Some of the problem is that the gas is "too cheap" as it were, regular gas is 87 octane, midgrade is 89 and premium is 91, now this is on a RON+MON/2 scale, gas in Europe is I beleive 95 RON for regular, which is equivalent to our premium. So, over here we end up with a load of 8:1 and 9:1 compression ratio lightly stressed engines and over there you get 10:1 and 11:1 motors that have around a 15% efficiency advantage in the compression ratio. Add to that that you need less swept volume for the same power and you get cars that are generally 30% more efficient than a similar size vehicle here. Then it seems that 95% of Europeans know how to drive a manual transmission compared to the 40% of North Americans that think they do (vs the 10% that actually can lol) and you end up with higher overall average compared to the mostly automatic fleet here.
Then also you have to make sure you're comparing US gallons to US gallons and not imperial gallons. ~3.8L gallon vs ~4.5L gallon. So if you read a car does 45mpg imperial, that sounds okay, but in USG it's "only" 38mpg.
THEN, there's the supreme suckage of the EPA rating system. Now years ago, pre '85ish it was horribly flawed and had a tendency to claim full sized trucks could do 30mpg, then it got sort of fixed and if you drove reasonably sensibly you could get over the average. Then in 2008, there were STILL people complaining that they didn't think the ratings were right because when they drove at 80mph in a snowstorm with the airconditioner on full blast with a luggage rack on and their left foot riding the brake, they couldn't get the average, so they lowered them all again... You see most people here with cars in good tune and reasonably sensible driving doing better than those ratings by 20-30%. Pretty much if you can't get +20% you've got a broken car or some serious bad habits to fix.
Seems that cars don't tune well for local fuel going either way. For instance, last time I was in England, I was passenger in a Voyager minivan that was showing about 16-17mpg Imperial in the city and 21mpg Imperial on the highway, now in the US driving "normally" would get you that in USG, and you can usually touch 26US on the highway, over 30mpg Imperial.. Also the Euro version of the Neon had low numbers, like 30 IMP despite getting a 1.8 engine and mostly standard transmissions, over here they can touch 40US with a manual and run mid 30s US carefully driven with an auto.
I remember The RoadWarrior..To understand who he was, you have to go back to another time..the world was powered by the black fuel & the desert sprouted great cities..Gone now, swept away..two mighty warrior tribes went to war & touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel, they were nothing..thundering machines sputtered & stopped..Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice
THEN, there's the supreme suckage of the EPA rating system. Now years ago, pre '85ish it was horribly flawed and had a tendency to claim full sized trucks could do 30mpg,
I used to have a very rusty baby s**t green 1974 Chevy C-10 pickup with a carbureated 350 V-8, a/c, ps, pb, and a TH350 3 speed automatic that got nearly 30 highway and that was 20 years old with over 300,000 miles on it. (This was also a pre-emissions vehicle as well. Emissions controls were introduced on the 1975 models).
The car industry is a major industry that have plants for long therm. In north america, the cheap gas* has encourage the industry to invest few in develpment, and a lot in useless accessories. Dont you think that the high gas price in europe forced the automakers to adjust there thinking about fuel efficiency. Lightweight car, with the right amount of hp/tq to move it to 60-70 (+....!) mph. But in north america, we still can try to find and old civic VX for cheap, or buy a 89 civic wagon, swap in a VX, put.
But I have to agree that each time I go on a european car manufacturing website and I just dont understand. But still I think nissan will importe some diesel and the dealer talk to my dad about a Murano with a diesel... a story to follow ... !
*And sorry to have to say it, but the price of gasoline in the US is steal cheap. Up here in Canada, I'm paying 4 $ a gallon a after a high of 5.50$, I just think its a bargain. WOOOOW! Your average US retail gas price is 2.656. Wow, winter isnt even arrived.... are they going to give it to us... ?
I've been watching gaspricewatch.com a lot lately and the Virginia prices have seemed to be falling 3 to 5 cents a day for a few weeks now. There are some areas of the state that are ~2.10/gal. I'd say by Monday we could be seeing gas under $2.00/gal in some areas of the commonwealth.
Thanks for all your great posts. It's been a very interesting read so far.
I wouldn't necessarily agree that your roads are so horrible. I drove 6000 miles in the US through 10 states this past summer. If anything, my impression was, "Wow. Road workers here take their job seriously!" We did do about 10 miles of driving on a gravel road, but that was about the only time we wished we were driving a larger vehicle.
Of course - I'll hand it to you - you have a lot of mountains in which a large engine is pretty crucial. If I had to regularly drive through mountains like that, I would definitely consider a larger engine. If not, I wouldn't have a problem driving a small car there like my Yaris on a regular basis.
Personally, I was horrified for the first couple of days driving a huge rented Chevy Malibu automatic (I'm 21, still gaining experience). Then I pretty much got used to it. When I got back home to Denmark, it was almost a similar shock to re-enter my yaris. As you'll guess, I'm now used to that car again.
Also, I've driven a relatively small, old Mazda Protege sedan in Texas on a few occasions. I didn't feel uncomfortable even though I was the smallest vehicle on the highway. In regard to feeling safe, it may just a matter of getting used to driving the smaller car.
I don't know about the US safety requirements, but if Smarts are legal there, you'd think that most small European cars would be able to pass, too. We have our strict Euro NCAP as well where they rate cars using 1-5 stars. They even test how much damage a car will do to pedestrians.
About the manual vs automatic transmissions.. on fueleconomy.gov, it seems that certain automatics (like Honda Fit) are actually starting to gain an edge over manuals. So I guess that's a plus.
>The small cars in Europe really don't feel that small, they're crafted to take 6'6" in to account without issue.
This is true. I'm a tall person, and after having tested a number of "small" cars on the US market with my similarly tall mom, I dare say that small European cars accomodate tall people better. Neither my mom nor I can find sufficient headroom in the US version of the Yaris, for instance.
US Honda Fit and Mazda 3 (hatchback version) had enough space. Honda Civic had a too low ceiling for the both of us - a shame since it's such a great-looking car!
That's funny. I consider a Malibu a small car. I'd like to see you try to drive a Chevy Caprice, Ford Crown Victoria, or a Lincoln Town Car
Hopefully I won't have to anytime soon! The Malibu was the smallest car Alamo could offer. We had actually ordered a Chevy Aveo, but we got a seemingy mandatory free upgrade. I guess they wanted us to support the economy some more through more expensive fuel purchases.
Similarly, I'd like to see you drive a Chevy Matiz. It's the cheapest and probably the smallest car on our streets. Parked next to each other, it makes even my Yaris look like an SUV.