Saving money on fuel might not be worth it. That is the result of the latest tests by Consumer Reports after a thorough examination of special high fuel economy models of popular compact cars including the Ford Focus SFE, Chevy Cruze Eco and Honda Civic HF.
All three models come with optional high mpg packages designed to maximize mileage with modifications that include special tires and aerodynamics. The cost to purchase these packages isn’t high either, ranging from $500 to $800. However, depending on how effective they are, the savings may take several years to recoup. In fact, in some cases it could take 38 years.
Starting with the Focus SFE, Consumer Reports reported an as-tested improvement of 3 mpg in both city and overall fuel economy resulting in figures of 21 and 31 mpg. Using an average of 12,000 miles traveled per year at $4 per gallon that comes out to a savings of $145, meaning it will take just over three years to see a return on your investment.
Similar modifications made to the Civic add $800 to the cost and improve overall fuel economy 3 mpg to 33 mpg, resulting in a $135 savings, meaning the cost will take six years to pay off.
Finally, and least remarkably, is the Cruze Eco, which costs $800 more than the Cruze LT. It improved fuel economy by 1 mpg average to 27 mpg. The result: a savings of just $20 a year. Consumer Reports does indicate that its Cruze test was with an automatic transmission and not a manual transmission version and says the difference between the two is negligible. However, Chevrolet claims the 6-speed manual Eco model offers an extra 2 mpg city and 4 mpg highway.
In addition, Consumer Reports does add that drivers who spend more time highway driving will see more dramatic improvements.