Q&A with Sharon Peters

Q: Have you ever known of or heard of anyone whose new car actually got the mpg numbers detailed on the window stickers they put on cars in the lot (the fuel economy numbers EPA attaches to cars)? I think they’re a joke.

A: That’s been a question among consumers for years. My own vehicle got the promised mpg for many years, and most friends seemed surprised, as their vehicles didn’t.

Experts have always insisted driving habits and car upkeep determine whether vehicles come in at or under the EPA numbers, and I believe that. Jack rabbit driving, superhigh highway speeds, lots of idle time, underinflated tires and so on reduce the number of miles per gallon a vehicle will get. You’ve no doubt heard that all before. Now there’s some new study data behind it.

AAA, aware of the skepticism about the EPA numbers, recently did some work to get to the bottom of the matter. Engineers analyzed 37,000 records representing 8,400 make, model and year combinations and found that 80 percent of drivers actually reported fuel economy higher than the combined city/highway EPA numbers for their vehicle.

Also discovered in the multi-phase testing: owners with vehicles with manual transmissions reported 17 percent better fuel economy than the EPA ratings. Diesel-fuel vehicle owners reported 20 percent better fuel economy and owners of turbocharged four cylinder engines reported fuel economy 4 percent lower than the EPA numbers.

In releasing the results, AAA acknowledged that self-reported data can have some limitations. But this strikes me as a reasonable reminder that driving in ways that don’t suck up fuel like a pool vacuum cleaner can be a very good thing.

Q: Husband says he read about a minivan that has footrests on the back seats, but he can’t remember which one. Do you know? It would be a good feature for us because we take our elderly parents on two- or three-hour trips often and I think that would really help them.

A: The Kia Sedona Limited minivan has, as part of a significant overhaul for its 2015 model, pop-out footrests and also headrests. Happily, all the reviewers say there’s plenty of legroom in that row to make good use of the features.

© CTW Features

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email