2008 Honda CR-V
2008 Honda CR-V. Click image to enlarge


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2008 Mazda6 Sport
2008 Honda CR-V

This series was developed based on the observation that even though consumers have no control over the price of fuel, they can control the pace at which it is used. For vehicle owners, this means if you modify your driving style you may be able to minimize fuel consumption, while still using your preferred mode of transportation as required.

A question we also wanted to answer was, given the right conditions and driving style, can you meet Canada’s Energuide fuel consumption ratings that are prominently displayed on the vehicle in the showroom? How realistic are they?

The answer is, “It depends.” On a lot of factors.

After two months behind the wheel of a Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel and a Toyota Camry Hybrid, for example, we concluded that you can affect your fuel consumption by modifying your driving style. But we also discovered that a long list of conditions that the driver cannot control conspired to increase fuel consumption.

Then again, as Grant Yoxon pointed out in an earlier article in this series: “The Toyota Camry Hybrid is capable of meeting and even exceeding its Energuide rating, but only when conditions are ideal and in winter, conditions are usually anything but ideal. However, over the two months I drove the car, I became convinced that the fuel efficient driving techniques we employed – smooth driving, driving close to the speed limit, a light foot on the accelerator, pacing to avoid red lights, planning to reduce the frequency of stop signs and preparing early to stop when a stop light or stop sign is unavoidable – kept the fuel consumption from being worse than it was. So a fuel efficient driving style will save you money, even in poor conditions.”

2008 Mazda6 Sport
2008 Mazda6 Sport. Click image to enlarge

This was my experience as well. In ideal conditions, the Energuide ratings can be met, but even in less than ideal conditions, a fuel efficient driving style will prevent you using more fuel than you have to. So you save money regardless. What is a fuel-efficient driving style, anyway?

With this in mind, we’ve begun “real world” testing our second pair of test vehicles: a 2008 Mazda6 (midsize sedan) and a 2008 Honda CR-V (compact SUV). Initial reports follow:


2008 Mazda6 Sport

By Paul Williams

After enduring three months of Ottawa’s snowy winter weather, you’d think we would be seeing some signs of spring. But no, close to the North Pole where we live, winter is one of those stupid battery bunnies that keeps going and going. Fortunately the standard 17-inch wheels of our $26,395 Mazda6 Sport are fitted with Pirelli Snowsport winter tires, and the car has a decent traction control system that helps it get underway on slippery surfaces. The four-wheel disc brakes with antilock are also effective, and the heater is a good one (no heated seats, though, which I miss).

2008 Mazda6 Sport
2008 Mazda6 Sport. Click image to enlarge

This Mazda has no trip computer to supply a fuel consumption reading, which makes it harder to give precise numbers for city and highway consumption. Consequently, I’m using the “combined” rating method endorsed by Energuide (55 percent city; 45 percent highway) unless I use an entire tank on the highway, or in the city.

According to the Energuide program, this car should consume 10.1/6.9 L/100km, city/highway, when equipped with the 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine matched to a five-speed manual transmission. This generates a combined city/highway Energuide rating of 8.7 L/100 km (about 33 miles per imperial gallon), which is very good for a midsize car, even a four-cylinder one with a manual transmission. The figure of 8.7 L/100 km, therefore, is what I’ll be aiming for using a fuel efficient driving style.

However, while it’s hard to push fuel inefficient driving in this weather, I ran through the first tank (the Mazda6 has a 68-litre tank, a useful size for long-distance driving) as impatiently as safety would allow. That included jack-rabbit starts, unnecessary idling, and unnecessary weight, with an overall uneven driving style that was heavy on the gas pedal. This is our usual arsenal of fuel-inefficient driving habits that we have found will negatively impact your fuel economy.

2008 Mazda6 Sport
2008 Mazda6 Sport. Click image to enlarge

Most of the driving was in the city, but we have several long roads here, posted at 80 km/h that will improve fuel economy. This car was mainly driven with only one occupant (the driver) but about 40 kg of unnecessary cargo was transported (items in the trunk, in the back seat, snow and ice in the wheel wells) that would normally not be in or on the vehicle. On the road I held lower gears longer than I normally would, unnecessarily increasing the engine speed, and I started from standstill with a heavier foot than is normal (for me!).

Baseline results from the Mazda6 generate a combined rating of 10.2 L/100km (27.7 mpg), which is 17 per cent more than the Energuide estimate. Check in next week for an update. Hopefully practising a fuel-efficient driving style will return better numbers.


2008 Honda CR-V EX-L w/navi

By Grant Yoxon

This has been a winter to remember in eastern Ontario. If it’s not snowing, it’s cold, very cold. And when it snows, it snows and snows and snows. The banks on either side of my driveway are taller than I. We don’t know where to put the snow anymore and the driveway is getting narrower with each snowfall.

2008 Honda CR-V
2008 Honda CR-V. Click image to enlarge

Our new fuel economy tester, a 2008 Honda CR-V EX-L in “Taffeta White” blends very nicely into the background. It came fully loaded with leather seating, dual zone climate control, a great sound system and navigation system. Equipped with all-wheel drive, the CR-V has proven to be very competent on both icy and snow-filled streets. List price on the CR-V is $37,790.

As luck would have it, the week we baselined the CR-V was a pretty good week – with more cold than snow. But you can’t wait for an awful week to fix the baseline. The week following the first fill-up is the week that goes on the record.

We drove the car normally, not excessively, but without paying attention to the good driving habits that reduce fuel consumption. We let it idle a lot, to warm up the interior before leaving and to keep it warm while waiting for a passenger. The result: 12.97 L/100 km in a 70/30 mix of city and highway driving. The Energuide rating on the CR-V is 10.7 L/100 km in the city and 7.8 L/100 km on the highway. So we exceeded the Energuide rating, which is determined in ideal conditions, by a good 30 per cent.

2008 Honda CR-V
2008 Honda CR-V. Click image to enlarge

As we learned with our first two fuel consumption challenge testers, winter weather can have a significant impact on fuel consumption.

On our next two tanks of fuel we tried to reduce fuel consumption by eliminating idle time as much as possible, accelerating gently and sticking to posted speed limits. We also planned routes in advance to avoid or reduce traffic lights and stop signs, because unnecessary acceleration is the enemy of fuel efficient driving.

With the weather getting worse (no longer was it either cold and snowing – now it was cold AND snowing), we proved that fuel efficient driving techniques can reduce fuel consumption even in the face of the worst winter in decades, at least marginally. Tank number two came in at 12.2 L/100 km while tank number three cut that a bit at 12.08 L/100 km.

We’ll see if we can trim it some more in the next three weeks and hopefully we’ll get some help from the weather as March approaches. But it’s going to take a miracle of the weather gods to get the CR-V anywhere near its Energuide fuel consumption rating.

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