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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Nissan Mileage Lower Than Reported

Last month, I went in search of a luxury car that gets in the high 30’s for gas mileage. Everywhere I looked, models that have all the features that I want don’t get more that 30 MPG on the highway. Hybrids are mostly overpriced “brides stripped bare.” I narrowed the list down to the:

- Ford Focus
- Hyundai Elantra
- Mazda 3
- Nissan Sentra

The Focus was eliminated because I have yet to own a Ford vehicle that’s drivetrain lasted too much more that 125K miles. The ’07 Hyundai wasn’t due into the showroom until mid-January. Mitigating circumstances prevented me from waiting that long.

That brought it down to a choice between the Nissan and the Mazda. This is where the MPG issue kicked in. Although the Mazda 3 is available with a drivetrain that claims 28 MPG city and 36 on the highway, as soon as the options that I was looking for are added to the vehicle, mileage drops to 25/30. It seems that automakers think that people who can afford and would appreciate the comfort of a nice cabin with all the modern conveniences, don’t give a crap how much gas they use.

Excuse me, Mazda, Toyota, Honda, blah blah blah, almost every automaker out there, but I DO give a crap about the environment. I watched Al Gore’s movie. I watched Nova, and, yes I’ve read my share of articles about global warming. Hell, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that it ain’t right to be enjoying temperatures in the 50’s at Christmas in Michigan. When I was a kid, it snowed in friggin September sometimes. C’mon people! Global warming is not a theory anymore.

So, here I am looking for the right car and it’s down to the Nissan Sentra. I must admit, other than the lack of motorized front seats, the car is well appointed. It has:

- Electronic key (you never need to take it out of your pocket)
- Handsfree bluetooth
- Bun warmers
- Rockford Fosgate stereo w/6CD changer, AM/FM/Sirius radio, 6 speakers w/sub
- Fog lamps
- Moonroof
- Leather seating
- Trip computer
- Heated mirrors
- Anti-lock brakes
- Continuous variable transmission (CVT)

The best thing of all is that Nissan claims that the car gets 29 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway. Now, I’m not naïve enough to think that I would get better than these numbers, but I did think I’d get close. Au contraire mon frère. I’m on my third or fourth tank of gas and I’m currently averaging between 27 to 28 MPG. Keep in mind that I drive 104 miles per day to and from work. My average speed door to door on this trek is 60 MPH. On my last tank, the Sentra’s computer reported that my average speed was 50 MPH. While the computer reported 29.1 average MPG, I had reset the trip gauge and did the math when I refueled to determine that my ACTUAL MPG was 27.6. Given the margin of error for how much I may or may not have topped off the tank, it is safe to say: “Houston, we have a problem.”

When I spoke to the folks at the Nissan dealership, they were quick to point out that the car isn’t even broken in yet and the mileage will go up. They said I should wait until after my first oil change (3500 miles) before assessing fuel consumption. When I pointed out just how far off I am from the averages, one of the service guys even said that I should wait until I get 25,000 miles on the car. Hey guys, why don’t I just wait until I sell it to make my final assessment? Maybe because I didn’t buy a car that may eventually get 36 MPG on the freeway…down hill…with a tail wind…using premium gas.

Am I alone here? I have to believe that there are others like me out there. Actually, if I just got a bum car, Nissan can resolve the issue with me. However, if there are others, Nissan will need to answer to ALL of us.