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My 2000 Volvo S40 weighs in at 1250kg (~2750 lbs) - it's running on a 1.8 litre petrol engine, with a manual 5-speed gearbox. The car is jokingly called 'tank' by my friends, as Volvos are known here for their nigh-excessive safety measures (both in terms of steel and airbags).
I'm averaging a petrol use of 29,4 mpg for regular everyday use (city-some highways-some Autobahn), which is about the rated use as well. Mind you, that's in a rather heavy, loaded-with-safety-features car that is about to see its 10th birthday. The only way I get crappier mileage is if I push hard on the Autobahn: If I'm doing 160kph (~100mph), my petrol consumption jumps to about 19.6 mpg. It's an awful lot of fun though
The current model (10 years down the road) weighs in a 1261kg (~2780 lbs) - a tiny 11kg/30lbs increase. (rated) Fuel consumption has actually become lower: 33.6mpg, for the same (somewhat more powerful) 1.8L engine.
I'd say that, at least for European my make/model, your arguments of ballooning and 'bullshit' safety measures don't fly. Based on absolutely nothing more than my gut feeling, I'm inclined to say that that is because of stricter regulations within the EU on fuel consumption.
If you go diesel, the current-day offerings are even more impressive:
These both come with an automatic - which is undoubtedly optimised for fuel economy.
Save a little money each month and at the end of the year you'll be surprised at how little you have. -- Ernest Haskins