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Investigation reveals carmakers' falsely advertised mileage claims

February 16, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
As gas prices rise, many people are looking for more fuel efficient vehicles and carmakers are trying to help by building more cars with turbocharged engines. But do the cars' gas mileages match the optimistic economy claims the manufacturer makes?

The 2013 Hyundai Veloster Coupe ($22,100 base price) now has some muscle to back up its athletic appearance thanks to an optional turbocharged engine. The vehicle also has much more power but nearly the same fuel economy as the non-turbo.

The same goes for the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle ($23,395 base price); it's cute enough in standard form but the turbo model has a sportier flair. The car carries not just extra power from the engine but features other sporty touches too.

But turbos aren't just for performance models anymore. Automakers are using turbochargers in increasing numbers to give cars more power while keeping fuel economy up.

For example, Ford is spreading its eco-boost turbo system to more and more of it vehicles, right up to the big F150 pickup.

The aspect of additional power is what makes turbos so appealing from a fuel economy standpoint. A smaller engine can be employed but with the same power that a larger engine makes.

When Chevrolet redesigned its Chevrolet Malibu ($29,700) last year, it discontinued the V6. The top engine now is a 2-liter turbo four-cylinder. But you won't find any "turbo" badges on Chevrolet Malibu's that have the engine. It's just in there, working away, promising the same power as a six but with the gas mileage of a four.

The term "your mileage may vary" certainly applies to these new turbo engines. If you use all their power, they're going to use more fuel. In fact, Consumer Reports found that of the new turbo engines they've tested, many didn't get the fuel economy claimed.

For example, the Ford Fusion they tested with a 1.6 liter turbo engine averaged 25 miles per gallon. That's three MPG fewer than the EPA rating on the window sticker suggests, and also lower than many competitive cars with non-turbo engines.

Other examples of turbo cars not meeting their stated mileage in Consumer Reports' tests include the Kia Optima, the Chevy Cruze and the Dodge Dart.

Automakers say driving habits affect fuel economy and are still convinced that smaller turbo engines will be a big part of helping vehicles achieve government-mandated fuel economy levels in the coming years.

They may just have to adjust those official numbers a bit.


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