2011 Hyundai Elantra

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.

Click past the jump to read the full press release.
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Consumer Watchdog Urges EPA to Re-Test Elantra 40 MPG Claim, Hold Hyundai to Account


Washington, D.C. -- As automakers make their annual pitch for holiday sales, Consumer Watchdog has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate Hyundai's high mileage claims for its popular Elantra model (29/40 MPG city/highway, 33 MPG average).

The Elantra has attracted an unusual number of consumer complaints about real-world MPG averaging in the mid-20s, far from Hyundai's stated average of 33, said Consumer Watchdog.

"Gasoline remains well above $3 a gallon and MPG is a key factor for car buyers, who expect to match the window-label MPG if they drive carefully," said Judy Dugan, research director for Consumer Watchdog. "A loss of 6 or 7 miles per gallon, a conservative average for the Elantra based on tests and complaints, adds up to real money for drivers."

The letter said, in part:
"As the holiday season commences, automakers are touting discounts and year-end deals; record-high gasoline prices for the season will make MPG a significant part of their red-bow advertising. ...

"This makes the accuracy of EPA MPG estimates all the more important, to prevent any maker from marketing autos on a stated city or highway MPG that substantially misstates the result that drivers will get on the road. In general, the new EPA MPG estimates seem to comport closely to real-world results. ...

"However, a notable exception to this rule has caught the attention of Consumer Watchdog. For the two most recent model years, Hyundai Motors has actively marketed its base models of the Elantra on their very high 29/40 MPG, and 33 MPG average, leaving a trail of disappointed drivers. An Edmunds online Town Hall discussion on the Elantra attracted scores of drivers who can't, no matter how hard they try, duplicate such numbers. One very public example of this was USA Today tech writer Jefferson Graham, whose Sept. 22 article on his new Elantra expressed his disappointment that he averaged only 22 MPG, a gap that no "break-in" period seems likely to fill.

"Additionally, while Motor Trend named the 2011 Elantra Car of the Year in its class, the magazine's on-road testers achieved only a very disappointing 26.5 MPG average, bad enough to get special note in the review. Consumers Union found similar fault in with the 2012 Elantra, a redesign. While CU's highway mileage was 39, its city mileage, with experienced drivers who know how to drive a low-mileage auto, was only 20 MPG--very far from the listed 29 MPG. ...

"Gasoline prices remain at record high levels for this season, making efficiency a top purchasing issue for consumers. Neither Hyundai for any other car company should be allowed to misrepresent its efficiency standards or dupe consumers into buying its cars. We ask you, through prompt re-testing and action as needed, to send a message to the company and the auto industry that MPG misrepresentation will not be tolerated."

See the complete letter at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrepaelantra11292011.pdf

Consumer Watchdog asked the EPA, if re-testing finds flaws with Hyundai's original EPA-mandated tests, for fines against Hyundai and owner compensation.

"The popularity and increasing sales of the Elantra make it all the more important that drivers get the same or nearly the same results as the EPA mileage," said Judy Dugan, research director of Consumer Watchdog. "EPA's current MPG testing model has been close to real-world results for other high-efficiency models, so at the very least Hyundai has some hard explaining to do about the Elantra's shortfalls."