Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Honda size matters: does the engine or engineering count more in mpg?

My comments about the mpg rating of Honda's FIT in the US and its European equivalent in a recent op-ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle provoked some interesting responses.

The comparison I used was taken from an earlier posting on this blog:
This is far from the most extreme example. Compared with most US passenger vehicles, the Toyota Prius is a shining example at 48-51mpg, but its EU counterpart runs at around 70mpg. But this site lists the MiniCooper as the UK's most fuel efficient car at 72mpg whereas the US equivalent is around 35mpg.

Perhaps there was too much shorthand in the SF Chronicle piece.

The whole climate change issue is filled with information that is spun up to support one side or the other, this article is a good example, it states that the Honda Fit gets 55mpg in Europe compared to the same model sold in the U.S. with 33mpg., it may look the same but these vehicles are are very different, first off the Euro model would never pass the Smog Test requirements in the U.S. which is the reason you fail to note both vehicles emission output.
Second, the vehicle would not pass our collision tests for safety, if I removed most of the smog equipment from my car and reduced its weight by 500-1000 pounds it would get better mileage to.
The truth is the cars sold in the U.S. have the lowest emissions of any other vehicle market and are the safest.
If your going to write an article, WRITE IT RIGHT!
I didn't omit a comparison of tailpipe emissions for any other reason than space and pace … the point I was trying to make was that the person selling this car didn't know what the tailpipe emissions were. He should have known - you think it might be of casual interest given his line of work even if the federal or state governments don't mandate him to do so? He didn't even offer to find out the information where its supply is mandatory.
 Automakers are so reluctant to provide their customers with this information. I have never seen a single TV auto ad with grammes of CO2 per mile.  Consumer access to information is much harder than it is in Europe.
Last year's Honda Jazz 1.4 VTEC EST has emissions of 125g/km. It is easy to find this information on the DVLC website even for used cars as it determines your road tax rate.
Its US equivalent the Honda FIT 1.5 has emissions of around 300g/mile which is a good 100g/m more than the UK version. Emissions of ozone, etc, maybe less thanks to catalytic requirements in the US where smog is a real issue in urban areas.
But I'd be very interested to hear how the contention that tailpipe emissions in the US are less can be substantiated.
I do concede however that weight does play an important role - American motorists prefer larger "tophats" because, well everyone else has one, so it's safer, right? At least I think that the logic behind the upward trend since 1980s. But American consumers have paid for this with mpg improvement rates that have remained pretty much static for 30 years.
It's almost fair to say that they are not the same car. Not even Ford makes the same Focus for the US as the UK markets, though I'm told the European-style Focus is becoming more popular here. I hired a Ford Focus in the UK recently it had a 1.2 VETEC engine - you can't even buy a Ford Focus in the US at that size the smallest is 1.6.
And yet American motorists have been sold the lie that size matters. Tell that to Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen who have tooled their engines to perform better with fewer litres.
The new Mercedes SLK 200 on sale in the UK does a smart 43.5mpg and spews out a modest 151g/km.
But it costs to get more out of less… and who in the US would pay $25k for a Honda FIT?

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