The EPA test is performed by the auto manufacturers with their own test operators on their own dynamometers in climate controlled rooms. The program used by all the dynamometers are the same, but the 'driving' techniques used by the operators are up to their own choices within the acceleration and deceleration limits of the program. The program may say to accelerate from a stop to 30 mph, but the rate of acceleration is somewhat up to the operator provided the target "speed" is achieved before some "distance" has been traveled. Hardly 'real world', since windows up or down makes no difference on a treadmill, but more applicable for comparison purposes between different vehicles than what existed before 1972.
I don't really think that it is fair to compare a new car of today against a car of the past. you can't go out and get a honda that gets 50+ mpg (EPA i mean) even the hybrid civic falls short of that. auto makers have changed the way they make cars from the 80s and 90s for power and safety and both involve using more gas.
my first car was a 3-cyl geo metro that got 46 MPG when I got rid of it. and I wasn't easy on it either. I was never easy on the throttle until gas hit $3+ a gallon.
I am in the market for another fuel efficient car so I have looked around quite a bit. the smart gets the best EPA mileage of any non-hybrid (excluding diesels...maybe) out there. it does have it's drawbacks which I am taking into consideration and maybe rethinking because of those drawbacks but nobody else can get into the 40s (EPA highway) on just gasoline alone.
is it worth it? that is for the individual to decide.
side note: the 100MPG smart doesn't exist, at least not right now.
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Think about this... In the 70's an accord was a compact car. Now an Accord is one of the biggest new cars you can get now, aside from a Grand Marquis, and the accord gets half the mileage it did in the 70's.
The green one is mine, and it will consistently return 60 US MPG, and driven sensibly but not carefully. Mine has wide wheels and tires, and is a convertible, so the top is often down (bad aero). When it's up, the heated seats or air conditioning are usually on.
www.spritmonitor.de reports that the average fuel economy of all first-generation diesel smarts is 57 US MPG, so I am slightly better than average.
The diesel smarts were sold in Canada between September 2004 and November 2007, being only 2005 and 2006 models.
The new smarts with the 1 L Mitsubishi engines are good for maybe 40 US MPG if driven similarly.
The black car is owned by Serge in Quebec and he has a lifetime fuel economy of 72 US MPG. I know of one other Canadian smart that is at that level of FE.
The 100 MPG statement, if issued by a US smart salesperson, is scandalously off-base! The diesel can achieve it on the highway at a steady 50 MPH, but not the gasser!
Those are old 450 diesels that get the awesome mileage - Mike T should chime in later on as he has one.
The one here in the US (451) uses a GAS 3cyl Mitsubishi motor - 1.0L. The old gas motor in the 450 was something like .6L and was essentially a 60k mile throw away motor despite being a MB.
As far as the 100mpg myth - I get that question quite often though most don't seem to shrug there shoulders in disgust when I mention I get between 40-50mpg on most tanks ( I do as my old Insight really spoiled me and I get ABOVE EPA ratings, check my logs 15k worth so far ). There have been other cars in my stable that have gotten better mileage BUT I now have my car modified to my liking to where there isn't much that compares to it on certain things like parking, driver comfort etc. and I love it - the other one will get a few of those mods in time.
For the most part - the same ones who are passing on those 100mpg rumors are the same dingbats that pass on the myth/rumor that the Smarts are unsafe.
BTW - the Smart being a city car I STILL put 100 miles a day on it. Secondary highways & city - NOT interstate though it drives fine on the interstate.