9. 40 MPG is the New Standard
Whether you concerned about the environment or just about the money in your wallet, fuel economy is a major factor in buying a new car. 2011 saw the emergence of a new standard, with 40 mpg (highway) being the number automakers have to hit or exceed in their non-hybrid models to be considered a fuel economy leader.
Numerous car makers took on the challenge for 2012, and found ways to deliver at least one 40 mpg model – if not several. Included in the 40 mpg club are cars like the Ford Focus and Fiesta, though only with a pricey SFE package. Chevy also continues to sell its Cruze Eco with as much as 42-mpg with the manual transmission. Hyundai has been leading the charge, however, with cars like the Elantra, Veloster and Accent all hitting the 40 mpg mark without any special package or added price. This has allowed Hyundai to boast that it sells the most 40 mpg models of any automaker, releasing data in October that put its 40 mpg sales total at 177,000 units, far ahead of even its closest competitor, Toyota, at 104,000 units.
The flip side of this phenomenon is that automakers who don’t hit 40 mpg are being chastised by the automotive media, and then paying for it in sales. Take the new 2012 Honda Civic for example. The difference between its 39 mpg rating and the Elantra’s 40 mpg number in the real world might be negligent, but being able to say “best-in-class” and “40 mpg” certainly are not.