Low fuel efficiency in a brand-new car?

Our tech guru has the answer
by Ferman Lao | Sep 26, 2011

Hi, Ferman!

I would get right to the point of my email and I hope you could help me out or shed some light on what I am about to ask you. My sister bought a brand-new Honda Civic with automatic transmission in April 2011. This is the model with the octagonal tail lights.

I'd like to know if you have any feedback from other owners of this particular model regarding its gas consumption. I'm asking because my sister and I find that the gas mileage is unusually high considering it's brand-new and it's barely four months old. The actual gas consumption is nowhere near what Honda claims, which is 10 kilometers per liter in city driving. There are some blog entries from users stating 7.5km per liter in city driving--which to me seems more realistic--but my sister's car reaches MUCH LESS than 7.5km per liter in city driving. We are really very disappointed with the gas mileage she is now getting in her Civic and she is seriously considering selling it already this early.

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Hope you could help.


Mr. T

Hi, Mr. T!

I don't have current information on how the consumption for that particular model is but I do have some info on the earlier model 2007 1.8 Civic. In standard trim it gets about 7km to 8km per liter in moderate traffic with a travel distance of about 10km per trip. Left in D, there's not a lot of driver-selected shifting and typically engine rpm will be no more than 3000rpm for most of the trip. That particular car was eventually modified with aftermarket parts, which helped it get about 9.5km per liter on the same route with similar driving habits.

I quantify this because driving habits is the single biggest factor, next to driving conditions and vehicle condition, when it comes to fuel consumption.

Taking too long to warm up the car, idling too long with the air-conditioning system on while waiting, keeping the shifter in D while stopped, being heavy, rough or abrupt on the throttle, and frequent short trips under 6km in heavy traffic conditions will normally mean you will get poorer fuel economy.

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Low tire pressure, poor wheel alignment, camber settings and dragging brakes will contribute to poor fuel economy as well. Poor wheel alignment for example is worth at least 0.5km per liter. Camber and dragging brakes much more so.

When I used to drive in a spirited manner my old workhorse, a much older Civic, I would get only about 5km to 6km per liter from a 1600cc engine. This meant my engine rpm would consistently dwell a few hundred rpm shy of the redline. Changing my driving habits by shifting at the lowest engine rpm possible without lugging the engine, I was able to get 7.5km per liter. Optimizing the tune of my engine some time soon after allowed me to lower my shift rpm further and I was able to improve my fuel economy further to about 9km per liter. Now this was with a typical trip wherein there was moderate traffic and most trips under 6km.

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What I would suggest you do is to mention it to the dealership where you bought the car and see it they can find some thing unusual with the car that may be contributing to its poor fuel economy. Fuel consumption data since you got the car and the driving conditions it's normally subjected to would be helpful for them to try to isolate what may possibly be wrong. It is unusual for a new car to get poor mileage and there are actually some modern cars that get better fuel economy once they've passed the 10,000km mark.

Finally, sticking to one particular gas station and always filling up the same relative time of day will also help isolate what may be causing the poor fuel economy your encountering.


Ferman Lao
Technical editor

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