-5 options in the same segment. Thats it. Move on.
      SpikedLemon
      • 7 Months Ago
      So this new test will match a new "not-how-I-drive" path.
      FuelToTheFire
      • 7 Months Ago
      The EPA needs to retest EVERY SINGLE diesel model they have. My sister lemoned a VW TDI which got 20 mpg combined. I don't care how she drover it, NO car should be getting HALF its posted mileage. She traded it for a 2013 Aveneger SE V6 which cost all of $16k. She could not be happier. It consistently gets 25 mpg combined.
        CarNutMike
        • 7 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        Wow, you're still here.
        mjmk3
        • 7 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        Wow how in the world did she only avg 20 mpg in a tdi. I consistently avg 42mpg in my '03 tdi driving fairly aggressively...
        William Harper
        • 7 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        Yes, your father never loved you. We completely understand.
        Tariff The Imports
        • 7 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        She could not be happier with an Avenger? That's quite comical. Thanks for the laugh
      Jason Krumvieda
      • 7 Months Ago
      How could the EPA be off this much? It's not like the employees surf porn all day.
        Jason Krumvieda
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Jason Krumvieda
        Oh wait! Here is the guy who must be in charge of that: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2622503/How-pornography-EPA-employee-lose-job-Congress-fumes-daily-porn-surfing-EPA-employee-STILL-collecting-120-000-salary.html
      Jake
      • 7 Months Ago
      All these claims that the new automatics are more efficient than manuals... I have never really believed those claims as you do a lot with a clutch pedal to save gasoline.
        flychinook
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Jake
        It doesn't help that automakers seem to artificially decrease the mpg on their manual transmission vehicles, through less efficient gearing, to make the automatic transmissions more appealing. (see the first-gen ford fusion) They get to advertise the lower price of the m/t version, but make it so as few people as possible actually buy it. The automakers also make it so you can't add options to the manual-equipped vehicles (see the Mazda5). I drove a m/t Focus a few years ago, and (according to the trip computer) easily managed to get the hwy mpg figure driving around town.
      l_uz
      • 7 Months Ago
      If it's a diesel, tests should be done much longer to include regeneration. Too many diesel owners too often marvel at their instantaneous mileage display, or at their car's sticker rating, but many never understand just how much regeneration impacts their overall mileage. It could be good and bad for diesel engines, but it brings things closer to reality.
        Mack
        • 7 Months Ago
        @l_uz
        Me, I rarely bother with the instant mileage readouts on my trucks. I don't even trust recent mileage history on the info displays. Regen swings mileage so wildly, the mileage displays are almost useless at times. If I want to be certain of my mileage, I always calculate everything by hand after 1 or 2 tanks of diesel.
        FuelToTheFire
        • 7 Months Ago
        @l_uz
        DO NOT BELIEVE LIES FROM DIESEL FANBOYS. My sister lemoned a Jetta TDI which was getting 20 mpg COMBINED. I don't care how she was driving it, it is UNACCEPTABLE for any car to get HALF of its posted mileage.
          flychinook
          • 7 Months Ago
          @FuelToTheFire
          A: There was something wrong with that particular car B: Your sister left the handbrake on C: The Jetta TDI actually only gets 20mpg, and every other tdi owner, reviewer, and testing agency are involved in a conspiracy. D: You're full of s**t. One of these statements is correct. 3 of them are more likely than the other 1.
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