My Pontiac Firefly / Chevrolet Metro / Geo Metro / Suzuki Swift welcomes fuel efficiency nerds everywhere

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Latest fuel economy stats
for my '98 Firefly 1.0L 5-speed
  best: 2.3 125.1 104.2
 worst: 6.4  44.1  36.8
prev.3: 3.3  82.3  68.6
   all: 3.8  73.4  61.1
L/100km | mpg IMP | mpg US
Jul 28/07: more, graph, calc.
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Best non-hybrid MPG: Mitsubishi Mirage
Highest MPG for a new car: Mitsubishi Mirage?
Mitsubishi's 1.2L, 3-cylinder Mirage is the first new non-hybrid car that can match an old Metro's mileage. The company says 44 mpg (US) highway, 37 city. (Some drivers are already beating that in various economy driving contests.) How? An efficient engine, very light weight and aerodynamic design.

Cheapest to own? 2015 Nissan Micra Forum
2015 Nissan Micra Forum
The Micra's fuel economy isn't its most notable feature -- the $10,000 price is. That makes it one of the cheapest cars to own. And its 109hp, 1.6L engine and good power-to-weight ratio means it's fun to drive too.

Latest 10 posts:
1. Recipe for getting 99.7 mpg from a Geo Metro
2. - famous aerodynamic Honda Civic gets a web site
3. Snapshot: effect of tire pressure on rolling resistance
4. 65+ vehicle modifications for better MPG
5. Metro mania: forget stocks, put your money in old Geos!
6. 100+ Hypermiling / ecodriving tips for better gas mileage
7. Experiment: how long should a block heater be plugged in?
8. Everything old is new again: Car and Driver magazine modifies an econobox to improve MPG
9. Project Convertible XFi: alfresco efficiency
10. The floor is yours: MetroMPG opens a fuel efficiency forum
11 ... 64. Show all posts

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Good MPG forums: I spend a lot of time at and have also been known to lurk around

Chevrolet Aveo forum - discussion of the Chevrolet Aveo and its siblings (Pontiac Wave, Pontiac G3, Suzuki Swift+, Daewoo Kalos).

> Lots more Metro links...
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Send me a note:
darin AT metrompg D-O-T com,
or here

MetroMPG has opened a fuel economy forum
Read about the project here, or go straight to
ScanGauge fuel economy computer Save fuel with a ScanGauge II fuel economy computer.
I personally recommend this tool. I've owned both versions (I and II) and can't say enough good things about it. If you're serious about saving fuel, get one.

For more information and to order, visit EcoModder.

Everything old is new again: Car and Driver magazine modifies an econobox to improve MPG

Posted Wednesday, March 12/08 in General

Car and Driver: Project Car - Crisis Fighter Pinto

34 years ago this month, the March 1974 issue of Car and Driver magazine ran an article about DIY modifications to improve fuel economy. The article was a direct response to the 1973/74 oil crisis - which was when people in North America first started seriously talking about improving fuel efficiency to address issues of energy security and high fuel prices.

But the magazine did a lot more than just talk about efficiency. They grabbed the bull by the horns (okay, a Ford Pinto by the bumper) and actually did something about it. Their story, Project Car: Crisis-Fighter Pinto, outlined six simple, mostly aerodynamic modifications which actually saved gas.

After the jump: the six modifications, in detail.

The Car & Driver guys didn't mess with the engine itself. Instead, they reduced the amount of work the engine had to do. Fuel is burned to overcome two main forces: rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag. At highway speeds, aero drag dominates, so that's where Car and Driver spent most of its effort - and eleven dollars on supplies (about $50, adjusted for inflation).

Pinto front
Showing the massive air dam, grille block and convex headlight covers

Mod #1: Front air dam.
They started by making & installing an air dam beneath the Pinto's front bumper to divert as much air flow as possible away from the car's aerodynamically dirty underside. That single change accounted for fully one quarter of their gains.

Mod #2: Partial grill block.
Another highly turbulent air pathway is the cooling system. Most cars' grill openings are sized to keep the engine cool in absolute worst-case conditions (think Death Valley, pulling a trailer). By blocking part of the Pinto's grill, they were able to improve efficiency without adversely affecting engine temperatures in normal driving.

Mod #3: Smoother nose.
Almost every new car sold today has a smoothly contoured front end. However, the Pinto left a lot to be desired. To partly address this, they made and installed convex plexiglass covers over the car's recessed headlights. That small change added 0.1 MPG.

Pinto rear

Mod #4: Smoother tail.
The aerodynamically ideal shape at the rear of a vehicle is a gradual taper that helps minimize the size of the turbulent wake left behind. But the slope of the Pinto's rear window was too steep. By adding a six inch spoiler, they effectively changed the angle of air flow between the end of the roof and the back of the car. The result: a 7% MPG improvement.

Mod #5: Reduced parasitic loads.
Back in '74, most cars sported a belt-driven radiator fan. By removing two of the Pinto's four fan blades, it was made more efficient. Today, most vehicles have electric cooling fans that run on demand only.

Mod #6: Reduced rolling resistance.
The stock Pinto came with bias-ply tires. Switching to steel belted radials netted a 5% MPG improvement. While all new cars today come with radial tires, LRR (Low Rolling Resistance) versions are available which can offer a similar improvement over "standard" radials.

The Car & Driver Pinto demonstrated that even in a so-called "economy" vehicle, the auto maker had left a lot on the table in terms of potential efficiency improvements. The same remains true today, particularly regarding fuel-wasting, poor aerodynamics.


What's more... "...they are all the type of changes you can make - without going broke - and the type of change the car makers will have to make for the coming model years. Bluntly, this is the way it will be."

But perhaps the most interesting thing about the Crisis-Fighter Pinto is the fact that Phil Knox cites it as the catalyst that sparked his passion for DIY automotive aerodynamics. And since I can trace a line to the EV World article about Phil's aeromodded Toyota pickup truck that inspired me to learn about the same topic, ultimately I can thank the C&D article as well.


EcoModder fuel economy forum Note: MetroMPG has opened a fuel economy forum
Read about the project here, or go straight to

darin AT metrompg D-O-T com, or here