If you look at the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel mileage estimates for the 1994 Honda Civic and the 2014 Civic, you’ll see very little improvement. To make sure we’re comparing apples to apples, let’s look at base-level sedans with a four-speed automatic. You’ll see that when the 1994 was released, it tested at 29 miles per gallon in city driving, 36 mpg in highway driving, and 32 mpg combined. The 2014 tested at 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 33 mpg combined. With 20 years of technological innovation and rising gas prices, the Civic only gets one more mile per gallon of gas. How can that be?
Certainly the car has gotten heavier over the years, and more technology has been added which can mean more drain on the fuel. But actually, if we dig in a bit deeper, we’ll discover that the Civic has made a bigger improvement than you might think at first. The problem is that in the above comparison, we weren’t really comparing apples to apples, because in 2008, the EPA changed the way fuel mileage is calculated. The Civic has gotten better, but the test has gotten harder.