Fleet News

Small cars show greatest shortfall against official mpg figures

New, small cars are amongst the worst performing when it comes to meeting their official mpg figures, research suggests.

In a study of more than 60,000 cars, analysis by consumer motoring website HonestJohn.co.uk shows that the latest small cars - which are often sold on the strength of their greater fuel economy - are failing to meet official fuel economy figures.

According to the website, the worst performing model is the 2013 Nissan Note, which recorded an average shortfall of 32.3% on its official EC drive cycle figure of 74.72mpg.

The 2014 Mini Hatch comes a close second with 32% shortfall and finishing joint third from bottom are the 2012 Citroen DS5 and 2013 Renault Captur, both missing their averages by 29.2%.

The best-selling car of 2014 - the 2013 Ford Fiesta - is the fifth worst performer achieving a real world fuel economy figure of 48.05mpg – a 28.9% shortfall on its official fuel economy figure.

Daniel Powell, managing editor of HonestJohn.co.uk, said: “It’s no secret that car buyers are confused by official fuel economy figures. Indeed, HonestJohn.co.uk receives thousands of complaints about misleading fuel economy figures, which shows that many car owners are out of pocket when it comes to calculating real world fuel costs.

“Rather than attack the official EC figures, which form the basis of car and company car taxation, we prefer to offer realistic figures achieved by real motorists to be used alongside official guidelines.

“Real MPG allows car owners and buyers to make accurate predictions as to how much fuel they will use and be better prepared as to how much that will cost.”

The Land Rover Defender from 1984 onwards remains the best performing car for two years running achieving 106.3% of its official fuel economy - 26.58mpg.

The Defender is based on a 1948 model and due to be replaced this year yet, despite its age, its real world fuel economy figures are better than its official test figures.

The 2000 – 2007 Toyota Celica also exceeds expectations, achieving an average of 37.09 miles to the gallon, 3% better than its official mpg figure.

The 2003 - 2010 Nissan Micra comes in third, achieving 102.6% of its official fuel economy, while Volvo comes in both fourth and fifth with the 2000 – 2008 Volvo S60 and Volvo 2000 - 2007 V70/XC70 - with real mpg figures of 102.3% and 102.2% respectively.

On average, cars achieve 86% of their official mpg figures – a statistic HonestJohn.co.uk has found is decreasing by 1% every year.

The website compared actual miles per gallon figures of vehicles submitted by motorists to official ECDC manufacturer data.

While a car purchase is often guided by official fuel consumption figures, says HonestJohn.co.uk, the analysis shows that a car’s fuel economy can only truly be assessed by real drivers on real roads where it can vary based on driving style and conditions.

Top 5 performing models                

Real mpg ratio

1.    Land Rover Defender (1984)


2.    Toyota Celica (2000-2008)


3.    Nissan Micra (2003-2010)                      


4.    Volvo S60 (2000-2008)


5.    Volvo V70/XC70 (2000-2007)




Bottom 5 performing models          

Real mpg ratio

1.    Nissan Note (2013)


2.    Mini Hatch (2014)


3.    Citroen DS5 (2012)


4.    Renault Captur (2010)


5.    Ford Fiesta (2013)



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  • Sage & onion - 16/01/2015 11:31

    "On average, cars achieve 86% of their official mpg figures – a statistic HonestJohn.co.uk has found is decreasing by 1% every year." The above statement probably has more to do with manufacturers squeezing more out of the official tests to "increase" the official mpg to give a marketing advantage than the cars actually getting worse.

  • Nijay - 16/01/2015 12:21

    My BMW 220d auto is doing 52MPG against claimed 64.2 (4000 miles mixed -lot of dual and motorway) you do the maths. It is powered by the latest offering from the Bavarians! still good but why not tell the truth -its a brilliant car

  • David Watts - 16/01/2015 13:16

    Whilst I have no doubt that the variance between actual and official MPG will differ significantly from model to model, this 'research data' is statistically flawed in so many ways - individual driving skills, driving profiles (i.e. the types of roads / journeys), weather conditions, maintenance, the ability of the individuals to accurately record MPG to name just a few. From a very simple perspective - smaller cars are possibly used on shorter journeys / urban routes more than larger cars which give an immediate discrepancy between the relative performance against official MPG. If we want to get a true picture of the variance then there should be a controlled test at an appropriate facility such as Millbrook which compares different models in a real life driving situation but with as many of the other influencing factors removed.

  • Martin - 16/01/2015 13:35

    Good on the top 5 for a honest approach! I have a Mercedes E-class Hybrid which gets nowhere near "official figures" I realised it was a game they play years ago, but was surprised when the salesman confessed, "Not one single sales person on the training course that Mercedes Benz laid on got within 25% of target!" He then told me they were shown how it could be done by a trained expert. He said not was not practically possible to actually drive the way he did it, (perfect conditions, no traffic etc) but it would probably be dangerous if they did! (coasting at low speed and through roundabout!)

  • Bob.. - 16/01/2015 13:38

    The official figures are theoretical figures in that they are under strict test conditions to show the maximum possible that the car can do. The real world varies person to person. Single person in the car, school run, work journey on duel carriageway/motorway/town/country roads. Weather conditions, road conditions, tyre type and tread are also factors. Add to them the extent that you use the various toys on the car. With most cars I have had, I have been able to get close to the official figures where I have had good roads, weather, used none of the toys, had little traffic to contend with (usually very early in the morning). And only me in the car and no luggage. When I change cars, I know what the official figures and MY real world figures are for my old car. I also know what the official figures are for the new car. So I discount the new car figures to see what I should be achieving in my new car. I believe that's as good as it gets. This is the same argument you get on commercial vehicle MPG's and the same variables are applicable.

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