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Old 10-17-2008, 10:57 AM   #7 (permalink)
EcoModding Lurker
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Wyoming
Posts: 70

Neon1 - '97 Plymouth Neon highline
90 day: 27.26 mpg (US)
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If you are doing that much "highway", in your price range any smaller 4 cylinder with a 4 speed auto will do decently. However, I would look for one with a lockup torque converter. This won't be too hard since just about everything since 1985 or so has them.

Once you get the mass rolling, it does not take a large amount of power to keep it going at that speed. The changes in velocity take power, either in the case of engine power for acceleration, or braking power (heat) for deceleration. Turning also takes some power as you are still changing the direction of the velocity, but not as much.

Working the driving style to improve mpg is certainly a help. The Neon that I am currently running is an auto (for now...will be changing it to a manual over the winter) and I have been averaging 29+. This is with an older style 3 speed transmission. I don't do the whole engine off thing (more into trying to make the car efficient) but I do put it in neutral at stop lights and have done some areo mods.

A friend just picked up a 2000 Mazda Protoge for $1500 in almost pristine condition, and it has been getting 35 (75%highway/25%in town) with the 1.6l and the 4 speed auto. He drives this 90% of the time as compared to his wife's lincoln which gets 19/24. we did do some basic mods like air intake and a front air dam to get it to 35 though. It was the first one we found that his 6' 5" heavyset frame fit in. He does no real hypermiling, runs on cruisse at the speed limit most of the time.

If I was going to do a metro auto, I would likely opt for the 4 cyl 1.3l, but I live where there are a lot of hills/mountains. It may not be an issue for you. The drivability would be worth th 2mpg to me.

Every manufacturer makes a car that can fit the bill (ok...maybe not Laborguini or Rolls Royce) so I would say find a car that your mom likes and is comfortable in. From there, make it as efficient as that car can be. If she is comfortable and feels safe in it...and likes the car, those are certainly deciding factors as well.

In general you will see a 12-25% loss in an auto tranny as compared to a manual. But any savings is worth it. Make sure that you maintain the auto trans and change the fluid and filter.

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