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2008 Fuel Economy Comparison: Prius vs Jetta vs Focus vs Smart

By • Feb 18th, 2009 • Category: Maximize Your MPG, Videos

Fuel economy battle between Toyota Prius, Jetta TDI, Ford Focus and smart fortwo. The comparison was conducted in what looks like hot dry summer weather of Southern California and Las Vegas, NV. While the test itself looks to have been carried out fairly and professionally, I think the video missed it entirely in its final call on the conclusion. Watch the video and I’ll discuss the results below.

Stage One – Back Roads Results (334 miles @ 50-65 mph)

  1. VW Jetta TDI – 47.3 mpg
  2. Toyota Prius – 46.0 mpg
  3. smart fortwo – 43.9 mpg
  4. Ford Focus – 36.9 mpg

Stage Two – City Driving Results (132 miles, stop and go)

  1. Toyota Prius – 52.4 mpg 
  2. smart fortwo – 34.0 mpg
  3. VW Jetta TDI – 32.6 mpg 
  4. Ford Focus – 23.6 mpg

Stage Three – Highway Driving Results (209 miles @ 75 mph, one pit stop)

  1. VW Jetta TDI – 48.9 mpg  
  2. Toyota Prius – 47.7 mpg 
  3. smart fortwo – 40.0 mpg
  4. Ford Focus – 37.5 mpg

Lowest Cost Per Mile Calculation (the video defines it as average overall fuel economy divided by total cost of fuel consumed, which does not make any sense, then shows this tabulated result, which is really total cost comparison; and the overall mpg numbers are irrelevant in this table). So I added the real cost per mile calculation to the right of the arrow based on the total miles driven of 675 miles.

  1. Toyota Prius – $53.32 @ 47.7 mpg –> $0.079 per mile
  2. VW Jetta TDI – $66.37 @ 40.0 mpg –> $0.097 per mile
  3. smart fortwo – $66.66 @ 43.8 mpg –> $0.099 per mile
  4. Ford Focus – $75.96 @ 33.3 mpg –> $0.113 per mile

Relative Green House Gas Emissions

  1. Toyota Prius – 0.18 tons 
  2. VW Jetta TDI – 0.19 tons
  3. smart fortwo – 0.22 tons
  4. Ford Focus – 0.26 tons

I would disagree with Edmunds, the video producer, that there is no overall winner. Because the video’s goal was to find out which car is the most fuel-efficient as introduced in the beginning, we do have a clear winner in the Toyota Prius at 47.7 mpg. It seems Edmunds forgot what the goal of the comparison was.

Additionally, I would also draw the following observations and conclusions:

  • The Toyota Prius is never ranked below a 2 in all the test, regardless of drive cycle.
  • The Jetta TDI is ranked mostly 1 or 2, with once in slot number 3.
  • The smart fortwo ranks 4 times in slot 3, and only once in slot number 2.
  • The Ford Focus is last in number 4 in all stages.

So again, if we look at the overall data and results, the winners in standing order are clear:

  1. Toyota Prius.
  2. Jetta TDI.
  3. smart fortwo.
  4. Ford Focus.

In the end, since each of us has different needs, additional weighting factors will need to be applied in order for individuals to select the best car for their own use. When you factor in purchase price, brand name, prestige and coolness as part of the buying decision, fuel economy may not be the strongest factor to influence sale of a particular model. This is why many car ads and commercials show cool-looking people driving cool-looking cars doing cool-looking (and dangerous) things.

So what is your opinion on this fuel economy comparison? How likely are you to buy a new vehicle based purely on its fuel economy numbers? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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is a marketing communications consultant working in the San Diego area. Cuong is dedicated to helping individuals and companies maximize their presence on the Internet and efficiently take products and services to market through SEO and network marketing. Cuong also maintains a blog on Marketing at You can also find Cuong Huynh's profile on LinkedIn. For fun he maintains a blog on Vietnamese pho, soccer and do storyboards for movie and film projects. Follow Cuong on Twitter @CuongHuynh, @LovingPho, @CleanCarTalk, @BlockbusterFilm, @SoccerUSA.
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