Article and photos by Justin Pritchard
Weekly, your correspondent spends about 2,000 kilometres driving one of the hottest and most important new cars on the road today. That’s something in the order of over 110,000 kilometres per year.
I refill every car I drive, every few hundred kilometers, and measure the fuel consumption by hand. This generates a high-resolution image of that vehicle’s ‘real-world’ fuel economy numbers in a variety of situations. Measuring fuel economy by hand is more accurate, more of the time, than simply reporting the fuel economy figure reported by the driver computer, for which I have a deep distrust and abiding paranoia.
Thing is, I’ve got a lead foot. I typically cruise at a speed higher than the posted limit, often jackrabbit start, and pass at full throttle. I also complete a day of filming in almost every vehicle I test – which includes plenty of full-throttle camera drive-bys and no small amount idling. And usually, the vehicle I’m driving has only done a handful of miles before winding up in my grubby mitts, meaning engine break-in isn’t complete, which can lead to higher fuel consumption, too.
Justin Pritchard isn’t a hypermiler—but he is fairly consistent in his inefficient driving.
Weekly, that driving takes me from my home in the middle of Sudbury, Ontario, down Highways 69 and 400 to the speedy highways of central Ontario and back. The process repeats weekly, and has, once a week, for the past eight years.
In the past year-and-a-bit, I’ve driven numerous ‘fuel-efficient’ cars and made some interesting observations comparing their real-world overall average mileage to one another.
Maybe your drive is the same as mine. Probably, it’s not. Most drivers will achieve figures better than mine in real life – but for the sake of comparison, here’s what I’ve logged lately in terms of overall test averages.
Remember: these are ‘real-world’ numbers—not the ones advertised by automakers. More importantly, remember that your numbers will vary.
Northern Exposure: Most Efficient Highway Cars – Volkswagen Jetta TDI DSG. Click image to enlarge
Volkswagen Jetta TDI DSG: 6.9 L/100 km
The TDI and I did 180 kilometres before the fuel gauge even came off of Full, and it emptied very slowly from there. At the end of a highway-intensive test-drive, I was impressed with an overall figure of 6.9 L/100 km, especially given the available performance.
The two-litre TDI packs plenty of torque, is smoother than most gas engines, and doesn’t smell like a dirty old transport truck. Best of all, the DSG gearbox changes gears in a blink, and with no perceptible feedback through the driveline. To compare, a recent winter test in the Jetta Hybrid (which runs on gasoline) saw a test average of 6.7 L/100 km.
Northern Exposure: Most Efficient Highway Cars – Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Click image to enlarge
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: 6.2 L/100 km
Quite impressed, even for a hybrid. Remember: this is a big, comfortable sedan. My extended summer test consisted of about 2,400 kilometres of highway driving at a good clip, and minimal attempts to drive economically. I was to and from Toronto, from Sudbury, twice in this machine – so the number is skewed towards a highway-intensive test.
A look through my notes suggested that the most impressive part of the Sonata Hybrid was how well it did on fuel consumption without any major effort on your driver’s part to do so. Watching the Hybrid drop into ‘EV’ mode at speeds beyond 110 km/h was delightful, too. It’s got a six-speed automatic transmission, not a CVT, so the Sonata Hybrid feels largely like driving a ‘normal’ car.
Other Hybrids? For some perspective, I achieved 5.3 L/100 km overall in a 2010 Prius, and 5.7 L/100 km in a 2010 Insight.