Some Special Fuel Economy Models Not Worth the Higher Price Tag: Consumer Reports

Some Special Fuel Economy Models Not Worth the Higher Price Tag: Consumer Reports

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.

  • Obermd

    Most drivers with the Cruze EOC Manual Transmission gets 8-10 MPG more than the Cruze LT.  In addition, it’s cheaper than the automatic version.

  • Jonnym09

    also id like to add that i work on chevys and have seen often times cruze ecos comming in with average 38 mpg thats average mpg! much better than the 27 mpg these guys are talking about

  • arcticcatmatt

    My cruze eco stick is averaging 39.5 over 8,200 miles. Most of the time I average 42-45 on country road driving and up to 52 on the expressway when not speeding. Consumer reports fails to notice that the cruze eco has 2 extreme overdrive gears.. this thing is made for 55-65 mph cruzing 

  • Kcooper35

    Mine is a 2011 Cruze Eco with manual transmission.  I do almost no highway driving (typically I go from stop light to stop light), Every time I buy gas I log the mileage.  Since March 7, 2011 I’ve averaged 29.8 mpg, here in the Southwest where air conditioning is used quite a lot.

    My eco has cast polished aluminum wheels (not the steel wheels), it has grill work that changes air resistance with speed, it has low resistance tires, it has sheet metal on the underside to hold down turbulence, it has a spoiler that provides a sportier look (presumably it’s there to offset lift caused by the sheet metal), it’s lower with tighter suspension, and all this for an extra $800.  Even without the improved mileage, as I see it I’m getting one heck of a bargain.  I walked out the door paying $19,600 for my Eco.

    In a 2011 report, CU criticized the Cruze (a non Eco cruze) for having its master door lock on the console as opposed to on the driver’s door where it “should be”.  To me, having it on the console where I can easily see it is far better than having it on the door where on other cars I’ve had to fumble for it.  In that same report it criticized rear seat leg room (front seats all the way back).  Actually, the rear set legroom is quite good unless you push the front seats all the way back. Interestingly, even with my height (6’2″+) if I push the driver’s seat all the way back I can’t reach the pedals (maybe had Chevy given the front seats less throw CU wouldn’t have been so critical).  It looked to me like CU went in just itching to find things to criticize.  They did though say nice things about the interior, the handling, and about how quiet the car is.  They weren’t impressed with the mileage though, attributing that to weight of the car (personally, my preference is for heavier .. heavier being safer).  By the way, I read elsewhere that CU chose to review the “more popular” automatic.  From what I read, 55% of the Eco models sold have manual transmissions.  CU has a way of not liking anything that’s different than what they’re used to.  My guess is that they’re not used to manual transmissions so it’s probably better that they reviewed the auto.

    I like the car.  It’s reliable, it’s comfortable, it’s quiet, it rides well, it handles well, and it’s quick off the line.  By the way, I love the instrumentation on the Cruze, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s more intuitive than instrumentation I’ve experienced on any of my previous cars.