Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Toyota Echo Ownership Experience: Notes on MPG

Part of what makes the Toyota Echo so attractive to me is the efficiency. While you would expect an economy-class car like the Echo to be fairly frugal, even I was surprised and skeptical when I read that the Echo sedan with an automatic tranny is EPA-eastimated to achieve 32/39 mpg. You can imagine how shocked I was, then, when I first pulled up to the pump and fueled up the 10.7 gallon tank and calculated that I had gotten 35 mpg! At that time, gas was more than $4.00 a gallon in the Midwest and SUVs and trucks were routinely dropping Bejamin Franklins into their gas tanks like it was nothing. And here’s a goofy looking car with a drivetrain that would be equally at home in a lawn mower (or so it seems sometimes) that gets 35 mpg and costs less than $50.00 to fill up.

My point is that the Echo is great on gas. Even if you factor in all the other cons about the car that you can think of, the fact is it’s an efficient little vehicle that is only a handful of mpgs less efficient than the newest Toyota Prius (at this writing) without any hybrid technology at all.

It's worth noting that the gas mileage does decrease in the hot summer months and the freezing winter months. My Echo is finished with a metallic Black Pearl paint job that get hot in the sun faster than your oven will preheat, so you’re running the AC all the time. The AC is actually an add-on option and I kind of think maybe if it had been standard equipment someone at Toyota would have wanted a bigger power plant in the Echo to run it, because it really does cause a noticeable drag on the engine. With the AC on, the auto transmission shifts later as the engine revs higher when the compressor is on. And there’s an electromagnetic clutch on the AC pulley that kicks on and off with a noticeable clunk every few mintues as the compressor engages and disengages, and your engine power will surge when it’s off and get sluggish when it’s on. It’s annoying but not too bad at highway speeds. You’ll likely notice it when you’re counting on the peppy 1.5 liter four to pull out in front of someone on a highway entrance and end up with a rearview full of their grille instead of the car lengths between you that you had hoped for.

In summer running that AC all the time I’ve seen anywhere from 32 to 38 mpg and in the winter with the heat on, battling slushy roads and cold starts anywhere from 28 to 36 mpg. Those are still some pretty decent numbers for a car with over 120k and 12 years on the clock!

More In The Toyota Echo Ownership Series:
Toyota Echo Ownership Experience: Notes for Tall Drivers (or Why I Chose the Echo)
Toyota Echo Ownership Experience: Highway Cruising & Cabin Comfort: Not Bad, Not A Lexus
Toyota Echo Ownership Experience: What is it like driving an Echo in the snow?
Toyota Echo Ownership Experience: True Cost to Own a Toyota Echo

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