Consumer Group Cries Foul On Hyundai’s 40-MPG Claim

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Right when it looks like Hyundai can do no wrong, we have this: A consumer protection group is asking the United States Environmental Protection Agency to look into claims that the Elantra has exaggerated fuel economy numbers.

Consumer Watchdog sent the EPA a letter citing a litany of public criticism of the compact Elantra's real-world fuel economy, and asking the EPA to "re-test the 2011 and 2012 Elantra models in its own facility, to seek an explanation for the MPG disappointments of so many Elantra buyers."

Except that many Elantra buyers are actually satisfied with their mileage. When we asked Hyundai for a response to the allegations, its public relations staff pointed us to a J.D. Power APEAL study showing that, "Elantra owners are the happiest in the entire compact segment competitive set in terms of fuel economy."

Hyundai did note that real-world fuel economy results often differ from EPA label values, but stopped short of writing the whole thing off as "your mileage may vary." According to Hyundai, when Consumer Reports put the Elantra through its tough city cycle test regimen, the results were consistent with other compact cars, all of which underperformed compared to the EPA test. Hyundai said the Elantra achieved 20 mpg, which was higher than Honda Civic at 19, Ford Focus at 18, and Chevrolet Cruze at 17. "These results show rank-order consistency with the EPA results of Elantra (29), Civic (28), Focus (28), and Cruze (22)," said Hyundai.

The Elantra was redesigned for the 2011 model year, and when we tested one, we averaged 31 mpg over a week of mixed driving, compared to EPA numbers of 29/40/33 city/highway/combined. For 2012, Hyundai has actually added its ActiveECO system that it says can improve fuel economy by up to seven percent. Sales of the Elantra were up 44 percent in November.

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