Why don’t those new 40 mpg cars average 40 mpg?

Automakers are rolling out a number of new 40 mpg cars, but in reality these cars only achieve 40 mpg in some conditions. In the real world, these new 40 mpg cars do not offer hybrid-like fuel economy.

Very good fuel economy, but only in some conditions

Great for the highway, but not as great in the city

So, high gas prices have you out shopping for a new car with great fuel economy, but you have a limited budget. No problem. The dealership has some great new cars that offer hybrid-like performance, but without the hybrid price.

Perfect, right? Until you realize you're still spending twice as much on gas as you would have with a Toyota Prius, even in a compact car smaller than a Prius. How did that happen?

Unlike these new compact cars, the Toyota Prius actually averages about 50 mpg in the real world. In fact, in heavy congestion – typical of many urban commutes – the Prius can achieve well above 50 mpg.

Unfortunately, while these new compacts might achieve 40 mpg on the highway, in real world mixed driving conditions, these cars will achieve well under 40 mpg. Even worse, in congestion, these cars will even average well under 30 mpg.

That's not to say these new so-called 40 mpg cars can't be good buys. In the right conditions many can be very value-driven buys, particularly for those that drive mostly at constant highway speeds. In other conditions, however, something like the Prius would have been a better buy.

Typically, in the real world, hybrid-like fuel economy is only found in hybrid cars.

Again, these new ‘40 mpg cars' can be good buys for the right buyers, but when a car salesperson tells you these new cars offer hybrid-like fuel economy, know you're not being sold the whole truth.

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