/ Motoring

‘I went to court when my car didn’t meet its mileage claims’

Filling petrol tank

Our post on Convo last month about differences between claimed and actual car mileage prompted you to tell us your own stories. It’s a problem many of you have clearly faced, but how far would you go for a solution?

For Doug Clement, from Donegal, the answer was all the way to court.

Doug was so annoyed when his car failed to achieve the fuel economy that he’d been promised that he took legal action against the dealer – and won.

Our recent research found that 98% of the 200 cars we put through the same test couldn’t match or beat their miles per gallon (mpg) claim.

New Hyundai failed to meet MPG claim

Doug came across the problem when he bought a new Hyundai i10 in late 2010, after a salesman in the showroom assured him that he would be able to get the 57.6mpg, which it had been claimed for it on what is called a ‘combined cycle’ – this includes driving in towns and cites, and the countryside.

But Doug found there was no way he could squeeze that much out of the tank and so he told the dealer he was rejecting the car. The dealer refused him a refund, which was when Doug decided he’d have to go to court.

It took two years, but the court did eventually find in Doug’s favour – and interestingly the reason given was that he had specifically asked about fuel efficiency when he bought the car.

Because he couldn’t match the official mpg figures quoted by the salesman, the car was deemed not fit for purpose under the Sale of Goods Act and the dealer was ordered to pay a full refund.

The case is not considered to have set a precedent, but the decision does suggest that courts will take similar cases seriously – so make sure you ask in the showroom about fuel economy. Even better, try to get the dealer to commit to it in writing.

Fuel efficiency – drivers tell Which? Car Survey it’s a major issue

Being unable to match fuel efficiency is one of the big issues that drivers tell us about each year in the Which? Car Survey.

For example, the sixth-worst car for missing fuel economy claims in our most recent research was the Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Of the 63 owners who gave feedback on their car last year, 12 complained of poor fuel economy.

Have you ever asked a dealer about fuel efficiency? Would you ask them to write this figure down?


In terms of helping the buyer make a choice it’s not really a question of the absolute mileage per gallon statistic that matters but the relative efficiency and economy of one car versus a similar one in the same category. So if you want to buy a five-door family saloon there is quite a wide choice. Some people go for the badge, some for the price, and some for the appearance, and possibly end up with a shortlist of three or four. The next stage of narrowing down the choice will probably involve some consideration of the running costs before they head off to the ring-road to inspect the stock in the dealerships. I guess everybody understands that the way different drivers treat a car, the journey pattern, and the loading will all make a difference. What we don’t know is whether the effect of those differences is consistent across a range of vehicles, or, to put it another way, whether a selection of vehicles responds in an equivalent way to a particular driving style [e.g. high motorway mileage]. There is no practical alternative to a rolling-road bench test carried out to a standardised specification that will produce an indication that is satisfactory for basic comparison purposes but with the wealth of data now available from a scientifically conducted set of tests it ought to be possible to provide a much more useful performance profile should the customer request it and manufacturers should not be prohibited from providing such information. In my view independent validation of the testing process, on an exception basis, should be part of the new protocol. The sooner we can progress to something useful rather than perpetually disputable the better.

Quite right! MPG is a standard that you buy the vehicle on. Standards have be : realistic, measureable and achievable. Even the way of testing MPG is not realistic to start with.

John3, but people should be told more strongly in adverts that the EU NEDC test does not give a valid result. The only way to get an idea of mpg is through users websites – like Honest John – or Which? tests. This is what should be publicised.

I bought my daughter a 18 month old Ford Focus powershift 1.6 petrol car from a car supermarket last Feb with 6000 registered miles. Soon after she realised that the car only returned 23 MPG against a quoted 44 MPG The car went into Ford for checks but despite 3 attempts they failed to fix it. I gave the car back to the car supermarket and they agreed to replace it. The replacement car was exactly the same model and colour with a similar mileage but amazingly had the same problems. This car then went into Ford for repair and they had it in their garage for 5 weeks before handing it back in exactly the same condition as it went in! Despite complaing to Ford about their poor customer service they insist that I should now rebook the car into the dealership so they can diagnose the problem. You would of thought after 5 weeks theyd know the problem. The car is a total wreck, as it drives dangerously and doesn’t seem to be able to select gears properly, surging forward when breaking, and I see online that in the USA there’s a lemon law action against the company on this model. We’re unable to take the car back to the dealership as my daughter is only 20 and the hire company that Ford uses to give out courtesy cars charge £35 a week for insurance for U21. So far this year my daughter has paid over £250 in additional insurance that Ford refused to refund. I can’t believe I’m the only one out there with this problem.

My Mercedes E220CDi does 37.0 mpg (my figures) the handbook claims it only does 34 mpg. Does that mean Mercedes can sue me?

My new car also only had one mpg figure quoted and it was 74.6. I knew I would never ever get that because to achieve that as an “average” or combined at least one journey would need to return something like 90 mpg! But despite careful “best mpg” style driving I cannot get anything more that 53.4 whatever the trip – town or country. This is so far from what the manufacturers brochure claims as you can possibly get surely. There MUST be some redress to this situation. I would have been happy with say 60-65 mpg for normal, sensible driving, but there is clearly no way this will happen. I have paid good money for what is otherwise a very very good car but I feel cheated.

I purchased a BMW X5 40d in November 2017 and the stated mpg was a big attraction at 48mpg. I continue to drive and the computer is showing 32/33mpg so now locked in discussions about reversing the trade. They are being somewhat unhelpful and non-responsive to specific emails and then last week the car would not start. They replaced the battery and said little but now running fine. Blatant deception to show a fictitious 48 mpg against the reality of 32mpg which captures 30% less efficiency

“Official” fuel consumption is measured under laboratory conditions to a test regime set by the EU. Manufacturers can only quote the figures that produces. The test regime until recently was the NEDC, but is not representative of real life driving. It is being replaced by the WLTP – Light Vehicles Test Procedure – that is much more representative of real life, but the old procedure is still used. Not the manufacturers fault – unless they told you that the “official” mpg would be achieved in practice.

The best place to find typical real life mpgs is on sites like Honest John, or others where owners post their achieved mpgs.

I thought that the manufacturers had pushed for a delay in implementing the new test procedures: https://www.reuters.com/article/eu-autos-idUSL5N0XX2A420150506

Not only do we have being introduced a new, and more realistic, fuel consumption test but, also a real driving emissions test checking what happens on the road rather than just under laboratory conditions. There maybe were valid reasons for delaying the implementation of the RDE and WLTP. Such tests need to be as sound and representative of real life as is possible with standardised tests. We do not want a repeat of the EU’s NEDC test that was never really right, it seems, and has been enforced by the EU for well past the date when it should have been modified or replaced.

A report like this is not necessarily representing the facts. When it says “ We all know by now that pumped-up fuel economy figures are the direct result of carmakers gaming the lab tests. ” I believe this is untrue. The major discrepancy between real life mpg and the published test results were down to the unrepresentative nature of the test regime; any tweaking of the vehicle within the test rules was, from my look into the backround, of much less significance.

I’m just seeking balance because the EU have often been blamed for the delays in our discussions.

I appreciate that manufacturers can only quote the result of official tests but they could make it much clearer that they are not representative of what most drivers will achieve.

I am sure they would if the official figures under-represented the realistic on-the-road performance.

🙂 You might be right there. Perhaps the official test figures could carry the message ‘The average driver does have not a dog in heaven’s chance of achieving these figures’.

The adverts tell us that these figures may not represent real life driving. The core problem lies with the EUs outdated test that never represented real life driving. We should have been criticising that and looking at why they perpetuated the test for so long. Actually, part of the answer to that may be in the time it takes to devise, test, and verify a new test procedure. That was being developed internationally, and evolved as the WLTP.

Given the increasingly outdated test regime, the fact that apparently cars, on average, meet 83% of the artificial figure does not seem too bad an outcome. It will hopefully be well in the 90s under the WLTP.

Many of us who look at new cars would see what am mpg website might tell us about our potential purchase. Honest John for example. Real life information.

As someone who has dabbled in the retailing of motorcycles, I would hope that car dealers provide honest answers to customers’ questions.

With access to service data, including logs from trip computers, websites like Honest John, and the use of demo models, there is no excuse for retailers not knowing typical real world mpg figures.

I did ask MINI Parklane about the MPG when they launched the MINI One D and confirmed the purchase, I do still have the correspondence. The response I received was ‘ Fuel consumption is determined according to a standard test method, EC Directive 80/1268/EEC. It is not the same as the average fuel consumption in practice, which depends on a great many different factors such as driving style, load, road condition, traffic density and flow, weather, tyre pressures, etc. Engine power output and road performance data are measured in the conditions laid down by EC Directive 80/1269/EEC and DIN 70 020, with the vehicle to standard specification. This standard specifies the permitted tolerances. Optional equipment or accessories on the car may have quite a significant influence on both performance and fuel consumption, since they usually affect the car’s weight and cd value, the drag coefficient, for instance roof rack, wider tyres, additional mirrors, etc.’

The MINI One D pride itself as a diesel urban car, if it wasn’t so, they shouldn’t have purposefully advertised urban and extra-urban MPG.
‘Fuel consumption (urban): 67.3 mpg
Fuel consumption (extra-urban): 80.7 mpg
Fuel consumption (combined): 74.3 mpg’

Till today 7 years into driving my car, the max. mpg I have achieved is 40mpg, a far cry from what was marketed.

The main reason for the differences is because the current tests are done under standard conditions that are quite different from how you or I drive. I understand the new tests are still being evaluated. This is explained in posts above. The problem is compounded by the fact that manufacturers can cheat by modifying cars in various ways to produce higher fuel economy. This article by European consumers’ association BEUC explains some of the games: http://www.beuc.eu/publications/beuc-x-2015-016_the_great_fuel_consumption_scam.pdf

The official test figures are the ones that are published.

The degree to which manufacturers can use the flexibility that is given in the badly-constructed EU’s NEDC test regime has a relatively insignificant effect on fuel consumption. It is an outdated test. Cheating means behaving dishonestly. Let’s keep the language factual rather than emotive.

Websites like honest john give average mpgs attained by “normal” drivers on the road. For a Mini One D (2007-13) the average is 56.7 mpg. It maybe your particular car has a problem or you drive it harder than average perhaps..

You had better have a word with BEUC rather than criticising me, Malcolm. They refer to a scam. Of course it is cheating to tape-up the doors of a car or carry out other modifications to improve the fuel economy.

The NEDC test was badly constructed from the word go and lax in its test specifications. The reports I have read and referred to in the past say that these things manufacturers can legitimately do have relatively little significant effect on the outcome of what is an unrepresentative test. It is artificial in its construction and was designed only to show relative differences between vehicles, never to produce meaningful on-the-road results. And that is what it does, but not very well. Anyone wanting meaningful results should use, until the WLTP proves itself, real life data published on a number of websites. Adverts point out the limitations of the only results the EC allow them to publish – the NEDC results.

The EC is the one that should be criticised for perpetuating this poor test for far too long.

You were offering a critique that I think is unfair wavechange. That is why I criticised the use of the word “cheat”. My personal view only, of course.

Still, with WLTP and RDE emissions testing I hope we are entering a more realistic “official” test scenario but for real life mpg I think the average attained by taking the feedback for many drivers will give a better indication. But it will be an average; so many individual factors will affect a personal result.

OED definition of cheat: “Act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage.”

I am not convinced that the EC deserves all the blame. I have not noticed the manufacturers clamouring for change over the years during which the NEDC test has been in use and as I pointed out before, some manufacturers pushed for a delay in implementing the new tests.

Here’s one link for those not familiar with EU car testing:
“The EU automobile industry welcomes the shift to WLTP and has actively contributed to the development of this new test cycle.
FROM NEDC TO WLTP: WHAT WILL CHANGE? This includes reference to, for example, flexibilities in the NEDC test not transferred to WLTP.

I am writing to Lexus today having recently acquired 2 new Lexus Nx300 for business and personal use .

Showroom figures state –
Urban 53.3 mpg
Extra Urban 55.4 mpg
Combined 54.3 mpg

This suggests a level of consistency -and coupled with the benefits of “hybrid” driving sound perfectly plausible .

Our experience so far – 29-32 mpg on one vehicle 30-35mpg on the other .

A long, long way from expected .

I asked the Salesman what to expect in “the real world” – his reply was quite simply “fifties”

We feel the whole sale has been misrepresented -and depending on the dealerships reply – will take this as far as we need to …………..

Blatant misrepresentation .

Not sure why we all accept such blatant lies – In any other business there would be serious ramifications .

Believe me ,i will be like “a dog with a bone ” on this one ……….

Lets see where it gets me .

Do you have any further feedback on this?
Would be very interested to know.

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For the UK, as I’ve said before, Honest John’s gives a good guide to the full range of real world mpg figures.

From my various visits to the USA, I guess that their driving conditions encompass a wider range than we’ll see in the UK. Their gallons are smaller too.

I think they also invented YMMV or “your mileage might vary”.

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This whole topic of claimed MPG is angering and upsetting every time you fill up. Ive just had a year with a golf r and whilst I know well how to drain it’s tank pretty rapidly, most of my 24 mile daily commutes were about maxing out on my fuel. The best I got whilst using faint throttle, careful braking and looking ahead to ensure I was super smooth was 32mpg. I’d like VW to send their test driver and show me how he achieves 42 mpg or whatever their ridiculous claim is. Just got an A5 cabriolet and guess what!!? It’s even worse!
VAG need to be brought to book and in court over this. They’ve misled the public for too long and should compensate us. But what’s anybody going to do? Like the NRA in the states I’ll bet that there’s somebody somewhere taking a fat envelope or similar for turning a blind eye!
Time for the government to step in!!!


A quick look on “Honest John MPG” suggests about 30 – 34 mpg is what you can expect from a 2014-on Golf R in real world use.

If your VW salesperson told you to expect that you’d actually get anything the official test figures, then I’m afraid that was a scam.

From previous discussions here, I believe that EU and UK regulations dictate that manufacturers are only allowed to use the results of the flawed official tests in their advertising and brochures.

That having been said, sales staff in dealerships are allowed (or indeed expected) to tell the unvarnished truth.

I take fuel consumption figures as a very rough guide .The way you drive determines the fuel you use different drivers will get different figures for the same car doing the same journey .If sellers said you can get ” x ” but you might only get “y ” or less it might be of help

I get different mpg according to where I’m going. I get significantly lower mpg on city driving and/or fast motorways, in hilly places, and dual cabbage ways than I do on quiet flat country roads.

Me too, and I assume that this applies to all drivers. I have noticed that in built-up areas the fuel economy is good if I’m not frequently changing speed.

Jimbo says:
15 August 2018

I bought a Toyota Yaris Hybrid in March 2014. I do 6,000 a year and keep a record each time I fill the tank with petrol. I also have it serviced every 12 months with the dealer I bought it from. My records prove that this car does 54 miles to the gallon not the advertised 76 miles per gallon. Also these services are very expensive compared to an independent garage and they tie me to a period of 12 months instead of 10,000 miles. New car dealers practice a rip off in this way and even if I win the lottery my next car will be almost new and will not be a Toyota. Also the five year warranty does not cover the Hybrid battery.

I don’t understand your last point, Jimbo. From the Toyota UK website:
“Extended care for Hybrid vehicles
On top of the generous 5 year or 100,000 mile Hybrid Battery Warranty, customers can benefit from our Hybrid battery extended care which ensures an additional year or 10,000 miles (whichever comes sooner) of cover.” https://www.toyota.co.uk/owners/warranty/toyota-warranty

After some very poor main dealer services on other cars, my old fashioned ICE Yaris was always main dealer serviced.

For its time with me, it averaged just under 50 mpg – not too shabby for a petrol-engined car of its day.

I think the Which? tests of other Toyota hybrids also showed that actual mpg was usually less than the official figures.

Jimbo, the “advertised” mpg is derived from tests (last updated 20 years ago since when car technology has changed greatly) that the EU specify that are not representative of “real life” motoring. They usually underestimate what you get in practice, but the EU only allows the manufacturer to publish these figures. For more realistic figures you could look at Honest John who records users mpgs.

Main dealers have high overheads reflected in their hourly rate. I use a small reliable garage that charges around £60 an hour + vat and does an excellent job. Providing you can demonstrate that appropriate work has been done using approved materials, so keep receipts, you can use an independent garage when your car is under warranty. But I wouldn’t have thought an annual service should be particularly pricey.

The motor trade is very corrupt. They are pretending the modern technology makes better mpg but most cars are actually worse than cars of 50 years ago. My Escort did 53 mpg but my Nissan Qashqai is meant to do 57 but only does 33 mpg. But the government give a reduced RF l despite it being a worse polluter. WTF is going on?

In general, I find that modern cars give much higher mpg than old ones. That said, some emissions controls reduce airborne pollution at the expense of mpg.

In the early 1980’s my first car, a Renault 12, did 23 mpg on my daily commute and could get up to about 33 mpg on longer journeys. Today, my 2006 Nissan Note does about 46 mpg in normal usage, but also gets more on longer journeys.

When I’ve used newer (and usually much larger) hire cars for business trips, I’ve regularly managed over 50 mpg with petrol cars and over 60 with diesel cars.

Another factor that we’ve often discussed here is that the official mpg test predicts unduly high mpg figures in a lot of cases.

That seems to be down to the EU imposing an unrepresentative test and then manufacturers employing “gamesmanship” to raise their scores, by exploiting loop holes in the test procedure.

But other sources, like “Honest John’s” do give more accurate real world mpg figures. For example, my Note is listed as giving between 28 mpg and 74 mpg, with an average of 47 mpg.