Planet Gore

Honda Proves Obama’s MPG Mandates Are a Pipedream

How will America’s car fleet fare in 2015, when Washington mandates that all vehicles average 35.5 mpg? Now we know.

The redesigned 2012 vehicles in dealer showrooms now will be in the middle of their six-year product cycle come 2015. Case in point: the brand new, remade Honda Civic, America’s most popular small car (last remade in 2006). Surely, America’s highest-mpg car-seller will set the pace in America’s new fuel efficiency race. The new Civic 4-banger is up to Obama’s mpg challenge, yes? What are we talkin’? 60 mpg? 65?

Waitaminit, wat? It doesn’t even make the required 2015 EPA average?

In fact, the new, base model, 1.8 liter, gas-powered, 4-cylinder Civic manages just 32 mpg in combined city/highway driving, according to the EPA, and 33 mpg according to Car & Driver’s road test in this month’s issue.

Not that Honda isn’t trying real hard to conform to the new reality of high gas prices. ”It’s telling what info Honda chooses to display most prominently to the driver. Speed (no one wants to get a speeding ticket), fuel efficiency, and lights that encourage fuel efficiency get top billing,” writes C&D. ” Lest you think Honda is not triple-serious about this fuel-economy thing, there’s also a button labeled “ECON,” which tailors the throttle, the transmission, and the climate-control system to maximize mileage. As a result, the Civic returned an impressive . . . 33 mpg.”

Impressive? But the EPA says they gotta . . .

“A philosophical shift seems to have taken place in the minds of this Civic’s creators,” continues C&D, explaining Honda’s obsessive goal of maximizing fuel efficiency. “Every previous generation added a bit more power through piston displacement or technology. This time we get a carry-over 1.8-liter, SOHC four-cylinder that makes the same 140 horsepower as it did before. The 128-pound-feet torque peak still arrives at a high 4300 rpm. . . . Acceleration times of 9.0 seconds to 60 and 17.0 seconds at 83 mph through the quarter-mile would have placed the Civic at the back of the pack in our recent comparison test.”

That is, Honda has sacrificed its usual performance upgrade by dumbing down the Civic to satisfy Lord Obama. But that still doesn’t cut it. How then does Honda (remember this is America’s best-in-class, greenest automaker) manage a fleet average of 35.5 with Honda Ridgeline pickups and Honda Odyssey minivans in its lineup? How does worst-in-class Chrysler? With lots of lobbyist-bought loopholes and electric-car credits. 

Welcome to 2015 – it’s gonna be expensive.

Henry Payne — Henry Payne is the auto critic for the Detroit News.

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