With fuel economy on everyone’s mind, manufacturers have turned to small turbocharged engines. The marketing claims suggest that small turbocharged engines have the same power as larger non-turbo engines, but with the fuel economy of a smaller engine. However, Consumer Reports is saying that this isn’t always the case. After testing dozens of different vehicles with both turbo and non-turbo engines, CR says the turbos tend to be slower, and have fuel economy that’s no better than the larger engines against which they compete.
Taking a look at the Ford Fusion’s EcoBoost model, overall it gets 25 mpg, putting it at the bottom of the list of new family sedans. With conventional 2.4- and 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima get an additional 2, 5, and 6 more mpg, respectively, while being able to accelerate more quickly.
The reason a turbocharger adds power is that they pump extra air into the engine, allowing it to burn extra fuel, and thus deliver more power. But it’s the “extra fuel” part that’s the problem, and that leads to potentially bad real-world fuel economy.
It’s not all bad, of course. Turbocharged engines offer up an abundance of torque at low to mid engine speeds, meaning an effortless thrust with a reduced need to downshift while climbing hills or moderate acceleration. This can make a car feel more responsive, but this isn’t the case with smaller 1.4- and 1.6-liter engines. They must still downshift frequently to keep up with traffic.
Some cars, though, received higher than the EPA estimated mpg, including the Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, and BMW X3. If saving on fuel costs is the reason for purchasing a small turbocharged car, look to hybrids and diesels for better ways to save, as what is claimed may not always be true.
Source: Consumer Reports