Sunday, March 05, 2006

Ah, the good old days of high mileage vehicles....

I must admit, I am something of a Honda bigot. Maybe that's because back in 1971, in my second year of college in Rochseter, NY, my father gave me his bright orange Honda Civic. It was a tiny little bug car, light and durable, but certainly nothing fancy. I loved it! (my father is a big fellow, just over 6 feet tall and heavyset, so it is surprising to think that back then he would shift from his usual big sedans to a Civic, but that's the way he was/is - ready to try new things)

I now own a Honda Insight, the two-seater hybrid they released in 2000. Got mine in April 2000 and since then have averaged 49.8 MPG for some 46,000 miles. I love that car, too.

Got up this morning and somehow ended up going through the backroom in our basement, clearing out old stuff (and getting lungfuls of dust in the process) and came across a reminder of another Honda Civic I leased, and how far we haven't come in the last couple of decades.

Back in 1992, I left Oracle Corporation and become a consultant. Took a job working at McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook -- and suddenly I was a commuter. So I looked around at my options and found the Civic VX. The VX was a Civic coupe with a VTEC engine adapted from the early Acura Integra.

It cost $10,550, which was considered fairly pricy for a little car back then, and boasted the following mileage:

Highway MPG: 55
City MPG: 48

Of course, I didn't hit those numbers, just like I only occasionally match the EPA MPG ratings for the Insight. But I clearly remember averaging MPGs in the 40s on the highway commutes I made to BurgerLand.

That was back in 1992-93!

So while I am glad to have my Insight (I really, really enjoy driving that car, even though its suspension is, shall we say, a bit brittle), I am also disappointed that the auto companies haven't come further in 14 years.


Tharg said...

Dear Mr Feuerstein,

In the u.k. 'high mileage' means that the car's gone a long way (>100,000 miles) and has bad connotations.

What you need to say is high m.p.g. and take it from there. However, on this issue, I feel we British can afford to gloat slightly at the expense of our colonial cousins, across the pond.

Americans have a cultural problem with economical cars - they just don't like 'em. After all, the muscle car was invented in the good old U.S. of A. Humble vehicles sporting 400 cubic inch behemoth engines are not uncommon, and I do recall one Cadillac Eldorado being quoted at 7 mpg.

To digress slightly, you all need to move to turbodiesels. Here Ford sell a family estate with 130 bhp and 47 m.p.g consumption. It'll carry the wife, 2.4 children and three quarters of a dog with no trouble, and trundle down the motorway at 70 mph, all day long on less than one tank. Judicious use of the loud pedal has been known to obtain 60 mpg.

The other thing is to get rid of all those automatic gearboxes and go to manual or tiptronic. Every automatic does 5-6 mpg less than its manual equivalent. Imagine the difference it would make to the pollution if every car in America suddenly did 5 mpg more! Americans do seem congenitally unable to operate the clutch pedal, so maybe there's been some genetic drift since independence...

Yours in sarcastic thrift


David Aldridge said...

Alas, the lack of a diesel option in the Ford lineup had me scratching my head a while ago ...

I should add that diesel is often a little more pricey than regular gas in the US, especially in winter, which takes some of the economic incentive away. Apart from in VW's and Mercs they're mostly used for high-torque applications, like pickup trucks that tow 16,000lb. we all need one of those, right?