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Old 10-17-2008, 06:45 AM   #1 (permalink)
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What's your best bet for an automatic?

My mom, despite my best attempts, is a hardcore, non-negotiable automatic driver. A "new" (read: used) car purchase may be sometime in the near future, and I am looking for recommendations for a mileage-concious automatic. (I have a '92 Metro and a scooter that gets about 110 imperial MPG, so I'm doing ok)

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Old 10-17-2008, 07:33 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Another Metro with an auto is not bad especially if it's not highway driven all the time.
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Old 10-17-2008, 07:50 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Well, we're in a suburb and the main way into town is a freeway, so you could say it's pretty frequently "highway driven". (It's only 90km/hr at least) I test drove an automatic Metro a while back and I was pretty turned off by its highway performance. (Even in general it just seemed very very gutless, compared to the relatively peppy manual.) I was thinking of it as an option, but maybe something with a 4th gear or overdrive would be better.
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Old 10-17-2008, 08:21 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Every Prius ever made is an automatic, so that's a good place to start. Most cars with CVTs get good mileage also. Otherwise, a 4-speed auto should be the minimum number of gears.

You need to tell us what price range we can shop in before we can get more specific than that.
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Old 10-17-2008, 08:44 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Mom's Firefly - '92 Pontiac Firefly
90 day: 35.65 mpg (US)

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That's a good point, about the price range. (Prius is definitely above that range) Let's say $5000 or under for the sake of argument. (Ultimately I'm not sure what she would want to spend, but we aren't exactly what I would call a wealthy family, so let's start there.)
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Old 10-17-2008, 10:21 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Most "larger" 4-cylinder cars are going to be better on a freeway than a Metro. I had a Ford Tempo about 7 years ago and I loved it. About 30 mpg before I knew what hypermiling was. I also had a '96 Pontiac Grand Prix that got ~25 mpg with a small 3.1L 6-cylinder, and that was when gas was $1.75 a gallon over here and I was 19. The Ford Escort is another decent small car.
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Old 10-17-2008, 10:57 AM   #7 (permalink)
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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.

Jim
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Old 10-18-2008, 09:44 AM   #8 (permalink)
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There are lots of 4 cylinder cars that might fit the bill.
You should be able to get a reasonable guesstimate of FE for anything you/she looks at by going to
Fuel Economy - User Estimates
Example:Ford Escort ( be sure to click the Show All links eg Show Alll for 2001 )
Look for something your mom likes.
Mpg won't matter if she doesn't like the car!
How mileage-conscious is you mom?
And how many miles does she drive a year?
I suggest you make some tables based on that number of miles and gas at
various prices. eg

5,000 miles @ 25 mpg & $4 per gallon gas = $800 of gas.
5,000 miles @ 30 mpg & $4 per gallon gas = $667 of gas.
5,000 miles @ 35 mpg & $4 per gallon gas = $571 of gas.
5,000 miles @ 50 mpg & $4 per gallon gas = $400 of gas.

5,000 miles @ 25 mpg & $5 per gallon gas = $1,000 of gas.
5,000 miles @ 30 mpg & $5 per gallon gas = $833 of gas.
5,000 miles @ 35 mpg & $5 per gallon gas = $714 of gas.
5,000 miles @ 50 mpg & $5 per gallon gas = $500 of gas.

(5 years)
25,000 miles @ 25 mpg & $4 per gallon gas = $4,000 of gas.
25,000 miles @ 30 mpg & $4 per gallon gas = $3,333 of gas.
25,000 miles @ 35 mpg & $4 per gallon gas = $2,857 of gas.
25,000 miles @ 50 mpg & $4 per gallon gas = $2,000 of gas.
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Old 10-18-2008, 10:36 PM   #9 (permalink)
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my 07 cam with 4 cyc a 5 speed auto, gets low 30's easy on the highway.
my wifes tc that we got rid of did about the same witha 4speed auto and the same 4 cyc motor

my sister has a 02 protege 5 auto with the 2.0 and get 29-32 mpg all the time. she dont care about gas she dont pay for it she just drives it.
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Old 10-18-2008, 10:59 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Older 4cyl. Grand Am is good on highway, 60mph@2k rpms.

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