Today was the first time I really looked closely at some of the entries in this forum and 21783mike's 05/13/14 posts on the ‘400 mile club’ inspired me to share my story as well.
I have a 2013 Spark LS. It was purchased in October, 2013 as a leftover (price had been reduced to $10,200). As of today, I have 118,969 miles on it and I easily (and consistently) average over 50 mpg. Here's my background in a similar order/manner as Mike's statements:
I drive about 800 miles per week, minimum. 750 of which is my commute to/from work (75 miles each way). I leave my home at about 5:30 AM each day in order to arrive at work no later than 7:30 AM. I then leave work at 4:00 PM and get home usually a little after 6:00 PM. I travel the Washington Capital Beltway from Maryland into Virginia across the Wilson Bridge and then take I-66 west to my work location. There's no doubt it's a tough drive traffic-wise sometimes but the Express Lanes in Virginia help (I don't use them myself but for everyone that does, that's one fewer car in the four lanes I do drive in). My time on I-66 isn't too bad either because I'm always going against the flow (outbound in the morning and inbound in the evening). Only about two miles of my commute is on a secondary road when I first leave my home and then from there I'm on at least a four-lane highway the whole time (30 miles of this is not interstate and therefore still has traffic lights and can get a little crowded at the wrong times of the day). My work schedule is shifted to the early side specifically so I can avoid at least some of the traffic. I always drive between 55-60 mph (unless that is unsafe and then I will go faster as necessary).
There are some ups and downs but for the most part it's pretty flat (e.g. my town's elevation is only about 130 feet). I do take advantage and coast down the hills (or as I approach traffic lights, etc.) every chance I get. This includes something I'm sure many will say is a no-no but I push that clutch pedal to the floor and hold it there while coasting (don't like going out and back into gear all the time). By the way, my clutch is going strong and I've utilized this practice on numerous other cars with no ill effect so I'm not the least bit concerned about this practice.
1. My tires are inflated to 44 psi (cold). I believe this is a significant factor in the mileage I get. The tires that came with car were Goodyear Integrity and I replaced them at 91K (having never been rotated). I could have gone past 100K but it was October and I didn't want to push it too far going into the winter. I mention all this because I believe my 44 psi habit not only gives me significantly better gas mileage but also made the tires last longer than usual.
2. Absolutely agree with Mike on the importance of momentum. I try to use my brakes as little as possible opting to coast instead right up until the point where I have to stop, etc. Of course slow, consistent acceleration is a key as well.
3. I shift even sooner than Mike. I am into fifth gear well before 40 in most cases (most times I never see the shift indicator light because I typically shift sooner than it wants me to). In fact if I'm on a flat section of secondary road with a reduced speed limit then I'm into fifth gear by the time I hit 30 mph.
4. I do not make any attempts to draft off anyone or anything. I understand how it works and what it can do for you but I just don't want to be that close to those big trucks.
5. I agree here as well. I may not be the fastest guy out there on the straightaways but I like the way this little car handles and don't slow down at all for the turns. I usually add about 15 mph in my head to any sign that warns me of a safe maximum speed for an upcoming turn (i.e. it says 45 I feel safe at 60). This really only applies on secondary roads though.
6. I too hate traffic (who doesn't) but I know which lanes are the best in any given location to keep my momentum up even when traffic is thick. I usually am still able to get around 40+ mpg even when in thick traffic by gaging my speed against the traffic flow and trying to keep my foot in one place. Couple that with the 65+ mpg I get at other points of my drive and voila... 50+ average mpg overall.
This was a very long response and I thank you if you've read this far. But I want to add a few more things...
This is easily the best 'value' car I have ever purchased. $10.2K for a brand new car with ten air-bags, five star safety rating, traction control system, etc. And on top of all that, I get over 50 miles per gallon! This car replaced a 30 mpg car and with the distance I drive and the price of gas factored in, I save enough that I like to think I got the car practically for free. I changed the front brake pads and plugs at 100K not because they really needed to be changed but just because it was 100K. I use Amsoil 5W-20 full synthetic oil. I change the oil every 15K miles (10K ahead of what Amsoil says it will go) and I also change only the filter every 7.5:K. I did have an oil issue from the PCV valve recall but once the dealer did their thing there were no more problems. Other than that I have had no other issues with the car whatsoever (knock, knock).
Some people won't believe my gas mileage claims. I understand that as I find it just as hard to believe other Spark owners get as little as they say they do. The EPA mpg rating for the car was 28 city and 38 highway. Like everyone else, I found myself hoping I would at least get the EPA highway estimate. But no... My experience is one which blows that estimate out of the water. I get 40%+ plus better mileage than the EPA estimate and I do it consistently. One day I wondered what it would actually take to get mileage as low as only 38 mpg so I drove an entire tank of gas like a madman. High revving, fast starts, driving 70+, etc. and I still got 44 mpg. In fact, that is the lowest I've ever gotten. Note: I do realize that even when I drive fast, etc., the roads are still flat and my tires are still over inflated so I understand it's not a completely fair test.
Over the recent Independence Day holiday I had to drive to the Pittsburgh area. Now I usually see my mileage drop to around 46 mpg on those trips because of the hills/mountains on I-68. Well this time I decided to try a little experiment. I already was at 54 mpg about 150 miles into the current tank and there was no traffic when I started out so I decided to really baby it and see what would happen (even in the mountains). I drove at about 57 mph the whole way until my first encounter with the new 70 mph speed limits on I-70 and then I drove right around 65 for safety reasons. But when I got to the mountains, I employed a new strategy versus previous trips. Instead of pushing my foot to floor in efforts to hold 70 up some mountain (or even having to downshift to 4th because some of those hills are long and steep), I decided to be like the truckers and use the 'slower traffic keep right' lanes when the hills get big. I went up those hills anywhere between 50-55 while the speedsters passed me by. Then I would coast down the back side at 80+ and catch back up (to some of them anyway). Long story short... I averaged 54.8 miles per gallon for the trip (about 800 miles total). Since I returned, I still haven't reset my meter and today it sits at 55.1 after approximately 1300 miles since the last reset.
Oh and in case anyone thinks my meter must be wrong... I also calculate my mileage manually and have long determined the device in the car is pretty darn accurate.
The bottom line is I love my Chevy Spark. As long as the CAFE laws are in place and companies like GM are forced to make a car like this to counter-balance their other gas guzzlers, I will be there to take advantage. GM force ships these to each dealer who in turn can't seem to sell all of them and they typically start cutting prices in September because GM is about to force the next year's model on them again. I checked the dealership where I purchased my car for each of the two past Octobers and both years they had numerous Sparks still available that were marked down to below $10K. What a steal! I never would have previously considered putting this many miles on a new car but when I get that new car for 50% less than the used cars I was looking at, well let's just say it's a 'no brainer'.
Well that's my story. I'll check back again soon in case anyone has questions or comments.
By the way, I've run the tank to empty and you can fit 10.2 gallons into it if you top it off right to the top of the filler tube (not recommended). I have gotten over 500 miles on a tank numerous times. When the car starts flashing that I need gas, I simply look at the odometer and add 30 miles to know how much farther I can go. With all this in mind, I can easily get over 400 miles on each and every tank (although I often fill up just before reaching that total).
Thanks for 'listening'!