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CONSUMER ALERT

Hyundai owner says her Elantra burns up too much gas

Q.I believe I am in a catch-22 with my 2012 Hyundai Elantra. The company advertises the Elantra as getting 29 miles per gallon. I complained of getting 16 to 18 miles per gallon with mine. Its analysis, however, indicated that the car was getting only 15.3 miles per gallon. According to the company, it is operating as designed, but at that mileage rate I will be using 100 percent more gasoline - about $7,000 over the life of the car at today’s gas prices. Hyundai has just finished its “final repair,’’ and I have filed a Lemon Law complaint. I hope that you can help me. — SUSAN MILLER, Somerville

A. Having your car’s performance that much lower than what the window sticker suggests is certainly cause for concern. If you buy a car because it is supposed to be fuel efficient, your expectations aren’t likely to be hovering around the 15 miles per gallon range.

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Still, the Lemon Law is really intended for vehicles with mechanical defects, and at least a first blush, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

But Jim Trainor, a spokesman for Hyundai Motor America, said your fuel number is so far out of the norm that the company will send a “higher level field engineer’’ to check out the car. “We’re happy to look at her car to make sure there’s nothing seriously wrong with it,’’ Trainor said. “This is not typical of the mileage that most drivers get with their Elantras.’’

He said he drives an Elantra that performs far better and is sympathetic to your plight.

But Trainor also pointed out something that many consumers might not understand: The EPA miles per gallon estimates advertised on the windows of new cars aren’t based on actual driving. Someone who drives in Boston rush-hour traffic, for example, will typically fare far worse. As the EPA’s fuel efficiency disclaimer notes, “Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.’’

The question in this case is just how much worse than that estimate is acceptable? And what can - or should - Hyundai do about it? Stay tuned.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers for two decades. He also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews @aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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