Edmunds: Chevy Equinox, Audi A3 make greatest strides in fuel economy

(March 19, 2012) SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The Audi A3 has made bigger strides in fuel economy since 2008 than any other vehicle on the U.S. market, reports Edmunds.com. The A3 has increased its fuel economy 38.5 percent, from 21.0 mpg in its 2008 model year, to 29.1 mpg in its 2012 model year. The Chevy Equinox, placed second with a 32 percent growth in fuel economy in the last four years.

Edmunds.com found an industrywide increase of 16.4 percent over this period.

"The 2008 spike in gas prices served as a wakeup call for manufacturers whose fleets just weren't cutting it for consumers who were demanding vehicles with better fuel economy," said Edmunds.com Analyst Ivan Drury. "Automakers responded by de-emphasizing fuel-chugging V6 and V8 engines and turning their focus to fuel-sipping four-cylinder and diesel engines."

Top 10 Vehicles with Biggest Jumps in Fuel Economy — 2008 to 2012

Rank Make Model 2012 MPG 2008 MPG MPG Improvement
1 Audi A3 29.1 21.0 38.5%
2 Chevrolet Equinox 25.1 19.0 32.0%
3 Kia Sorento 22.2 17.0 30.4%
4 Dodge Challenger 19.5 15.0 30.3%
5 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class 23.0 17.9 28.3%
6 Ford Explorer 19.5 15.4 27.0%
7 Hyundai Sonata 27.7 22.0 25.8%
8 Porsche Cayenne 18.3 14.7 24.8%
9 Buick LaCrosse 26.0 20.9 24.1%
10 Volkswagen Passat 27.0 21.8 23.7%
  INDUSTRY   24.5 21.0 16.4%

According to new car registration data, the public appetite for four-cylinder engines and the fuel savings that they bring are apparent. In December 2008 — when gas prices were $1.69 per gallon — four-cylinder engines were found in 36.7 percent of all new cars registered in the U.S. By December 2011 — when gas prices stood at $3.27 — the share of four-cylinders had increased to 44.4 percent.

In a time of soaring gas prices, improved fuel economy is a welcome relief for the average consumer's gas budget. Based on today's gas prices (calculated at $3.79/gallon) the owner of a 2012 model year vehicle is saving about $400 per year, on average, compared to the owner of a 2008 model year vehicle.

Edmunds.com advises that consumers may be able to save big money at the pump by trading in their gas guzzlers for a midsize sedan. But consumers may want to think twice if they expect to see the same rate of savings by switching from a sedan with average fuel economy to a high-MPG hybrid. Edmunds.com offers its reasoning in "The Truth About Fuel Consumption" and provides a free Gas Guzzler Calculator to help consumers understand the true cost of savings at the pump.