Wednesday, March 5, 2008

They Don't Build Them Like They Used To

...which is good when you consider the improvements in safety, telematics, handling and materials - some of which have actually added weight to even the smallest of automobiles.

I was looking up some fuel economy figures on and noticed that they've updated all of the cars in their database (which goes back to 1985) with new-for-2008 fuel economy numbers. I often get emails or blog comments asking why today's cars don't have the phenomenal fuel economy figures they once did. People tend to cite cars like the Honda CRX HF -- a flyweight two-seater that was advertised at 50 MPG city/56 MPG highway.

For a better picture of where we've come, compare today's Honda Civic sedan with its counterpart from 20 years ago. Using the 2008 formula, a 1988 Civic with an automatic transmission got 25 MPG city/32 MPG highway. A 2008 Civic with an automatic transmission scores 25 MPG city/36 MPG highway. At first glance, it would seem that we've made little progress -- but bear in mind that in 1988 the Civic had a 92 horsepower 1.5 liter engine, while the 2008 Civic has a 140 horsepower 1.8 liter engine. Furthermore, the '08 Civic weighs over 500 lbs. more than the '88 Civic -- largely because of safety hardware like front and side airbags, anti-intrusion door beams, anti-lock brakes, and a high-strength-steel safety cage, none of which will be found on the twenty-year-old Civic.

Check out more cars and you'll see the same story.

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